Posts Tagged ‘Fly Rods’

Thoughts on Rods

May 14, 2012

Rods: How Small a Trout, every day in May challenge.

Every Day in May Challenge.. Rod

This challenge brought back emotional memories, tear jerking really to think of it. I have a number of fly rods but I am a long way from a tackle junkie.

There is the Stealth Deep Red 8’4” #3 weight that was broken on a guiding trip just days ago. Darn – it was an inexpensive rod but I loved it, a lithe implement with the ability to cast short lines accurately into the pocket waters that I most enjoy fishing but then the chances are that the damaged piece can be replaced.

I have a Sage ZXL #2 weight which is the first from that manufacturer which I have enjoyed casting in a long time, a good deal more costly than the Stealth but a lovely rod, providing wand like lightness and accuracy. I really enjoy softer actioned rods and so many of the modern hi tec ones just seem too stiff to me for the fishing that I do.

Plus I am now the proud owner of a new Tenkara stick which was a birthday present and remains, as yet untried. A remarkable piece of equipment which un-stacks like some piscatorial Russian Doll, the newly revealed sections apparently endless, as it extends and extends as if by magic.

I DID have a Winston IM6 #3 weight which turned over a long leader better than any rod I have ever cast on a small stream, although that has sadly gone.. It was handed over to a client for onward delivery to Winston in the USA for guaranteed repair and I have never gotten it back. Darn I adored that rod, it just did exactly what a small stream rod should do, or at least what I want a small stream rod to do. It turned over massively long leaders with virtually no line out of the tip. Presented a fly beautifully at short to medium range and protected ultralight tippet with the care afforded by a mother to her children

However with all that said one has to bear in mind that rods are tools, they are workhorses in particular for a fishing guide, but really for any serious angler, and one should avoid sentimentality. Yes the silvered butt caps, the neatly engraved accoutrements, the wrappings of bright tinted gossamer thread, the exotic woods in the reel seats and the gloss finish may all hold appeal but in the end rods are to anglers what hammers are to carpenters.

I feel no pain in the notion of carving a cork handle to provide a neater grip or matting down a gloss varnish with steel wool to reduce the fish scaring flash.

I love the rods that I own, I nurture them and respect them, appreciate them and adore them but I am not sentimental about them. I love them in the same way that a carpenter loves the heft of his favourite hammer, a sculptor his chisel or a writer her pen. For the joy of their use and the practicality of their function. All else falls under the guise of frippery and fashion and I will have no truck with that.

An AFTMA Fairy Tale

March 15, 2012

Ever wonder why you struggle to make sense of AFTMA numbers?  A little story for you:

A not entirely fictional story.

Joe Public walks into an upmarket fly shop and looks lovingly over the rod racks, his recently acquired production bonus burning a hole in his pocket. He has been reading up in his favoured fly fishing magazines and has already been convinced by the marketing department that “faster actioned rods help you cast better and further” so that is what he is after. He searches along the rows of tackle. He is looking for light gear as he plans to fish some small overgrown streams on his next vacation.

There on the shelf is a gleaming new light weight rod, supposedly designated as a “three weight” and he remembers fishing with a three weight on a small stream some years back; the gear provided by his guide for the unusually tight fishing and close quarter casting required was a dream.

Fantastic, he selects a rod from the Acme Rod and Reel Company because they offer a lifetime guarantee against breakage.. He tells the sales guy that he would like to test cast it on the pond outside. A three weight line is found and off he goes, flailing madly he can’t make the rod work. “Don’t worry” says the sales guy “We have some new three weight lines which I think will be better, they are called lines and a half and are specifically made for faster rods”. Well so it proves and our customer is now happy, the rod is flexing and it feels nice in his hands “You know someone else told me those Master Caster lines weren’t any good”, comments Joe “This one is much better”.

Later he gets to tell his mates that he has just caught some fantastic fish on his new “three weight rod” but he warns them “don’t get the master caster lines, get one of these new ones they are much better”

Later that year the CEO at Master Caster Lines has a meeting with his staff, “Listen guys we are losing market share, everyone thinks that our lines are under-rated. What do we do?”. “Ah says one of the engineers, “why don’t we just make the lines heavier”. “We can’t do that, what about the AFTMA standards?” ask the PR manager, “We won’t have to break the rules we can call them something different” says the engineer… “How about AFTMA PLUS Lines?” suggests the marketing guy..

“Brilliant” shouts the CEO, and Master Caster lines go into immediate production of their new heavier AFTMA PLUS lines. They are an instant success, everyone is casting better than before.. the lines are flying off the shelves. Retailers are recommending them to every new customer. Many customers who were unhappy with their new ultrafast super stiff ultra-modern nanotech, carbon fibre rods upgrade to the AFTMA PLUS lines and find instant success.

It is a marketing coup, Master Caster lines are on the top of the heap, sales skyrocket and their share price is climbing steadily. They become famed for their new lines “Designed to perfectly compliment modern high tec fast actioned fly rods” it proudly states in its glossy brochure.

Meanwhile a design meeting at Acme Rod and Reel is in progress, the financial director is looking down at heart and the marketing director is trembling just a little.. Sales are down, the only business they are getting is the replacement work from their lifetime guarantee rods.. 30% of production is now dedicated to guarantees and the only profit they are making is by marking up the postage.. “We need something new” says the marketing director.. “Well” says the engineer, who has recently been head hunted from Master Caster due to the success of his new AFTMA PLUS lines “With these new AFTMA PLUS lines so popular we can make the rods faster than anyone else’s”.. “Hell that’s good” says the marketing guy, “The fastest rods in their class, that sounds good, we can sell that idea”..

Discussion continues but with reduced revenues brought on by low sales volumes and too much guarantee work the capital investment for a new rod isn’t there “We can’t afford it” chips in the Financial Director “We have to do something” moans the marketing director.. “Why not just mark all our rods one line weight lighter and change the colour” suggests the engineer. “We can call them AFTMA PLUS rods”. The engineer is promoted to Chief Production Manager and everyone is very pleased with themselves. 

A season or two passes and Joe Public books with the guide with whom he fished years before, on a delightful little stream, demanding of stream craft and close accurate casting. But he now has the latest AFTMA PLUS three weight rod and complimentary AFTMA PLUS line so he is sure he is well kitted out for the excursion.

On arrival he tells the guide that he now has his own light gear so not to worry. However on the stream he is struggling to cast in the tight brush, the small trout he catches are rapidly overpowered and he keeps breaking his fine tippet on the strike. The guide has a cast or two with the new rod “What rod is this?” he asks Joe. “It is my new ACME Rod and Reel three weight PLUS with an AFTMA PLUS line” replies Joe beaming from ear to ear and feeling terribly proud of his new kit… “Feels more like a F%^ing five weight to me” says the guide.

Fly Rod Guarantees

January 18, 2011

Rod Guarantees.

I was having an interesting discussion with a client and friend yesterday about rod guarantees. Odd isn’t it that on the face of things one would imagine that it was a wonderful boon, that one can safely sally forth into the wilderness in the sure knowledge that if you fall, slam the rod in the car door or leave it for your puppy to chew then you can get a new one. What on earth could be wrong with that? Hell why don’t we get the same guarantee with everything?

Trouble is that I am not that sure that the rod manufacturers have done us much of a favour when you get right down to it.

It all started as best I can recall when Orvis came up with the idea of an unconditional lifetime rod guarantee with a picture of a cute puppy and a badly chewed rod handle. The idea one supposes was some perceived short term advantage in the market place where potential purchasers would say “Oh but if I buy that rod it will come with a guarantee so why should I buy another one that doesn’t offer the same?”

In fact it was undoubtedly a success, a success of such magnitude that almost every other rod manufacturer had to join the game to stay in business and before long rod guarantees were the norm. So Sage and Orvis and Hardy and Winston and just about everyone else now offers unconditional lifetime guarantees. If it was just for the workmanship or the materials or even if it protected against damage in the normal course of fishing that would be fine but these guarantees provide protection for any mishap. In fact you can break the darned thing over your knee and still have it replaced so long as you are a little economical with the truth when you submit your claim.

Being able to have your rod replaced no matter how it is damaged has to be a plus doesn’t it? I mean where is the downside?

Here are some thoughts on the underbelly of what on face value appears to be a deal too good to be true.

Downside #1:
Firstly every one of these companies must now have a massive off balance sheet liability which is pretty much unquantifiable and with that they have to make up the difference somewhere by overcharging for their rods so as to have a “War Chest” to stave off runs of broken rods.

That means that you have to be overpaying. You may well say that is fine because of the benefits if you break a rod but then why don’t you insure the thing? If you insured it yourself then you would benefit from being careful and responsible and one presumes that your claims history would be beneficial if you took care of your tackle and didn’t claim that often.

The lifetime guarantee lumps you with everyone else and you are in effect paying for those who are overly Gung Ho with their gear, who fish more than you, who wade more aggressively or routinely leave their rods in the range of car doors or wayward puppies. This to my mind is nonsensical you gain no advantage from looking after your gear and that surely has to be a bad thing.

Downside #2:
If you are a fishing tackle retailer and I used to be one, the rod manufacturers who you support with your business just took away a chunk of your market. Where you could realistically expect to sell a new rod to many of your clients on a five year cycle because they broke theirs now you don’t have that market, the replacement rod part of your business has been taken from you. This leaves you with a dilemma where now you have to catch up that loss in some other way and I would suggest that could also mean that you have to increase your operating margins to stay in business or buy into the “you have to get the latest and greatest new rod now available” marketing model, which is disingenuous at best and positively misleading at worst.

Downside #3.
The manufacturers now have to encourage you to buy the newest and the latest and greatest because they no longer have the replacement part of their business. So product cycles have shortened dramatically. Some major manufactures completely revamp their ranges every year in an effort to persuade the angling public that they are out of touch and need something new all the time. This is wasteful, unnecessary and prevents you sticking with something that you like because it is no longer available.

If you fish a friend’s rod and really like it you can’t think “Oh I may get myself one of those for Christmas” because by the time Christmas comes around the darn thing won’t be available anymore, and again I have had personal experience of that particular problem. It also means that retailers are going to constantly battle with “old stock” which they are going to be forced to sell off at a discount before the arrival of the next big thing. To my way of thinking consumerism gone mad.

Downside #4.
Most of the major manufacturers or at least suppliers, we all know that most of the rods are not made there anymore, are based in the USA. That means that if you break a rod (and you don’t live in the US)  you are going to have to ship it back there and they are going to have to ship it back to you again. Those shipping, handling and packaging costs can be prohibitively expensive to the point where you are paying up to a third or so of what you paid for the rod in the first place. In fact you are probably going to have to courier the parcel because the post office will not handle a package of that length That may not seem like a bad deal but add to that that you are going to be without your rod for the remainder of the fishing season if you are unlucky and will have to buy another one anyway if you want to go fishing and the whole thing doesn’t look quite so attractive.

What happens with other sporting equipment?
You see it strikes me that almost every other piece of sports equipment from tennis racquets to golf clubs, some of which must be far less prone to breakage than fishing rods specifically exclude any type of warranty. Most of them have a label affixed somewhere that says words to the effect that “Due to the nature of the sport and our lack of control of the usage of this product there is no warranty offered with respect to breakage other than that associated with proven defects in manufacturing or materials”

So why should fly fishing rods be different? I don’t think that any other fishing rods even offer a similar lifetime warranty. That has got to make us think that if every other sporting goods manufacturer thinks it is a bad idea maybe it is just that; a bad idea.

So now we are stuck in a system where we are bombarded with new and over priced fishing rods every year, have the requirements of fly fishing changed so much that what worked last year won’t work this year?  I don’t think so and personally I would suggest that in an effort to constantly come up with something new we are frequently left with tackle, in this case rods, that are in effect less suitable to the task at hand and not actually as good as the rods we had before. The constant drive for newer materials and faster actions being a case in point. One has to scroll through the pages to find a softer action rod these days and some of the supposedly “super light stream rods” on offer are so stiff as to be totally ineffectual for the task at hand even if they do contain some latest technology, super durable, complex resin, woven ceramic high tech nonsense. To visualize the error of our ways you only have to see that despite the old technology of it all split cane rods are the most expensive on the market and the basic manufacturing of them hasn’t changed in decades. They may come with two tips but they don’t come with a guarantee and people buy them because ,as they have done for years, they work.

To be blunt I find this all rather tiresome.

Although I do still own a few rods from top manufacturers which are guaranteed,(one is currently Stateside, racking up postage costs as we speak), I have taken to fishing with rods available to me locally most of the time. The guarantee, and there still is one, allows me to get a replacement part within days, covers all manner of breakage for the first year and thereafter I can obtain a piece at a reasonable cost. A cost far below the postage expenses of my top of the range, has to be shipped back to the US, model and I don’t have to miss out on any fishing either. Plus the product cycles aren’t so short so I can get another rod exactly the same should I want one. In fact if I want a new rod I can still choose to have the same one or another if I particularly like it, but I am not tied down to thinking that I have to replace the same rod if I would prefer a move to something different.

Rod guarantees are all well and good but I strongly suspect that the above mentioned downsides, if carefully considered, don’t really add up. We are paying more than we should for the supposed convenience and we are absorbing the costs of insuring them, the lack of care taken by some owners, the increased R and D costs of constantly seeking out new models, the advertising expenses that go with that and quite possibly inflated costing on other items from the retailers who have lost the replacement rod part of their business.

Perhaps I should just find a rod that I like and buy half a dozen of them, which should last me the rest of my lifetime and would in all likelihood prove to be a great investment.

Food for thought at least..


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Win a Sage Fly Fishing Outfit

September 19, 2009


This post sponsored by Inkwazi Fly Fishing Safaris

This post sponsored by Inkwazi Fly Fishing Safaris

I do try to bring you news that you can use, be it where to find fish, great flies for the day or how to make your own fishing lanyard. But this time I can tell you how to win great fishing gear and help a worthy cause at the same time. All for less than the price of a small pizza.

Develoflies have launched their second “rods for a cause” promotion. Read on…

Promotion sponsored by Develo Flies in aid of Cape Town's Red Cross Childrens Hospital

Promotion sponsored by Develo Flies in aid of Cape Town's Red Cross Childrens Hospital


Up for grabs:

Sage 4wt Flight rod/reel combo worth R6,000.
All proceeds raised will go to Tom Sutcliffe’s Red Cross Children’s Hospital Trust – Cape Town.
Multiple ticket purchases allowed

Closing Date: : October 1st 2009 so you don’t have much time

To Enter: Go to and visit their on line store.then simply buy a ticket, in fact buy a few.

Of course you can purchase other stuff too, each purchase pays for one person in the developing world to get safe, clean drinking water for one year.

If you are resident in Cape Town and off to buy some gear or do some fishing you can also purchase tickets at:

Stream X in Milnerton, Eikendal outside Somerset West or Jonkershoek in Stellenbosch.

Less than the price of a Pizza

Mind you, you don’t need a social conscience you can just want to win some cool fishing gear for the price of a small pizza and that’s fine too.

Overseas clients: (that is  not living in South Africa where we are based)

Please note that the raffle is open to anyone, but if you are living outside of South Africa you are going to have to put up the delivery costs to your location. Still can’t be a bad deal even then can it?

Wishing you luck .

Fishing Cape Streams Part #2

July 22, 2009

Gearing up for Cape Streams..


Inkwazi Fly Fishing, Cape Town’s leading Fly Fishing Guiding service.

Ok so if you followed the advice from the previous post on Cape Streams you have now organized the permits and memberships that you will require, more than likely had a think about which rivers you would most like to target and it is time to start putting your gear together..

Before we gaze wistfully into the murky waters of gadgets, oh but how alluring they all are, let’s first get down to some basics because never mind what is hanging from your vest, the only links between you and the fish are  your rod, reel, line and leader.. If these elements aren’t working for you are you are starting at a serious disadvantage.


There has been a lot of debate about rods in general and rods for small Cape Streams in particular, trends change constantly. I have fished for years with a number of different #2 weight rods in the 7’9’ range with complete contentment but at the same time have played of late with some other tackle, particularly a Scott #3 weight and a Deep Red #3 weight from Stealth Fly Rod and Reel that are longer and I have loved fishing with both of them, they offer the advantage of a little more reach and a tad more line control without being burdensome or being too stiff to cast short. What you absolutely don’t need is a rod that is too stiff to cast very short lines. The currents in our streams are nefarious, convoluted little devils and they often get more so as the waters drop, just about the same time that the trout get even more taciturn.

The fish have worked out that drag is a warning sign of ill intent and even small fish quickly learn to ignore any flies behaving inappropriately. Two of the main means of avoiding the early onset of drag, you can never actually avoid it forever, are to use long flexible leaders and to cast as short as is possible. Stiff rods that don’t perform without a good amount of line out are going to hinder your progress and fish catching abilities no end and I would far rather fish with an inexpensive soft rod than a super fast one that cost a king’s ransom.. The ability to cast long leaders with very little line out and with some accuracy is paramount to our fishing. Don’t anyone tell you that distance casting is tricky, accurate short casting with line control is more demanding and the best rod that you can afford for the job is money well spent. Generally speaking you don’t want a rod rated for more that an AFTMA #3 , you can go much lower too but I have found that the #2 and #3 rods cover most of the bases for me. If you are in doubt get some advice, and not only from the guy trying to get you to part with several grand either.

Matt finishing your rod.

I have been accused of heresy, threatened with burning at the stake and all manner of other ill will for saying this but I am going to say it again.. We fish in bright sunshine and blue skies more often than almost any other fly fishing nation on the planet, in the Cape we do it to well educated fish in crystal clear and skinny water. Flash of rods, reels, lines, forceps watches etc are all bad news when stalking trout and the propensity for rod manufactures to produce bright shiny and reflective gear simply demonstrates that most rods are bought from their looks in the shop and not their functionality on stream.

You may not choose to follow my advice, some people claim that warranties are made void by this approach, but if you are going to take your fishing seriously, rub the blank down with light wet and dry paper or polishing paste to matt off that varnish and reduce the flash. The rod flash may only spook one fish in ten or even twenty, but it could be the only catchable fish of the day and it could be the fish of a lifetime, why take the chance? I have guided enough to see fish scatter for no apparent reason, only to realize that something flashed during the client’s cast. For the same reasons I don’t have any shiny stuff on my vest, and I either remove my watch or at least turn it around on my arm on sunny days. Oh and before the accusations fly about me sanding down “cheap rubbish rods”, I have put brand new Winstons Sages and Scotts through the treatment and if those illustrious manufacturers manufactured the darned things without the gloss I wouldn’t have to.


The reel is more than likely the least important piece of your gear in that it doesn’t have to do much, lightness is a major plus and any small reel that is light in weight will do. The more you spend the lighter they are in general, a sort of inverse proportionality of finance versus mass, but light is good and smooth is important if you, as you most likely are, are going to fish with light tippets. But click and pawl reels are fine, you don’t need fancy and heavy disc systems on reels for these streams.. Small, light and smooth is great, if they aren’t too flashy that is a major bonus.


Your reel however needs to be checked out, especially after a hard season, bits of grit, sand and unrecognizable flotsam is more than likely clogging up the insides and a good wash with some soapy water and a toothbrush followed by some re-greasing will bring it back into tip top condition. Oh and a word on the drag, set it just enough so that it won’t overwind, you can control more pressure with your hand if needs be, but fishing fine tippets and setting drags too stiff is a very good way to lose the fish of the season.


On these rivers you will not require anything more than a floating line, at least not for any morally acceptable fishing techniques. Bright coloured lines are probably not a great idea but don’t purchase or dye lines too dark or you will not follow them on the water and drag will become a problem. Light tans and olives are good. You can successfully dye lines quite easily with Hot Dylon, just let the water cool off a little below the boil before you dunk your new R400 line in there, and don’t leave it too long. Dark Olive produces a super tan colour on orange lines and a lovely light green on cream and white lines. I have dyed numerous lines without incident but if you can find a neutral colour out of the box then use that.

Overweighting with higher AFTMA # lines.

There is a tendency to over weight fly lines for these streams and it may well help with the short presentations required, it isn’t however a remedy for buying a super fast rod in the first place and then trying to overweight it into submission. Some manufacturers such as Rio do produce special tapers for stream fishing which push the weight a bit more forward in the lines for short casting. Beware triangle and delta taper lines for stream fishing, they do not work optimally at close range and aren’t designed to do so. Personally I like double taper lines for streams, you are never going to even see the middle and you get two lines for the price of one. Some of my reels only have half a line on them, I don’t remember which ones, you can’t tell when you are fishing.


The backing of Dacron or similar is of virtually no importance at all other than to keep your reel full and reduce line memory. Don’t be tempted to use nylon it isn’t great for the purpose and fill your reels optimally, but don’t over do it. An overly full reel will cause the line to snag if you are winding in in haste, such as when you are playing a large fish. A few millimeters of freeboard on the drum is good and allows you to get away with the odd sloppy bit of winding in an emergency.

Leader attachment:


If you follow the advice throughout this series of posts you are going to be fishing leaders longer than you ever have before. We will get to why later, but the problem with long leaders is that you always have the joint with the fly line coming back into the rod guides, at least every time you move upstream.

I really don’t like nail knots, they jam and with a fish on that means that your 7X tippet is going to snap like cotton. Braided loops have a bad reputation but they are in general better than nail knots for this type of fishing. My personal favourite and the method of choice for my light stream gear is to super glue the butt section of the leader into tip of the fly line. It is easily strong enough when you are fishing light, it is super smooth and will eliminate all manner of hassles with your casting and presentations.

There are some tricks to doing it easily and you can get hold of those by just sending me a note on this link Superglue Leader Link ( leader link and leader formula)

The only disadvantage with this is that should you break the leader right off then you have to resort to some on stream fix, so I generally carry a few braided loops in my pocket just in case, I have never yet had to use one.

Whatever linkage you use, now is the time to change it, knots get tired and worn and you should be treating yourself to a new leader anyhow. Whatever you do, don’t use those nasty little metal loops that you are supposed to push into the end of the line, they are a recipe for disaster, and don’t use braided leaders, they were popular with us all, until we realized just how much spray they send off and that scares fish.


I am one of those anglers who thinks that your leader is the most important part of your gear, a correctly constructed leader will allow you to present with accuracy and delicacy every time, it will protect fine tippets at the end and will not snag, tangle or spook fish. There are some really good leader designs out there, some only obtainable from the inventor on the signing of a blood oath, or the sacrificing of a sibling on the altar of the fishing Gods. However of the hand-made variety the degressive ones popularized by Pascal Cognard three time world fly fishing champion, have a strong following amongst the best anglers in the Cape. Oh and for those who feel that a micrometer is an essential piece of on stream equipment I am tempted to offer the phone number of my therapist.. Personally I don’t use complex, multi-knotted designs, I have too many clients tangling too many lines too often so opt for a more simple approach that works for me.

Again to save space here, you can obtain the details from this link Easy Leader Formula (Leader formula and leader connection info)

Furled leaders can be very good if you have a lot of patience, but for my money a simple and effective leader that is just a tad unbalanced so that it won’t completely turn over is the ticket. Mine vary from a short 14’ to about 18’ depending on conditions. There is no perfect all around formula in my opinion, the size and aerodynamics of the fly, the wind direction and the level of the river all make a difference and you need to be able to change things about during the day so don’t get too hung up on complexity, functionality is what you are after.

Boiling leaders:

Copolymer leaders and nylon leaders change significantly if boiled briefly in water, or at least dropped into boiling water for a minute. They become far more elastic, flexible and soft to the touch, all good in my opinion and I have now taken to giving all my leaders this treatment. When I tell you that last season I took some very very good fish on 8X Stroft tippet perhaps that will show that this little adjustment can be worthwhile. I certainly think that it is worth the effort, particularly later in the season when fine tippets are a must. Because the base of my easy leader formula is a standard tapered leader with quite a thick butt section I think that the boiling process improves them quite significantly you should try it.

So your next tasks in preparing for the new season are to clean out those dirty reels, unspool and check your flylines, change the leader connections and make up some leaders if you need to. Boil a few and try them out and of course look out for the next blog post on your preparations.

Also keep an eye out for our forthcoming “fly fishing school” to be held in Cape Town within the next few months, or contact us now so that we know you are interested on Fly Fishing School and we can be sure you get the message via e mail.

Thanks for reading.

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