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PaulRobertsDecember 4th, 2010, 10:48 am

Posts: 1776
I just finished building a small stream rod and wanted to share it.

I’ve been wanting to upgrade one rod action in particular in my small stream arsenal. What I wanted was a hammer, a rocket of a rod with power in the tip for popping tight loops into tight places, and for bow-n-arrow casting. It also needs that tip power to set a hook with the little rod movement tight places allow. I planned to throw a 4wt line on it so that the casts can still land softly.

All the “4wt” rods I’d looked at were simply too wimpy; I wanted a short HAMMER, and they are not easy to find. At one point in my quest I finally bit the bullet and ordered an Orvis "Superfine" now offered in a "Tip-Flex" (fast) action. A beautiful rod that represented the most money I'd ever laid down for a rod. It came and ...was too wimpy, so I put that beautiful thing back into its packaging and returned it. It was nearly the same action and power as the Loomis 7½ft "4wt" I already own –a 3wt in my book.

To get the power I wanted, it appeared that I would probably be looking for a short fast 5wt, on which I’d throw a 4. The rod I have been using for this purpose was a 7½ft 5wt that had lost 3 inches from the tip. It is a rocket and has done the job just fine. But, it is butt ugly. A cheap rod to begin with and well used before I acquired it for free from Cortland years ago from their broken rod bin. Thus, the upgrade.

I emailed, posted in forums, and talked to shop owners and kept getting the run around about what I really needed, with the argument about rod’s loading on a short line, to which I had to argue that a "rigid" rod is loaded AT ALL TIMES, you just don’t have to wait for it! I even had a short email discussion with Jason Borger (at North Fork Composites) and told him I was looking for a short rod that “could dent pop cans”. "Shadowcaster" appeared to understand what I was talking about and he said they are looking into developing some short rods in the near future. Finally, Batson Enterprises responded offering a 7½ft EXTRA-FAST 4wt blank in matte charcoal finish! I jumped on it. Who in their right mind would produce an XF fly rod blank -esp in 4wt?? Well, it makes perfect sense to me as tight loops are created by shallow tip movement and an abrupt stop.

Since this was to be my small stream workhorse I wanted certain things out of its appearance, namely stealth, which translates to: no flash - matte charcoal blank and black single foot guides. I deviated from the 'shadow' look in the wraps, choosing a beautiful slightly reflective gold-olive.

I wanted an up-locking skeletal reel seat too and this isn’t made except by Bellinger for just too much money. So I modified a down-locking skeletal made by Struble, boring out the end cap and recessing it into a reversed half wells grip. I also shortened the grip by a third, something done on a rod I own made by one of the Thomas & Thomas founders, Thomas Maxwell, after he sold T&T. For the seat insert I ground down cork/rubber composite rings; I like the "Earthy" look of that composite. I made the hook keeper from the eye of a 5/0 hook, de-tempering and re-shaping it. I used a button for a butt cap, depicting a caddisfly. Given the caddisfly ornament and this being a western small stream rod I am considering naming it “Arctopsyche”, which I’ll letter on the blank. Is it silly to name a fly rod?

The final product is a 7½ft XF for 4wt weighing 2oz that specializes in tight loops for tight places. From some preliminary casts in the driveway I think I'm close to what I was looking for. I’ll know for sure after some time onstream.


SlateDrake9December 4th, 2010, 3:37 pm
Potter County, PA

Posts: 144
First off, you put together a nice looking rod. Nice job.

Secondly, and most importantly to me, I think you could have purchasing a shovel handle and put guides and a cork handle on it the way you are describing this rod's action. You'd get the same feeling for a lot less money. ;-)

To each his own, but I'll stick to my slow and soft rods, especially for the little streams.
Fishing with bait is like swearing in church.
-- Slate Drake
EricdDecember 4th, 2010, 4:22 pm
Mpls, MN

Posts: 113
Paul, it looks like you built yourself the best rod for what you want. It's a beauty.

I just ran into an acquaintance today who said he's looking for the right blank to design his own. It's a topic I'd love to read more about.
LastchanceDecember 4th, 2010, 6:42 pm
Portage, PA

Posts: 437
Great rod, Paul. Really nice job. You sound like you're a bit of an engineer. What kind of thread did you use?
PaulRobertsDecember 4th, 2010, 8:01 pm

Posts: 1776
Thanks all.

SD9: No, a shovel handle wouldn't do. That's like you saying you'd be happy with a cooked spaghetti noodle.

Bruce, I'm no engineer. If it involves straight lines, I'm in trouble. More of a sculptor than a carpenter.

The thread is Rayon from a fabric store.
SlateDrake9December 5th, 2010, 6:50 am
Potter County, PA

Posts: 144
If you could put guides and a grip on an al dente noodle, I'd be overwhelmed with joy!
Fishing with bait is like swearing in church.
-- Slate Drake
PaulRobertsDecember 5th, 2010, 7:24 am

Posts: 1776
Al dente ... now we're getting somewhere. ;)

I'll take mine heated only at the very tip lol.
SlateDrake9December 5th, 2010, 8:41 am
Potter County, PA

Posts: 144
Al dente ... now where getting somewhere. ;)

I think everyone should have at least one faster rod in the arsenal...that would do it for me.
Fishing with bait is like swearing in church.
-- Slate Drake
OldredbarnDecember 6th, 2010, 7:37 am
Novi, MI

Posts: 2608
Is it silly to name a fly rod?


A good friend of mine put a rod together for me for a trip to Montana in 1995 and if you get it in just the right light you can see where he put my name on it near the handle...He said he put it there to stop me from ever selling it.

Looks like a nice little stick there mister...I'm partial to "rocket ship launchers" myself. I like that line about dinting a pop can...Four or five years back I was floating the N.B. Au Sable during Brown Drakes and I had two rods strung up and my guide friend had another he was using. We got to an area that had a few nice fish working and he had parked the boat way upstream so as not to spook the fish. I was casting from a good distance away and mending down to them.

One nice fish took my fly and headed towards a log and as I scrambled to get all that line under control, a second or two really, he had gone under a log and left me hooked to it...I left the fly in the log and my friend handed me the second rod all ready to go since it didn't seem to stop the other fish from feeding.

The first rod, one of my favorites, is a late 90's Sage 9' for 5wt Light Line. The second rod was an old Loomis 8.5' for 5wt IMX...The third one he stuck in my hand was his Winston and it felt to me like I went from strong to wimpier, to wispy...Having a chance, in an actual fishing situation, to sample three rods right in a row seemed to highlight the differences in these three rods.

I agree with what I think you are hinting at, if indeed you are, that in some situations a little power can go a long way...My guide friend feels that some of the fish are "boat spooked" and as we float he's always looking way ahead of us for feeders...When he sees one he stops and I'm usually quite aways from the fish...If you are wading and working small areas of water with shorter casts those wispier rods are fine, but...

I think you could have purchasing a shovel handle and put guides and a cork handle on it the way you are describing this rod's action.

On the subject of rods and "to each their own" us anglers are as different as snowflakes. My friend told me the other day that he happened upon an old fiberglass rod that was the exact same rod he had as a young man just starting out (he's 60 now). His first rod. He purchased it for a few bucks and totally re-built it...He took it out in to the back yard and he told me it felt like a club and he can't figure out how in the hell his arm never fell off back then after a day of casting it.

I guess he was just feeling a bit nostalgic or something...

I mentioned that I was taking my nephew up to a Fly Tying show this past weekend. I picked him up Friday night and took him down in to the basement and let him tie his first ever "Wooly Worm". You know he dragged that thing along with him to the show and every guy we sat down with had to check it out...He was damn proud of that bug! Old fishermen are quite a nice bunch of push overs and to a man they made out like it was the fly of the show and told him , "Fella. This fly will catch fish."...He came home with a handful of flies and one old friend of mine actually gave him a half-dozen hooks and told him to tie his next few Wooly Worms on these...Nice stuff, eh!?

"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
PaulRobertsDecember 6th, 2010, 10:04 am

Posts: 1776
Hey Spence,
Awesome to hear your nephew had a good time at the show, and received some attention. That's what a lot of kids need -it's not the fish or the stuff but often the people that really affect us. Sounds like a push in a good direction. Get some flies in his box this winter, teach him to roll a line out, and get him on some fish next spring. Remember what it was like taking your first flies to the water? I think that's what I feel in the ties Softhackle posts: that excited anticipation of the possibilities.

As to rod action:
First off, I know how much anglers love their tackle, rods especially, and realize this topic could be felt personally. I think it’s a good discussion though. My thoughts are my opinion alone and not meant to rile anyone or put anyone on the spot.

I've owned a bunch of rods over the years, but am not an engineer with access to testing equipment, custom mandrels, and test blanks. That said… I've come to this: A crisp rod will do everything a soft one will and more; But not vice-versa. The only real advantage to soft rods I can think of lies in protecting small hooks lodged in big fish. But most fly rods, even fast ones, with all that length, offer plenty of cushion to begin with. I use "softish" rods for “lobbing” leadcore where I never need tight loops, but could use a faster rod and still keep an open loop just fine. Also, there is no hook setting needed with LC. Like downstream wet fly fishing the fish go a long way in getting that done. A fast rod could be used here though, with proper rod angle allowing some slack. Slack is easy to get, it’s the judicious use of tension we strive for.

For nymphing I tend to throw more open loops (with shot) but want a crisp (not noodly) rod for strike detection –can’t go crisp enough here in my estimation.

Soft rods are also often prescribed for beginning casters, so that they can "feel the rod load". I honestly don't remember what that was like. Casting for me is a matter of timing, to keep proper tension. And I can feel more with a crisp rod, although the timing is different –quicker. Likely, most certainly, my reaction time has become honed over time so that I am able to keep track of that tension without much thought. Along this line, soft rods are described as "forgiving", presumably meaning offering slowed timing so beginners can keep up.

I'll say one thing, softer rods ARE a joy to cast –it feels nice. But, for sheer performance –gimme speed. I can still form open loops and create slack when I need it.

I'm very curious what others have to say about what advantages softer actions provide. Is it preference, timing needs, or…

"A little power goes a long way""
Yes, and a "soft rod" underlined or cast short will have enough power to form a tight loop, but not very far. With a crisp rod, when your timing is there, a tiny "pop and stop" will get your fly IN there (far under that overhang), or OUT there with still some control of the tippet.

Those Old "Clubs":
Blank construction has come a looooong way. I don't have time to wax poetic about my first graphite rods -but holy moly, graphite was, and still is, a marvel. For the efficient long rods we take for granted today, well...graphite made them possible.

We loved our old clubs and caught fish with them. As technology progresses we get spoiled. I can go out to the shop and pull out my old rods, even graphites, and think: "I loved this rod??" But, I find I cannot part with them, even though I will likely never fish with them again.
BcvizinaDecember 6th, 2010, 11:48 am
Northern Michigan

Posts: 30
Just ordered a 6'6" 2 wt from Steve at

Anybody have any experiences with rods made by Steve? I wanted to pick up a little rod for brook trout creeks. I'll let you guys know how it feels.

On a second note, I'm not planning on casting it that far, what kind of line do you guys use for fishing on delicate slack waters?
OldredbarnDecember 6th, 2010, 12:23 pm
Novi, MI

Posts: 2608
I can go out to the shop and pull out my old rods, even graphites, and think: "I loved this rod??" But, I find I cannot part with them, even though I will likely never fish with them again.


Nice thoughtful post.

I have never sold a rod I've owned and my buddy, who has built most of my rods, knows this. I think he was trying to "personalize" my rod and then maybe felt uneasy about it...The, "I love ya, man!" thing that most of us males feel uncomfortable about. It was a good idea, I liked it a lot, but beyond that we didn't know what to say about it. :)

He built me two rods we still call the Montana Rods...They were both Sage's and were designed for me to maybe give me a little edge against those strong winds out that way that we hardly see here in Michigan. The trip was at the end of July in 1995 and both blanks were their RPL series...One is an 8' for 4wt & the other is a 9' for 5wt...For a very long time you couldn't pry that 4wt from my hand.

The odd thing to me is the process where somehow a favored rod ends up hardly used any longer. I have an old 3wt L.L. Bean (it was in reality a Loomis blank then) that was my Trico rod period and I can't tell you the last time I fished it...It may be simply that I haven't been able to get away around that time a year like I use to, but who knows. Everytime I have fished it I enjoy how it casts.

The Sage I mentioned in the previous post was made originaly by my friend and was meant for him to use out west and he sold it to me instead for next to nothing (cost of materials). Not long after he sold it to me he began fishing seriously nymphs (he was Mr. Dry Fly and considered "the" Dry Fly guy here in Michigan for decades). It turns out that the Light Line series has a wonderful touch for nymphing and he's upset that I haven't sold it back to him...:)

I have really wanted to buy a Bob Summers cane rod...You should google Bob Summers Rods and check out the old rods and reels he has there for sale. He was an apprentice of Paul Youngs here in Detroit back when the earth was young and his shop was here in town. I just can't get my mind around the dough, but it's more the idea, I think anyway, that I'll be spending the dough for a "look" and not neccesarily performance...I may have pricked a few folks there, eh!?

In 97 I was at the ten year anniversary of the Angler's of the Au Sable. They had a beautiful Bob Summers 4wt there that he had built just for the anniversary. I had my wife with me and may have been able to pull off a bid but when I looked down at the sheet the last bid was from Rusty Gates and I wasn't sure if he was trying to bid it up or he really wanted the rod. He had been the only president of the club until he passed last December.

Well the rod went to Rusty and later, while visiting him in his shop, I told him I was thinking about bidding on that rod but didn't really want to bid against him. He offered it to me for what it went for and I just couldn't talk myself in to it...He said to me, "Spence. What do I need another rod for?!" For a few years after he would bring it up but I never moved on it.

I think more than anything else in our sport a good rod somehow becomes part of you. It is a reminder of wonderful streams, and fish caught, and time spent on a river with good friends. Parting with it is almost like telling your wife you think it's not working out and you are thinking about moving on...Just not an easy thing to do. So, you and I have them stacked in the corner somewhere and in the dead of winter may pull them out and take another look at them, maybe run the silicon impregnated gun cloth over it a bit and think about some good old days when it was the love of your life.


"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
PaulRobertsDecember 6th, 2010, 1:06 pm

Posts: 1776
maybe run the silicon impregnated gun cloth over it a bit...

Never! I even value the dried on algae, slime, and fish scales.

I've also come to dislike the bright shine of new cork. I want to dirty it up, and will when i get to teh stream; Dunk it and scrub it in the ooze.

As to fine rods:
Have you seen Bill Oyster's rods? I don't know whether I should post his link, bc it could cause strife at home (lol):

LastchanceDecember 6th, 2010, 1:54 pm
Portage, PA

Posts: 437
Gees, Paul. Those Oyster Bamboo Rod are truly works of art. That presidential seal is incredible and to have a rod signed by President Carter is so special regardless of your politics.
SlateDrake9December 6th, 2010, 4:20 pm
Potter County, PA

Posts: 144

Since you asked, here goes.

I can do anything with my slow rods as just about anyone can with the fastest rods on the market, plus some (of course I'm not a world champion long distance caster, but you get the point).

The most important thing I can do is protect light tippets on large trout - and still release the trout to live another fight. Can you protect a 7x on a 6 weight ultra fast rod on a 5 pounder? Probably not without killing the fish. Just not enough shock absorbing flex in a ultra fast rod.

I like the jab you threw in there about the beginner thing. Interestingly, (in my personal experience as an instructor for new fly casters) many folks learning can do better with a faster rod than a slower one because you can over power a fast rod and still cast okay, but do so with a slow rod and the tailing loop will end the cast for you. Timing is much more important the slower the rod gets, not the faster.

Tight loops, open loops, curve casts, etc. all have to do with casting ability, not rod action. Good casters are good casters PERIOD.

Line speed. Again, casting ability not rod action. I'd bet I can generate as much line speed with my butter soft 5 weight as you can with your telephone pole ultra super fast 5 weight.

Interestingly, I've had this conversation with fishing buddies many times over the years. A bunch of us went to an advanced casting class some years ago to learn some "trick" casting. (Pretty neat experience if you can find an instructor) Long story short, the idea of fast versus slow came up and advantages/disadvantages and pissing contest (probably like we have here) showed up. The FFF instructor took one of the ultra fast rods and cast the whole line in what seemed a heartbeat. Of course the fast rod group exclaimed it couldn't be done with my slow rod. The instructor then picked up my slow rod and did the same with as much ease. Shut up the fast rod guys pretty quickly and we moved on to learning the casting techniques we went there for.

And to Spence---> there is no better material to build a fly rod than bamboo. Nothing stronger. Definately nothing prettier. If this wasn't true, why have so many rod manufacturers tried to make plastic and glass rods perform like bamboo rods? I'd venture to say the well made bamboo rods are the gold standard for fly rods (not some of the cheap production rods that are built on a terrible taper). And as an unrelated side note, no other rod material holds it's value like bamboo on the secondary market.
Fishing with bait is like swearing in church.
-- Slate Drake
OldredbarnDecember 7th, 2010, 6:38 am
Novi, MI

Posts: 2608
On the subject of rods and "to each their own" us anglers are as different as snowflakes.

This was the beginning of my earlier post.


I have been labelled as "Mr. Lore" by close fishing friends...I think my attraction, and maybe it's the same for other folks, to cane rods may be related to my fondness for Hardy reels, Barbour jackets, Ernie's famous sweaters and feathered caps, flasks filled with the aged stuff, followed by a Cubano...I get that...I love the look and the tradition...These are the rods you pull out and show off back at the lodge on opening day weekends...

PS...Truth be known...Some folks can afford a nice cane rod and buy their way in to "the club", but from conversations with guide friends can't cast them more than a few feet out in front of the boat...They look damn sweet doing it though...:)
"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
GutcutterDecember 7th, 2010, 7:17 am

Posts: 470
i'm going to agree and disagree with you.
i certainly can throw some distance, as anybody who has fished with me can attest. i'm sure that you can, too. i can throw 90ft with my "fast" 5wt (winston biimx) and also with my "slow" 5wt (winston bl5). i agree that it is casting mechanics and line speed. it actually takes me 4 false casts to throw the line on the fast rod, but only 3 to load and shoot the slow rod. i think that i can feel the rod and time the forward stroke better with the slow rod, thus having more "confidence" in shooting the line. on the first false cast, i can't always feel the load as well on the "stiff" rod, and with the poor timing, i have not generated enough line speed.
now, on the subject of fighting a fish with light tippet and "protecting" the fish from fighting to death, i'm going to disagree with you.
fighting a fish from the reel, whether it be in big or small water, and knowing how much strain i can put on the tippet is what protects my tippet from breakage and what prevents me from overplaying a fish (whether it be trout on 7x or tarpon on 20#) to death. that and good knots.
the newest reels protect tippet very well if they are allowed to function as designed. just like a good rod of any stiffness can throw a full line when allowed to function as designed. it is the person on the business end of the rod that has to make it happen.
and, the vast majority of time, when a knot is tied correctly, it is not the jerk on the knot, but the jerk at the business end of the rod.
i think we will have to have a "pissing contest" on the larger freestones in the spring!

and paul - mellow out...

my two cents worth
All men who fish may in turn be divided into two parts: those who fish for trout and those who don't. Trout fishermen are a race apart: they are a dedicated crew- indolent, improvident, and quietly mad.

-Robert Traver, Trout Madness
RleePDecember 7th, 2010, 10:00 am
NW PA - Pennsylvania's Glacial Pothole Wonderland

Posts: 398
It's time for the Know-Nothing Party to chime in..

I think whoever said that this rod action choice thing is very much a matter of personal preference and hence subjective (or words to that effect..) had it right.

I do 95% of my trout fishing with 2 rods: a late 70's vintage Orvis Far & Fine and a late 90's model 9' Diamondback Americana Series (well, 3 rods now that I think of it as I have a pair of the Far & Fines I alternate). I do the other 5% with a 6' brown Fenwick glass rod from the mid-70's. All are slow. All are 5 wgts.

Guys tell me I "don't know what I'm missing by fishing slow rods".

That's OK. I don't want to know..

I like what I use and it makes me happy.

I also agree with Spence (I think it was..) about not being able to sell my rods, regardless of their utility to me at any given time). I had a 7'6" Fenwick brown glass for a 5 wgt. and I sold it in the early 90's for the small amount of liquidity it brought me, which i needed at the time. If I were double jointed enough, I'd kick myself in the ass every day for selling it. I really liked it.

Then I had a 7' 3 wgt. T&T "Paralite" I won at a TU banquet back in the 90's. It was a complete mismatch for my fishing style at the time, which mostly consisted of punching #14 Humpies in under hemlock boughs at 25-30 feet. Useless... I celebrated parting with that thing.

Different strokes (literally), etc..
OldredbarnDecember 7th, 2010, 11:29 am
Novi, MI

Posts: 2608
I had a 7'6" Fenwick brown glass for a 5 wgt. and I sold it in the early 90's for the small amount of liquidity it brought me, which i needed at the time. If I were double jointed enough, I'd kick myself in the ass every day for selling it. I really liked it.


My fishing friend sold a few cane rods he owned back in the 80's sometime and one was a Paul Young "Martha Marie"...He sold them for the same reason, needed the dough. He still tries to justify it from time-to-time by knocking cane rods, and he still kicks himself it the same spot on his anatomy as you do...

Speaking of Fenwicks...I totalled a rod back in the early 90's and had sent it back to Loomis to get the tip section matched to the butt so my friend could put it back together again. During that time he gave me an old one he had where he had made it halfway in re-wrapping it. The butt section is wrapped in one color and the tip another...It worked just fine and I still have it...

Maybe this rod thing is a bit obsessional...I also use to keep old ticket stubbs from concerts, score cards from long ago hockey games I'd seen, napkins from Bakers Keyboard Lounge, love notes from cuties I can hardly remember, even a bowling ball I had used as a teen...Wives are good for this ailment..."Not in my house" was a refrain I remember hearing from time-to-time...:) She was not afraid to heave when it came to my "junk"...I lost a perfectly good "Hawaiian inside-out shirt" because she thought the woman who had given it to me (she had studied in Hawaii)had seen me modelling it with nothing else on...:)

Maybe she saved me from ending up like those crazy brothers in New York in the 30's who died in a walk-up crammed full of their collected junk.

"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
PaulRobertsDecember 7th, 2010, 11:53 am

Posts: 1776
First off, SD, my use of the term “wimpy” in describing rods or “beginner” were never directed at you or those that choose them. I was merely thinking of stated advantages. Softer rods are commonly advised for beginners. Read the descriptions of entry level rods and you'll hear those moderate actions described as "forgiving".

When I asked: "I'm very curious what others have to say about what advantages softer actions provide. Is it preference, timing needs, or…", I wasn't baiting anyone. I wonder why people chose what they did? One very good answer I can think of would be accuracy, esp close in. My new rod has yet to prove itself there. Can't wait to give it a good workout.

I can say that the soft rods I own came bc that’s what was available at the time for my price range. But I find myself leaning towards fast rods more and more, to the point that I want to take it to extremes and see what that means in my fishing. I see lots of advantages to crisper rods. If I find my accuracy suffers, I'll go up a line weight or two or so a bit softer. We'll see.

Power, Distance, Line Speed:
The caster is of course a critical component. A good caster can adapt to any rod, or none at all. It’s not unlikely that the same caster will have their lines collapse at roughly the same distance regardless of rod action. But that doesn’t mean that rod action is moot.

And yes, fishing rods have to bend. But, the same angler throwing the same line CANNOT develop the same PEAK line speed with a fast and a soft action rod. Top distance tournament fly casters, to the man, do not use soft rods –they would lose. Line (fly) speed, for equal power applied, is a matter of the curvature of the loop. A narrow loop goes through its rotation faster than does a wide one –it’s a mathematical certainty. A tight loop is generated by narrow tip travel, and fast rods excel at this. Fast rods are called high line speed rods by every manufacturer. It’s not just BS.

Steve Rajeff says, “For ultimate distance, if you can bend a stiffer lever, that stiffer lever unloading will deliver more speed and more distance.” But he also went on to say that line mass matters as much. You’ll work much harder to throw distance with a 4wt than you would with an 8. (Here’s a link to an interview of Rajeff talking about designing rod actions:

But all this talk of speed and distance does not make for the best “fishing” rod. Trout streams require much more than that.

My particular rod:
I have thrown 5 and 6wt lines for small stream brush punching, for the real advantages of line mass –mass cures a lot of tight cover ills –but I prefer the smaller lighter rod and line for the potential for delicate presentations, as well as better feel and fight. I’ve gone faster, rather than heavier for my general use small stream rod this time around bc I feel I can still control the presentation, and have the easy tight loops I often need. That’s my thinking anyway.

You know, this discussion mirrors the traditional archery / wheeled bow discussions: mass or speed. I’m a primitive/trad guy btw. But I wouldn't want to compete with a wheelie guy in making meat, unless I was hunting cape buffalo.

As to materials:
No, bamboo is not the pinnacle of casting efficiency. The need for high MOE (recovery) has driven rod material technology since cane was first discovered. Specific varieties and individual culms are selected for rigidity. You not only pay top dollar for tapers, but for cane with the greatest fiber density. What rod makers were selecting for was rigidity.

There might be something to the advantages of mass in a cane rod in throwing a line -like a slower heavier arrow and penetration. I've wondered how that fits in, if at all.

From “Basic Fly-Fishing” by Jon Rounds, Lefty Kreh, and Barry Beck (Stackpole):

“Graphite is overwhelmingly the best choice for fly rod material today. …The first fly rods were made of wood, but they were heavy and lacked the quick action that’s best for fly casting. …

However, good bamboo rods…require more practice to master… and offer no concrete advantages, with the possible exception of the ability to present a dry fly more delicately in the hands of an expert.” (I would add "accurately" in there.)

Lefty Kreh, in his tome on “Casting with Lefty Kreh” has a special section for bamboo –due to its limitations. There are things you cannot do with cane, or must accomplish differently, as Lefty describes. There’s another serious limitation to cane I’ve read about involving durability: Casts such as Harvey’s Underhand Lift Cast would not be recommended bc it would put torsional strain on glued cane that could damage it.

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