Lighter, Faster, Stronger?
It’s a common misconception that durability is sacrificed as fly rods become lighter, with thinner walls and narrower shafts. In fact, the opposite is true. Due to the expense of honoring warranty claims, most companies are seeking stronger materials and designs as a first priority. Weight savings are only an important (and marketable) byproduct.
G.Loomis Director of Engineering Steve Rajeff says that more than a year after the company introduced the NRX series, rod breakage rates are down compared to the heavier GLX series.
Shawn Combs, product development specialist at Orvis, and the man behind the new Helios 2, echoes that sentiment: “We haven’t seen failure rates increase as rod weights have gone down. It has been quite the opposite. As we have explored new materials and construction, we have been able to increase rod strength and reduce weights at the same time.”
Both Combs and Rajeff report that the majority of broken rods come from car doors, ceiling fans, booted feet, or falling on the rod—massive impacts no rod can survive.
The second most destructive impact is fishing related. “With increased use of heavily weighted flies, more tips have been broken by these mini missiles striking the rod tip on an errant cast. Like a rock hitting the windshield of your car, sometimes nothing much happens; other times, it starts a crack that grows,” says Rajeff. “New resin systems are less prone to crack migrations, but some rod tips will simply not survive some impacts.”
The most disturbing type of rod breakage comes while playing a fish. It’s easy to blame the manufacturer when you hear that fatal “Pop!” right as you’re about to land a fish, but based on what I’ve seen, fish don’t break rods. “User error” is most often to blame if the rod breaks in the final phase of landing a fish.
“High sticking” or using the tip of the rod to pull a heavy fish toward you (see the photo to the right, or our cover photo) strain any fine casting tool to the point of potential failure. High-sticking works fine with a 12-inch trout, but heavy trout, false albacore at boatside, and other large fish will often snap the rod if you elevate the rod shaft to 90 degrees or beyond.
On a recent trip to Kamchatka I landed more than 100 big trout using a Morrish Mouse and 15-pound-test Maxima (a recipe for rod failure). I saved my rod tip by getting large trout into shallow water, and then quickly stripping out an arm’s length of line from the reel and grabbing the leader with my hand. Hand-lining the trout at the final bell saved my rod in a place where a no-fault guarantee is meaningless—you need your rod for the rest of the trip.
High-sticking also happens when you net your own fish. Short-handle nets force you to bring a trout so close that you’ll end up holding the rod too high, or actually angling it backward past the point of breakage. Get a long-handled net, or better yet, have your friend net large trout, and you won’t have trouble with broken rod tips. New Trout Rod Review
- When Winston first introduced rods containing boron, the Montana company advertised a product that was lighter, stiffer, and faster. In the ensuing years Winston amplified the effect with Boron MX and then Boron IIIx rods. In November 2013 the company pushed the bar a little higher with Boron III-SX rods—think of it a little like adding a bottle of nitrous oxide to your Mustang. According to Winston, SX stands for “Super” fast-action rods with more power and strength than previous iterations of Boron. The III-SX rods have been specially designed to handle popular specialty lines like the RIO Clouser and Outbound, and SA Titan and Magnum lines, as well as regular WF tapers. Our tester used them on Alberta’s Bow River to throw hoppers against the bank, and control indicator and double nymph rigs at long distances. “These rods are pretty to look at, but don’t let that fool you,” he said. “These are serious casting tools for heavy lines, big flies, and long distances.” The rods have silver trim wraps around the logo, and silver-anodized aluminum reel seats, each engraved with “R.L. Winston Rod Co.” on the end cap. Available in 4- through 12-weights. winstonrods.com