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Press Release
J. Castwell

It was announced today a start-up company has begun manufacture of a combination not seen in decades. The concept revolves around the creation of a cane (bamboo) fly rod specifically designed to properly cast a silk fly line, sold with the line as a unit, and priced economically.

I wish that were true, but indeed it is not.

In the earlier part of the nineteen-hundreds cane rods and silk lines were, due to mass production, relatively inexpensive and well within the reach of anyone even remotely serious about the sport.

The invention of plastic coated lines spelled the doom of an age old method of fishing. Gone were the days of dressing lines, storing them during the off season and tolerating their general inconvenience. The advent of fiberglass and graphite rods sealed their fate. Fly fishing switched from inexpensive to moderately expensive with the new rods and plastic lines.

During this time, of course, there were higher priced cane rods available, just as there are high-end graphite and cane rods now. But, one can no longer procure a cane rod and silk fly line for a small fee.

Those cane rods were produced to a 'taper,' as it is called, the exact dimensions of the diameters and lengths and how they interacted with each other to cast a particular way. These 'tapers' were developed for silk lines; there were no other fly lines yet invented.

These cane rods were made solid enough not to be fragile, but light enough to be comfortable in hand. The more expensive rods tended to be made of a higher quality material and cast more smoothly. Often they were appointed with higher quality reel seats and findings. These rods were a joy to cast and fish, delicately presenting a tiny dry fly, to pounding out a long cast with the unique deep loading characteristics of quality cane.

Less expensive rods did the same thing, just not as well. As the new plastic fly lines came out, they were tried on these same cane rods and found wanting. The illusion was, the cane rods were soft and not good, when in fact it was the fault of the fly lines. They were thirty percent larger in diameter causing more contact with the rod guides and offered far more wind resistance. Hence, they did not shoot from the rods without great casting effort. The market quickly sought a faster, stiffer fly rod that could handle the less friendly lines, the new technology was more than happy to fulfil that demand.

We now have very fast, inexpensive to make, light in hand rods which will propel plastic lines properly. Here is what we have lost. A graphite fly rod with today's best fly lines can not begin to compare to a cane rod of earlier years and a well dressed silk line. We have also lost the ability for most to ever own such a combination.

An entry level cane rod will start at $500 for one produced by hand planing and three times that for one made by milling. Silk lines are about $250. Today's cane rods are for the most part redesigned 'tapers' from the old ones created for silk lines. These new rods must be more powerful, stiff and a tad heavier in hand so they can pitch the new plastic fly lines.

I made a survey of the major cane rod sellers and none offer a rod specifically for silk lines even though a silk handles and casts far differently from a plastic line. None of them sell silk fly lines either, which was not a surprise.

Can this be turned around? Could a company produce a respectable cane rod for $150 and a silk line for $50? Can the average fly fisher once again enjoy fly fishing as it was meant to be? Return to the times of 'you bought it, you own it?' To times when you had to take the care and responsibility for your gear? Take the time to clean and dress a fly line? And the guarantee only covers materials and workmanship, not negligent breakage?

Should we be interested in a fly line that will knife through the air fifty percent easier, float much higher on the water, pick up with much less disturbance and effort, last three times as long, have two ends so it can be reversed, be dressed to become a sinking tip easily when desired, and a full intermediate line when the need demands and cut through the water with far less resistance when a fish is stripping line from the reel?

I think we should be.

Will a silk line work on a graphite fly rod? Certainly, but remember the rod was designed to push the big fluffy plastic fly lines. The market needs a good moderately priced cane rod and a decent silk fly line. The major rod makers will not offer one, graphite is too easy and cheap with too high a profit margin to stray from. That has nearly shut down silk line production. The only ones who may recommend a silk line are the small custom rod makers and they must also recommend that the rods they produce will work equally well with either type of fly line, or they will be out of business.

At the least, will some major fly rod manufacturer tune up the bamboo rod room and produce just one cane rod made on the old tapers and supply a silk fly line with it at any price? Perhaps a six and a half foot four weight. Only make one model. But, make it lighter and tapered for a DT silk line, not beefed up for the plastic stuff. Enough progress already! Let's go back to...quality, and even so far as 'tradition?'

Oh yes, can you make it at a price most of us can afford please? ~ J. Castwell

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