Over My Waders

How to Improve the Fly-rod

By Samuel G. Camp from The Fine Art of Fishing (1911)

Satisfactory fly-casting under any conditions exacts the finest possible adjustment of tackle in every way; but, chiefly, the rod must be a good one and its furniture capable of giving the results which the caster desires. If your casting to-date is not as good as it should be it is quite possible that the rod is at fault. It might be suggested that before you make up your mind that you are a born duffer at the game you first make sure that the tools you have been using are suited to it. A good fly-rod need not be expensive, while, at the same time, it cannot be cheap. Granted that the material is of fairly good quality, it may be said that effective casting depends greatly upon the style of guides, the balance, the method of winding, etc., things which to a certain extent may be regulated at will without going to the expense of a new rod. Buying a fly-rod is always a pleasure but sometimes, unfortunately, the state of the money market is prohibitive.

If originally the rod was a good one as regards material, of carefully selected and assembled cane if the rod is a split-bamboo, or of well-seasoned bethabara, lancewood, or greenheart if a solid-wood, almost any old rod may be made pretty nearly as good as new-in many cases much better than new-by its owner, who, more-over, need not be a mechanical genius or the proprietor of a machine shop. Ingenuity, elbow-grease, a few simple tools, and chiefly a knowledge of what constitutes a good fly-rod are practically the only essentials. Furthermore, if you have not the time or do not care to do these things yourself it will be of advantage to you to be able to tell the professional rod maker exactly the things you wish done.

Often a rod will show a quality of whippiness which was not suspected when the rod was purchased. Provided you are not an advocate of the whippy rod-there are such and they are more to be pitied than censured-with the knowledge that you have on your hands an unsatis-factory tool comes the realization of the necessity of a new rod or a radical improvement in the present one. The extent of the change necessary is dependent upon the degree of softness with which the rod is afflicted. The rod repairer in this particular instance, if the rod is only slightly whippy, will remove all the wind-ings and replace them at closer intervals; or, possibly, the addition of new windings between those already on the rod will do just as well. The average fly-rod is wound at intervals of slightly over an inch. Windings at only one-half inch will stiffen the rod appreciably. If, however, in the opinion of the repairer, the extreme softness of the rod demands more radical treatment resort may be had to amputation. In the case of the average fly-rod, consisting of three joints and from nine to ten feet long, at least one inch should be removed from each joint; to further insure successful results it might be well to put on additional windings. The re-sulting difference in the action of the rod is very great, while the loss of weight is so slight as to be negligible.

In this connection it should be added that winding the rod entirely from end to end, called solid winding, should not be done. At first glance, considering tile fact that additional windings stiffen the rod, one would naturally conclude that the solid wound rod is a very stiff one. This is not the case, however. Solid wood rods tend to be soft rather than otherwise and the method is not approved or followed by the best rod makers.

The angler whose ambition lies along the line of distance casting will find that he can easily lengthen out his average casting by replacing the ring-Snake and-keeper guides with which his rod is Guides, fitted with the now more popular and far more efficient English snake guides. The old-fashioned ring-and-keeper guides are not very well adapted to shooting the line, the loosely working ring and its generally small aperture causing too much fric-tion. The snake guide, as in the case of much fly-tackle, is an English idea. Their stability and line shooting adaptability are far in advance of the ring guides, and, moreover, the snake guides measurably facilitate string-ing-up the rod and are less liable to become bent out of shape. Of the snake guides those of steel are best. German silver is also a good material but inferior to steel for the reason that it is softer and the line soon wears grooves in the guides. If you wish to go a bit farther, with the idea of having the rod thoroughly modern and efficient in the matter of guides, fit it with offset agate tip guide and raised agate hand guide. Then if you do not do good casting, you certainly can-not, provided the rod itself is fairly good, “blame the gun.”

If the rod is heavy in hand, it may be made a sweeter rod to handle by removing the solid metal reel-seat in favor of plain reel-bands; if the hand-Butt and grasp is of wood or celluloid a further reduction in weight may be effected by fitting a solid cork grasp. On general principles any rod which has a handgrasp of cork sheathing over a shaped core of wood may be made a much better rod by the substitution of a solid cork grasp in place of the cheaper and far less durable and desirable grasp of thin cork over wood. The solid cork grasp is made of a number of disks of solid cork fitted over a core.

On the other hand, the top-heavy rod may be made to balance much better by simply using on it a heavier reel. The slightly top-heavy rod is not objectionable to a good many anglers, and often a rod of this sort is a very strong caster. The famous Castle Connell sal-mon rods are made on this principle. Such a rod is, however, apt to be tiring in long continued casting, and the average angler prefers a well balanced rod just as a rifleman desires this quality in his weapon.

If the rod is too stiff there is only one thing to do unless you are an expert rod maker, and barring a trip to the professional rod repairer, and that is: Use a heavy line. The chances are that if the rod does not weigh over five ounces a level line, size E, will bring out all the action desirable, while a line of size F or G may fail entirely to do so. The suitability of the line to the rod upon which it is used is a matter which many anglers do not sufficiently consider. To state the extreme, the fly-caster who uses on a three-and-a-half-ounce fly-rod a line of size C and the caster who uses on a ten-foot seven-ounce rod a line of size G will find that good casting with such ill-assorted tackle is impossible. A heavy line is too burdensome for the featherweight fly-rod; in fact, if the angler is inclined to be heavy-handed, it is quite possible for him to smash the rod by attempting to use a too heavy line upon it. Similarly, a fairly long cast, using a very light line on a compara-tively heavy rod, is not possible; the line must have sufficient weight to carry it through the air in response to force of the cast. But in the case of a very stiff rod, the weight of a heavy line will produce much more snap and bend in the rod, and although the combination makes the work rather strenuous, still it is very efficient. It is hardly necessary to state that such an outfit would, however, be very poorly adapted to small stream work.

© 1911 Macmillan Co.

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