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Post 27 Feb 2012, 11:45 • #1 
Master Guide
Joined: 12/09/11
Posts: 888
Location: Athens GA
I've got a good idea why FG took over the market from bamboo back in the 50s and 60s but I'm not sure why graphite (G) took over the market from FG?

Is it easier to manufacture a blank from G rather than FG? I suspect not.

Was there a demand for rods that were lighter or have a higher response frequency that could be better met by G than by FG?

Something else more sinister?

Just curious. Jim


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Post 27 Feb 2012, 14:31 • #2 
Sport
Joined: 12/06/07
Posts: 87
Location: US-OR
Three words: marketing, marketing, marketing. Most of us fell for it, but we few have regained perspective.
Richard


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Post 27 Feb 2012, 15:05 • #3 
Master Guide
Joined: 05/08/06
Posts: 779
Location: RenoNV/FranklinWV
Graphite took over because it is overall a superior material. For long rods there is no equal.

If you like fast rods - it can be made fast, if you like medium rods it can be made medium. Like any other rod its the taper and designer.

In shorter lengths bamboo or glass are probably better. I like bamboo in shorter lengths as I think the tip action is much more controlable than fiberglass (floppy tip syndrome). That being said I have tried some short graphites that break the length problem.

As with bamboo, glass or graphite there are clunkers and there are beauties. I like rods in all three materials and there is no reason to dis one in favor of the other.


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Post 27 Feb 2012, 15:08 • #4 
Master Guide
Joined: 05/17/11
Posts: 997
Location: US-NC
It did? :eek


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Post 27 Feb 2012, 17:01 • #5 
Master Guide
Joined: 02/26/08
Posts: 981
Location: SW, Michigan
rsagebrush, I don't disagree with your statement. Graphite is better in many applications including the industry standard 9' #5 and obviously spey rods etc. Glass can be good at 8'6" and under 8' is the sweet spot. Good glass rods at >8' is the exception to the rule and good graphite at <8' is also the exception to the general rule. Why did graphite replace fiberglass? Marketing. There is a time and place for each material. Obviously it didn't completely replace glass as a handful of companies continued making glass rods.


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Post 27 Feb 2012, 19:07 • #6 
Master Guide
Joined: 12/29/11
Posts: 498
Location: US-CA
I agree with rsagebrush.

In my opinion, if looked at unsentimentally, graphite is lighter, stronger and faster. And it's not just crafty marketing that conned the buying public into thinking that graphite is also better. For most people and many situations it is better. If I want to lift a long line and make a long cast to a trout cruising 60' away in a lake, if you're on a bonefish flat with fish moving by at a distance and need to cast long and fast, if I'm in heavy winds, if I'm making lots of casts with a 7 wt, 8 wt. or heavier rod, if you want to throw the tightest loops and most accurate casts, then to me graphite is just superior. And of course if you prefer a faster action rod and longer casts, graphite is the material of choice.

If you were around in the early 70's when graphite rods first appeared you might remember longing, as I did, for a 9' 5 wt. (today by far the most popular rod size) or an 8 1/2' 4 wt. or maybe even an 8' 3 wt. Those rods just didn't exist in glass, and graphite made them possible, not marketing. The steelhead anglers who made hundreds of casts a day with an 8 or 9 wt. loved the graphite rods that felt more like a glass 6 wt., didn't tire them out and added 15-20' to their casts. We weren't all mindless victims of marketing - we saw real advantages!

I have some great glass rods, old and new, and enjoy the smooth sweet feel of casting them. And I understand why others like them too for a greater variety of reasons. But it's definitely not just marketing that makes graphite rods the overwhelming favorite of the vast majority of anglers - it's performance, whether we like it or not.


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Post 27 Feb 2012, 19:43 • #7 
Master Guide
Joined: 04/15/06
Posts: 791
Location: Fayetteville, NC
I've read statements from some pretty well-respected sources that the basic characteristics of graphite make it easier to design good rods--fiberglass takes more skill and trial and re-trial. Certainly it's easier to design good long rods from graphite. My observation is that many of the technical aspects, equipment, and materials of graphite rod making have been transferred to fiberglass in recent decades, giving us some of the most fantastic glass rods ever--longer, lighter, for lighter lines with better tip control.

As far as why graphite took over, I remember that at the time, the things that graphite did well were so amazing that many people just focussed on those qualities, blinding themselves to things it didn't do well.combining that kind of market pressure with easier R&D probably combined to push many companies into the game. Some companies, like Winston, were slow to adopt graphite for trout weight rods and didn't "flesh out" their line up until they felt their lighter line rods were superior fishing rods--they kept glass around a lot longer than most other companies. Good thing, or I might never have tried the 7'6" 5wt glass "Trout" and 7' 4wt "Stalker" that were my first really excellent fly rods and did right by me for twenty years of fishing.
CC


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Post 27 Feb 2012, 19:57 • #8 
Master Guide
Joined: 05/08/06
Posts: 779
Location: RenoNV/FranklinWV
Another question - I wasn't aware that glass replaced bamboo?


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Post 27 Feb 2012, 20:02 • #9 
Guide
Joined: 07/10/08
Posts: 145
Location: Ripon, CA
Generally (and I really mean "generally"), graphite made it possible to produce more powerful blanks with less weight than before, providing fishermen with the ability to cast farther than before, and, as 16pmd mentioned above, not wear out your arm doing so. That it was/is possible to create fiberglass blanks as fast as graphite belies the truth that graphite can do it with a lot less weight to hand. New resins and cloths have changed this, but at the time it was very difficult to provide those attributes in FG.

Marketing being what it is, they emphasized the strengths of the new product, and "power" and "distance" became the mantra for graphite rods. They didn't mention that close casting was severely degraded, that roll-casting ability was diminished, that the ability to play fish without breaking fine tippets was compromised by the stiffness of the rod. And why would they, it was a hot new market and the emphasis is always placed on those factors that SELL. Add to that the "space-age" material that always fascinates the technology minded among us and they had a real winner.

Buzz


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Post 27 Feb 2012, 20:29 • #10 
Master Guide
Joined: 05/08/06
Posts: 779
Location: RenoNV/FranklinWV
Well I have a slew of graphite rods that handle short lines/roll cast and protect fine tippets just as well as any fiberglass or bamboo rod. The thunder sticks won't do that but the lighter line ones have been capable of this for a couple of decades at least.


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Post 27 Feb 2012, 20:46 • #11 
Master Guide
Joined: 09/03/10
Posts: 866
Location: harriman, tn
Both Fiberglass and graphite held Americans' fascination because these were HI Tech materials that originated from military applications. If the military sought after these materials, then they must have some significant attributes that make them superior to the previously used materials. Throw in some marketing verbage like "space-aged" and viola, captive audiences lined up to try out the latest hype rods! Hey, I like my early Orvis, first generation, low modulus, bamboo emmulating, graphite rods! The only thing that has been improved since then is the production process, and that doesn't necessarlity translate very well to the consumer. Orvis made an 8' 6wt rod that weighed in at 17/8 oz. back in the mid 70's; and that was an unsanded blank too. I don't think we have gotten very far past that in the last (nearly)40 years. The only thing that has really changed IMHO is the production processes. Granted, ferrules have gotten thinner, and some new tapers have been designed, but most changes have been compensitory in order to obtain a certain action, and maintain relatively light weight. The rod glut has caused shortages in quality cork, and has forced many rod companies to build overseas in order to remain competitive. Having too many choices in new rods has brought alot of marginal junk into the market place, ie Temple Fork et al. In order to obtain a well designed and decently, (hardly even 'good') crafted rod, you must be willing to shell out $600. I know I am drifting off on a tangent, but the point is that things have changed but nothing has really been improved since about the time most fiberglass production ceased: niether in graphite nor glass. Things are different but not necessarily "better". We, as a group of fly fishing consumers, have bought into the hype. Folks on this board, and a minority few others are the exception to that rule.

Mikey


Last edited by mikeylikesit on 27 Feb 2012, 20:51, edited 1 time in total.

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Post 27 Feb 2012, 20:49 • #12 
Emeritus
Joined: 06/08/07
Posts: 2505
Location: Superior, Colorado
I think there is some merit to all the above remarks. I've got a new one to add. Tom and Cameron. Add to that the fact that new reels were thrown over for old clicker reels thanks to Bulldog and Middlemac and you see before you a man who is glass rod and clicker poor.


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Post 28 Feb 2012, 03:29 • #13 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 12/29/10
Posts: 1046
Location: Osage Orange Range, North Texas, US
Quote:
.. . marginal junk into the market place, ie [sic] Temple Fork et al. In order to obtain a well designed and decently, (hardly even 'good') crafted rod, you must be willing to shell out $600. I know I am drifting off on a tangent, but the point is that things have changed but nothing has really been improved since about the time most fiberglass production ceased: niether [sic] in graphite nor glass.

Seems like some very broad statements there.


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Post 28 Feb 2012, 06:34 • #14 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 02/06/07
Posts: 1425
Location: US-VT
I agree that there are some serious gross generalizations that are being written here. The inquiry is almost the same as asking why a Toyota Prius replaced the Ford Mustang. While some Prius owners wouldn't be caught dead in a car that didn't get at least 30 MPG and some vintage car enthusiasts wouldn't be caught dead in a pretentious tree hugger's vehicle(albeit both camps being quite pretentious), there are a few that see the beauty of both, and others more pragmatic, simply view them all as a way to get to work in the morning.

So "why did graphite replace FG"? The same reason a dog licks its testicles ... because it can.


Last edited by tabornatives on 28 Feb 2012, 15:37, edited 1 time in total.

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Post 28 Feb 2012, 08:15 • #15 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 03/16/08
Posts: 3461
Location: Upstate-NY
I would think that the simple answer would be that an 8'+ rod in graphite is so much lighter that one in fiberglass or bamboo.


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Post 28 Feb 2012, 09:25 • #16 
Global Moderator
Joined: 04/20/07
Posts: 8588
Location: US-ME
Nowadays anybody can make a good 9' graphite rod for 4, 5, or 6 weight line. At the onset of the technology, nobody could do that in fiberglass, and nothing has changed in glass today to enable it to be done very well today. Length, lightness and better inherent damping were the reasons, graphite being stiff enough (including the pre "IM" designation first-generation graphite) to support its own weight. Essentially, graphite enabled longer rods for lighter lines than previously. Soon thereafter, it enabled lighter, less ponderous rods in the heavier line weights--and their development was impelled by the parallel development of saltwater fly fishing. Graphite didn't so much replace 'glass in its wheelhouse lengths of 8 1/2 or 8 feet and less in the mid line weights as make longer rods possible, with their advantages in mending and manipulating line. These configurations became the preferred alternative to 'glass in its typical length, 'glass being just too floppy and/or heavy compared to graphite in longer rods. Later, the more is better, stiffer and faster mantra took over.

In other words, if somebody had a 7 1/2' 'glass 6 weight, of which there were many excellent ones, they didn't replace it with a 7 1/2' graphite 6 weight. Instead, they tried a longer graphite rod for the same line weight (and very likely the same overall physical weight). The longer rod got more use. Then lighter line weights became practical (4 and under, just being developed and perfected in the 'glass heyday), and, graphite having a foothold, it was natural to go to the longer light line graphite rods as well.


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Post 28 Feb 2012, 10:25 • #17 
Piscator
Joined: 08/10/05
Posts: 18220
Location: downtown Bulverde, Texas
graphite is a good material.
as is cane and e-glass, s-glass.
Each material has a niche where they're superior to the other materials. Your niche may not be the same as mine.

A point that has been alluded to, graphite sounded a virtual death knell for mass-marketed glass, because of marketing and manufacturing decisions.
Note that you could special order glass rods through both Sage and Winston up until the mid-90s. Their manufacturing finally out-grew that personal touch.

The rags, American Angler, Fly Rod & Reel, Fly Fishermen are built to sell tackle, so they write what their sponsors want - and to tell us what we should want.
(Car and Driver, Road and Track, Motor Trend - see the similarity?)
Once graphite became the buzz word - like large arbor reel is today - you couldn't sell a glass rod and click-pawl reel to those up-to-date-in-the-know fly fishermen. They read the rags. Low start-up inertia on your disc drag is everything, right?
If you read the articles on glass that came out last year, they are still making every effort to relegate glass to something outside the norm - for an obscure change of pace, super light-line and a temporary surrogate for your real (graphite) tackle - they can't afford to offend their sponsors, none of whom are mass-marketing glass rods.
Then all the "personalities" who built their careers teaching people how to cast farther and faster - their ultimate goal was to sign-on as official spokepersons for a brand of graphite rod - sponsorship is cush money. Guides rep rod brands to help pay the bills.

Those of us who came back here did it because we out-grew high-tech tackle.


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Post 28 Feb 2012, 10:26 • #18 
Master Guide
Joined: 05/17/11
Posts: 997
Location: US-NC
bulldog1935 wrote:

Those of us who came back here did it because we out-grew high-tech tackle.

Hear, hear!


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Post 28 Feb 2012, 10:44 • #19 
Master Guide
Joined: 02/26/08
Posts: 981
Location: SW, Michigan
I still believe marketing played a major roll in all this as far as leaving fiberglass in the dust. Read a few graphite fly rod ads, space aged, fastest action ever, are selling points for fly rods. I think the reality that fast doesn't always equate to good is lost. The thought that you should buy our rod because it is faster is silly. But if you look at the price structure that rod companies have the equation is medium/fast rods ($400) and inferior components, fastest rod and higher end lightweight components ($700), which gives perceived value on faster rods. I have a hard time believing there is that much R&D going into fly rods. More likely, rod manufacturers hear about some new resin and overpay to ensure they get sole use of it for a year or so in order to further market their latest offerings. How can you possibly need to purchase a fly rod every year when there is a lifetime warranty on your rod? By having a goal like faster and lighter be the main selling point you allow yourself to invest all of your rod improvement efforts into faster and lighter for decades and give the perception that the latest and greatest is truly better and needed when you already have a rod that works just fine. I also believe improvements have been made over the years. I am strictly speaking to running in the space race and the marketing machine that has to tell you that what you had last year is no longer relevant in order to survive or actually make a profit.


Last edited by Spencer DT on 28 Feb 2012, 12:15, edited 1 time in total.

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Post 28 Feb 2012, 11:37 • #20 
Sport
Joined: 01/28/09
Posts: 26
Location: Cadyville, N.Y.
Most of the points made in the above post are correct, and were very well stated
When I started fishing (pre WW2) it was bamboo or nothing. Then in the mid 40's fiberglass came to the market, and in about 1948 I was given a Heddon fiberglass as a gift while I was in high school. That was my "go to" rod for years. In fact I still have it, although its been fished to death and retired. As I recall, the fiberglass rods were touted as being maintenance free and the newest thing. But rods like the "wonder" rod weren't cheap, and in some cases cost more than a lot of bamboo of the time. By about 1955 or so, fiberglass had replaced much of the bamboo market, and it stayed that way until the early 1970's when graphite came to market.
I was slow to except graphite, but after a year or so I got my first graphite and thought it was the "first coming", and never looked back.
Is there one rod material, or length that works in all fishing conditions,NO. Is one better than another, perhaps, depends on what your doing at the time.
Should you have rods of bamboo,fiberglass, and graphite-- sure.
Now we get to today, with graphite rods that cost over $500.00, thats just nuts. To my mind, the early graphite rods are great, but that changed somewhere in the late 80's or so. Much of my trout fishing is done with bamboo, in a 5 wt. but I also stii fish my other rods. However, when fishing for atlantic salmon or in salt I only use graphite, thats because I'm now an old fart and a 9wt. bamboo rod is a bit much, day in and day out. Do I have some 9wt. bamboo, yes, why, I have no idea, but I do fish them for short periods just to keep my hand in.
All of the above post were, I thought, well expressed and it was nice to see that it didn't start a war.
Bruce


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Post 28 Feb 2012, 12:02 • #21 
Piscator
Joined: 08/10/05
Posts: 18220
Location: downtown Bulverde, Texas
Bruce, they cost $700+ (top-line graphite rods were $500 in the '90s).


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Post 28 Feb 2012, 12:19 • #22 
Master Guide
Joined: 04/15/06
Posts: 791
Location: Fayetteville, NC
Not that I'm crazy about paying $700 for a rod, but we have to keep in mind that $700 today was $255 in 1980, according to the CPI. I don't have old Winston, Orvis, or other catalogs to look at, but that doesn't seem too far off the mark to me for most decent rods of the time. Makes the current price of Orvis Superfines ($495), seem like a real bargain ($179)!
CC


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Post 28 Feb 2012, 12:21 • #23 
Master Guide
Joined: 02/26/08
Posts: 981
Location: SW, Michigan
I have no problem with anybody paying $700 for a new graphite rod if they know for a fact that it is a great rod and they plan on fishing it till the guides fall off. If you aren't happy with it next year though it is a gigantic waste of money in my opinion. Money that could be used to actually do a destination trip and FISH. I think if you look at the CPI and add to the fact that rod manufacturers will now replace the whole outfit if you break it the prices are about right. You pay twice for every rod because a certain percentage of people will break the rod 3 times in one year through abuse and neglect.


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Post 28 Feb 2012, 12:22 • #24 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 09/29/06
Posts: 4413
Location: Willamette Valley, Oregon
It never replaced fiberglass. It's only that the ratio of graphite to fiberglass got out of hand. I've been busy adjusting that ratio.


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Post 28 Feb 2012, 12:31 • #25 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 11/30/11
Posts: 1228
Location: Fresno, CA
Rockthief wrote:
It never replaced fiberglass. It's only that the ratio of graphite to fiberglass got out of hand. I've been busy adjusting that ratio.

I like that. I'll have to quote that some time when a friend pokes fun at my fiberglass ness ... ;D


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