Although the article is about Western Fly Rods, the same principles apply to Tenkara rods and all other fixed line rods as well. New is not always and automatically better and choosing the right rod action for your fishing conditions is the most important rod buying decision an angler can make. Food for thought.
A great article. I found this out also by casting my old Winston and Sage 2 LL rods. They casted a lot
better than the stiffer rods. The old Powell rod was also a joy to cast. I feel the rod companies have focused on the weave design of graphite, newest NASA graphite, and coatings and forgot we needed to cast these rods and “Feel” them while casting. I sold all of my new rods and kept my old graphite rods, bamboo rods, and fiberglass rods. That is one of the reasons I turned to tenkara. I don’t catch fish with a 90-120 ft. cast; I fish small rivers and streams where 10-50 ft. is all you need.
Thank you again for sharing this article. This helped me understand what I felt but couldn’t put into words.
Mike, thank you so much for your insightful response. I hesitated to post the article because I thought that most T-anglers here would fail to see much of a relationship between fly fishing accuracy competitions and T-fishing small mountain streams. But in reality fishing small mountain streams is all about accuracy at very short casting distances.
When I fished Western tackle only, and which set me up to become a Tenkara angler, my favorite series of Western rods were the Scott “G” series rods, which were soft enough to turn over a dry fly on a tapered leader as long as the rod or shorter with out ever getting the fly line beyond the rod’s tip guide.
A lot of anglers here seem to be most concerned with the ability to manage Big fish after they are hooked. But to hook a fish, we need to be able to make accurate and gentle presentations. And slower, softer rods (6:4 and 5:5s) just make doing that a lot easier. Softer rods still have enough Backbone to handle big fish, it just takes a little more time and more rod bend to get to the backbone…Karl.
It is interesting how people can read the same article but can hear different messages. It is good because it fuels discussion.
@T-stillwater If you look at most folk’s rod preferences here in the forum, they are in fact 6:4 ish. I agree that there has been a bit of conversation on big fish recently, but really conversation in the forums cycle and is such a poor determining factor as most forums have a small percentage of contributers.
There was a spot a few years back, that a lot of focus/discussion was spent on moderate/mid flex rods. Almost a wild preoccupation. A friend sold all his rods an only had midflex rods, then discovered they can suck in the wind. If you fish windy country, mid flex might not be a great choice, or if you fish heavy lines or flies. I do not coorelate flex profile with accuracy. I feel there are other factors.
Really the fidelity of a rod breaks down to different aspects of utility. I have never found much guidance in generalized labels or specs.
I fish TUSA rods which in comparison of most Japanese rods are pretty mushy, soft, and will some dampened feedback. I like them for their fish fighting qualities and their durability. They are not as accurate as my nissin royal stage or some of my legacy rods I have sold in the past. That royal stage is a gem and it is supposedly marked as 6:4, but I think someone said it might be actually slipping into 5:5. I can really hit targets with it. It is fantastic in fishing unweighted flies.
Regarding modern flyrods. In my salt flyfishing forums there is often conversation on how great decades old rods are. Some say they are more forgiving and easier, but the elite in the group…(definitely not me as I am a greenhorn)…note that a softer rod will disguise casting flaws, but does not make one a better caster. They note that modern faster action rods are far better in the hands of the skilled especially in wind. Some of these guys can dump a whole 120’ flyline and make it look like no effort. They also attribute faster action rods to more injuries, because folk try to compensate for their poor skill by overpowering the cast.
regarding casting skill and timing: there is this sort of thing to demonstrate how casting a flyline is mostly about timing and definitely not the rod.
I personally feel that moderate rods are better fish fighting tools. In general, most tenkara rods fit this category.
All that said, the tackle market has trends. They have to market new products as better otherwise who would buy them? I think it is fair the article states not much has improved. I would even argue it has degraded. Most of these fancy rods are lighter and faster action than rods a decade or two ago. I feel they are also much more brittle and less forgiving to abuse. Add in more angler injuries. Seems like a wonderful pyramid scheme doesnt it? Charge more for a less reliable product. It rings a touch like the Emperor’s New Clothes.
Thanks for sharing the article.
My highly science-ey opinion is that most humans would find the most joy and comfort by balancing rod “power”, moment of inertia, and tactile feedback, within a certain range. 3.6 meter bamboo Tenkara rods probably are not there, nor for that matter would a fiberglass rod of similar length. So is embracing lighter materials, where a reasonable moment of inertia is key, a case of “Emperor’s New Clothes”?
That said, I have no intention of spending a grand on the very latest and greatest 4 weight Western fly rod. Stick a 4 weight line on a 7’ MaxCatch 3 weight fiberglass rod, and there’s no trout or bluegill what could tell the difference. All for the princely sum of $72 plus tax and shipping.
(FYI, this rod is a gun! but is nowhere near a 3 weight in my hands. Recommended if you’re into cheap glass just for kicks.)
All glass is really going back 40 or more years.
I think that article just discusses the trends within the last 10-15 and the flyrod industry.
My comment is more about plateaued tech and the schemes to convert customers. A lot of it is snake oil.
I think the snake oil aspect is also dependent on perspective. As rod-building technology progresses, there are indeed improvements in overall weight of the rod, specific power, lack of rebound etc… So these improvements aren’t “snake oil”. There was certainly a “comfort” improvement, especially in heavier line weights or longer rods as technology went from Greenheart → Bamboo → Fiberglass → Graphite. What remains to be seen is whether or not there’s a similar improvement when incorporating Graphene, and whether or not there will actually be market uptake. I will admit to seriously considering a Graphene rod for an extremely niche use, at a cost that boggles the mind. Luckily a used Graphite rod that fit the same niche came on the market, so I only spent silly money, rather than full on stupid money.
From the performance on the water perspective though - I am in full agreement. Just what tiny portion of the market segment actually benefits from moving from a 9’ 5 weight IM6 to a $1050 Sage R8 Core 590-4. For about a decade, my go to western rod was a Cabela’s CGR fiberglass 6’6" 4wt that was all of $49 in 2012. It just worked a treat for panfish in the pond, and in the tight quarters where I was pursuing trout in the thin blue lines in the Sierras. Did you know you can tight line nymph with a fiberglass 6’6" rod? An entire ecosystem would tell you that it just can’t be done. One needs that 10’ euro rod with just the right action to cast those nymphs and set the hook just so. Or so Marketing and Journalists would have you believe. Just last year I moved away from that CGR rod to a slightly nicer glass 7’3" 3wt, but know that I’ll find situations where the shorter cheaper rod is a better fit (literally).
I think I’ll break out that rod this afternoon, just for grins, and go give some fish a jaw ache even. I just need to bottle feed a lamb, move some pen netting, saw up some logs, muck out some waste hay, tell the dogs to quit chewing on each other, etc, etc, etc…
Agreed not everything is snake oil, but it might as well be if the target audience doesnt know how to cast or fish properly. Buying the newest tech is not going to help them. In general, these faster action western fly rods , I am told are made to better cast in wind. I fish wind to about 20mph and can tell you in those conditions I am often alone. I would say of the market, the folk who can benefit, might be .01%
A couple years ago I was out on the flats hunting striped bass. The wind was gusting to about 30 mph. It was my first season fishing and I did not bother with the fly rod, just brought spinning. The off to my right a fly caster converged on the spot. He could cast effortlessly into this wind and was rolling out 75’ casts. Unbelievable. Tight loops. I want to cast like that guy some day. I would be lucky to get 10-20’ in that wind.
Even self taught with 2 years under my belt with a fly rod and reel, it is interesting that I am already out fishing most fly fisherman around me. My cast is appalling. I need lessons, but just the same I am in a lineup with folk who are far worse. Trout fisherman I have seen are even worse off. I see guys struggling all the time. Lucky to see them cast 20-30’. They are all decked out with high end name brand stuff, and rarely do I see one convert a fish. It is mostly the old timers that seem to have it dialed in, and most of those guys are using really old equipment.
One guy from my other forum lives in the UK and is a casting nut. He is working on getting some sort of master flycasting certification over there. He was noting that the TFO pro II in 8wt rivals some much higher end rods. The components are junk, but the blank is fantastic and ironically being replaced by the pro III that is noted to be not as good. I hear this about Sage too a lot. Their lineup is a degrade from stuff just a few years ago.
Of all my rods, tfo and Sage, all of them result in the same casting distance and accuracy. Like they say it is not the arrow but the archer.
I know my casting and fishing problems are not hardware related. It is a deficit in skill.
I guess to try to put it succinctly, tackle companies will do anything to improve sales. Even legitimate improvements are questionable.
Sometimes I feel the fly fishing market is a fraud. Tenkara exposes that a bit. I can out fish other anglers with my 100 dollar Nissin rod. Why would anyone need a 1K outfit for trout? or any fish?
It reminds me when I lived in Los Angeles. I would be sitting in traffic and see a guy next to me in a Porsche, Ferrari, or Lamborghini. Buying a car like that in a place you could never open it up. A driver who probably does not have the skill to drive it. To me it is bizarre.
A Good rod will always be a good rod, Tom Morgan.
Who could argue with a legendary rod designer and bamboo rod maker; Tom Morgan is amazing.
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