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Choosing a Fly Rod: Fly Rod Materials - Steve Burke

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Fiberglass

It used to be that you would see many more fly rods made of fiberglass than you do today, and many more were broken than statistics can measure. I remember, one my first fly rods doing just that, snapping near the tip as I fought a fish, just a little too large for it to handle. Back then, though, I had to scrape together every cent I had to buy equipment. I loved that first rod so much, that I mended it back together again, using a stiff inner piece of wood inside the blanks and some left over Bondo on the outside. It worked to hold it together, but of course, the fly rod never did perform as it had before. I kept it for years, just as a relic and reminder though, of those first fly fishing days. It never again saw any action on the stream.

Graphite

Little did I know. With the advent of graphite fly rods, came superior performance, albeit a little more expense. Today, fiberglass rods are the cheapest to purchase, but far inferior to graphite. That it is because in order to match the strength of graphite, they need to be made thicker and heavier. Graphite rods of the same weight and action rating are much thinner and lighter, about two-thirds as heavy. That makes them much more desirable to use and because of that, they are more common than they were back in the day that I was using my first fiberglass rod (I won't tell you when that is, less I give away my age). Graphite rods are more expensive than fiberglass rods, but well worth the price. Also, without going into great detail, it should be mentioned that graphite rod manufacturers can do much more with graphite rod building today. In short, they are able to alter the tapers of the blanks to effect subtle differences in the flexibility and power of the rod, giving it improvements in action that were unable to be accomplished using fiberglass. This is accomplished in varying degrees for different models, which in turn have an effect on the price. That is why you will see different models (or series of models) by the same manufacturer with the same ratings for weight, length, and action but different prices. The higher priced models are usually superior in performance. Some of those subtleties, though, can be detected only by experienced fly fisherman, so I do not recommend going out and buying a super expensive rod as you're first unless you simply must have the best. I don't recommend buying the cheaper varieties, either, as it may increase your frustration when you are trying to learn the sport. Most fly fisherman will tell you that there is no substitute for quality.

Bamboo

Speaking of quality, it has long been recognized that bamboo fly rods are the finest that are made because of the superior craftsmanship it takes to make them, they are almost all made individually by hand by artisans in small businesses. Because that is time consuming, they are also the most expensive. They are more flexible and have a slower action than graphite rods, so they have their use for those that can afford them, but I would never recommend that a beginner start with such an expensive piece of equipment. If I could afford one myself, I would probably mount it in a case and display it as a piece of art, rather than use it for fishing. That is just me, though. There are many fine fly fisherman who prefer bamboo rods to all others.

Also See:

Choosing a Fly Rod: Fly Rod Action

Choosing a Fly Rod: Fly Rod Weight

 

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