Dave Micus, Plum Island Sound

May 17th, 2004

By Dave Micus

The big, two-handed rod came into my custody through what can only be called harmonic convergence. I acquired quite a few Orvis gift certificates (legally), and, simultaneously, received the Orvis Sale Paper, which listed two-handed rods at a significantly reduced price. I called and they had one left. No matter what you call this-- fate, destiny, karma-- it can't be ignored. I placed my order and became the proud owner of a 12.5-foot-8-weight-two-handed rod.

I'd been interested in a two-handed fly rod for striper fishing, salt water being one of those fishing situations where the longer you cast, the more fish you'll catch, and I had the opportunity to ask Lefty Kreh about using a two-hander. Lefty is someone who seems to maintain a youthful exuberance about all aspects of fishing, so much so that a cynic like me wonders if, at least some of it, isn't an act, but Lefty's eyes sparkled when I mentioned the two-handed rod. "You'll love it," he said excitedly, and proceeded to give me a quick lesson on casting the rod, waving an invisible two-hander as eagerly as an adolescent boy strums an air guitar.

Now I'm a fair to middlin' caster, able to throw a lot of line on a good day but also still prone to making beginner casting mistakes, and if I were to get a personalized license plate it would be "tailnloop," so I didn't expect miracles when I broke out the big rod. My trepidations were unfounded; the thing was a cannon and within a day I was not only throwing the entire line but also 15 feet of backing.

This wasn't due to any innate skill on my part, but the mechanics of the cast. The rod is, after all, a lever, and to (overhand, not spey) cast the two-handed rod, you merely hold it by the upper grip with one hand, and drive the cast with your other hand by pulling or pushing on the lower grip. It really is that simple. In physics, levers are designated as first, second or third class, and a two-handed fly rod is a perfect example of a first class lever, the rod being the lever and the right hand/arm being the fulcrum. Holding the right arm somewhat rigid and below shoulder level keeps the arc of the rod in that mythical 11am-2 pm time/space continuum, resulting in a nice, tight loop, and the additional length of the rod allows you to control more line in the air. The outcome is a nearly perfect cast almost every time, and I'd wager that beginning fly fishers would master the overhand cast with a two-handed rod much more quickly than with a one-hander (which is a perfect example of a third class lever). "Give me a place to stand and I will move the world," said Archimedes of the lever, and he never heard of IM6 graphite.

As I fished with the long rod I noted other advantages to the extra length. Line mending was much easier, but probably the biggest difference was the ability to pick up extraordinary amounts of line and redirect it all in one motion with no false cast. This comes in handy with striper fishing, where, when you throw a long cast to your left, a school of bass breaks the surface to your right (or vice-versa). With the long rod I could just pick the line off the water and cast it right at the school of feeding fish, something I could never do with a smaller rod without a few false casts in between.

Being a vane sort, I of course had to show off my new casting skill with the long rod, and such adolescent behavior begets the same. I had to endure the insinuation that I was compensating for a, ahem, physical shortcoming, and one fly fishing companion, who always prided himself on the long line he threw, actually began sending me articles downplaying the importance of distance casting. (Odd lot, these striper bums. But he's since had an epiphany, because the last time I saw him he was in the process of buying a long rod and literally had one in his grip. Once I'm sure he's purchased a two-hander I'll send him articles extolling the virtues of the short cast).

Freudian implications aside, before you spend the progeny's inheritance on yet another fishing pole, you should determine if you need (as opposed to want) the über-rod. If you fish the salt and cover a lot of water, you might just find that the big, two-handed rod gives you the extra casting distance you need.

"How long should a man's legs be?" Abraham Lincoln was once asked.

"Why, long enough to reach the ground," Abe replied.

How long should a man's fly rod be? Why, long enough to reach the fish. ~ Dave

About Dave:

Dave Micus lives in Ipswich, Massachusetts. He is an avid striped bass fly fisherman, writer and instructor. He writes a fly fishing column for the Port City Planet newspaper of Newburyport, MA (home of Plum Island and Joppa Flats) and teaches a fly fishing course at Boston University.

Previous Dave Micus Columns

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