Over My Waders

Collected Quotes On Fly Rods


By Reed F. Curry


"...buying a fly rod in the average city store, that is, joining it up and safely waggling it a bit, is much like seeing a woman's arm protruding from a car window: all one can readily be sure of is that the window is open."
from Anatomy of a Fisherman by Robert Traver (1964- McGraw-Hill)

"Again, let me remind you that rod action is an elusive and variable thing, refusing to be encompassed by exact definition. The mathematics involved are complex in the extreme, even in the theoretical stage, and its permutations make admissible only the loosest of generalities."
from "Field Book of Fresh-Water Angling" by John Alden Knight (1944- Putnam)

"A good fly-rod is worth every cent you pay for it -- and more; also it should be said that good tackle of any sort is not only its own reward but is absolutely essential if you would have the best of the sport. Shoddy tackle conduces to careless work on the stream and consequently to poor success. On the other hand, good tackle tends to interest one in its proper handling, both in casting and also fishing the flies, and as a result the angler finds his interest and success increasing rather than otherwise."
from :The Fine Art of Fishing" by Samuel G. Camp (1911)

"The joy of owning fine tackle is so great that it is often difficult to distinguish between basic needs and the urge to possess that which delights the sensitivities."
"I have preached against indulgence, but in truth I am a sentimental moron when it comes to fishing tackle."
"How can one find adequate words to describe the sweet feel of a rod that makes casting an esthetic delight, yet which adds little to one's ability to catch fish?"
from "The Philosophical Fisherman" by Harold Blaisdell (1969 0Houghton Mifflin)

"My favorite rod for fishing with micros is the 7.5 - foot, 2.5 ounce Paul Young Perfectionaist calibered for a 4-weight line. There are other bamboos just as suitable, but what I want is a rod with a slow casting cycle, so I can 'paint' the fly on target. The current preoccupation with speed-of-recovery in space age materials, boron and graphite, is in one sense mis-leading: it's fabulous when you need to get a fly out fast in front of a cruising tarpon, or bang a Polar Shrimp at a far-off steelhead, but when trout are rising in pockets of silky water between weed sweepers, the last thing I want in a rod is speed. Teacup accuracy with a controlled turnover at distances up to 40 feet is much more realistic."
from "McClane's Angling World" by A.J. McClane (1986 E.P. Dutton, N.Y.)

"They argue about level lines and tapered, about heavy tackle or light, about whther you ought to fish upstream or down, about a single built rod or a double built. They get nasty the minute anybody says anything about balance -- that's like dynamite to 'em -- and I've seen 'em almost start a fight over whether Henshall designs were as good as Miss Austen's. After I've listened to them awhile I think they all ought to get a cane pole and garden hackle and go down to the stream someday the way they did when they were kids. It might do 'em some good, and I bet they'd have a swell time, too"

"You're right, George, " I said. "All the tackle in the world won't give a fisherman a good time if he's not built for it."
from "No Life So Happy" by Edwin L. Peterson (1940 DOdd, Mead & Co)
taken from "Angler's Choice" edited by Howard T. Walden II (1947) a great read, like any of Walden's books

"Perhaps it isn't fair to measure a rod's life in terms of years. Barring accidents, it should be measured in number of casts. For each time a bamboo rod flexes, it dies a little. It may take years to notice a change in power and action, for an angler unwittingly suits his casting style to the rod in hand. But fatigue is inexorable. The finest, steeliest dr-fly rod I ever owned - or ever handled for that matter -- was an eight-foot Halstead. I still own it and cherish it, but I seldom fish with it. After some seven hundred and fifty days of dogged dry-fly fishing, it's a slow, lazy parody of its former self."
from "The Ultimate Fly Rod" by Leonard Wright (1969 - American Sportsman)

"In other words, with a glass rod, which is round, the tool accentuates casting errors by heading the motion in the direction of the error. ... With bamboo, on the other hand, the construction of sides tends to keep the motion going more in a straight back-and-forth pattern."
"In the second place, bamboo is solid and fiberglass is hollow. This gives a cane rod more sensitivity and feel. If your rod is transmitting casts, fish or whatever through its whole diameter, it is going to tell more of the "story" than if the impulses are being carried only through the shell."
from "Fly Tackle" by Harmon Henkin (1976 Lippincott)

"The Rod used should be a good one, preferably a Split Bamboo, 7 to 10 feet in length and weighing 3 to 7 ounces (although many experienced anglers prefer still a shorter and lighter rod) yet in this, as in all fishing, conditions must guide."
from "The Complete American and Canadian Sportsman's Encyclopedia of Valuable Instruction" by "Buzzacott" (1905)

"But when we consider that the staple materials used, such as gum copal and other well-known varnish gums, vary in price by pounds sterling per cwt., that the quality of the linseed oils used is of very special importance - for on that depends much of the beauty of the resultant varnish - and that the methods of making differ greatly, it is clear that the choice of a good varnish is not easy."
from "Secrets of Staining and Wood Polishing" by C.H.Hayward (?? Evans Bros.)

"An angler perfectly equipped to fish for all species of trout dealt with in this book would need a minimum of six rods: a midge for the smaller streams, a 7 or 7.5' stick for slightly larger brooks and creeks, an 8-foot rod for wet and dry flies and nymphs on medium rivers, and 8.5-footer for the same waters when using a bucktail or streamer, a 9-footer for really large streams and lakes, and a 9.5-footer for some of the big steelhead rivers."
from "Trout Fishing" by Joe Brooks (1972 Times Mirror)

"Lest the reader become too discouraged let me say that one can fish beautifully with a rod that is not perfection, but at the expense of undue physical exertion. For years I fished with what I now realize were very poor rods, but I found that I could place a fly as accurately as the next man, and execute the curve cast and other necesssities of fly fishing. Only when I acquired the unusually excellent rod I speak of, was I aware of the greater ease with which these things could be done."
from "Any Luck?" by Eugene Connett, 3rd (1933 Windward House)

"This rod need not necessarily be an expensive one, as a number of American rodbuilders have at last developed a class of rods for as low a price as ten dollars that have surprisingly good action. Without belittling or discouraging those who of necessity must confine themselves to moderate priced tackle, it goes without saying that the greatest enjoyment is derived from the use of the very finest equipment produced by master craftsmen. What the Stradivarius is to the artist of the violin, the finer rods are to the expert fly caster."
from "Fishing the Dry Fly" by Arthur J Neu (1933) in FIshing Lake and Stream

"Right here, may I inject a thought that may prevent the ruination of a good rod -- perhaps loss of a treasured friendship at the same time. Many anglers, to be good fellows, loan their fly-fishing equipment to someone else. When this friend returns it after two or three weeks of use, the owner finds the rod just does not feel the same. So the friend is blamed for giving the rod improper use and thereby ruining it. He is generally right, too! However, both owner and friend are equally to blame. No man should ask the loan of another's fishing tackle, and no owner should grant the use of his equipment to anyone, no matter how close he may be as a friend. Why? Here we come back to "balance" again! Because of the difference in physical characteristics between individuals each and every angler exerts the pressure needed in casting in a different way. And this difference in leverage means that the rod action, or strain on the rod, whichever you call it, occurs in a different place on a rod. Therefore, when some man other than the owner uses it for a length of time he forces a "stress" at a different place on the rod and a change in action through the weakening of the bamboo cells at a new place."
from "With Fly, Plug and Bait" by Ray Bergman (1947 Morrow) quoting from a letter by Arthur Low

"The ideal rod should and can perform like this: Always have the tip-in- hand feeling; give perfect casts with greatest ease, using only wrists and other parts of the arm when desired; at all distances the action should be complete. You can have an ideal short and medium range fly rod with all the power reserve for exceptionally long casts, without losing any of the qualities of light tip action and English type soft action rods. Maximum casting power with minimum muscle power, perfect side cast, perfect left and right side casts, perfect overhead casts perfect sky casts, perfect roll casts. No line hump. Cast a wide or narrow loop -- and remain smooth at all times. It should be a perfect wet and dry fly. And in my opinion, the length should be at least 8.5 feet if you are only going to work with one rod."
from "The Practical Fly Fisherman" by A.J.McClane (1989 - Nick Lyons)

"The rod I used is made of heat-tempered bamboo; it is 7.5' long and weighs exactly 2.74 ounces. It is slower than the sticks usually classified as having dry-fly action. The butt section works. It doesn't shrug off the load but flexes down into the corks.... So the whole outfit, line included, doesn't heft much over 6 ounces. I can swing it all day long without a blister. It has stopped big trout and Atlantic salmon without stress. In twelve years I have broken two tips in the usual way rods are demolished -- with a car door."
from "The Compleat McClane" A.J. McClane (1988 Plume)

"As to glass or bamboo, I have always preferred bamboo over glass and am still considered a holdout. True, I've fished with many glass rods that I've designed myself for the manufacturers, so one would think that I've arrived at the perfect rod at least for myself. This is not the case. When I think of glass, I unconsciously begin to push hard and slash at the water, fighting the elements. Bamboo, on the other hand, sets me calm and quiet, and I find that if I "feel" the rod and almost go along with what it wants to do with the particular rig that I have attached to the line at the moment, my efforts are more than rewarded."
from "Tactics on Trout" by Ray Ovington (1969 - Knopf)

"In the first place, sheer lightness in a rod doesn't necessarily mean less effort. The difference between a two ounce rod and a longer five ounce model in ratio to the angler's total weight on the scales is about the same as drinking half a tumbler full of water or going thirsty."
"The point is, ask not what you can do for the rod but what the rod can do for you. With a long rod, a small movement of the arm or wrist will take any reasonable length of lineoff the water for the backcast because there really isn't that much line clutched by surface tension."
"Can't I, after all this, find at least one kind thing to say about our new short fly rods? Well, yes, perhaps this, I am reminded of the country sage's defense of bad breath. "It's mighty unpleasant, but it beats no breath at all."
from "Fly-fishing Heresies" by Leonard M. Wright (1975 - Winchester)

"While a 7.5 foot, lightweight rod is very good for small trout streams, for wet-fly salmon fishing ... a rod from 11.5 feet to 14.5 feet long might be selected, in weights that range from 16.5 to 24 ounces."
"Only use, real fly-casting and fish-killing use, will show the character of a rod."
"A first-class, well-balanced fly rod weighing 5.5 ounces will actually feel lighter than an inferior rod of poor balance that weighs two ounces less."
from "Fly Casting for the Novice and the Expert" (1941 - Outdoor Life Books)

"And how you should make your rod skillfully, I will tell you. You must cut, between Michaelmas and Candlemas, a fair, smooth staff six feet long, or longer if you wish, of hazel, willow or aspen; and heat it in an oven when you bake, and set it as exactly straight as you can make it; then let it cool and dry for four weeks or maore. Then take it and bind it tight with a good cord to a bench or to an exactly squared timber. Then take a plumber's wire that is straight and strong and sharp at one end. Heat the sharp end in a charcoal fire till it is hot, and pierce the shaft with it through the pith of the shaft -- first at one end and then at the other until it is all the way through. Then take a bird spit and burn the hole as you think fit, until it is big enough for your purpose and like a taper of wax; and then wax it.
.... "In the same season, take a rod of white hazel and beath it even and straight, and let it dry in the same way as the staff; and when they are dry, make the rod fit the hole in the said staff..."
from "The Treatise of Fishing with an Angle" (1450) as modernized in "The Origins of Angling" by John McDonald (1963 Doubleday)

"Ordinarily the man accustomed to a 9-foot fly rod would reduce to one about 7 feet long and feel that he was equipped for working a small brook. This, I beg to point out, is only the palest concession to that kind of angling. If we chop 4 feet off that, however, the remaining 3 foot length will permit casting from almost any position. I use mine right- or left-handed, with the tip pointing almost at the water. Because of the length and essentially greater line speed, the rod throws tight loops, which permits casting under obstacles with relative ease. There is no tendency to "hook" casts off the target, as you certainly must when casting with a longer rod in a purely horizontal plane."
from "Fishing with McClane" edited by George Reiger (1975 - Prentice Hall)

"When the bamboo is received (in the US), it is checked for moisture content. If it is over 13% it must again be stored and dried until it is 13% or less. Storing and drying bamboo anywhere in the U.S. under natural air drying conditions with the exceptions of parts of Arizona and Death Valley will never reduce the moisture content of the bamboo to less than 8% and very rarely as low as 8%. A hundred years of storing and drying will not reduce it lower than this... If your climate has a relative humidity of 50% you can air dry bamboo to 9.5% moisture content. ... Bamboo with 13% moisture content will shrink little in any part of the U.S. and works up well for fishing rods. Lower moisture contents are, however, some better. By careful, slow, scientific kiln drying, the moisture content can be safely reduced to as low as 4% without damaging the bamboo in any way. In fact, 4% scientifically kiln dried bamboo makes excellent rods."
from "Professional Split-Bamboo Rod Building Manual and Maufacturer's Guide" by Geo. Leonard Herter (1949)

"Well over a century ago, the classic British chalk streams were fished with live insects on gossamer silk, wind-carried "blow lines". So, the trees were cut back from the riverbank a hundred feet or more to give the wind full, even sweep. Today, the typical chalk stream bank has only a low occasional bush behind which the angler must kneel for cover; hence the kneepad. And since the angler may have to wait hours for a rise to develop, and no tree handy against which to lean his rod, the removable or collapsible butt- spear enables him to stand his rod upright and safe on the turf. It is not intended, as some light-minded American types insist, to repel the charge of an infuriated trout."
A note by Sparse Grey Hackle in "Great Fishing Catalogs of the Golden Age" (1972)



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All content copyright Reed Curry © 2006.
Cartoon by Walter Young © 1961, used by permission.