Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Who Needs Expensive Rods?

I am delighted to bring in a guest writer this week.  I met this "freelance blogger" over at his Google Plus page(Now, all of you do know that it is the place to be these days, don't you?)  Brandon Robinson is a USAF veteran and Trade School Instructor.  He has found fly fishing as therapeutic as you and I do!  And he has the fishing pictures to prove it...Brandon is the founding force and is heavily involved in FlyStock, which is a fund raising event for Project Healing Waters a non-profit organization.  So, let's give Brandon some blog love and enjoy his talented writing...Oh, he has also stated that "I am not ready for prime time"...you decide.       
Who Needs Expensive Rods?
 By Brandon Robinson

I fell into the art and obsession of fly fishing hard.  Really hard.  I fell like one of those raindrops that were suspended in the cloud nearly long enough to become hail.  You know the ones, when they hit you it almost hurts.  That was how it was for me, suspending in the idea of it until finally I had enough weight for gravity to exert itself on me.  I was the big, fat, angry raindrop of fly fishing.  My girlfriend at the time and I had watched that movie about three months earlier.  She confessed a secret love for the art of fly fishing, a crush I had harbored as well.  I say crush for the simple fact that the Brad Pitt movie was the only exposure I had to it.  Fly fishing was a magazine bound beauty queen I never thought I would be introduced to.

Being a good boyfriend though, I decided to summon the almighty oracle known as Google to decipher what fly fishing was exactly and where we could find a way to start.  With luck Living Waters was literally blocks from the house so I put in a call.  I talked with the shop owner, Chris Johnson for a little bit to figure out their hours so I would know when to bring her by.  That started it all.  She wanted to wait for casting lessons, but I am not a big fan of delayed gratification.  Chris suggested I buy one of the lower end expensive rods because they come with a warranty; I went to the box store instead.  Warranty or not you can’t beat 45 dollars for a rod the quality of the base models of some other companies.  I didn’t even know if I was going to like it (fly fishing). 

I did though, I loved it.  I quickly got sucked in to all the aspects of it.  Including the misconception that serious fishermen have serious rods, not $45 toys.  That was all well and good until the stupid things began to break.  First to go was a TFO 2wt, then my Ross FlyStik®, then my Scott F-2, and then my FlyStik® again.  Each time one of those rods break, I was out $30-$100 for warranty repairs!  Meanwhile, that $45 Okuma Crisium was still whole.  Most of my personal best fish were brought to my hand by that rod, and she was still kicking.  When she finally broke, there was no warranty, just a $7 repair job at a local tackle shop and she was back in business.

I read on The Fiberglass Manifesto about Cabelas CGR and then a little later about the Eagle Claw Featherlight.  One thing I did know from the expensive rods I had owned was that I did like fiberglass.  The hunt was on.  There was a distinct price difference between the two, so I went with the cheaper rod.  The Eagle Claw retails at anywhere from $18-$30 depending on if and where you can find it.  I tracked one down after weeks of looking and ordered two.  The seller only had one, so I took what I could get, and had it shipped as quickly as I could.

Finally, my 6'6" Featherlight came in the mail. I ordered a 4/5 weight as it was recommended by Cameron Mortenson and to my surprise, the packaging called it a 3/4, but the rod itself said it was a 4/5.  Curious as to which designation was right, I tried it with a 3wt DT first.  Not bad, however it didn't really load like it should, yet enough to lay out 25' of line close to where it was intended.  I decided to fish it like that too.

First time out, I caught a little bitty 2" bream that flexed that rod way you only dream about with graphite! I felt like I needed to hone this combo even more so, I dropped by Living Waters Fly Fishing and experimented with some of his 4wt DT line.  Not bad, but I felt like I should try a 5wt WF line. For short little casts the 5wt line was perfect but it petered out a little past thirty feet, while the 4wt seemed like a good compromise.

This rod was roughly $30 with 2 day shipping.  I took a quick S.W.A.G [Scientific Wild-A…um Ape(?) Guess] at the line, choosing the $20 bargain bin Scientific Angler WF line in 4wt. To finish it off I went by a box store, picked up a Shakespeare Click-N-Paw and 100 yards of Dacron backing. All told, I have a whopping $70 in this entire outfit and it’s ready to fish!  Satisfied with my purchase, I went home and assembled it.
Never one for delayed gratification, I wasn’t waiting to see how this combination would perform, so I took it out to the parking lot behind mi casa.  Man, this rod is sweet! With the WF line, I was able to lay out roughly 85' casts, in the dark!  I was very satisfied with the whole deal, and you will be too even if you aren’t a glass enthusiast.

Let’s be fair.  There are a lot of really good rods out there.  There is also something to be said about cost versus quality, cast one of those
packaged deals in Wal-Mart and you’ll see what I mean.  But, if you are careful, do some research, and most importantly learn from other’s mistakes; you can get started on the cheap, or add a satisfying rod to your current stable without a guilty conscience. 


  1. Expensive doesn't always mean good or what's best for you. If someone's ego won't let them fish those inferior glass rods, so much the better. I'll continue to pay 1/3 the cost of a name graphite and not suffer a broken rod.

  2. Amazing, amazing, amazing, must have a look a that 6'6''sweet joy stick. Merci.

  3. Cofisher ~ I am looking forward to seeing what you have been talking about in a few weeks...but, you seem to still get tangled. : )

    Richard ~ The short stick is needed for the small streams, that is a given. I think that I am also ready for a cheaper rod for a change!

  4. This was great! I have one fly rod that is frankly an embarrassment and need help picking out something new for an upcoming trip..you have given me great ideas!

  5. Graphite--fish it hard enough for long enough...it will break.

    Glass--fish it hard enough for long enough...it will get dirty.

    Nice post Mr. NoBlog; might just have to get me one of those.

  6. Gretchen - Glad this post was timely for you!

    Will - I can take dirty. ; ) I've broken two Graphites.

  7. There are benefits to each rod material. There are fiberglass nuts and graphite worshipers and bamboo junkies. When it all comes down to it, you can (and people have) catch fish with a stick and some string. The fact is, it's the fisherman that catches the fish...and the fish don't care about the name on the rod. :) Nice work.

  8. I tried that rod and had the same issues you described. It would cast fine for maybe 30-50ft but after that it was hard to load the rod enough. Unfortunately the rod was broken before I could really test it out. I wanted to get another one but found a decent deal on a previous rental setup at a fly shop. If you get a chance try the St Croix Avids. I bought the 7'6 3wt. It's amazing.

    I'm a big fan of inexpensive rods. I've had Redington Rods for years and I love them. They have a great warranty and perform well. I think it's all about finding the right model. Every manufacturer seems to make a cheap version, a snobby expensive version and maybe 3 in between models. Usually those in between ones are the best in my opinion.

  9. This is the most comments I have ever had on a post. Thanks for reading.

    CoFish- It's a whole lot less disturbing when they do break though.

    FlyFishRich- It's worth it.

    Gretchen- What rod is an embarrassment?

    Soulpatch- Mr. NoBlog? That's new. :D

    Owl- One day I will own cane. One day.

    Kev- I think I will stick with the low end rods from now on. I haven't tried Redington before though,Cortland makes a pretty fast 2 peice that I bought my cousin. I still like my Okuma though.

  10. I need to make a correction, it is a "single action" reel and not a "Click-n-pawl" as I was grievously misinformed.

  11. I bought a 6'6" featherlight in the '60's, my first fly rod. Just had it fixed up by replacing the real seat with an uplock so the reel wouldn't fall off as it always had with the ring keeper, had the guides re-wrapped, and the tip guide replaced as it was slammed in a door a while back and 3" missing from the tip. It has a South Bend 1122 red click pawl reel and WF4F line and is more fun to fish than any graphite rod I've got which include TFO's, St Croix, and LL Bean rods. Today it brought in 9 brown trout fishing a small Mickey Finn & soft hackle dropper. One release was a double with a 6" bass on the MF and a 10" brown on the dropper. I couldn't believe it. Before the restoration I had bought a new version of the rod on eBay. They are not the same. The old rod has a much softer tip but great butt so you don't break off easily. The new yellow rod has better hardware but much stiffer blank. It's worth fixing up those old W&M Featherlights if you can find one.