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Thread: Apples to Apples line weight

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Adirondacks & Great Lakes Tribs

    Default Apples to Apples line weight

    Is the term 5 weight rod an exacting specification throughout all rod manufacturers and rod models? Nope, and I find this to be a very interesting topic. First example, currently I am using two 5 weights, first is a 590-4 sage vxp, and the second is a 590-4 sage z-axis. However, these rods are so different that I could call one a true 5 and the other a 6 weight. The vxp IMO is much closer to a 6 weight not only in stiffness and action, but also fish fighting power. With this rod I am able to throw just as much weighted conehead streamers and split shots as my brother-in-laws G.Loomis GLX streamdance 690-4. I also use a 6 weight line on my vxp. A few days ago I caught about a 2.5lb brown trout on my vxp, and the fish gave me a bit of a kick but I was able to bring it in with relative ease. That same day I switched to the z-axis and caught a significantly smaller 12-13inch brown and it gave as much or more of a fight, and the rod became electric, whereas the vxp only gets that electric feel when the fish is at least 1lb or more.

    I find it very interesting that two rods within the same manufacturer both rated as 5 weights throw flies and play fish completely different. All in all I should no longer say I own two 5 weights, but rather a 5 & 6 weight. I have found this to be true with other rods such as the orvis H2 as compared to the orvis access, almost the same situation as the vxp and z-axis.

    I guess I am wondering what others on the forum think about this topic, and how it effects our ability to make good descisions on rod purchases. This may also be a topic that some of the top manufacturers should consider, unless the differentiation in line weight consistency is deliberate on thier part. Anyway, thoughts?

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  3. #2

    Default Re: Apples to Apples line weight

    Rods of the same line rating vary substantially in personality and performance. They should not, however, be intentionally or "accidentally" misrepresented to the degree they "require" over or underlining. I consider that a design defect. After all, how is a rod buyer to know what he is buying without being able to rely on the rod maker's correct designation? Personally, I enjoy having multiple rods of the same line rating that cover different aspects of my fishing...much as you describe between your two different Sage models. I have "sports car" #5's (Nti Nano, ONE), "SUV" #5's (Sage RPL, Diamondback Stu Apte) and "sedan" #5's (Hardy Zenith, Sage Z-Axis, Albright EXS)...all in 9' lengths. I also have "go cart" #5's from 7'9" F&F to an 8 1/2' Scott. I might wade a creek with one, a river with another and fish from a drift boat with a third; all with a Hendrickson dun knotted to each rod's tippet!

    All the 5-weights I just referred to fish with a #5 floating line. Every rod I acquire gets taken out on a big lawn and I cast it, often accompanied by fishing buddies, with at least 3 or 4 different lines. The lines may be from different manufacturers and of different taper designs but my objective is to determine the line that the rod likes best, not the line I like best. Almost always one or two of the four lines tried work better than the others. Some rods cast all correct lines OK others are more temperamental but all rods benefit from line fine tuning. Yes, I will sample rods with GPX or RIO Grande 1/2 to 3/4 heavy lines. Should the rod perform better with Grande than Gold, the rod manufacturer's technical staff gets a phone call from me. As I don't like fishing either Grande or GPX, that rod is unlikely to make it into my working quiver. I have one 9'/#4.5 rod that was designed to use GPX. I happen to like (not love) this particular rod and I do fish it periodically under the right conditions but it spends plenty of time in the dark of its tube.

    Weight distribution within given line taper designs is a factor rarely discussed but is important. So a rod that likes SA Trout Stalker with it's 12' front taper or Airflo Distance with a 14' front taper is going to lend itself to different applications than a rod that is happier with a more aggressive Airflo Mend or RIO Perception with a 5' front taper. Yes, the grain weight of the first 30' of fly line determines the line size rating but it hardly the complete story.

  4. #3

    Default Re: Apples to Apples line weight

    Solely my thoughts........

    Measuring fly lines and weights with my own digital scale and using a micrometer I have found that the line manufacturers give us a quality product. They are right on with the specifications they offer on the packaging and the AFFTM standards. That said the rod designations as to line weight are really subjective, and the vague interpretation works to the rod-makers advantage encouraging many fly fisherman to find the perfect balance by buying different rods to match up with lines.

    Until fly casters realize that any fly rod will cast any fly line weight depending on the weight of the line past the rod tip the debate will continue. Consider the spinning and casting example is a rod that will cast lure weights from 1/8 to 3/8 oz, the rod by fly line standards will require 3 or four different fly lines to balance the rod.

    To further complicate east coast caster wants a rod feel different from that of a mid-west and west coast fly caster, so what's the answer ? Fly rodders are a picky bunch and until the newbs and shop salesman can put aside the influence of the stuff written in print and what the latest scuttlebutt is, there is no answer for the perfect fly line weight for a rod.....only a recommendation by the rod maker.

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  6. #4

    Default Re: Apples to Apples line weight

    While it is certainly true that any #5 rod with a bit of butt to it will cast #4, 5, 6 even 7-weight lines, it will unlikely cast all of them well. Sure, making predominantly short shots under 40 feet with a 9+' leader, fishing a short front tapered line of even a 6-weight designation might offer more load and control than a 5-weight with a long front taper which, at that distance, is not adequately loading the rod. This is what I refer to as fine tuning a rod/line match-up to your applications.

    I have spoken to both SA and RIO about making their best tapers in 1/2 size increments in the popular size range...a Gold in 3.5, 4, 4.5, 5, 5.5 and 6 would really facilitate fine tuning with a first rate taper. They laugh at me. "It would not be worth the extra packaging and SKU's for the miniscule percentage of fly fishers that would care about or be able to even detect the difference", they opine. Also, some casters like the effect of over lining as, though the rod's action does not actually change, the heavier line (given equal casting distance) is going to flex the tip section deeper, slowing its recovery. Thus there is a perception of slower timing and more "feel" of the rod bending at the less evident expense of more tip oscillation and tracking error. Those of us who go back many seasons started fishing with rods in which we felt the mass loading and some of us have either failed or chosen not to adjust to modern rods much lower mass and faster recovery. Today's high performance models encourage greater rod action transparency where one feels the motion of the line more than the bending low mass of the rod and, though there is far greater communicative clarity in presentation energy, many believe they need/want to feel the rod's load/unload more. Hence the too common propensity to over line an otherwise well designed rod, dulling its sharp reflexes.

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  8. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Northern Wyoming

    Default Re: Apples to Apples line weight

    I kind of think that its "fun", to have differences (both slight and not so slight) between different rods of the same line weight designation.

    I have a range of rod types in each line weight that I fish. I may fish two or three different lines and tapers on each of those in that particular range, depending on the intended fishing situations that will be encountered on a given day.

    Rio lines for example, I like the Trout LT if I am going to throw long casts with dry flies or I want delicate presentations up close, I like the Gold for general all-around use, and I may use the Rio Grande if I want to throw a double nymph rig or hopper/dropper rig for shortish casts in pocket water. All may be appropriate for any given rod, but it may boil down to intended purpose for the line choice.

    Same could be said and done with other line manufacturers as well.

    I also have rods where I over line or under line in certain situations as well. It can be interesting to experiment as it may give a particular rod a different dimension of performance that you weren't expecting.

    I spend a lot of time messing around with different rod and line combinations, I find it a lot of fun, sometimes enlightening and it always helps my fishing as well.

    Embrace the differences in rods and lines in a given line weight designation, it would be awfully boring without them.

  9. #6

    Default Re: Apples to Apples line weight

    Would it make it any easier if the rod makers suggested a grain weight of line and the line manufacturers would label in grain weight?

    I find it very confusing especially when old bamboo rods are described as an HDH for example, which would approximate a 6 weight modern line, but the owner (if selling it) says he really prefers a 5 wt line (lowering the rods preferred line weight seems to be the way to increase its desirability) when some of the new 5 wt lines are weighted to be more of a 5.5 to 6 wt anyway. So the seller says it is a 5 wt when he is really casting what appears to be a 6 wt line "mislabeled" as a 5 wt.

    Spey/two handed rod labeling is a whole other confusing subject, but at least there are more and more recommendations for grain weight rather than calling it an 8 wt, which in the two hander world is more like an 11 or 12 wt line.

    Sounds like a bunch of misdirection and mystery, that gets even worse because of different casting styles and ability.

  10. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Eastern Iowa

    Default Re: Apples to Apples line weight

    I don't care for the mystery at all. It makes me very hesitant to buy a high end line I might fully appreciate, for fear I will now own an 80 dollar line that is off a full WT for my rod.

  11. #8

    Default Re: Apples to Apples line weight

    My early 1960's Dunton is marked "HDH" (DT6F) but actually fishes better with a modern WFL5F...not uncommon with cane rods of that era. Regarding quality line purchase hesitancy; this is a thorny issue. It does not impact me personally because a line that disappoints on an intended rod will enhance another in my arsenal. I like having MANY different lines spooled up so I can perform my rod/line comparative analysis. But not every one is as nuts as I am about this. Some shops will have the lines they market most aggressively rigged so you may try them...but not likely all the lines you might be considering. Further, if you are someone who likes seeking good deals on-line, it is hard to try that line before you buy it. We frequent contributors to these threads can comment on lines we have had quality experiences with but that hardly means it will be the optimal line for your rod unless you have the same rod and even then... Your best shot is to look for a group of grizzly guys on a lawn in Craig, MT mid-afternoon on one day in early July, switching lines around and casting them on a bunch of rods. Bring your favorite 5-weight rod and line and be prepared to have your opinion of it shaken up! Or form your own group from among your friends or Fishing Club fellow members.

  12. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    south florida

    Default Re: Apples to Apples line weight

    I don't care for the mystery at all. It makes me very hesitant to buy a high end line I might fully appreciate, for fear I will now own an 80 dollar line that is off a full WT for my rod.
    I know your pain, Trouter.

    I finally got off my duff a year or two ago and bought a good scale that has a big bowl to put fly lines into. I now know what I like for a line grain load outside the tip on some rods. I already know the taper profiles I like for different fishing, and I know that all the rods I fish with will handle an overhang of the whole head plus half that head length in running line outside the tip.

    So all that's needed from line manufacturers is the total head weight and the weight of the running line per foot. Then I would be able to buy a new line to try, confident that it would be weight-matched to the rod the way I like.

    Surely line manufacturers produce enough fly lines to cut the head off one and weigh both it and the running line that's left.

    Since they already weigh the first 30' to get the totally useless 30' weight, how much longer would another weighing take for the whole head? And then weigh the running line after that?

    Even if they pay their R&D technicians a hundred bucks an hour, that estra weighing would cost them a one-time labor charge of less than 9 bucks, if the technician was very, very slow and took 5 minutes. They have already cut off the first 30', so they wouldn't even be wasting a line.

    A friendly guy at Cortland Tech, Joe Goodspeed, did just that following an email from me. He may have "wasted" a line, but I have since bought three of that series line and will likely be buying two more this summer in different weights. Cheers, Jim

  13. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    North Central Montana

    Default Re: Apples to Apples line weight

    Quote Originally Posted by ia_trouter View Post
    I don't care for the mystery at all. It makes me very hesitant to buy a high end line I might fully appreciate, for fear I will now own an 80 dollar line that is off a full WT for my rod.
    You are right to be concerned. Some rods cast better with one of the lines that is a little heavier or has a more aggressive taper while other rods cast better with what some call a "true to weight" line. For example, one of my four weights likes the Rio Gold, another one of my four weights casts well with a Rio Trout LT or SA Trout Stalker.

    This is why a little research is in order to make sure you don't spend your money on the wrong line. I know some fly shops that don't have a clue about which lines are good for which rods, but there are others who are very knowledgeable. And, you can read on line reviews. I called Rio on the phone once and posed the question (a guy there was very familiar with my rod and gave me a solid recommendation). Since you belong to this forum, you can ask people here. Others have done that, and people with the same rod as the person posing the question have answered with the line they like for that particular rod.

    Just ask, and you might receive the information you need.

    However, don't wait for the line companies to stop making different lines for different rod actions within the same line weight. That scene is here and it ain't going away.
    "Sometimes the least important thing about fishing is fishing." --Roderick Haig-Brown

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