Re: So what is it that makes one rod better than the next?
As I said in at he beginning or my post here, it is hard to debate that personal preference should not be the deciding factor in rod selection. I too love the rich flamed color and individualistic character of fine cane. Swelled butts, silk wraps with inlays, nickle silver ferrules that go pop! when you take the rod down to wipe it with a soft cloth. The sense of familiarity with a rod I've fished for a long time and associate remarkable memories with it, some of which bear a resemblance to the truth. Beautiful rivers, old friends I shared good whiskey with after the spinner fall, the patina of time... But I don't think the originator of this thread, a rod designer, was looking for what makes us comfortable and content.
I employ the sports car analogy because acceleration, breaking, skid pad, slalom, etc. are empirically measurable. They don't tell you how the car "feels" only how it "performs". This is why so many sports car aficionados yearn for the day their MG-A or Austin Healy 3000 was brand new. Like many of my old rods, these roadsters had a lot more charm than performance. But when they tried to reintroduce a "new" MG...no one wanted it because, like Orvis's super expensive "new" CFO; it may have better construction (machined not cast) than the old but you can't manufacture an old CFO's "charm".
So new rods MUST enhance our angling experience by being lighter, stronger, truer tracking and offer more "feel" or communication as I prefer to call it, while generating tighter smoother loops with the potential for higher line speed than our denser, thicker walled, larger diameter earlier technology rods. This is what "new" has to offer; it will have to develop its own beloved history with each angler over time but can attract us by enhancing our fly fishing experience with its ever improving material and construction technology and increasingly sophisticated taper design. My preference in progressive, quick recovering rod action is based on the type of technical presentation I favor but rods like Sage Circa and some of the also advanced technology Helios 2's illustrate that the small stream, deeper flexing style of rod suited to others of you can be improved upon as well.
Before his untimely passing last year, Sam Druckman, former Scott, Winston, Sweetgrass and, lastly, Freestone rod designer, was working on a computer program that would predict, before a prototype ever had guides taped on it, before a flag of carbon pre-preg was even cut, where unwanted oscillation would occur and how to counter dampen it to design an ever smoother, sweeter casting fly rod for the future.