When I was an upstart youngster getting started in fly fishing (early 1970s) “graphite” fly rods were still nascent technology. The bulk of the fly fishing community was still using either fiberglass or bamboo. And, while the ongoing changes in materials were significant in their own right, they drove other changes that had greater far-reaching consequences.
For more than a century, the five-weight was the workhorse of all freshwater fly fishing. From cane, to fiberglass to carbon fiber, the five-weight held the position of prominence, even as the standard rod length moved from 7 ½’ to 8’ to 8 ½’ and finally to 9’ as materials became lighter and stronger. Its ability to handle the broadest range of angling challenges made it the go-to arrow in every angler’s quiver.
I must state up front that I am stickler for fly line performance. When a line can no longer perform at its optimum, even with cleaning and lubrication, then I chuck it. My recommendations are based on this premise; if you can live with slightly diminished performance, then you can probably add a season to your line before turning it in.
The sport of fly fishing is a many faceted gem. For those of us in my generation, and the one preceding it, the rich traditions of the literature, the landscapes and the personalities that nurtured the sport play a central role in our own enjoyment of it. For the younger crowd, these elements seem much less important, and it is the sense of adventure, the lure of the gadgets and gear, and the pursuit of ever-bigger fish that seem to drive the addiction.
The technical advances within the sport of fly fishing have been nothing short of breathtaking in the last 10 years or so. The advent of multi-modulus layups and improved resins have changed rod design at a fundamental level, while micro-replication and advances in plastics have done the same for fly lines.Yet, at the core of things, the sport remains one of basic simplicity – fool a fish into eating something he shouldn’t through proper presentation and mimicry.
A lot of serious fly casters have dreamt, “Some day I’m gonna have a rod just like that.” That rod of course is made of split bamboo. So when the day arrives for Mr. or Ms. Angler to acquire a split bamboo fly rod, how does he or she make a wise choice? My advice is to consider two things before making that long awaited purchase: first, who made the rod and second, what rod action or taper design will fit your style of fishing.