By Skip Clement, Contributor
The trend in fly rods is quite settled. The “big” players have yielded to the field. Mid range priced, high performing fly rods have the floor… and there’s a reason
Why? Too many refused to pay, even if $900 – now even a $1,000 were affordable, for a fly rod that gets dusted off for a few weekends pitching flies with striper guide/author Andrew Derr in Montauk, a steelhead week with guide April Vokey in British Columbia, or a four day tarpon fishing trip arranged by Sandy Moret’s Florida Keys Outfitters in Islamorada, Florida.
In the mid range priced fly rods, 3-weight freshwater to its saltwater doorstep of 7-weight, and 7-weight to 14-weight saltwater, there is high school level fly rods, college level, and pro level. And within those classifications there is apprentice, journeyman and master craftsman fly rods. That discernment has everything to do with your casting and fish landing imperatives. How does the fly rod feel in hand?
So what’s an angler to do?
It’s not that complicated since it is only you that needs satisfying.
First and foremost, be realistic about your casting. What are your limits? Second, there is always a price point limit, even for Daddy Warbucks. Third, where are you going to fish? If you are saltwater and a freshwater angler, you might need to make two investments – possibly more if your outings extend beyond the neighborhood and you fish more than 25 days a year.
The fly rod monster ate them
My fly rods, the lot, disappeared twice over several decades fo having a great inventory, and on a different occasion, a long ago defunct airline swallowed my two best saltwater rods on their way to Belize. On the swallowed, the airline refused to pay up. The twice stolen lots happened in Sun Valley, Idaho, and out of my truck in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida – respectively reimbursed by my insurer at a disappointng rate of 30% of value and 50%.
So, now I have to answer the questions I have been telling readers to value for the last ten years
Having moved to a new parallel six hours away from the salt. Salt was what my fly rods were geared for. I found myself having to reload again. If it weren’t for having to spend money, it would have been a most pleasant task since there are so many super fly rods that can play on the big stage in my price range.
I found compromise, not dollar cost or performance the most flummoxing
For example, being in North Georgia, I like to fish for brown trout in the heavyweight division and seasonally, landlocked stripers. Also, in other destinations, I like to fish for flats and marsh animals like reds, bones, baby tarpon, and snook. My choice in covering all those animal potentials boiled down to an eight weight, which outscored a nine by a “length.”
About eights and me
My 8-weight could not be a ballerina. I was tough on my equipment. A weak walled, super, super light rocket fast graphite rod that would, I concluded rightly or wrongly, limp to the sidelines with just a few lead eye fly-dings.
The best warranty in the world would do me no good in The Bahamas with five days of fishing left in my week and a 4-piece rod transformed into a useless 5-piece fly rod. I wanted a tougher graphite to avoid that happening. I knew it would not be the “lightest” rod around, but an “ounce” or two more.
My other time off is spent on largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and whatever else saunters into a bite. Here again, the eight fit, but I liked glass fishing these animals. My thinking was feel, tip-top and tippet in sync, easing the head shake effects.
If you’re a glass person, you know you can use the tip, like with tenkara or nymphing, to enjoy even a small trout’s resistance. Too, with an eight you can get a small fish in, release it in the water and have it safely grow into a bigger animal.
A glass eight would also be a backup on any trip I took, in a skiff, fltas – anywhere, or as a backup in the truck waiting for duty assignment.
It is not important to say that I liked so and so in graphite, or preferred so and so in glass because choosing a fly rod or fly rods is not about what he said, she said, or the ad said. It’s totally about what feels good in your hand.
I like to end with what Lefty Kreh said (paraphrasing), “It’s hard to find a poorly made fly rod these days.”
Think small store when buying a fly rod
Use your local fly shop as the source for all you fly fishing needs and remember, that’s where you get to test drive your new, favorite fly rod. Googling and big box stores can’t go there.
Think, would you buy a car without a test drive?
Featured Image “Fly Fishing Rods.” Source and permission by author Waldemarpaetz Troutster.com.