A closer look

A closer look

Gary Meyer | Tuesday, 5 December 2017

This past weekend I finally got out in a canoe to observe the backcountry impact of Hurricane Irma. As curious as I was, I was not in a hurry, as I expected the conditions would be pretty bad. I was correct and although patient, I thought, I, in fact, jumped the gun. It is going to be a long and torturous time before I can access any of the far-back places I have learned to enjoy.

A buddy and I launched his two-man canoe from a very popular spot. I thought, erroneously, that maybe the park service would clear the path through this often used and short creek that is a main access point for paddlers. The creek is only about ¼ mile long. We entered with optimism. About 2 hours later we emerged from the backside, tired and torn, into a large bay. The number of fallen tree trunks that we had to straddle as we muscled his canoe over were too numerous to count. Not long into the creek we discussed turning back, but instead pressed on. Surely, further on, it could not be worse! It was. Once we finished that first creek we both agreed that we would take a longer but easier alternate route on the return trip, even though it would require one of us to hitch a ride back to where our vehicle was parked. This was a Friday, so there might not be anyone to hitch a ride from, but still, we agreed that walking the ten or so miles back to the launch vehicle would be preferable to trying that creek again.

I wish I could say the fishing was worth the effort, but I cannot. Anywhere the water was stagnant due to low tidal currents the water was opaque yellow and smelled of decomposition. Fallen branches, if pulled from the water, were covered with surprisingly bright green algae, but it was completely impossible to see even that bright green color only inches below the surface. In the fetid zones there were zero signs of mobile life below the water surface. Even the large bay, which in past times was almost guaranteed to offer some action from juvenile snook and tarpon, seemed vacant of fish. The water there looked to be in the early stages of an algae bloom, and the once lush weed beds, where visible, seemed to be in decline.

I wish I had better news.

So, instead of talking about fish, let’s talk about flyrods. This trip highlighted a property of flyrods that I seldom see or hear discussed: the concept of durability. Folks often talk of swing weight, speed, flex, power, etc. but seldom, if ever, does anyone talk to durability. Take a flyrod in a canoe through a mangrove creek and you will appreciate the concept. About the only way manufacturers even nod toward durability is by offering a no questions asked warranty.


I bring this up as I lost another one this past trip. I brought a 6wt GLXmax that did not survive, and not due to the bushwhacking. My buddy simply tried to untangle it from his rod and the tip gave way. At that time we were well past the tangled creek, actually in wide open water.  The rod had remained safely in a tube throughout the tough goings. I wasn’t particularly fond of the rod other than the fact that it was supplied to me when taking my MCI. The fact is, and everyone knows it, flyrods are fragile creatures.


I think I may have mentioned it before, but over the last half-dozen years or so I have experienced a shocking number of broken rods. Some were old and I expect died from overuse. Others were simply not up to the task of what I was attempting to use them for. Surprisingly, none of the breaks happened during fights with large tarpon, where I put maximum pressure on the fish and equipment. The vast majority, however, were rods that I would categorize as high-performance models, the ones that were advertised as faster, stiffer and lighter.


So, it will be back to the old standby TFO 6wt while I ponder if I am willing to pay for the warranty replacement of the GLX. Look down your nose at TFO if you want, but while they are not the most elegant casting tools, some models have proven to me to be capable of survival in my world of canoes and tough fish.


I have always wondered about why heavier rods, say 10wts and up, are always so stiff in the butt section. I have some odd-ball heavier rods that are not overly stiff and I know they will deliver the lines and fight the fish. I personally suspect the manufacturers overbuild those rod butts to protect profits. If I offered a product that was fragile and often misused, but had to warranty that product against breakage to remain in the market, I would probably over-build it also.