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  1. #1

    Default Newbie question - Judging gear

    OK, I'll admit it. I tend to be a little on the frugal side. (My wife would mention something about Lincoln crying but I have no idea what she's talking about...)

    So, being chea..., um,... er,.. FRUGAL, I keep my eye out for used gear when I can but I have not been fly fishing long enough to know the good from the bad from the ugly.

    Rather than ask the usual "What should I buy" or "What's the best" I'd prefer to learn how to judge this myself.

    What advice can you give on how to judge the relative merits of a used rod or reel? I've been to my local rightous fly shop and gotten good advice but I want to broaden my options. (It's a small shop so there is a limit of available choices.) I'm all over them for flys and the like but they're a little pricey on rods and reels.

    I currently have a nice 9ft 5wt Orvis Rocky Mtn with a St Croix reel but it's a 2 piece so not too good for traveling. Also, in MD the rivers have a lot of overhang and those 9 feet of rod are a little ungainly.

    What I'd like is something a little shorter and lighter so I'm keeping my eye out for a 4-ish piece rod around 3wt.

    As for the reels, I'm totally in the dark. I do know that an interchangable arbor is a good thing but size, material, finish, whether it gets HBO or not; I'm totally in the dark.

    So, unless you personally know that golden trout I saw in the Patapsco River, any advice would be greatly appreciated!

  2. Default Re: Newbie question - Judging gear

    Hi there fellow cheap-o, er, I mean frugalmeister!

    I'm afraid I don't know too much about rods, especially under a 5-wt. to give much advice. As far as buying used, I imagine it should be like buying a used car or anything else used. Give it a good once over, look it up and down very carefully. See if you can take it for a test drive. Also, as you know, you can buy an item brand new and still get a lemon.

    As far as reels for the frugal go, I've had really good luck with Cabela's. I have their Prestige II (I believe) for my 5 wt. I got it and an extra spool for under $50. Its worked well so far. For the dinky stream you're talking about with all the vegetation, I don't think I'd worry about a large arbor reel. Though the people here who are more knowledgeable than I will probably correct me if I'm wrong.

    So this isn't probably too much help, but thought I'd chime in with my 2 cents. Er, make that 1 cent.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Newbie question - Judging gear


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Central Florida

    Default Re: Newbie question - Judging gear

    Hi MVealey,

    Here are some things to look for when buying a used rod. There are 4 areas that you should inspect. 1. The Grip/Reel seat, 2. The Graphite, 3. The Guides/TipTop, 4. The Ferrules.

    1. Check out the cork for chips and other damage. If the cork is dark or soiled this generally means the rod has been used a lot. Remember that cork can be cleaned and a clean grip doesn't mean the rod hasn't been used a lot. Look at the threads on the reel seat for any damage. Screw the locking nuts up and down. They should screw easily. Tightly grasp the graphite just in front of the grip and try to twist the grip and reel seat. Use moderate pressure. If they are loose you will feel it without a lot of twisting. Attach the reel you are planning to use on the rod. The reel feet on some reels are thick and may not fit the reel seat. Hold the grip and make sure the reel seat won't twist with the reel attached. If the rod has a metal butt cap, look for scratches or dents.

    2. Visually inspect the graphite and run your fingers all over the rod. You may feel something you don’t see. Look for scratches, blemishes and consistent color of the graphite. Minor surface scratches may be alright but deep scratches should be avoided. If you see or feel a spot that is unusual you have to be very careful. Many rods are damaged by impact from split shot or hitting something while casting. Never take a rod that has a spot that appears to be impact damage. Impact damage can usually be felt with the fingers. When you run your fingers over an impact area it will feel slightly different.

    3. Visually inspect the guides looking for loose, bent or broken guides. The best way to check a guide for imperfections is with a cotton ball. First, roll the cotton ball between your palms so the ball becomes longer and skinner. You may have to dampen your palms to get the cotton ball to roll. Run the cotton ball through the guides and if there is a problem the cotton will stick to the guide. You should gently grasp each guide and apply slight pressure to see if it loose. If the stripping guides have inserts make sure the insert is not cracked or broken. Do the same procedures with the tip top. Inspect all of the wraps for damaged. Look for cracks in the finish over the wraps.

    4. The Ferrules should be visually checked for any damage. Check the glue joints for cracks. Grasp the male ferrule and check for any looseness. Insert the male ferrule into the female ferrule and check for looseness in the joint. Assemble the rod and give it a wiggle test to see if everything feels tight.

    One other thing to look for is if the rod comes in a rod tube from the manufacture, make sure it is included. Sometimes when you buy a used rod the seller hangs on to the tube or wants to charge extra for it. One exception is some of the TFO rods. Certain TFO rods don't come with a tube and the seller may want to keep the tube if he bought it separate. The very best test is to cast the rod before you buy it.


  5. #5

    Default Re: Newbie question - Judging gear

    Frank has great advise. on what to look for with used rods......but with prices what they are can get some good deals on new equipment if you are patient and search the net. For example Hook and Hackle has a 4 piece 8' 5wt St Croix Premier for $60. This is normally a $110 rod. It is made overseas and only comes with a 5 yr warranty..but I have a couple of other St Croixs and this casts great - almost as well as my others. The difference is the hardware is a lesser grade. It doesn't affect castability at all. Another place to look is Sierra Trading Post... They have close outs on Rods and Reels all the time. Recently you could pick up a Sage Reel for under $30.....If you look for models of reels and rods that have been discontinued you can usually get a great deal.

    I have to warn you though ----- as you get into fly fishing...being frugal tends to go out the window... I have 10 rods and 14 reels.....geez I need to get rid of some of this stuff - LOL.....believe it or not I use them all

  6. #6

    Default Re: Newbie question - Judging gear

    Excellent advice from all. Many thanks.

    I do feel the need to define frugal though. To me, it's not a matter of not wanting to part with money but I HATE parting with money for something that's not worth it!

    As someone who spent decades using spin casting gear and has switched to fly casting (Yes, Darth, you CAN leave the dark side...), I know that the big names make wonderful gear but the simple truth is that I'm not quite as wonderful as some of that gear is. (My favorite was always a 40+ year old no name fiberglass rod that I used so much, I could put a plug within inches of my target...mostly )

    It's like wine. Why by a $30 bottle when you have $10 a bottle taste buds?

    A hand made bamboo will cast wonderfully but ONLY if YOU can cast wonderfully too. Up until then, the more plebian rods and reels are fine and dandy,...oh, and CHEAPER!

    Thanks Fish, Frank and Tex. I'll take all this to heart as I search. I'll let you know what I finally come up with.

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