Taper and Breakage

By Tom Kirkman, (RodMaker Magazine)

Here's a question from the January/February 1999 - Volume 2 - Issue #1 issue of RodMaker magazine:

"I am going to build a 9-foot, 6-weight 4-piece fly rod (for carry-on convenience) and I'd like to build something decent. I've been looking at the Loomis GL3 and GL4 blanks and they seem promising. But during conversations at various fly shops I've heard conflicting advice. Some say the GL4's are much faster than the GL3's, or vise versa. And many people tell me that Loomis rods are okay, but they break a lot. I find my few working gray cells mightily confused." Steve via E-mail

RodMaker Magazine

First let's lay some ground work by stating that the fiber used to make the blank has very little to do with the taper, or as some would say, the action. Whether a blank or rod is a fast, moderate or slow taper is determinded by the taper of the mandrel the prepeg is wrapped around, along with the actual pattern of the prepeg material. You can make rods equally fast, or slow with different modulus fibers. With that said, I'll go on to say that most of the GL3 and GL4 blanks I've used have had similar tapers or actions, which I feel lean toward fast. The GLX's on the other hand, seem to be much faster than these other two, but again this is more a function of the overall design rather than the material used.

Can you break a Loomis rod? Sure you can, but you can also break any of the other rods just as easily. I have not found the Loomis rods to be any more susceptible to breakage under normal fishing conditions than anybody else's rods or blanks. In fact, I've used a great many of them and have yet to break even one! Of course, a great deal depends on what you're going to do with the rod. If you're going to fish it hard and use resonable care in its handling, then you can expect it to last for a long while. But if you plan on sitting tackle boxes on top of it, poking lures off of stumps with it, or riding it around in the trunk of your car then you'll likely break it and shouldn't be considering a top level blank anyway. Understand that any rod manufacturer can make a rod that won't break by simply beefing everything up to the point where even hard impacts and unreasonable abuse can't take their toll. But in so doing the rod, or blank, will become much, much heavier and performance will suffer tremendously! The tricky part for blank designers is to obtain the highest level of performance possible while still maintaining adequate durability. To a great extent, building in more durability results in some loss of performance. I'm sure that I can pick up a really cheap rod at the local discount store that is much, much tougher than almost any top level rod is, but it's not going to be much fun to fish with.

Impact and over stressing of tip sections, are the two major causes of rod failure. Yes, a rod may break when you set the hook on a fish, or when you are fighting a fish, but chances are, it was fractured by some sort of impact or crushing force, or over stressed into a tight arc before the total failure occurred. A little extra care in handling, storage and use will go a long way towards making any rod last much longer. If you're spending the money to obtain a rod that offers great performance, doesn't it make sense to treat it as the fine piece of sporting equipment which it is? ~ Tom Kirkman

Publishers note:

If you have any tips or techniques, send them along! Help out your fellow rodmakers! ~ Publisher, FAOL

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