Analysis of Fly Rods
How to tell premium fly fishing rods
from cheap fly rods
Are there ways to tell premium fly rods from cheap fly fishing rods? The answer is a definitive Yes!
Here are some items to examine when looking for a premium fly rod. See the premium 9 foot 4 piece travel rod shown above.
Premium fly rods will generally have 1 guide for approximately each foot of rod not counting the main stripping guide. Premium fly rods may have two stripping guides but the second one is counted in the guide count. For example, the nine-foot premium fly rod pictured above has a total of ten guides not including the main stripping guide.
As the rod length increases so should the number of guides. Remember the rule of 1 guide for approximately each 1 foot of rod length plus a tip top guide. (Ex. A premium 8’6" fly rod should have 9 guides plus the main stripping guide = 10 guides. (Round up to the next higher whole fly rod length number, then count your guides)
A good model fly rod will generally have 1 less guide than the premium models. For the nine foot model shown here, a good rod would have nine guides not counting the main stripping guide.
A cheaper model fly rod will generally have still fewer guides not including the stripping guide. For example, a cheap nine-foot fly rod may have only eight guides not including the main stripping guide.
These less expensive fly rods will not cast long lengths of line as easily as premium fly rods will. Think about it. The guides carry the line as it shoots forward toward the target.
With less guides on the fly fishing rod, the line will tend to develop a little belly between the guides. With any belly in the line between guides, a lot of energy is lost. Loss of energy equals loss of forward motion and casting distance. Cheap fly rods also make you work harder to cast because you have to work to put more energy into the cast instead of letting the fly rod do it for you. Thus, a 60-foot cast with a 12-foot leader is more difficult using a cheap fly rod than with a premium rod.
Continue reading “Analysis of Fly Rods”
Fly Rod Manufacturing
How is my fly rod manufactured?
If you want to get a headache in a hurry, just start researching how fly rods are manufactured. So many terms — scrim, prepreg, resin, modulus of elasticity, high modulus graphite. Not to mention all the special PR spin each fly rod manufacturer puts on their materials. (Graphite II, Graphite III, Graphite IV, IM6, GL3, GL4, High Matrix, Sage fly rods new G5 technology with modulus positioning system (MPS) or St. Croix’s IPC technology to produce rods with one continuous taper. Let’s start with a Glossary of Terms.
Glossary of Fly Rod Terms
- Carbon fiber or Graphite — fibers of carbon processed in one roll with the fibers aligned along the length of the roll. The fibers then are coated with a bonding resin.
- Scrim — The addition of a small amount of fiberglass to the graphite matte. Or by spiral wrapping additional graphite fibers around the rod blank. The last method yields blanks of 94 to 96 per cent graphite and is the more versatile of the two methods.
- Resin — is a type of plastic like adhesive that is added to the blank to strengthen the matte and scrim. The resin is harden by curing in a baking oven. Different resins will give different rod characteristics.
- Pre-preg — the combination of the carbon matte, scrim and resin is called a pre-preg. The pre-preg is then cured in an oven at a set temperature and time. After that, it is ready for cutting a pattern called a "flag"
- Flag — the rod blank pattern cut from the pre-preg. The flag is now ready to be rolled around a mandrel to form the actual rod blank.
- Mandrel — A precisely tapered metal rod used to define the shape of the rod blank. Different mandrel shapes help to determine rods of different actions and tapers. Quality rods are designed on a mandrel for each piece.
The flag or pattern is rolled around the mandrel using pressure or shrink tape. If shrink tape is used, the rod blank will have spiral marks that must be sanded or ground smooth.
The mandrel and wrapped flag is cured in a baking oven at a precise temperature and for a precise time. Then the cured flag is removed from the mandrel. Better blanks have a smoother finish right off the mandrel. Shrink tape wrapped blanks will have small ridges left when cured. These ridges must be ground down to a smooth finish. A matte finish blank is left unvarnished or finished with a matte or satin varnish.
- Modulus of Elasticity — is a fancy term for the amount of stiffness in a rod blank. (It actually stands for Young’s Modulus of Elasticity from Physics.). As typically used, Modulus refers to the stiffness of the dry graphite fibers — before mixed with the resin to become the prepreg.
- Spine — All rod blanks have a "spine" from the manufacturing process. The spine means the blank will favor flexing along a particular plane. Each rod section may not have the same spine so fitting rod guides is finding the "Effective Spine" Best quality rods today may have little or no spine.
Finding the spine. Take each rod section and set the butt section on a table or non-slip surface. Put slight pressure on the rod about in the middle of the section with the finger tips and then roll the rod blank gently in one direction. You will feel a point where the blank "snaps" over a point of stiffness. That is the spine. Sight along the blank and see if if the guides are aligned along the spine.
Do this with each rod section for the rod you are looking at. With the rod assembled, you should be able to tell the spine by the same test. Do this gently unless you want to buy a broken rod.
Why the Spine is important! Under load, the rod will always turn itself so the load is resisted by the spine, the rod’s line of greatest strength. The guides must be aligned along this line of resistance. Failing this, the rod will turn under load to the spine regardless of where the guides are set. You don’t want to be fighting a big fish and have the rod twist under load.
Blank and Rod Properties
- Tapers — Rod tapers come in several flavors.
- Compound or progressive where the blank makes several changes to the taper over the length of the total blank.
- Continuous or smooth where the blank is one smooth taper from butt to tip. (These types of tapers are a newer taper allowed by better ferrule design.)
- Ferrules — The connection points between sections of a rod. The ferrules generally offer a point of increased resistance in the blank which will affect the overall action of the rod. A badly designed ferrule can break a blank from the leverage force applied to the inside of the blank. This applies to two piece and multi-piece rods. Newer ferrules are often thinner walled than older designed ferrules. And so offer a better rod action.
Analysis of fly rods — How to tell premium fly fishing rods
from cheap fly rods
How to Choose Fly Rods