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Wetfly - The Forgotten Taper (Chapter Two)

By Reed F. Curry, Originally published on Reed's website:

Charles Ritz in his book A Fly Fisher's Life (1972) speaks of the virtues of LF/LL (Long Flex/Long Lift). This was, in part, a reaction to the stiff, tip action rods of the late sixties. However, he did present some compelling arguments for a rod with essentially a straight taper and a tip with some substance. Examined in detail, the rod that he was designing was a traditional wetfly rod. Ritz recognized that the slow flex "reduced falsecasting by 30%," permitted more time to correct the cast, and allowed short or long casts with equal ease.

Let's examine the virtues of the wetfly taper in more detail:

  • Delicacy -- On still pools or shallow water where delicacy and a soft laydown of the fly is essential, the wetfly rod comes into its own. A tight loop and high line speed are neither needed nor helpful under these conditions. The slower line speed possible with the wetfly taper is less apt to aggressively slap the relatively stiff line/leader connection onto the still surface.

  • Lifting sunken line When fishing a sunken fly, the wetfly rod can lift a considerable length of sunken line into a backcast, permitting the angler to spend less time fishing water already covered thoroughly. This also allows a faster response to fish activity, or those occasions when an armada of aluminum canoes suddenly round the bend, bearing down on you . . .

  • Ease in rollcasting A long wetfly rod delivers a powerful rollcast through the long, slow unfolding of the rod. Many modern rods lack this capability, due to their stiff butt.

  • Minimizing falsecasts the slower action, especially noticeable at the flex of the tip, permits a shoot with less drag; the tip is parallel to direction of shoot rather than at an acute angle. With stiff, web-free, modern hackles and new floatants, false-casting is usually no longer necessary simply to dry the fly, so we might as well avoid it where possible and keep the fly on the water.

  • Less labor the traditional use of wrist action is all that is necessary for most casting in small-to-medium stream fishing conditions. For longer casts, a slow, extended upper arm action may be required, but shirt-ripping hauls will cause the rod to collapse. "Let the rod do the work." I owned one 7'6" 3wt Leonard that was so slow ("How slow was it?") that I could start the backcast, go home for a leisurely lunch, and return to the stream in time for the forward cast. That rod was a bit much, even for me. However, with proper use of the wrist, it was possible to throw tight loops. More on that in another chapter.

  • Better for wetflys, nymph, streamers the open loop doesn't generate the water- scattering terminal velocity once necessary to dry-fly fishing. Keeping sunken flies wet lets the fish see more of them.

  • Lighter a wetfly rod is usually lighter than a dry fly taper of the same length/line weight. Although the wetfly tip is thicker, the mid and butt of a wetfly rod is thinner than the same line weight dryfly rod. The difference on a nine-foot rod would be one ounce or greater.

  • Longer Rod because of the lighter weight, slower action, and reduced false-casting, a longer rod may be used. This means better line mending, more fight from the fish, etc.

  • Self-loading a typical wetfly rod will easily cast 5 feet of line using the mass of the rod to load the rod. Most modern rods require at least twenty feet of line out before they will load.

  • More restful fishing the contemplative sport returns. No frenetic falsecasting required, or exaggerated arm-waving. The oldtimers were right, you can "Let the rod do the work." ~ Reed F. Curry

  • (To be continued - next "Casting")

    2000 Reed F. Curry

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