Keeping it low

Keeping it low

Tracy&James | Thursday, 7 September 2017

There is an interesting thread running on the board at the moment regarding the ‘lifting power’ of fly rods. This is a subject that I’ve had many conversations on over the last few years, both on internet forums and in person. These conversations usually start as follows:

“Nice carp, must be nearly 20lb, what outfit do you use for them?”
“My normal #5 weight that I use for reservoir trout fishing”
“You what, that’s crazy, you must play the fish for hours. I’m going to report you to the fishing police and mock you mercilessly on this forum for ever”.

Or something along those lines…

The protagonist in this sort of conversation then usually goes on to suggest that such fish should be targeted with at least an #8 weight outfit to ensure that the fight time is minimised, thus putting less stress on the fish and aiding its recovery.  They don’t care that we’re using the same Fulling Mill dog biscuit fly (I tend to tie my own these days) tied to the same tippet, all that matters to them is the number that someone has written on the fly rod.

Anyone with any common sense knows that the ultimate pulling force that can be applied is with the rod pointing straight down the line (aka snakehead style), and in this configuration it’s the strength of the hook, tippet and knots that’s important.  It doesn’t matter whether the rod has a designation of #12 or #2, the pull to failure will be identical(and it obviously won’t be the rod that fails).

The forum warrior, reading the above, will then howl with derision “if you play a fish like that you’ve lost all the shock absorbency of the rod”, clearly oblivious to the fact that most anglers have functioning elbow and shoulder joints and they’re using a stretchy PVC string between them and the fish (actually the warrior is probably using PU J).

Once the angler decides to move the rod away from the ‘straight down the line’ position then differences in the amount of force applicable versus rod stiffness show up.  This, however, is due to the desire not to break the rod and, as such, getting absolute figures could get expensive.  I’d certainly be happier applying more force with the #12 than the #2 at any angle away from the dead straight.

This then bring me on to torque, or twisting force.  Away from the straight position the angler starts to experience the effects of being on the wrong end of a 9ft lever (albeit a bendy one).  Once the angle gets to 90 degrees the angler will be putting in an enormous effort to produce a very unimpressive force on the fish – if you haven’t tried this you should; get someone to shout out the reading on a spring balance as your arm is quivering on the point of giving upI guarantee it will make you feel very weak J

That there is a difference in the amount of force that I’m comfortable applying between a stiff rod and a softer one does have a small, but significant, impact to my fishing.  Take my carp example; I can put as much pressure on a fish that my hook and tippet will allow right up to the point where I’ve got the fish close to me.  Unfortunately simple geometry now dictates that I must lift the rod (or move it away from the shallow-ish angle that I typically use).  Because of this I must now think about protecting the rod, it would be ever so easy to snap the tip in this scenario (the all too common ‘high-stick’ failure).  This means I can no longer apply the pressure I want and the fish could turn and head back into the lake.  My answer to this is simple – I step back from the edge of the water and get Tracy to land the fish (or vice versa) or, if we’re too far apart, we’ll use a long-handled landing net.  In both cases the force applied doesn’t have to be compromised too much and the fish is quickly landed.  Similarly, on a boat, I’d be looking for someone to grab the leader in order to keep the force on the fish but remove it from the rod.

In the pictures below there is one of Tracy using the most force she’s ever applied (and me to that matter) on a fly-caught fish - full whack on a Nautilus NV reel, measured at 18lb.  Applied with a low rod angle it meant that the strain on her arms was minimised whilst the force on the shark, that she was attached to, was maximised.

We’re at the Hampshire Country Sports show this this Sunday running a free to enter accuracy competition – come and say hello if you’re in the area.  Otherwise have a great weekend.


PS sorry for the late FP - problems uploading from China - all good now. This is the Board thread James mentions;