How many of you have a fly rod that never seems to see much fishing time? When you bought the rod, you thought that it would be your “go-to" rod, but when you got it out on the stream & fished with it you realized that maybe it wasn't as grand as you first thought. It's not a bad rod at all, but you still like your old reliable one best it seems. Or maybe you bought a new rod to try out a different type of fly fishing, like bass instead of trout, & thought the rod was pretty different than what you’re used to. Well, you know a good rod when you see one, or so you thought, so what gives? Well, there's something you might want to think about before you give up on that fly rod.
One of the most important things concerning how a rod will handle for you depends a lot on the fly line you’re using. But you're using the right fly line - the weight it says to use on the rod shaft, so it must be something else, right? Not necessarily. Fly rod technology has come a long way since the days of wooden rods, but physics won't let you get around the fact that a fly rod is still a stick. Rod tapers (the diameter of the rod along its length) & the material(s) that rods are made of will define the action of the rod - what you feel when you wiggle it in the store. But only stringing the rod up with a fly line & casting it will tell you the rest of the story. This is where the importance of the fly line comes into play. When the rod & the line aren't properly matched, you're forced to either change your casting significantly or fish with more or less of the line extended beyond the rod tip in order to have the rod flex properly.
Fly lines are manufactured to industry standards set by the American Fishing Tackle Manufacturer's Association (AFTMA). A fly line's numerical weight designation is based on the weight of the first 30 feet of line extended beyond the rod tip. So the standards for line makers are primarily dealing with 30 feet of line. Now, most of us fish with 30 feet or less of line in the water, but how long is your fly line? Do you ever fish with more than 30 feet of line?
A look at any fly fishing catalog today will show that your choices & varieties of available lines are many. There seems to be a fly line out there for just about anything you can imagine: double taper, weight forward, sinking tip, floating, shooting head, etc., etc. All these lines are designed to do something different. So, now put yourself in the shoes of someone who designs fly rods for a large tackle manufacturer. The company tells you to design a standard 5 wt rod, but with all the different fly lines available & considering how important fly lines are, what exactly is a standard 5 wt rod?
Now, let's throw another wrench into the machinery: it's a fact that everyone casts a rod differently. We all have our own rhythm & timing. We all have an idea of what we want to feel when we cast a fly rod. So how is a large tackle manufacturer supposed to make a rod that will fit everyone? Well, they can't. The line weight designation for any rod is either a very well made educated guess & / or a compromise. Does this mean that rod manufactures don't know what they're doing? No. In fact most of them are very good at what they do. Unfortunately they have the very tough task of designing rods that will please the majority of anglers, & that's not easy to do.
So, what do you do if you have a rod that just isn't doing it for you? I suggest that you take the rod to a local fly shop you know & trust. Let them see & feel the rod. Tell them what you think & they should be able to help. You'll probably be able to try out different lines on the rod, which you should. When experimenting with different lines, don't be afraid to go up or down a line weight. You might really be surprised at the result. From time to time I have clients who had me make, say, a 5 wt rod for them. But when they took the rod out & tried different lines on it they discovered that they truly love the rod as a 4 wt, or maybe a 6. That’s because everyone handles a rod differently.
So you never know. You might already have the rod of your dreams gathering dust in the closet! Take that rod out & start trying as many different lines as you can get your hands on. Plus, this will give you a great excuse to spend a day hanging out at your favorite fly shop!!