Outdoor Writers Association of America
Northwest Outdoor Writers Association
This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

December 15th, 1997

Stuck in a Rut?

You and I are creatures of habit. Our favorite things are 'favorites' because we are comfortable with old shoes, worn shirts, crummy hats ... you know, our stuff. Soul food for the weary and rumpled mind. Non-threatening. But maybe, just maybe, boring. We fall into a rut. It may be comfortable, but it's still a rut.

I fell into one; stayed there for years. Mine was a narrow-minded, stubborn attitude toward anything used to make fly rods that was not bamboo. I even had a well prepared argument that it was morally wrong to use a fly rod made from anything that hadn't been alive. I also recall a conversation where I even said, "they aren't new, been making 'em for years. Called pencils." No kidding.

Then the absolutely unthinkable happened. A friend stopped to visit us in Montana on his way home from what was then the biggest fly fishing show in the country at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. Home for him was Manchester Vermont, and he worked for Orvis.

We were teaching a fly fishing class in Livingston, and our friend, Don Owen had all of the Orvis rods with him. Box upon box of Orvis rods. Don suggested we take the rods to our class. Everyone there got to try anything they wanted. Fine Bamboo. Big ones, tiny ones and everything in between.

And graphite!

Try one? Remember the old "I bet you can't eat just one" potato chip commercial? Unbelievable! This was 1973, graphite fly rods were pretty new, and sometimes scoffed at. I certainly was one of the die-hards totally against them. But "just one" made me a believer.

Some of the rods were too stiff, some were noodley. Some felt much like my favorite Madison. One in particular, a nine-foot, five weight rod was perfect. REALLY PERFECT. Strange as it may seem, especially well over 30 years later, that rod measures up to rods made today. I think it was designed by Wes Jordan. I still have that rod, and also use it in our casting classes.

If you are new to fly fishing, or looking for a new rod, consider this; compared to the state of the art even ten years ago, rod making has rocketed forward. While there certainly are design variations, differences in the materials used, you can't buy a 'bad' graphite rod.

Ask yourself, "what does a manufacturer do different when they make a less expensive rod." Better yet, ask the salesperson at the shop who carries a variety of graphite rods. How many dollars are those differences worth? Your choice. ~ The LadyFisher

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