I realize this subject has been covered on a lot of fronts. I read a lot of them. the one thing I have found is inconsistency.
- Grip the handle where you usually hold it. Remove thumb. then add enough weight to where the reel is seated to balance the rod.
I did that with two rods. 8'8" Scott graphite and came up with a loaded reel weight of 7 ounces.
- second rod was an 8' Sweetwater boo. Came up with a loaded reel weight of 10.5 ounces.
-I used another method of "a loaded reel should weigh 1.5 times the swing weight (about .2 ounces more than rod weight).
- same 8'8" graphite came up with loaded reel weight of 3.9 ounces.
- same 8' Sweetwater: Loaded reel weight of 7.05 ounces.
These are very disparate measurements. I read another articles that said, forget balance, just get the lightest reel yo can find. Period. Less is more.
It is becoming obvious that no one is right, not even me. Buy the reel you want, the one you like, and get it large enough to handle some back line if you are fishing for big game. I have reels ranging from the minuscule Hardy Featherweight up to a huge Orvis Vortex that weighs over a pound with line & backing. I like every one and I don't worry about their weight. I should mention that every reel matched to each rod provides a true balance point at or near the winding check at the end of the cork, even on the Spey rods
Personally, I do not go by specs or formula but by that all elusive "feel". Your first method; mounting a loaded reel and checking balance toward the forward portion of the grip is what I do. To expand on what Hardy Reels said, its is not only weight but rods are ideally matched with a reel whose personality and performance compliments it. You read the thread about ignoring reel line weight designation and the same applies here; too lite a reel makes a lite rod feel tip heavy and out of sync.
I recently switched lines on three reels to re-mate each with a rod that they were not intended to pair with and all three outfits feel improved to me.
You "balance" a rod reel for fishing and not casting. String up your rod and then take the reel off and place it on the ground. Cast the rod and it will "feel" fine. Go outside and try it.
If you most often short line nymph with the rod tip up, you want the rod/reel to naturally seek that tip up position when you are fishing with a short line out. If you are a bass fisher who casts and then lowers the rod tip to the water to strip in the fly, you want the rod/reel to naturally seek a neutral or tip down position when fishing.
Another consideration is swing weight. Rods can weight the same but a tip heavy rod is more tiring to cast and fish because the mass at the end of a lever (the rod tip) has to be moved further and faster than mass at the handle end of the rod. So I favor a rod that is both light and is not tip heavy. I also favor the light reel to go with that rod for the type of fishing that I do.
In 1889 R. C. Leonard, a tournament caster, stepped to the platform without a reel on his rod and simply coiled the line at his feet. With that abbreviated rig he proceeded to smash all existing distance records, including his own, by a wide margin. It was a shocking thing to competitors and spectators alike. It was a momentous discovery from which not only tournament casters but fishermen as well should have profited. That early-day pioneer discovered an extremely important principle in rod dynamics. It amounts to this: That the caster must move the useless weight below the hand as well as the useful weight above the hand; that the removal of dead weight below the hand helped to overcome inertia more quickly, increasing the tip speed, thus imparting a greater velocity to the projectile or fly line. It should have been a valuable lesson to everyone, but it wasn’t. It remained only among the tournament casters for many years.
If you examine the books and catalogs of those early days you will discover that manufacturers and fishermen-writers discussed very learnedly and extensively such things as “fulcrum point,” “counterpoise,” “balancing the fly rod,” and “letting the rod do the work,” none of which has any merit whatsoever. Not until very recently has there been an awareness of this valid principle. It is evidenced by the availability of numerous fine, very lightweight reels on the market today. In view of this trend I should not be discussing this subject at all, except for the fact that I am frequently surprised by the comments of writers and the recommendations of suppliers or manufacturers prescribing a specific size and weight of reel to balance a particular rod. There can be no such thing as balance in a fly rod. There can never be a fixed “fulcrum point.” Every inch that the cast is lengthened or shortened changes the alleged balance and every unnecessary ounce in an unnecessarily heavy reel dampens and degrades the cast. If you wish to explore this a little further, you can try an experiment as I did some years ago. If you have or can borrow enough reels, let us say in two-ounce increments, all the way from the lightest, about two ounces, to something about eight or nine ounces, you will have enough to make the experiment. Use the same weight of line on the same rod for all trials. With the lightest reels the casts are sharply and cleanly delivered flat out with enough velocity to turn over the leaders. You also get a tighter front bow if you want it. As the reels get heavier there is a noticeable lagging in the forward loop until finally with the heaviest reel there is decided dropping of the loop, and probably a failure to turn over the leader properly. This effect is most pronounced on long casts. And consider how much worse it could be with those reels that were manufactured with a hollow arbor into which the purchaser was urged to pour lead pellets through a little trapdoor in order to correct the balance of his fly rod!
You can suit yourself about these matters but for me there is only one sound system and that is: Use the lightest possible reel of good quality and adequate capacity no matter how long or heavy the rod may be . . . ."
~ Vincent C. Marinaro, "In the Ring of the Rise," Crown Publishers, Inc., New York, copyright 1976, pp. 39-41.
"Before describing my methods of examining rods, here are a few considerations I believe to be of importance.
Let us first rid ourselves of a widespread idea, which I have often had occassion to point out as false or, at least, much exaggerated: the reel does not balance the rod; though in the past when rods were ten feet or more, very long and heavy, a reel as a counterweight did produce the illusion of balancing the rod in the hand; but it is the line which plays the principal role owing to its weight and the shape of its taper. It is, indeed, on the line that the rod depends above all for giving its maximum, and yet retaining its balance. The ideal would be to be able to fish with the reel in your pocket."
weight doesnt really matter if its balanced. If theres no torque then you wont feel much of the weight.
I will agree that when the rod/reel combination has center of mass at the fulcrum, the mass (weight) effect is minimized.
That does not mean total mass has no effect. It determines how much work is done during casting and fishing, so weight or mass is important.
The very fact that we use different "weights" of line to different "weights" of flies is based on the fact that mass matters.
To move mass requires energy and produces work. The reason a 3 wt rod can be cast and fished all day and a 12 weight cannot by most fly fishers is directly related to mass. If weight or mass didn't matter, both rods and line weights would fish equally.
The reason a heavier line and rod is more tiring to cast is because it requires more "work" to do so. We cannot change the weight of line we need to use to cast a given fly. What we can change is the mass of the rod and the reel. When you minimize the "weight" of the rod and the reel, and you center that mass at the fulcrum when the line is at your preferred fishing distance, you minimize both the work done during casting and fishing.
To explain further why it is easier and more effective to cast without a reel, consider that a powerful fly cast depends on fly rod tip speed which depends on tip acceleration which depends on rod/reel acceleration. It also depends on a hard stop. The more quickly and suddenly the caster can stop the rod, the more efficient the cast. So excess rod/reel mass is the enemy of casting. A rod without the mass of a reel hanging on it is easier to accelerate and to stop - it is easier to cast. Given that we need a reel to fish, it follows that the less the reel weights, the easier the rod/reel combo will be to cast.
If casting were the only thing we did with a rod and reel, that would be the end of it. But we spend more time fishing the cast than actually casting; so make fishing less tiring, I want my rod/reel to "balance" (tip up, neutral, or tip down) at my normal fishing distance. Whether the rod balances tip up, neutral or down depends on how I normally want my rod to be for the fishing I do.