Fly Fishing Blog

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Are you casting or fishing?

Are you casting or fishing?

Virtually every fly rod that is sold these days is described in an
advertisement, four-color catalog, or web site by its casting action. By
this I don't mean fast, medium, or slow, but how far you can cast with it
and/or the size of the line loop in the forward cast. I don't know about
you but I have caught only one fish when the line wasn't in the water: a
Florida largemouth bass jumped up and grabbed my deer hair bug as I was
trying to free it from a bush by jiggling it.

I enjoy casting as much as the next person and emphasize it at home when I
test my custom rods, but when I'm on the river it's a different story. I
want my fly to be on/in the water as much as possible, which means that I
cast as infrequently as I can. I try for one false cast and an
accurate delivery -- it doesn't always happen! -- then I try for the best
presentation possible: a drag free float for my dry fly, my nymph(s) flowing
freely at the right depth, or a life-like action to my streamer or wet fly.
That is the best way to catch trout, and by extension, other fish, fresh or

Why don't corporations and other builders mention these most productive
aspects in their ads and web sites? Because they are not glamorous. They
want you to imagine yourself throwing graceful curves in the air and having
your (one) skill noticed by others. If you buy a rod from me, you can be
assured that not only will it cast beautifully, but it will give you control
of the line and fly in the air AND on/in the water. I wouldn't make a rod
that didn't cast well, but I want my customers to primarily be excellent
fishers. Think about curve casts around obstacles, mends in a multi-current
river, high-stick drag free nymphing, making a streamer look like a wounded
bait fish trying to escape a predator, sensitivity to gentle strikes, saving
the tippet when the fly gets slammed, double hauling to reach way out there,
and having the right backbone to fight and to land a fish, large or small,
all the while having fun, and you're thinking about those things in fly
fishing that really count.

Every component in every rod that I build is geared toward that end. For
example, I once showed a potential customer, a woodworker, one of my older
bamboo rods. He was impressed by its condition, but said that he didn't
treat his rods with such care. He told me that a lot of his fishing was
done in high mountain lakes that often required long hikes or horse rides to
reach them, and that he had broken several rods on such trips. I told him
that if breaking a rod from rough treatment was a major concern of his, that
I would build him a four-piece rod from an older type of graphite, one that
could take more abuse than the newer super-high-modulus brittle materials,
yet still give him the sensitive action that he wanted for Alpine fishing. I
also suggested Recoil (tm) guides made from an alloy that can be bent over
time after time without damage or failure. To make a long story short, he
loved the rod I built for him and has fished it for several years under
rough conditions with no damage at all. His primary concern was not how he
looked while casting, but whether the rod would do the job for him and that
it would last. It did and it still does today.

Another example is the rod that I built for a guide who fished for inshore
saltwater species in San Diego Bay. He wanted a rod that could get a
sinking line "out there" and pull it up from the bottom at the end of the
cast, and that would give his clients satisfaction whether the fish were
large or small. I selected a nine foot seven weight blank that is available
only to custom builders, one that had good backbone and a sensitive tip, and
paired it with a titanium reel seat with a teak insert and a fighting butt.
The guides had titanium feet with Nanolite (tm) ceramic inserts that were
corrosion proof and had very little friction, would never wear out, and
enabled long casts. He could snake his Clouser fly through the eel grass and
feel the lightest take, but if the fish was a Pacific barracuda, a large
calico bass, or even a bonefish, the power was there to set the hook and
land the it.

Our local Trout Unlimited chapter is in the process of creating a Rio Grande
Cutthroat restoration fund to extend the range of these wild native New
Mexico trout and make catching them more available to everyone. I will be
donating a rod to the chapter for catching these wonderful fish. It will be
a seven foot three weight fiberglass rod that will have that wonderful soft
action that has been lost even in the most sensitive graphite and will make
catching these small fish a lot of fun. The rod will have a traditional
style of rod handle -- a downlocking nickel silver reel seat and a cigar-
shaped grip -- and chrome snake guides, wrapped and accented with silk
thread that has the colors of these beautiful fish. In this situation,
casting is not the most important element, since most casts are short and
don't have to be extremely accurate. The whole theme of the rod will be a
celebration of our state fish and have a wonderful action and sensitive feel
to give the maximum enjoyment while fishing for them in our mountain

You will not find unique, quality rods like these in fly fishing shops or
sporting goods stores. Modern factory production has made standardization
the norm these days. They have narrowed the market and lost the individual
characteristics that were the hallmark of all fly rods not too long ago.
Individually made fly rods have a "soul" that connects the fisher, the fish,
and the environment into an organic whole that is and always will be more
than the sum of the parts.

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