Tom Rowland, Gary Coxon, Bruce Richards, Brad Wesner, Barry and Cathy Beck

Of waves and rods Q3

3.. I have a question from the discussion board: "Having been bombarded with an array of fishing catalogues over the last few days (all of which pale in comparison to this site :-)) it seems that all the rods designed for saltwater fishing are tip-action rather than progressive. Do the manufacturers all believe that this type of rod is more suitable for saltwater -and if so, why? - and that therefore all saltwater fisherman are pushers rather than pullers? Or is it just another case of confusion over terminology? Any thoughts from the sultans of salt?"

Tom: Good question. The trend is certainly for faster and faster fly rods. A faster rod is associated with a tip action but the powerful saltwater caster can easily access the power in the butt section of the rod. Many rod companies only follow the trends of the major selling brands. For many years and for many situations I have loved the progressive actions of the Scott HP line of rods. Scott realizes that not everyone wants a superfast rod for saltwater fishing so they kept the HP in their line. This is the rod that you should look at if you are looking for a slower or more progressive fly rod. Many casters can access more power and even more line speed from a "slower" taper. My advice is to fish with the action that you like the best and that gets the job done the best for YOU. The best fly rod is the one you like the best. FISH EVERYWHERE!

Cathy & Barry: Referring to the catalog question. I think the answer is the latter, confusion over the terminology. Orvis would be a prime example in their descriptive actions verses what Sage describes as medium or medium-fast. Sage's RPLXi which we would describe as medium-fast works down into the mid section of the rod when loaded with the correct line size and profile, so we couldn't say that Sage is a tip action rod. Are fisherman pushers or pullers? We're probably looking at a little bit of both but more tend to put most of the effort into the forward cast.

Brad: You have to make damn long casts quickly, consistently, and accurately. You have to make those casts in a driving wind. Because of these two laws of saltwater fly, anglers figured out that they needed a rod that would load and unload faster. This would allow for less false casting, and quicker presentation. It also allowed for tighter loops that helped to cut through the wind.

Side Note: For all of you casting masters out there...I am not saying that a slow action rod will not form a tight loop. I am only saying that a fast action rod will do it faster and easier with more power deliverable to the line and the fly.

This is why you find yourself looking at rod catalogues that have no saltwater rods with slow actions. Rather, you get what is called a tip action or fast rod. Lets look at what this means, because it is not what you think. Many think that this is an indication that only the tip portion flexes. This is not the truth. What it does mean is that under the same amount of pressure necessary to make a full flex rod bend down through the butt section, the tip flex rod will bend only in the tip section. Notice that this does not say that you can't bend a fast action rod down into the butt. In fact, on my long casts with tip action rods, I consistently bend the rod that far. I simply apply enough force to do so. (Applying this much force to a full flex rod would overpower it.) But, because it takes more force to load the rod down into the butt, the force of the unloading rod is much greater than that of a full flex equivalent, thus fast rods cast further on average than a full flex rod does. The other reason for a fast action rod is backbone. Simply put, the fish in the sea are bigger than the fish in the river. Due to this, we need a rod that has more backbone to subdue them. Fast action rods, because they are stiff, allow us to put more pressure on the fish. This allows us to win the battle sooner and reduces fish mortality.

Pixie-ears: With regards to your last question concerning types of rod actions suitable for salt water. Well, I could probably go on forever discussing the virtues of why certain rod actions suit different types of fishing, but to keep it really brief, personally I think "an all round" saltwater rod (if there is such a thing) should have enough backbone to cast a good line into a strong breeze (which you always nearly find by the seashore) and yet still have enough action to be called a fishing rod. Tip action rods are fine for making tight, wind penetrating loops, but all too often the rest of the rod lacks any, or very little action with which to cushion the powerful runs of large fish. Constant casting with a very 'stiff' tip action rod also contributes to early fatigue during a days fishing and can soon cause wrist ache. Rod actions have always and will always be very personal preference for the individual concerned and certain casting techniques lend themselves better to certain casting styles - but there lies another story. Keep 'flinging the feathers'

Bruce: Many anglers and rod designers do feel that a stouter rod is often better for saltwater use than a softer rod. Long range casts into the wind are rather common and most anglers are able to accomplish that better (without tailing loops) with a stouter rod. It does take some skill, however, and if the caster is not capable of longer casts under any circumstance then a stout rod won't help and a somewhat slower action would be better. The angler must be able to load the rod to get maximum results, if he/she can't load a fast rod then the results will be less than satisfactory. In a very skilled anglers hands, either rod will work fine, but most would prefer something on the fast side. Bruce

Once again, many thanks. Currently I'm in central NZ fly fishing the Oreti River for large trout. However I shall return to the coast in about ten days time. Shortly after this I shall be fishing off the coast of Queensland for two weeks.

I have some thoughts on the last question, especially since the replies reflect some of the confusion in terminology...

Saltwater rods