Monday, October 30, 2006

Rods

First take this or anyone’s opinion about fly rods with a grain of salt. After all we are biased towards a personal perspective. My perception, unlike many, has also been shaped by almost thirty years of working with anglers of all abilities and all configurations of rods for a wide variety of fishing situations or simply improving their casting. So I interject some additional influences other than my own.

Since graphite was introduced I’ve watched fly rod designs evolve. The evolution has led to overly quick and lighter rods. Finesse rods being replaced by rods of power. Fishing rods by casting rods. However, as of late some of that power has been toned down. For the first time in a while this new breed of rods has me excited about the latest in fly rod offerings.

My first good rod, as many of you know, was an 8’1/2” for a 5 Winston. I picked it up back in the late seventies. In my mind this is the best all around trout rod ever built for the wading angler. At least for the way I prefer to fish. Since that purchase rods have evolved to become lighter, faster, and overly powerful. At times casters had to over line some of the more powerful ones to load them properly. Flyfishers could cast these rods further, yet when they got them to the stream they often had difficulty getting them to cast effectively within the fishing range. For those of us who preferred rods that had more feel and flex, they were becoming scarce.

Not all was bad with this direction. The generation of power rods made life easy for fishing conditions where rods with backbone were needed; long casts, long rods, big bulky indicators, steelhead, saltwater, launching big flies, boat rods, there were a number situations were these rods added to ones choice of weapons depending on their fly fishing situations and preferences. However, for the average caster and fly fishing scenario they were to much gun for the game we were pursuing.

Some rods companies got carried away. I won’t bash any here since I do realize that if you like your rod, it’s the right one for you regardless of how I feel about it. But, some of these stick were better for staking tomatoes or beating off bears. You might actually stand a chance of fending off and unwelcome intruder should the need arise with a few of these power sticks. But for most of our trout fishing needs this wave of rods and their designs were too much gun.

Personally (surprised) I don’t have much use for rods of this nature. Having grown accustom to the feel of a smooth rod with a sensitive flex, I’ve always gravitated towards those that have similar properties to my old buddy. Steelhead, Tarpon, Bonefish, it doesn’t matter; I like the sensation of a rod that flexes right into my fingertips. One of the aspects of this sport that attracted me was the cast. Rods that are sensitive in the hand help connect you to what you’re trying to accomplish when on the water. For me, those tools involve rods that are smooth and have a more moderate flex. Like fast rods, their not for everyone, but for us “Old Schoolers” there sweet music once in the hand.

So why am I so excited as of late with the rod world. For the past several years we’ve seen a number of rod companies put some of that good old music back into their rods. Sage, long one of the driving forces in modern fly rods designs, has toned down their latest offering with the new Z-Azis rod line. The new Z-Axis, in our mind, is an improvement over the XP for the average fly fisher. It’s much easier to cast, has more of a feel, and in general is a better all around rod.

No by now means is this new Sage slow compared to many of the more traditional flex rods that are available today. But, one cast with this rod and it was rather unanimous as to the comfort and ease of casting this rod compared to the now defunct XP.

Many die hard XP lovers, and for good reason, won’t let go of their old sticks for the same reason I can’t deviate from what I find acceptable in a rod. The good news for the XP aficionados, these rods in various conditions will be available for a long time to come through a number of clearinghouses and fly shops. Just like I can still find original Wintson graphite rods, you’ll be able to find almost any rod you bias will steer you towards thanks to the power of the internet. All is not lost.

Last year Scott came out with their new G2. That was the best rod, again in my opinion, that came out for 2006. Scott has always leaned towards full flex rods, but like all rod companies for a time they got caught up in the chase. Their popular G series embodies their rod philosophy, and always has. The G2 carries many similar properties as the G, just tuned it up; lighter, and a littler quicker, but still with a great presence in the hand. I give great kudos to the guys as Scott for sticking with their roots and thus introducing one of their more successful lines of trout fishing rods.

Winton this year, got back to their roots as well. Over the past few seasons, like most manufactures they got busy trying to keep up with the Jones. Most of those rods have been put to rest. A few years back they introduced the BII. Like the Scott G2 it to received wide acceptance and quickly became one of our more popular rods. This year they’ve done it again with the BIIt, (t-Trout). I made one cast with this rod and immediately felt it was made for me; soft, slow and with great feel. It’s properties are very similar to many of the older more traditional fishing rods.

These and other new rods are the first to revisit that which many of us have become familiar with. Until recently rods with similar prosperities have been like old friends, hard to come by. For the first time in a while I can now go over to our rod rack with incredible options. Options that I’m very excited about.

My poor reps have listened to me rant and rave about the rods for years. How’s it go; opinions are like A… everyone’s got one. It wasn’t just me however. I could see the difficulty, and displeasure in many of my customers when casting some of these more powerful rods. As of late I’ve no room to complain. I tip my hat to the rod designers and companies. They keep pushing the envelop, but for now are moving it in a directions that is good for us all. In fact I’m charged up enough that I just might have to go out and buy a new rod. It’s been a while.

1 comment:

David said...

Music? It's always been bamboo...