Fiberglass, graphite or bamboo? Just want to share some thoughts related to “materials”. I have to confess I am a “material boy” I love something looks good, whether it is a fishing gear or a delicacy food. All need to be perfect. Ha.. Several years ago , I set out a ultimate quest in pursuing a ultimate fishing machine … a growing fishing gear cabinet is a obvious evidence that I have a relatively big ambition in accomplishing this task. Just like other silly fisherman, am I?! One of the fantastic factor of flyfishing, to me, is actually about the combination of Science and Art, just like my the other love in photography, it is also a combination form of science and art. Whether it is film developing chemicals, time exposure or lens optic physics. There are some hardware knowledge and some belong to soft art forms which is the manner of “feelings”… the combination resulting a elevated joy of a accomplished work. (a beautiful trout or a well exposed photo). I believe fly fishing doing the same, a well executed casting from the knowledge of blank flex, energy transfer and the flyline balance to the perfect landing of a fly to knowing the flowing current, the line mending technique and manipulating the fly. It is a lot of physics in there as well as rooms for different presentations by using different techniques in art’s sake. I have fished relative broad spectrum of materials, fiberglass, graphite or even a nice bamboo two handed rod. The conclusion might be a bit disappointing to you? It’s ALL GOOD. Why? Well... Material is material, a high end stiff rod or a high quality fiberglass material all has it’s place in fly presentations. Rods won’t catch fish by itself unless the hand tell it what to do. Duh… I am stating the obvious… well… “obviously thing trap people” – Newton : Eenergizing a Fly casting . That is the BLING lesson I have learned in this trip… To me, it cost about few thousand dollars of money to learn this lesson and I am giving it away to you here FREE. : ) Material is material: knowing the strength and weakness I love fighting fish with a soft rod, fiberglass is a great material to fight a fish, especially big fish. They are soft, durable and they are always has an attractive translucent blank coloration. If you can catch a trout on a fiberglass rod, you will realize the addictive feeling of the “vivid fight”. I have to agree that most of my big trout on glass memories are so vivid that I still clearly remember every move and the atmosphere in taking a fish while on the other side the graphite flights seems a bit “murky” to my old brain. Ha… well... when blind cast to a potential holding spot, I love to use fiberglass rod, wet fly swing, blind dry etc... However, graphite rod is a stronger material that made for presentation and accuracy, (here we comes my opinion again). I have to agree I fish more graphite rod than fiberglass in this western trip. Big river plus spooky trout and pinpoint presentation… there is no room for errors. I spent 95% of the time with graphite rod in this trip. The reason for that is the constant afternoon wind and required long cast… also the accuracy in the spooky water play a big role in my choice. A well balanced graphite rod will boom out a laser sharp cast and deliver a fly quietly just right in front of a nervous trout. This is based on my experience, of course. The most common misconception is that "stiff rod can not make a soft presentation", this is totally wrong statement! by using proper stop move, stiff rod can produce a feather soft free fall landing and yet, with pinpoint accuracy. I have witness Rene zing out a laser loop with a soft landing with his Scott s4 in this trip. A fiberglass actually is more difficult to cast (sloppier) under those conditions, usually it require more close approach, more careful timing to avoid the wind. This inherent weakness of softer rods make fishing fiberglass rods become sort of religion rather than realistic. For me, I have my hats off to those people that insist choice of fishing fiberglass rod, and I know the rewards for them are going to be big. As I state before, fighting a big trout on softer rod is addictive! You will have to adjust the fighting point on the rod constantly and it make the whole thing become a wonderful “feeling” game. On the other side, the fun of fishing graphite rod is the feel of “sharp”. As sharp as a samuri execute a kill… as sharp as a chess gamer make a final attack. I have witness a sharp cast well placed by Mr. Harrop. It is such a joy and honor to see he placed a #18 ants right in front of trout’s nose in 60 feet distance, and the landing of the fly is so subtle that trout are constant in her rising mode until she fell into the trap. This is the joy of sharp, accurate and clean presentation that fiberglass can’t achieve.
What to choose? graphite for big river, fiberglass for small creek I have bring along several rods with me, graphite: Sage XP 590-2. 5 weight 9 feet 2 piece rod. Sage Z-Axis 490-2. 4 weight, 9 feet 2 piece rod. Scott G2 884. 4 weight, 8’8” 4 piece rod. G-Loomis Czach Nymph 4 weight 10 feet 4 piece rod Fiberglass: Yellow Fenwick “Little Yellow” 3 weight 7 feet 5 piece rod Cortland pro crest 6 weight 8 feet 2 piece rod All of them are designed to fit several different styles that “I think”I might need. The scott G2 are exceptional joyful rod to cast, medium action and has a lot of power if you dare to sling it… which I did a lot in the lower Madison when the wind is howling like no one’s business… I hooked several fat white fish on this rod and all I had in my mind is “what the heck if I can break this rod on a fish…” it stand it’s ground, what a great rod! The Z-Axis 4 weight 2 piece, OMG, the best rod ever made that have cast in my hand! Period. This rod bearing a lot of good reputations that I usually will give this kind of rods more snob treat than respect… “ how good you could be”… am I wrong this time? This rod tolerant “nervous jelly arm” when facing a 2 feet long trout that just feeding actively 30 feet in front of me. A accurate laser beam cast allowed me to reach a vary distance and also able to place a fly accurate enough to solicited a trout eat. I absolutely love this rod, if I only can use one rod for western trout, this is the one! Period. As a side note, two piece rod is a whole different animal than 4 piece rod. If you ever heard the rod company tell you there is no difference between 2 piece rod and 4 piece rod… DON’T listen to them… two piece rod are way more sensitive and “clean” in feel than 4 piece rod. It is definitely worth the hassle to ship them in advance. Of course, this is based on my personal experience… but you know what… some of the best casters I know has the same opinion. (to be continued to fiberglass talk)
I am a biologist grew up with a fishing rod in my hands. I have been fortunate enough to embrace my love of art and science in my career. Most of my free time were well spent in the nature, either studying bird behavior or chasing variety of fish with fly rods. My favorite art medium is watercolors, I love the natural and spontaneous feel created by watercolor pigments. I am currently a post-doctoral research fellow at Harvard University. Welcome to my website. Mark