Ladyfisher

This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

July 21st, 2003

Stay In Your Class
Choose The Right Rod!



One of the most frequent questions on both the Bulletin Board and in our email is from people new to fly fishing asking for help in choosing their first rod. The tendency of many of us is to recommend our favorite 'brand' instead of thinking it through and giving suggestions they really can use - and need to hear.

Then there are the complaints from newbies about the cost of fly rods, "I can't afford a $500 rod, the rod companies are ripping us off!"

The answer is: You don't need a $500 rod and you wouldn't be able to cast it if you bought it!

Let's tell it like it is. The new folks can't cast. In fact, there are some experts around who will tell you 80% of all the fly fishers can't cast well enough to fish a fast rod. At least one company, Sage, did put a disclaimer on their fastest yet rod, the TCR and flat said it is a casters rod and it may not be the rod for you. It's true! Hurrah for them.

But the fly fishing industry has in the recent past gone to building faster and faster, (stiffer and lighter) rods. Why? Because there is a market for them.

Here's some help. The 'entry level' rods are usually medium action, forgiving rods. By forgiving I mean if you don't 'stop' the rod on a cast, the rod is soft enough to continue to unload the line on its own. The line won't go very far, but it will go. These rods are not made of out the most expensive graphite material available, and usually aren't much to look at - they are okay - a low priced rod for the beginner getting started. It will get the beginner fishing. Cortland, Scientific Anglers, Redington, Global Dorber, Temple Forks Outfitters and Pfluger, all have packages especially designed for the beginner. Priced less than $150 for rod, reel, line probably tippet and in some a booklet or video to help get started. This is where the beginner should start out. In truth, some of these entry level rods are miles above the rods we thought were wonderful just twenty years ago.

Medium or medium-fast action 'better rods' are made from better materials, have nicer reel seats, cork and cosmetically are 'prettier.' For most beginners, this is the rod to buy AFTER you've learned to cast, and made the decision to stay with it. For the average fly fisherman, this is one of the rods you will probably fish the rest of your life. Excellent fishing rods, reasonably forgiving when you forget your casting because you spotted a great fish! The weight of the rod in hand will be generally lighter than the entry level rods. All of the manufacturers make several rods in this category, so you have a choice of lengths, weights, colors, grips - everything a person needs. Prices range from about $250 to $400. You may have your favorite 'brand' but the truth is any of these rods will do the job nicely.

That leaves one category. Faster rods.

These rods are speciality rods. The quality and cost of the materials used (best available graphite, cork, fittings etc.) is top of the line. Whether these rods are used for saltwater or fresh, the object is being able to throw a long line, or a big fly repeatedly with relative ease. The fast rods are usually lighter in hand as well. Is this the rod for a beginner? FORGET IT! They are precision casting machines and require an operator who knows how to use them. They are not forgiving, and any mistake results in disaster. Fewer are produced and the prices are high, $400 to $750.

So why are they made? Because there is a market and demand for them - not nearly the market as the medium or medium/fast rods, but there are fly fishers who can cast them well and who are willing to pay the price they demand for a rod that does the job for them.

So if you are new to fly fishing, don't let all the advertising and hype from the guys who own the pricy rods get to you. This isn't about owning a status symbol. Compare it to just getting your first drivers license and complaining you can't afford a Ferrari or Lamborghini.

Maybe it is better to start out with a rod one can actually cast?

If you don't, you take a chance on becoming so frustrated you won't enjoy the experience at all. On the other hand, learning to cast can be wonderful - a joy in succeeding and finding you can get the job done. Once casting is conquered, the rest of the adventure begins.

The fly shop who tries to sell the beginner the most expensive rod in the shop is not doing the beginner - or himself any favors. Instead of getting an entry level rod into the beginners hands, and having a customer who will come back when he is ready to go to the next level, (and perhaps a customer for life) greed gets in the way and the newbie has a lovely rod he can't cast - but the fly shop made a big sale. More tacky, slippery, slimy?

Regardless of what anyone else tells you, believe this, casting is the most important part of fly fishing. Start out right, with an entry level rod which will help you learn, not frustrate and hinder your progress. ~ The LadyFisher

If you would like to comment on this or any other article please feel free to post your views on the FAOL Bulletin Board!

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