Re: So what is it that makes one rod better than the next?
It is always interesting to me that "personal preference" is the pervasive response to rod performance. And it is always hard to debate that it, perhaps, should not be! Firstly, fly casting is NOT a natural motion. We are not intended to throw anything backwards with equal force to what we throw forwards...unless we play shortstop. Casting is not only a learned technique but as one who continually strives to improve my own casting ability while simultaneously teaching casting on a twice a month basis (indoors during these cold months), I am comfortable saying it is an ever evolving skill set. And I've been fly casting (or trying to) since around the time Bob Dylan came out with his first album.
I sincerely believe that, difficult to define though they may be, there are objective criteria that define rod performance. Not rod "preference" but "performance”. To employ an automotive analogy; a BMW M3 is low to the ground, has super low profile tires and a stiff, stiff suspension and a stiff clutch with close together, short-throw gear ratios. It is prone to jar over every road surface irregularity and communicate them through the steering wheel and the seat of your pants. It has little room for fly rods and growls a lot. It inhales high octane fuel and is very expensive and very costly to maintain and repair. Hit a pot hole and I don't know what one of those modular rims will set you back. But it is among the fastest, flattest cornering, perfectly 50/50 weight balanced, highest performing street rides this side of super cars. The right car for you? Not for me either though I certainly admire it. To extract even a reasonable percentage of its performance you need to have some serious track training. I "drove" one on the Nürburgring on a computerized simulator while in Berlin and had to go back to my hotel and take a nap afterwards it was so intense...the computer guy shut me down as I slid off the Nordschleife towards a retaining wall at 155 MPH. This is why a lot more Accords and Camrys are on the road instead of M3's.
If you have yet to develop the skills to drive the BMW hotrod it would not be rewarding to drive and, I argue, the same applies to Loomis NRX or Sage ONE, for example. These are not soft, sweet, gentle, pretty rods; they are super high performance, blood and guts fly fishing hot rods. These, and other no-compromise rods like them, are designed by great casters/designers in concert with highly skilled rod shop technicians for demanding fly fishers pursuing spectacular specimens in ultimate habitats. Sophisticatedly tapered to offer the caster different degrees of power accessible through stroke timing, length and speed of acceleration, the tip recovers rapidly and with minimal oscillation. The deeper you reach into the lower taper the more power you discover is available and the rod comunicates this along with evrey motion of the line and later of the fish, with transparency, directly to you the angler.
These rods have to be fine-tuned; carefully balanced with a reel of exactly the right weight with performance equal to the tasks at hand, mated with the perfect line to load the rod and execute the super tight and dead straight loops they are designed to generate and they can be temperamental. They have to be learned, you grow into them, they do not come out of the tube and make you feel like, "oh yea, this is completely natural to me and my style of casting". They push you, force you to learn and step up to their heightened performance so when a permit tails at 11 O'clock at 85' and your guide says, "drop your crab fly 2 feet in front of his mouth as soon as his tail come up again", you CAN do it...on the first cast! Or, while wading 40' off the grassy bank in the middle of the Rail Road Ranch, a tiny disturbance focuses you attention. Beneath a weed matt lodged against a chunk of basalt, a trout is bulging as PMD spinners waft against the weed’s edge. You must generate the line speed and form a loop that will permit you to reach cast to your right, form four current delaying in-air mends before your 17' long leader with 5' of 6X tippet descends to the river's surface. And then the fly must alight 3' above and 1/2" off the edge of the weed bed to curl your spinner imitation so its wing graces the grassy edge...glump! and come tight...you are on! and that colored string heading towards Bonefish Flats is you backing! Try that with a deep flexing, soft, oscillating tipped, sweet feeling rod and it would be analogues to racing your green Buick against the black M3 up Mesa Falls Highway to get to the Ranch.
Last edited by sweetandsalt; 03-12-2013 at 08:58 AM.