I ran an unintended experiment today and the result; to a large extent, surprised me.
Last week I was fishing up on the Lackawaxen Creek in Northeastern PA. It was a bright, hot day and although there was a great Hendrickson hatch going on, there wasn't any top water action from the fish. In search of less light, I found my way under a small bridge and there, in the shadow of the bridge structue, was the action I was looking for. The nice Hendrickson hatch and a lot of nose rises; so they were probaby taking the Hendrickson emergers just below the surface.
Well, I hooked into a nice fish and in my excitement, I set the hook vertically, whacked the bridge structure, snapped my rod at the second ferrule and lost the fish. Not a great moment for me.
It was my Sage Z-axis rod; 9'0" 5 wt. I've had it for 3 years and it's been a great rod. It's on its way back to Sage now, so I should have a replacement in about 3-4 weeks. So, no long-term damage done.
But, in the short term - today, Marty and I were fishing Mud Run; one of our favorite pieces of water and I needed a 5 wt. rod. I toyed with taking my 9'0" 6 wt.; GLoomis GLX Max 9'0". But, it's a very stiff rod and it didn't feel right for today (it will be perfect for tomorrow on Lost Lake - smallmouths and bluegills, I think - stay tuned). So, instead, I grabbed my very old 8'6" LL Bean Angler 5 wt. rod. It's your basic starter rod. You know - rod, reel, line, backing, leader and tube for $75.00. Marty looked at me like I'd stepped off the dark side of the moon, but I said: 'I know, but I'm going to give it a try."
So, I ran the experiment and the result surprised me.
My casting was probably 90% as good with this rod as it usually is with my Z-axis. Now, I'm not an expert caster by any stretch of the imagination, but I was getting dries out there 70+ ft. today without much effort. So, about the same as I'd usually be doing with the better rod. I also caught my share of fish and the reel, although the concept of adjustable drag is questionable on this model, worked just fine.
This got me thinking. Am I really a better fisherman because I have better gear? I suppose at some level I am; probably where it gets very techincal and where pinpoint accuracy becomes the key to taking picky fish or getting skunked. But, on an average day, I'm not as convinced as I was before I ran this unplanned experiment.
On a temporary basis, what I'm taking away from today's experience is that better gear doesn't really make me a better fisherman, it just helps me to feel like I have a better chance of getting my share of the fish.
Oh, and by the way, when Sage sends me a new 5 wt., the LLBean Angler is going back into the corner; from whence it came. Still, I'm sure that I'll be thinking about the results of this expermient for some time to come. Maybe that rod won't stay in the corner quite as much as it used to(?)