Of Rods and Reels

Fly Rod Basics
Fly Rod

The creation of a fly rod is a science unto itself, and one that is constantly evolving and improving. There is no shortage of fly rod manufacturers nowadays, with names like Orvis, Sage, Scott, Thomas & Thomas, Redington, L.L. Bean, Scientific Anglers, Winston, G. Loomis, and many more being well known and quite respected. This proliferation of fly rod manufacturers forces the other guy to always be thinking and coming up with new ideas, manufacturing techniques, and practical features. Adding to this is the remarkable explosion of interest in fly-fishing since the late 1980s. But before we can look at what rod you should buy for what type of fly-fishing, and just as importantly what rod you shouldn't buy, we must look to yesterday.

Fly rods have been constructed of steel, boron, fiberglass, bamboo, and graphite over the years. Steel and boron have fallen by the wayside, and bamboo remains extremely expensive (although Orvis still makes a magnificent bamboo rod for under $1,000), but fiberglass and graphite have survived well, especially graphite, which is sensitive and strong, yet light.

Today, graphite is the only way to go when considering a fly rod. It certainly beats the performance of steel, which was popular earlier in this century and was eventually replaced by fiberglass. Boron fly rods briefly came into their own in the early 1980s, but did not pan out in the long run; graphite proved to be far superior across the spectrum of performance. Bamboo rods are for people with far too much money. Fiberglass rods are still readily available in the marketplace today and improvements have made them sensitive and light, but even the most well-crafted fiberglass fly rod can't compare to a reputable manufacturer's bargain basement graphite wand.

Every fly-fisher yearns for the creation of a single fly rod that can handle every fly-fishing situation; it could perform wonderfully for bonefish on the flats, steelhead in the riffles, bass in the lily pads, brown trout in pocket water, snook in the mangroves, bream in the brush piles, dolphin in the sargassum, and tarpon in the channels. Obviously, such a rod is only a wish, and the chance of one ever coming into being is nil. This means the fly-fisher is left to pick and choose very carefully among myriad specialty rods that have a wide range of actions, lengths, and line-handling abilities.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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