Friday, October 31, 2014

Forget About The Damn Blank Color

There is hardly a day goes by that I don't receive an email, phone call, text, or a message from someone who is asking for some assistance in sorting out what fiberglass fly rod that they should be looking for.  I enjoy these conversations and it can be a lot of fun pointing people to a certain fly rod or maker and then hear back months later how it was the exact fly rod they were looking for.

Some that I talk with come with a pretty good idea of what they want as far as the line weight or taper desired but there are times when others are completely hung up on a certain blank color that really appeals to them aesthetically be it any color of the rainbow that glass blanks are offered in from a multitude of makers.  A particular blank color or the way that a fly rod has been built becomes the objective without really considering how that fly rod is going to cast.

I get it.  I've been there before many more times than once.  All the colors offered within contemporary fiberglass fly rod blanks are really just one of the aspects of appeal for many and it doesn't help that there are quite a few small shop builders and fly rod companies that just know how to tug on that part of your brain that likes the shiny things in life.  My suggestion though, forget about how a fly rod looks and what color the blank is.  At least until you figure out exactly what you're looking for in that next fly rod.

You can invest many hundreds of dollars into a fly rod just because of how it looks and end up with something in the end that you just don't enjoy casting or does not work well with the type of fly fishing that you do.  I've learned the lesson the hard way a couple times and reselling fly rods is a very easy way to cut your money in half, even if a fly rod is very lightly used.  

I have a short list of questions that I always ask and the answers can be very helpful in deciding on which fly rod you should bust your piggy bank open for.

This always seems like a logical place to start and hash out what the preferred length and then line weight needed in this next fly rod purchase.  Are you looking for something short for that brushy little stream that you hike into or do you need a longer fly rod for hucking long casts from the front spot in the boat?

There are just so many choices out there in length and line weight that this process can be quite a bit of fun and it can even make your head spin a bit since we're in the middle of a real upswing of modern fiberglass fly rods.  This is good for all of us.

There are a few custom rod builders that I talk to quite a bit and one of the things that continues to astound them is that clients will frequently order a fly rod where they never ask about the rod action or profile taper of said fly rod because they are totally smitten with a certain color of a blank.

How a fly rod is going to cast and what characteristics are should be what's asked and answered right after figuring out what length and line weight you're looking for.  Are you looking for something full flexing, parabolic, medium, progressive, or even the fast side of glass? 

The T.F.M. Fly Rod Loan Program has been helpful for many in deciding on a certain blank over an other but I don't have access to every single contemporary glass fly rod offered and it may be well worth your time to contact the rod maker or company for a better explanation of a fly rod that you might not be able to cast before ordering.

This question falls hand in hand with the rod action and taper profile question.  What are you doing to do with it?  If you are looking for that perfect small stream dry fly three weight then you're going to be looking at a much different fly rod than the five or six weight that you're planning on throwing everything from a hopper dropper to indicator rigs to streamers on a sink tip.  Finding the perfect fly rod to do what you wish to do is generally very possible and glass as a rod material medium can make for a really excellent tool.   

Simple enough question.  Do you want something off the shelf or are you more about a one of a kind build?  Several fly rod companies also offer the ability to change up and customize a fly rod to your own choosing which can complicate the decision as well.

At times you can save some money on a factory built fly rod but there are few things as special as a one off build from your favorite custom fly rod maker.  That said, there are some small shop builders that do very excellent work and their prices are extremely reasonable as well and should be considered.

I try my darndest to keep the Rod Shops page updated with all the known choices in glass offerings from the various fly rod companies and custom fly rod builders in hopes that it helps you make your decision.  If you see someone I am missing on the list, please email to let me know.  Thanks.

It makes no sense at all to start talking up a $700 custom fly rod when your budget is $250.  Knowing your exact top end number really helps narrow down the choices.  Luckily there are quite a fly options across all the price points so it really doesn't matter if you have a crisp $100 bill or $1000 tucked away, there are lot of really great glass fly rods to consider.

If you are jonesing for a new fly rod as a gift for a special occasion or to take along on a trip, then my suggestion is to plan early, especially if you're ordering a custom built fly rod.  Many small shop builders are working off of ever growing build lists and it's tough (if not impossible) to jump in front of the line for a last minute build.  There are many things that can slow down the process of a build and just a few of these include a builder's shop schedule, waiting for a blank to arrive, sourcing cork, waiting for hardware or other components to arrive, and then just the process and time involved in building a fly rod from start to finish.

If you're looking at a factory built fly rod then I still suggest that you give yourself time to get the fly rod in through your favorite "glass friendly" fly shop.  Fiberglass fly rods may not be routinely stocked and even the larger fly rod companies can take a bit to complete orders.

Okay, now that we've hashed out everything in the above questions, then there is usually several blank makers, along with various color choices to choose from, in making your final decision.  That said, I know there have been times when the perfect fly rod blank for someone isn't offered in the color that they like and I've seen it time and time again where the blank color wins out over the functionality of the fly rod.  Blank color can be very important aesthetically but please don't let it win out over the casting characteristics and the intended purpose of the fly rod you are looking for.

Perfection in function and looks is when everything lines up with length, line weight, taper, and the blank color but that isn't always how it works out.

Something else in this to consider is that there are some mighty fine and talented fly rod builders to tap the shoulder of and I wouldn't be surprised if they were to build you a fly rod, with a blank color that you might not be so jazzed about, and have it still blow your mind.  I've seen it happen more than once and a blank color that is typically thought of as drab goes through an unreal transformation into something truly special.

I hope that this post has been helpful in narrowing down what you might be looking for in a future fiberglass fly rod purchase.  Just don't get hung up on the blank color until you really figure out what you're looking for as far as a fly rod casts and performs.  Let the blank colors offered be secondary to that and I think you'll be even happier with your investment in that special fiberglass fly rod.


beerfish said...

I have a sneaking feeling that Santa will be leaving an Epic two-hander in my stocking. The most important question is: what color thread should I use?

Jeffrey Clarke said...

We are all "crows". Love the shiny things!

Cameron Mortenson said...

beerfish...Epic two hander? Have a good time with that.

Jeffrey...I'm guilty of that at times too.