Odds 'n' Sods of Information and Opinion

Buying a rod for the right reasons

Well, let's settle first what this post is not about. It's not about trying to get people to buy the rods I like. Rather it's about people buying the right rod for them, based on actual considerations like the size of river they fish, rather than on current fashion. A perfect example of this is someone buying a rod totally unsuited to where they want to fish. They've bought based on a set of faulty assumptions and someone else's preference.

I fish a big river and if I want to cover the big runs, I need to cast far. That requires using rods from 13' and up, not an 11' switch rod. Small rods on these runs are a lot of work to cast far, while a bigger rod makes the job easy.

The first misconception in the big rod, small rod argument, is that big rods take the fun out of the fight and this simply isn't true. The comments are usually made by someone who has never caught a fish on a big rod, probably never even cast one.

If we were shopping for a rod in the UK, we might see a line-up of a 12' 7/8, a 13' 8/9, a 14' 9/10, a 15' 10/11 and a 16' 11/12. What is key to understanding this rod range is that they're all designed to land the same sized fish - big Atlantic salmon. The rod size is based not on the size of the fish, but rather on the size of the river. The 12 footers are used on small rivers and the 15 or 16 footers on the very large ones.

All of these rods will put the same amount of pressure on a fish. I've actually done this so it isn't conjecture. Put a digital fish scale on the end of the line, then pull the maximum pressure you dare while holding the rod handle perpendicular to the line, as if you were fighting a big fish. What we find out is that all these rods pull about the same weight - usually around 1.6 to 1.7 lbs. In other words, the 12' 7/8 puts as much pressure on a fish as does the 15' 10/11 or 16' 11/12 rods. It's about leverage, for with a longer rod, the fish enjoys the leverage advantage. This is why blue water fishing rods are so short. No one gets on a boat and fishes for marlin using 15' rods. Most of the rods being used for big pelagic species are in the 5' 6" to 6' 6" range as these rods give the angler more leverage when fighting big fish.

Here's an example of me fishing my local river a few years back. First the big bend in my 15' 10/11wt. rod:
Big bend in a 15' 10/11 wt.

and now the little steelhead that made the bend:

a nice chrome little hen
Thanks to Larry Halyk for the photos.

The second problem I run across is people thinking it is easier to learn to Spey cast using a small rod when the opposite is actually true. Learning on shorter rods reduce the rod load feel and quickens the pace, making things more difficult for the client. While I rarely get the opportunity, I'd much prefer to start someone off with a 14' 9/10 wt. or 15' 10/11 as they would rapidly learn to slow down and let the rod work. Then the rod loading become more obvious and they really begin to feel what is happening. In contrast, teaching on a little, stiff switch rod can lead to the client thrashing away as they substitute strength for technique. The little rod enables this. We very quickly learn not to thrash a 15 footer.

So give some thought to this the next time a rookie asks you for rod buying advice.