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What makes a fly rod?
Post 30 Nov 2021, 21:50 • #1 
New Member
Joined: 10/24/21
Posts: 5
Please don't laugh? It's a serious question. I am new to fly fishing and by nature cheap, so I am studying the nature of fly rods. I now appreciate many of the technicalities, the weights, the lines and the feel of a fly rod, but I have a problem. - My best fish has been a 4lb brown trout on the Platte River, just outside of Casper, WY and I caught it on a streamer, which was locally called a Platte River streamer. I fished it as a wet fly moving on the bottom with a light weight on the line about 4' in front of the streamer, but, and here is the big "but" - I was using a small (~4') graphite, spinning rod. I caught lots of trout this way, but I can't really say I've ever caught a fish by "fly fishing" or can I?
The reason I ask is because I have a 12' rod (from England) that I have only ever used once in America, but I am interested in using it for light weight fly fishing. (It was my first time fishing in America and yes, I was laughed at, so never used it again) It is two handed, but I thought it might work from my kayak, which is obviously low in the water - I have actually cast single maggots, with no weights and 3lb line on this rod (more like laid on the water than cast. You flip the maggot forward). At the moment , I have a 7wt fly rod and reel, but want some fun with sunfish (I live in Houston), so I was gearing up for a 4 wt outfit for Christmas - bought a 3/4 reel, a 4 wt forward line and was looking at fly rods when I came across these things called "Spey" rods. Obviously a much heavier operation, but would using my old fishing rod with a fly line and reel make it a fly rod? - By the way, I don't expect to be catching anything for the record books, but just in case....


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Post 01 Dec 2021, 00:21 • #2 
Guide
Joined: 08/11/21
Posts: 111
Location: Tucson, AZ
So, as I understand it, your options with the rods you have are a short spinning rod and a12' spey rod?

Since you already purchased a 3/4 fly reel and a wf 4 wt flyline, you are most of the way to a nice 4 wt outfit for bluegills. You live in the right country for warmwater fishing, East Texas, and the sunfish are a lot of fun on a light rod.

Finding a good vintage fiberglass rod that casts a 4 wt might not be easy...I only have one that does so, a 6'6" custom Phillipson..as most of the vintage rods cast a 6/7 on the average. Modern glass rods by good manufacturers are not inexpensive, but are really nice. Members on this forum are very knowledgeable on the latest & greatest glass rods.

I would suggest a less expensive graphite composite rod between 7&1/2 and 8&1/2 feet long, St Croix makes nice lighter rods, though they are more expensive than when I sold them over 10 years ago. The "Mojo" models sell for around $200, and the Imperials a bit more. The St. Croix Imperial 8' 4wt 4 piece rods were always a good value, and very versatile.

I find Echo fly rods are excellent, perhaps the best of the offshore models, producing fine lighter weight rods, like 4 wts.

That said..it may take a while but you might find a decent 4 wt rod at a yard sale or estate sale if you have the time to look around. I would suggest no longer than 8' for a glass or cane rod, as they become heavier in the greater lengths. I found one 8'6" trade rod, a Montague that cast a 4 wt..but that was a rarity. A friend is restoring it, so will see how it comes out.


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Post 01 Dec 2021, 09:37 • #3 
Master Guide
Joined: 04/02/14
Posts: 501
Location: US- Northern CO
I watched a fellow @ red feather on Bellair lake use a spin rod with a clear plastic bobber half full of water cast a #22 black midge a country mile and got fish every other cast. I think that’s fly fishing


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Post 01 Dec 2021, 09:47 • #4 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 11/06/17
Posts: 2113
Location: South of Joplin
Hi Andy, welcome to the forum, to fly fishing and I guess to USA.
As I understand your query you want to know the difference between fly rods and casting or spin rods?
This is rather like the difference between a sedan, a truck and a wheel barrow- all can haul bricks and people but one works better for a given job. At the risk of further confusing you I'll take a crack at it, and let others correct my notions or add to them as they see fit. In the beginning though I'll mention that it's the line and how it is handled that separate "fly casting" from "casting".

I suppose the big thing is in the blank that the rods are built on and there are some differences in how they taper, and in how and where they bend including how much they bend.
Which might get into a discussion of action and speed of recovery, or loading and unloading of the rods and after more than forty year s of reading about such things, the terms we use aren't always clear to me or as precise as I'd like, so an explanation might be more confusing than just saying the differences are often significant. Pick a fly rod blank for a fly rod and a casting rod and so on.
Then the reels mount differently, so the grip and reel seat need to be designed for the reel mounting, the fly reel is usually mounted near the butt end of the rod with the reel hanging down behind the grip, the casting reel is mounted with the reel up and in front of the grip, while the spinning reel is mounted down and kinda in the middle of the grip.
Also the guides differ in size, shape and placement from one type of casting to another.

So although there are spin rods (and blanks) that can cast a fly line and there are fly rods (and blanks) that can cast a lure, it is best to start with a rod blank designed for the work we want to do.
In casting a bait or lure, we actually use the rod as lever to throw the "bait" much as an atlatl is used to throw a spear, with the bait or lure dragging the line behind; while in fly fishing we use the rod as a handle to drag the line along the path of the cast and the line drags the nearly weightless fly and once the line is in motion it's momentum caries it and the fly beyond the rod tip to the target. This basic difference in the work being done means that the best tool for one job is not the best tool for the other job.

Now we don't know what your 12' two handed rod is or what it was designed for, but even if it was meant to be a spey rod (which I doubt) it wouldn't be my choice for the kind of fresh water fishing I think you'll find in Texas. Tell us the make and model or show us some pictures for us to know what you have.
Spending money is part of fly fishing, proper gear is the difference between frustration and fun. But, spending the money "wisely" for a rod meant for the type fishing to be done, for a good line and a usable reel will actually save you money in the end, because you will use the things rather than replace them or abandon them.
On the "vintage" market there are lots of fly rods in the $75-$150 range that would be perfect (7.5'-8.5' & 5-7wt. works best I think) and reels can be picked up <$30, I'd suggest a fly line is more important than either rod or reel and new should cost $40-$100. The most bang for the buck might be the heritage lines, SA Aircel or Cortland 333, in floating tapered lines.


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Post 01 Dec 2021, 10:58 • #5 
Guide
Joined: 08/19/16
Posts: 251
Location: Brazil
AndyA, welcome to the forum!

You say that you have a 12' rod (from England) that is a two-hander. It would probably be very interesting if you could post photos of it. We know that the fly rod market is very different in the UK than it is in North America. One way it is different is that Brits seem to use much longer rods than Americans, on average. The rod in question may very well be a fly rod that could be used as a spey rod, and there are others on this forum who know much more about that subject than I do. Or it may be a coarse fishing rod. Who knows?


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Post 01 Dec 2021, 15:13 • #6 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 02/27/16
Posts: 1929
Location: US-IL
Sunfish are plenty fun on vintage 6wt glass rod or you can get CGR by Cabela's and some other imported rods in 2 and 3 wts fairly cheap..I believe many of the higher end mass produced rods are made on chinese blanks and at least 2or 3x the price.Might have nicer components and a well known name.The advantage of a 6wt is you can just go with a stronger leader and catch larger species.You can throw tiny as well as bigger flies.2 and 3wts are a blast for panfish but are tougher in the wind or weighted bugs.I don't think i could break a glass rod,even on purpose.


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Post 01 Dec 2021, 22:01 • #7 
Piscator
Joined: 08/10/05
Posts: 17983
Location: downtown Bulverde, Texas
fly rod - fly rods are best for moving water, though they're often used for quiet presentation sight-fishing in still water.
In general, they're a lot of work for "blind fishing", unless you're on moving water where they shine.
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The reel is single action, at the back of the rod. The weight is the thick line itself, most often a floating line, and holding the line with your free hand is part of casting.
You cast parallel loops, forward and back, trying to present the weightless fly at the end of your leader with the fewest "false casts"
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The fly rod guides are simple wire "snake guides"
Fly fishing goes back 500 years or so.

With either spinning rod or baitcasting, the weight is the lure, and the line is thin. The lure weight hauls the line out, and these techniques are less work for blind fishing. The reels are multipliers, in that, one turn of the crank produces 4 to 8 line wraps on the spool.

Spinning rod and reel
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The reel also hangs below the rod - usually, your index finger is in front of the reel so you can grab the line with it, and the rest of your fingers are behind the reel.
This is the easiest technique for most to learn, and again, less work for blindly throwing lures or bait into the water.
The line spool is fixed and a rotor and bail wraps line onto the spool.
Confusing the issue, in UK, this is called a fixed-spool reel, and the baitcaster is called a spinning reel (because the spool spins).
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To cast, you grab the line with your index finger, open the bail, load the rod with a backward motion, and let her rip forward, releasing the line from your index finger. You also need to get the bail closed as soon as the lure hits the water, or line may keep falling and make a "wind knot" for you.
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The line guides are different, loops with hard ceramic rings, aligned to make a straight shot from the line spool to the rod tip.
Spin fishing became common after WWII

Baitcaster is an acquired skill, because the spool spins, and your thumb is the primary brake.
If the spool is spinning faster than the line is going out, the line will backlash on the spool, possibly driving the operator to profanity.
The reel is on top of the rod. The guides are similar to spinning reels, but all close to the rod because the line spool is closer to the rod
Image
Baitcasters go back to the early 19th century.
The advantage to baitcaster is instant retrieve at the end of your cast because of that thumb-control thing.

Actually, all my Japanese UL spinning rods are long progressive tapers, and would double up great as 3/4-wt fly rods.
In the old days of "combo" rods, they all had spinning guides, and most were short para tapers.
If you're having fun and catching fish, who cares what others think.


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Post 01 Dec 2021, 23:14 • #8 
Master Guide
Joined: 04/02/14
Posts: 501
Location: US- Northern CO
I think “fly fishing “ has a lot to do with learning the art of casting line with a fly rod. Decent rods are easier to learn on. You caught your fish on a fly but you weren’t fly fishing. I never got enjoyment from practice casting a spinning rod but I would practice casting a fly rod every day if I could. It’s very rewarding. Don’t hold back buy the best fly rod you can. In 4wt a used echo or reddington glass rod or the cabelas cgr rods.


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Post 02 Dec 2021, 08:32 • #9 
Piscator
Joined: 08/10/05
Posts: 17983
Location: downtown Bulverde, Texas
I took the opposite approach with my daughters. Taught them to roll cast an catch fish.
Then when they began back-cast and shoot on their own, gave them pointers.


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Post 02 Dec 2021, 10:05 • #10 
Global Moderator
Joined: 04/20/07
Posts: 8439
Location: US-ME
Fly rods are designed to cast the elongated weight of a fly line. This is their traditional definition, particularly during the fiberglass fly rod era. Flies can be fished with other types of rods by other methods than fly-casting, which really means fly line casting.


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Post 06 Dec 2021, 13:45 • #11 
New Member
Joined: 10/24/21
Posts: 5
Wow! Thanks for all the replies. It was all interesting and relevant stuff and I'd like to address a few comments. I have lots of fishing rods, from deep sea to fly. It's just that I have never really got into fly fishing and it crossed my mind that using a spinning rod with a fly was faster and less expensive than gearing up for fly fishing. So why did I need a fly rod? (Don't get me wrong, I love the feel of a fly rod and already had an old one. I just haven't used it much or caught a fish with it). The description of a bobber with water in reminded me of a torpedo shaped float I once had, with air and lead shot inside. It was balanced and neutral buoyancy - cast anything you wanted for miles, but it's definitely not fly fishing. The only fly rod I remember in England was a split cane rod with a "greenheart" top and I threw it away about fifty years ago. Sorry about that now, but the cane was coming apart. Pampas, who mentioned the coarse fishing rod nailed it. I avoided that description, because it's not used here in the US very often and I have no idea what the action would be like if used as a fly rod. I've now included a photo. - It's unusual in that you can mount the reel anywhere, so I think it might work with my 7 wt line (I also have an old Martin multiplier, which might balance the rod.) I just bought a Piscifun Sword 3/4 rod and reel, so this whole thing is just me playing with an old rod and I wondered why I couldn't try it. I never expected such a great response from everyone, but thanks.


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Post 09 Dec 2021, 13:58 • #12 
Piscator
Joined: 08/10/05
Posts: 17983
Location: downtown Bulverde, Texas
thanks for showing your rod - it does look like a coarse spinning rod, but I suspect any rod that length will cast a fly pretty well.


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