April 4th, 2005

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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Flyrods That Fit
By John Colburn, Washington, DC

Steve Rajeff, holder of World Flycasting Championship at least nine times, is six feet tall and, using nine foot flyrod, cast 243 feet. There's nothing remarkable about that except that Steve is one helluva a good flycaster. A lot of us use a nine foot flyrod even if we're not six feet tall or very good casters.

There's an old adage that the flyrod should be one and a half times the caster's height, and that works out about right for Steve Rajeff (6 X 1.5 = 9), but what about me? I'm 5'9" tall, so I should be using a flyrod 8.625' (8'7.5") long, according to the adage. It just happens that my favorite general purpose flyrod is an 8'6" 5-weight, but I can do almost as well with a 9' 4-weight, but only in my dreams do I cast even close to 243 feet.

My grandson currently is almost exactly four feet tall, and he has to struggle to cast at all with a 7'6" flyrod. What his problem? Let's do some math:

Length of rod: 90"

Height of boy: 48"

90 / 48 = 1.875

Now let's see how that works with Steve Rajeff:

Height of man: 72"

72 X 1.875 = 135

135 / 12 = 11.25 feet!

Asking my grandson to cast that 7'6" flyrod is like asking Steve to cast an 11'3" flyrod singlehanded! I'll bet he won't set any new records with it.

What length flyrod should my grandson use? 48 X 1.5 = 72, so he should be casting a six foot flyrod, but I doubt if he'd cast 243 feet with it.

Now I've got a problem. Six foot flyrods are pretty scarce. So I'm looking at either a fairly expensive custom graphite rod or a darned expensive bamboo rod, either of which the kid will outgrow before long. Or I could modify that old nine foot fiberglass stick that a neighbor gave me several years ago, and it will only involve a new grip and relocating the reel seat and stripping guide.

So I cut the butt section of the rod to 24 inches from the ferrule, installed a new inexpensive ready grip which I sanded down to fit the boy's smaller hand, installed the reel seat which I was able to save, and mounted the stripping guide just behind the ferrule. Now my grandson has a flyrod he can use to learn to cast and, perhaps, some day he'll be able to beat Steve Rajeff's record - or at least cast better than his granddad.

Here's a suggestion for fly fishing clubs that want to teach kids to cast: collect some of those old 'glass or low-modulus graphite rods many of your members have collecting dust in their attics, basements, or garages and shorten the butt sections so that you have rods of six, six-and-a-half, seven, and seven-and-a-half feet with grips that fit a kid's hand. You find it a lot easier to teach kids, and yes, women too, with fly rods that fit.

One caveat, don't let the shorter men in the club try those shorter rods. They may like the rods so much they'll have to go modify their own rods or buy custom rods.

[This article was inspired by an article that appeared in the British magazine Fly Fishing & Fly Tying a couple of years ago and my own experience with modifying a flyrod for my grandson.]

Piscor, ergo sum.

~ John Colburn, The Soldiers' Home, Washington, DC

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