This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

November 18th, 2002

Less is More?

Made an interesting discovery this week. My husband JC and I fished three days for our local Chum salmon, in the estuary emptying into Sinclair Inlet of Puget Sound. This fishery has some big, tough fish, running to nearly 30 pounds.

JC has caught a Chum with the famous broom, but the usual way we fish this run is with 8 wt rods, sink-tip lines for the deeper water, or floating line in the shallow water (depending on tide). The fly we use is in the Fly of the Week Archives, it's Castwell's Chum Fly.

The first two days we fished we used our 8wt, 9 ft, Lamiglas rods. We have other rods, but since the possibility of breaking a rod is increased with the size of these fish, we decided to use rods with plenty of backbone for landing fish. And land fish we did. I quit counting after six, and JC was catching about the same number as I was. I broke off one totally at the leader knot and lost another two. It was probably the best day of salmon fishing I've ever had.

Except I really paid for it. By the time we got home, maybe 45 minutes, I was really sore. My thumb hurt, elbow hurt, the muscle out on the outside of my upper arm hurt, shoulder hurt...a few ibuprofen and a hot shower didn't help.

Two days later we were back at it. Not as many fish, but just as sore. This is long line casting, 50 - 70 foot or longer casts every time, targeting incoming pods of fish. Strip the line in, roll cast pick-up and cast again. We fished like this for 3 or 4 hours, taking one break on land. Along towards the end of our day I wandered up to the point of land and was casting across the stream mouth, throwing an upstream mend to keep my line behind my fly. JC came along and asked why I wasn't using the half-roll cast mend, (also called the ball and chain) - and I said the rod wouldn't perform it. He had to try, and found no, it wouldn't. Interesting since the particular rod is very popular with steelheaders. When we arrived home the same routine, ibuprofen, hot shower, and sore as hell.

By Friday we had another rain come in and decided to take a last try at the Chum for this season. Back we went - but we took two different rods. We took the new Sage TCR rods. Same weight, 8 wt and again 9 ft.

We fished the same way, except that JC mentioned he noticed I was making less false casts. I really hadn't been aware of it until he mentioned it. After our usual 3 or 4 hours I again went up to where the stream dumps into the estuary and tried the same cast and mend I had not been able to make earlier. Bingo, the rod made the cast easily. Hmmmmmm.

Eventually we got home and were sitting in the living room having a cup of coffee when JC said, "where do you hurt?"

I didn't hurt. Anywhere!

Well, JC being a "Dr. Spock" type, we had to analyze this. Why didn't we hurt? We sure didn't get any younger over this time period. But we did change rods.

Before you figure here I'm going to do a pitch for the most expensive rod in the Sage arsenal, relax. We have them on loan, we don't own them, and yes, they are very expensive. That's not the point.

The point however may be, less is more!

The Sage TCR is lighter in hand, carries and delivers more line with less effort - (meaning you are not making as many false casts) and since it has more authority will put a mend where you want it.

Comparing the two rods side by side, the TCR is also skinnier, (thinner) so aerodynamically it is also easier to cast. Is that a reason to buy a different rod? I tend to agree with Sage's marketing approach on the TCR, it probably isn't a rod for everyone.


How many times have you heard another fly fisher comment about having a sore wrist? Sore thumb? Sore elbow? Shoulder problems?

Why is that happening?

Is it the fault of the rod? Frankly I won't be in a position to find out again. Been there, done that. And it was stupid of me not to realize it. This may not work for you, and maybe it is because JC and I are older than dirt. But it sure made a huge, read that as HUGE difference in how we felt at the end of the day.

If you are having physical discomfort - (pain?) at the end of your fishing day, perhaps you should take a serious look at the rod you are using. There are enough rods on the market that no one should ever have to fish a rod which causes them grief.

Please give this some thought. I've talked to enough fly fishers to know right now there are people fishing rods which are bad for their health. (Do we need Ralph Nader with Consumer Warnings on fly rods?) You may have a 'favorite' rod which may severely limit your fishing career. You may be compensating with physical strength to overcome the limitations of a rod. If you had the proper rod for your fishing you wouldn't have to compensate, much less hurt at the end of day - or the next day!

Fly fishing should be fun. It should be a release from all the other stuff we put up with. It should be a place where we feel refreshed and renewed. Not hurt.

An extra warning here. If you are a steelheader you are particularly vulnerable. Repetitive casts, mending, heavy flies and long rods. Do an inventory. What price are you paying physically?

I don't have all the answers folks, but we sure got a vivid and painful education this week. One I'm not likely to forget. Maybe I can save you some grief. ~ LadyFisher

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