"In the proper circumstances short rods are delightful to use. I have built many o
f them and still use them but only where they are suited to the circumstance as on wide shallow rivers where I can wade and have lots of room in front and behind or on small brushy streams where maneuverability is important. They are a very poor choice f
or open meadow waters where the use of anything under seven and a half feet makes me unhappy. It was with great reluctance that I abandoned the longer rods in my early days of rod-building — rods of nine feet or more. Length begets bulk and weight if th
e rod is to be made stiff enough for good casting but long rods tire, drain energy, and lack the delicacy of delivery needed for shorts casts. And yet I never quite gave up the desire for the long rod if only I could have it light and stiff and sensitive
. I used to dream of a dry-fly rod — nine feet long, weighing under four ounces. It is a will-o'-the-wisp that I have chased for many years. The solution came about in an interesting way. In my early days of rod-building I floundered about a great dea
l until I made the acquaintance of the late Robert Crompton, a professional rod-builder from St. Paul, Minnesota. He was a kindly and sympathetic man who helped me overcome many difficulties. I owe him a great debt for that early guidance. As a matter
of fact, I think that there are other rod-builders who owe him the same kind of debt. That brings me to a consideration of the third important step, namely, the designing of rods in profile.
"Crompton used to insist over and over again that no rod is fit to be a casting tool if it is made with a straight taper. All those long early weepy rods were made with straight
tapers. He declared that only convex tapers would made a good rod. The convex taper is obtained by swelling the diameter of the straight taper without changing the diameters at the ends of the joint. Following Crompton's dictum, a great many rods with
convex tapers were put on the market by one manufacturer back in the early 1930s. I examined them carefully and found them to be very disappointing. They were, indeed, very stiff, but clubby in the hand and lacked the sensitivity needed for short casts
. Eventually they went off the market. In the light of my own experience in later years I found that the mistake lay in the bad management of both the diameters and the convex tapers.
"Convex tapers are not a new thing. They originated thousands of years ago in man's early architecture and were used principally as an aesthetic device to satisfy the eye i
n viewing the columns of temples. A convex taper looks straight. A straight taper does not. Later the convex principal was applied to ships' masts to stiffen them against excessive bending. Today it is used often in the barreled arrow shafts of the ar
cher in order to spine them for heavier bows, while retaining the small diameter and smaller weight. For many years I experimented a great deal with convex tapers and made some very good rods. But I was always obsessed with the idea of getting more leng
th. I still wanted that nine footer." — VM