Fly rod line rating, power, and action - an explanation.

silver creek

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Forgive me for this long post but it is composite of multiple posts

Some recent posts about rod ratings and rod characteristics causes me to post this thread. I was going to simply post a link to where I explained the three main rod properties but it is not allowed so I thought I would post what I had written on other BBs.

The discussion was around the following video:

YouTube

"The confusion about the strength of fly rods is that most fly fishers do not know the difference between the line rating of a fly rod, the power rating of a fly rod, and the fly rod action. They assume that rod power either refers to the line rating or the fly rod action with a fast action rod being a higher power rated fly rod.

What was being tested in the video was not the line rating or the fly rod action but the fly rod power.

In physics, power is defined as the rate of doing work. In physics, work is done when a force that is applied to an object moves that object. I submit that if we apply those definitions to a fly rod, power would translate to the the amount of force a fly rod can tolerate to move a given mass. That corresponds to the ability of the rod to lift or move a weight = the ability of the fly rod to do work.

Rod "Power" then is NOT the line rating of the fly rod or fly rod action. It is a separate but related property. Power is the ability of the fly rod to lift dead weight. It is not line rating or fly rod action. The seminal article on the difference between rod line rating, action, and power was in an interview of fly rod designers from several major companies including Seim of Sage, Steve Rajeff of GLoomis. I refer you to Fly Rod & Reel Magazine, June 2004, Vol 26, #3, pp 36-71.

You will notice that when the last rod broke, it broke in the butt. That is exactly where a properly designed progressive action fly rod should break when under a lifting load.

This illustrates the difference between casting a fly line and fighting a fish. We cast a fly line with the upper third and sometimes into the middle third of the fly rod. But we fight powerful fish with the lower third of the fly rod. Said another way, it is the butt section of a fly rod that provides the power to lift dead weight or to fight big fish. So unless you are high sticking (see the discussion of rod angle below), a rod should progressively bend and shift the load toward the butt until it fails.

With that in mind, we can see that all companies have the ability to make a powerful fly rod. It is not so much a function of the casting ability of the rod but more a function of the strength of the butt section of the fly rod. When you make a strong butt section though, you do add weight to the rod with additional hoop fibers.

While on the subject of rod power, I also think there is a misunderstanding of line rating and rod action. I read all the time that over lining a rod will turn a fast action rod into a medium action rod.

That simply is not true. Action is how the rod bends under a progressive load; it is the flex profile of the fly rod. The flex profile is designed into the fly rod and as long as the fly rod does not break, it has the same action regardless of load.

What we are changing by changing the fly line is the load. A fast action rod with a higher load is still the same fast action rod with a lighter load. It will still have the same flex profile.

All fly rods responds to the load or the work it is doing. If casting a fast 4 wt rod with a 4 wt line 45 feet requires the same load or energy as casting a 6 wt line 25 ft, why would we call the rod a fast action rod while casting a 4 wt line and a moderate action rod while casting the 6 wt line?

What changes is the timing and stroke length of the cast. So although the timing slows down and the stroke length increases with increasing loads, the action remains the same. When you hook the fish, you will still have the flex profile of a fast action fly rod with a stiffer rod tip.

It an older post below I explained the difference between rod power and line rating. It contains some of the information above and a discussion of rod angle:

'Allow me to explain. Let's go back to the initial video of Tim Rajeff testing the power of his fly rods. Suppose that we did the same test from a bridge and we attach a weight to the end of a leader. We are substituting a weight for a fish. We want to lift the weight which is analogous to pulling a fish toward us. The rod is lifting/pulling and not casting and the this is called the power rating of the rod. Power is the ability of the rod to lift a dead weight.

The lifting power of a rod is related to the strength of the butt section of the rod, whether a fly rod, a casting rod, or a spinning rod. In the example above, if we say that the 0 degrees is horizontal to the water surface with +90 vertical being tip up and -90 vertical being butt up, any lifting angle that is positive places stress point toward the upper portion of the rod and any negative angle places the stress point toward the butt. The larger the positive angle, the stress moves more toward the tip; and the greater the negative angle, the stress moves toward the butt. Consider that if the angle is -90 with the tip down and the butt up, there is no stress on the rod at all, all of it is on the reel.

If the rod has a high power rating we can lift the weight by raising the rod above the horizontal. If the power rating is low we need to keep the lifting angle below 0. For example, we can lift the weight in increments by lifting the rod form -90 to -85, then crank the line that we have gained as we lower the angle back to -90 and then repeat the process. It would take a long time but that is because the power of the rod is low.

The taper of the rod determines how progressively the power (resistance to bending) of the rod is transferred to the butt section. Faster rods have a thicker butt section because they are stiffer and a greater taper from tip to butt. Similarly a longer rod will have a thicker butt section than a shorter rod of the same action. Since the action is determined by the taper, to make the rod longer, the taper makes the extra length of the rod at the butt end thicker.

To give a shorter rod the same lifting power of a longer rod, you need to increase the taper of the rod. So although you can design a short 7' 7" 9 weight rod to have good power, a 9 ft rod with that same degree of taper would have a higher lifting power.

Line rating is related more to the tip section rather than the butt section of the rod since the flex of the tip must balance the line for the rod to cast well. A slow rod will have a very gradual taper and this will result in a relatively low power rating for the rod - it will bend way into the butt. A fast rod will also cast the the same line but since it has a faster taper, it will have a thicker butt section that is more resistant to bending and therefore it will have more power. So two identical line rating but two different power ratings. Similarly you can two rods with the same power and different line ratings. They are both dependent on the action of the rod and the length of the rod.

I hope this explains more fully the difference between a rods line rating and power rating."


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A poster then wrote, "I highly doubt most people will ever break rod at the butt like they were doing"

I replied, "I agree because most people don't know how to fight a fish. Cast the rod with the tip and middle and fight the fish with the butt. It is ignorance that makes them think you cast and can fight bigger fish with the same part of the rod.

Fact 1 - The part of the rod that breaks is that part that is overstressed. That is obvious.

Fact 2. - What is also obvious is that stress should be transferred to gradually lower on the blank where there is more "power" if you don't want your fly rod to break.

Now if you accept those two facts, a rod break in the upper portion of the rod is due either to a defect in that section of the rod such as an casting injury by being hit by something solid like a split shot or weighted nymph OR it is operator error such as a loose ferrule, high rod position, etc.

See the section on rod angle that I talked about earlier. Rod angle to the direction of pull determines where the rod stress is going to be. Now here's the thing. How many times have you heard that a heavier line rating rod can put more pressure on a fish than a lighter line rated fly rod?

Actually the truth is that both rods are limited by the breaking strength of the tippet. If you point the lighter fly rod right at the fish, you can put 80 lbs of pressure on a fish as long as the tippet is 80 lbs and the reel drag can pull 80 lbs. So rod angle determines how and where the rod stress is. It determines where the rod breaks.

As to rod breakage, we need to differentiate between longitudinal rod blank fibers that go from the butt to the tip VS the hoop fibers that are at an angle and wrap around crosswise to the longitudinal fibers. The longitudinal fibers are the 'high modulus' fibers that rod makers brag about. The hoop fibers bend around the rod so they CANNOT be as stiff unless they wrap around the rod at a very shallow angle. A higher angle gives greater hoop strength so these fibers tend to be fiberglass or lower modulus graphite. Hoop fibers prevent the rod from delaminating and exploding.

When a rod, which is a cylinder bends, the tube is deformed so that if you were to take a cross section it would not be a circle but an oval with the wide side of the oval along the inner and outer circumference of the rod blank. This stress wants to separate the longitudinal fibers and the circular hoop fibers keeps the the longitudinal fibers from separating. The longitudinal fibers are called the flag and the hoop fibers are called scrim fibers.

How Fly Rods Are Made | MidCurrent

Page not found - CrossCurrents Fly Shop Missouri River Craig, Montana


The third part is of course the binding technology. This has really changed recently with 3M's Matrix Resin Technology.

The Race to Resonate Reading between the “lighter, faster, stronger” lines

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZeJYCyOTPdQ

Here is a practical application of what I wrote above. Many years ago, I took a trip to Alaska and stayed at the Copper River Lodge.

This was before I really understood the the relationship between rod line rating, action, power.

All my friends were fans of the "new" original GLoomis GLX which was the lightest fly rod at that time. I took 2 rods, both GLX 10 footers. One was a 5 weight and the other was a 7 weight that I was thinking was going to be my go to rod with the 5 as the backup.

During the trip I never used the 7 weight and I caught big rainbows with the 5 weight without any problem.

I mentioned to Gary Borger that I never had to use the 7 weight and I never felt out gunned on those rainbows. He said that because my rod was 10 feet long, my 5 weight had the butt diameter of a 9 foot 7 weight rod. So it casted like a 5 weight, but could pressure a fish like a 7 weight. After he said that, it was obvious to me that a rod that was a foot longer would have a thicker butt section than a shorter rod of the same model and action. It had more "power".
 
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sweetandsalt

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First rate post, Silver Cr.! Great video and, please, lets put to bed the notion that overling slows a rods action. As in the "rod makers lie?" thread; it is most often an angler's slower casting stroke habitual preference not being in concert with a rod designers faster taper that leads to thinking overlining can "fix" the rod.
 

silver creek

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First rate post, Silver Cr.! Great video and, please, lets put to bed the notion that overling slows a rods action. As in the "rod makers lie?" thread; it is most often an angler's slower casting stroke habitual preference not being in concert with a rod designers faster taper that leads to thinking overlining can "fix" the rod.
Correct. What overlining does is slow the timing of a given casting length.

However, it does nothing about the fly rod's action. For example, a fly fisher may want a slow action rod with a softer tip because it protects delicate tippets better. But overlining a fast action rod does nothing to change the stiffness of the rod tip or anything to change the overall rod flex so that it bends more easily to protect tippets. Once the cast is made, you have the stiffer rod you didn't want in the first place.

So if a person wants to slow the timing of a faster action rod to his/her casting stroke; they have purchased the wrong rod. What this really means is that the caster is unable or unwilling to adapt his stroke mechanics to the fly rod.

Yes, you can sometimes pound a square peg into a round hole by using a bigger hammer than you would normally need; but wouldn't it be easier to use the correct hammer and a round peg that fit. Overlining is kind of like using a square peg (the faster rod) with a larger hammer (the heavier line).
 

wabi

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If casting a fast 4 wt rod with a 4 wt line 45 feet requires the same load or energy as casting a 6 wt line 25 ft, why would we call the rod a fast action rod while casting a 4 wt line and a moderate action rod while casting the 6 wt line?
But what happens if we cast 45 feet of both line sizes?
Doesn't the rod flex more (into the center section) and slow the timing of the cast?
It may not be what the designer had in mind, but isn't that changing the action?
 

grassonfly

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it does flex deeper but a moderate action rod doesn't have the radical taper of a fast action rod the fast action rod over lined will bend deeper perhaps to the point of a mid flex rod but it will still have that radical taper that will give it a different cast
 

wabi

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Not disputing the fact that any particular rod is manufactured to be a specific weight/action/power, just saying if my 5wt fast action rod casting xx feet of 5wt line seems a bit too fast for me, a simple switch to a 6wt line often cures the problem. I know I didn't change the rod taper, but I did alter the way it reacts by changing the load the weight of the line put on it.
Yes, I'm fishing an overlined 5wt fast action rod, but the casting results are so similar to a 5wt medium action rod it will work for me.
 

silver creek

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Not disputing the fact that any particular rod is manufactured to be a specific weight/action/power, just saying if my 5wt fast action rod casting xx feet of 5wt line seems a bit too fast for me, a simple switch to a 6wt line often cures the problem. I know I didn't change the rod taper, but I did alter the way it reacts by changing the load the weight of the line put on it.

Yes, I'm fishing an overlined 5wt fast action rod, but the casting results are so similar to a 5wt medium action rod it will work for me.
My original post was intended to discuss the 3 properties of a fly rod. When the actual dynamics of casting are discussed it gets way more complicated. Because it is complicated we need to be very precise in terminology. I am not "picking" on you; but if you will allow me to use your post, I can use it to expand the discussion.

Allow me to say that I don't think you changed how the the fly rod reacts by changing the "load". The rod is designed to change the amount of flex with different loads. So the rod reacted exactly as it was designed. To say you or I can "alter the way it (the fly rod) reacts", is to imply you or I changed the action of the fly rod.

The fly rod does not know how far we are casting. It is a dumb tool. We place a load and it bends in response to that load.

There are two ways to change the "load" on the fly rod. The first is to change the M (mass) and the other is to change V (velocity). By changing M or V, you are changing what actually causes the fly rod to bend, and that is KE (kinetic energy). KE = 1/2 MVV

The KE formula shows that increasing M does not automatically increase how the rod bends. It is combination of M and V that changes the "load" and V is much more important than M.

Your post equates "load" with mass alone; it is not. The load is KE, and KE is not mass.

However, I do understand that your post assumes that the V is the amount of V needed to cast the increased M of the heavier line the distance you want. By changing the M, you had to also change V to produce the "load" or KE you needed to bend the rod. Where I disagree is that your post implies that changing the mass is the only way to cast the distance you want with a greater load on the fly rod.

The problem is that by misidentifying "load" as line weight, we further confuse what is really happening. In my view, the proper way to consider a fly cast is that both fly line mass and velocity create the "load" which bends the fly rod according to its designed action. Placing increasing loads (by either increasing the line mass cast OR the line velocity) bends the rod more deeply which alters the timing of the cast.

Therefore, to alter timing we can either increase mass or velocity or both, and increasing velocity is more efficient because it is square function of load (KE = 1/2 MVV). It does not take much increase in line velocity to bend the rod because load varies with velocity squared.

As an example, I can shoot line by using the "O" ring method. I can cause the rod to bend deeper by double hauling to increase line velocity. But when I release the cast, I can close the O ring and use the friction of the line against my fingers to bleed off KE and feather the cast so that it falls shorter than the cast would normally go. This is another way of "loading" the rod for a shorter cast. This method of feathering the cast allows a high degree of accuracy in fly placement.

Another factor that is ignored when we slow the timing of a fast action fly rod with a slower action fly rod is that even if timing is similar, the amount of rod bend is not. The bending of a fly rod brings the rod tip closer to the casting hand. The stroke path of the casting hand must compensate for the difference in the amount of rod bend in order to make the fly rod tip travel in a straight line for both the fast and slow action rod. Using the same stroke path of a slow rod for a fast rod leads to an open loop.

So when you say that overloading a fast action rod is similar enough to a medium action rod, you ignore the fact that you are an accomplished caster who unconsciously compensates for the differences in the rod shortening between fast and softer rod action. There are many things that we do unconsciously which we take for granted. They do not translate to less accomplished casters.

I can understand the tendency to say that going up in line weight slow the rod action, but if we instead say that it slows the timing; we more accurately describe what happens. Timing changes, but the rod flex pattern and the stroke path must be matched to the faster action rod and not the slow action rod.

Even more confusing, when discussing load and casting distance, is that load is just one of several factors affecting distance. Distance also varies with the loop configuration, the weight and aerodynamics of the fly, and wind among other factors.
 
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Ard

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Wow,

I have (I guess) always understood the physics that are part and parcel to the actual casting of fly lines and the way that the energy is transmitted to the most terminal point, the fly. I have never thought of this in such great detail as you have so well described here. Thank you for taking the time to write all of this information out here for the forum membership to use.

Ard
 

silver creek

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Thank you for the kind words.

Since pictures are better than words, here's an illustration on how fly rod bends in response to increasing loads. The increase in bend, brings the the rod tip closer to the rod hand; and the rod hand moves in a convex path to correct for the rod shortening so the rod tip can move in an SLP.



In the illustration below, Jason Borger in The Nature of Fly Casting, illustrates the convex path using his finger as the rod.

 

sweetandsalt

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Here is an additional 2 cents added to Silver Cr.'s excelent posting on rod load dynamics: A properly desiganted #5 line rod (of faster action) when overlined to compensate for a specific angler's slower stroke preference, diminishes the tracking and accuaracy of the rod by overlaoding the tip. Perhaps not on a short, lower line-speed cast but as greater acceleration of the line is called upon for more distance the effective "tip" is actually lowered into the upper section by the increased mass/velocity of the airealized line. Essentialy the tip is collapsing under load, increasing wobbling fibrilation in the tip section inducing bumps in the loop formation and decreased communication with the line.

There is, in my view, a common missconception that fuller flexing rods produce more delicate dry fly presentations than faster tapered rods of the same length and line weight. The sense is that the more deliberate timing feels gentler than the quicker, tight-loop geneating faster rod. Lets take a look at this: The slower rod, gentler stroke produces a more open, lower line-speed loop that delcatly unfurles upon the water delivering, with diminishing energy, a not fully straigtened curvey leader to get some extra drift out of the dry fly. It is also sending line impact, as it lands on the water, shook waves to the fish before the fly actually drops onto the surface as the line hit the water first. Conversly, the properly loaded quicker rod generates a higher line-speed, tighter loop that can be directed with improved accuracy, has the power to turn the leader over in mid air allowing extra time to execute a reach cast, in-air mend and, perhaps, give a little wiggle to the rod tip to generate the desired amplitude of curves in the line/leader assembly and directing the unfurled fly to the feeding lane as the line decends to the water's surface in a controled, precise manor.

Therefore, even on the smooth but complex, braided currents of a spring creek like Silver Creek, where the ultimate in accuarcy and delicacy of presentation is a perequisit for success, a faster (not stiff but well designed steeper tapered) rod, fished with the appropriate degree of casting acceleration will (in the hands of a capable angler) be the superior fishing instrument to a mid flexing rod requiring a slowly timed stroke. And, to stir your imagination further, a #4 or 5 rod will present a dry fly more delicatly than a #1 or 2 weight because the greater line mass permits superior in-air line control for precisly controled fly placement.
 

wt bash

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There is, in my view, a common missconception that fuller flexing rods produce more delicate dry fly presentations than faster tapered rods of the same length and line weight. The sense is that the more deliberate timing feels gentler than the quicker, tight-loop geneating faster rod. Lets take a look at this: The slower rod, gentler stroke produces a more open, lower line-speed loop that delcatly unfurles upon the water delivering, with diminishing energy, a not fully straigtened curvey leader to get some extra drift out of the dry fly. It is also sending line impact, as it lands on the water, shook waves to the fish before the fly actually drops onto the surface as the line hit the water first. Conversly, the properly loaded quicker rod generates a higher line-speed, tighter loop that can be directed with improved accuracy, has the power to turn the leader over in mid air allowing extra time to execute a reach cast, in-air mend and, perhaps, give a little wiggle to the rod tip to generate the desired amplitude of curves in the line/leader assembly and directing the unfurled fly to the feeding lane as the line decends to the water's surface in a controled, precise manor.
I agree but also disagree. What it biols down to is learning to cast either rod in a correct manner. Both can achieve distance, grace, and line control when in the hands of someone who can cast them propperly.
 

sweetandsalt

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No dissagreement here. Rather, I was refering to someone striving to "slow down" a quicker rod via over-lining. The over-lined rod will suffer loss of comunication with the line. Never-the-less, the high line-speed method I was describing is asssited by rod designs with suitable mid and butt reserves of power often at odds with the design of more full flexing models. It is the ability to access available power from different portions of the taper that make faster actioned rods advantagous to thoes, like yourself, who can adjust your stroke and timing to different rods characteristics.
 

trout trekker

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If these interpretive writings are to start towards likes, preferences and what can be expected from a personal performance standpoint.
Then one more element, dampening should be included into the " Fly rod line rating, power and action " equation.

Is anyone saying that there are not medium fast flex profile rods that don't dampen as fast or faster than some of their fast flex profile counterparts?

Dampening has a great deal to do with sensory response and how casters perceive, interpret and react to what a rod is doing during the cast. In a practical sense, dampening is every bit as important to ones connection with a rod as flex profile. What appeals to one caster and eludes another about the same rod, is the mixture of all the elements, more so than any single element or characteristic. This helps explain why some people find rods of greatly different make up, appealing to use for essentially the same application.

Another function of quicker dampening rods can be improved distance. A rod whose tip will not stop oscillating during the shoot will often have tell tale waves traveling down it's running line, which rob energy from the downrange flight. The quicker that tip comes to rest, the less likely those waves are to form. However, drift or bobble, the inability to stop the tip travel at the end of the stroke can also result in waves.

As hard as it would be to quantify on a person by person basis, along with all the above issues already presented, the physicality of the caster has a great deal to do with the outcome. While this can be a contentious topic, stature, muscle response and yes strength all play a role and often reflect themselves in line load preferences, rod length and action.

It's been interesting getting to know you through your thoughts on this subject, I'll tune in as time permits.

Thanks all, TT


.
I reserve the right to revise and extend my remarks - if it's good enough for congress.
 
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fyshstykr

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Fantastic read and discussion, very informative and thought provoking.
How about posting this thread up as a "sticky"?
 

silver creek

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Allow me add one other proposition as more food for discussion.

I am of the opinion that it is easier to learn to cast a tight loop over a range of distances with a faster action fly rod than a slower action fly rod. I arrive at this conclusion because casting over at wide range of conditions, requires that the fly rod flex over the range of energy that is required to cast over those distances.

A faster fly rod bends less and shortens less over that range of casts than a slower rod. That means it requires a greater range of adjustments of the stroke path to cast a slow rod than a fast rod. It would seem to me to be more difficult to perform a greater range of adjustments than a smaller range.

Said another way, the same degree of convexity of stroke will cast a tight loop over a greater range of distances with a fast rod than a slow rod.

I understand that an accomplished caster can cast tight loops with slow or fast rods, and I also understand that there is a limit to the validity this proposition. A stiff rod that does not bend at all cannot provide the feel of a rod that does bend. But within the parameters of commercially fly rods, I think moderately fast fly rods are best as teaching tools for beginners.

What say you all? What rod action is the sweet spot for learning to cast.

---------- Post added at 02:45 PM ---------- Previous post was at 02:34 PM ----------

Lest we have a physicist that notes in my post about rod bending and load that KE refers to the energy of the moving fly line and PE (potential energy) is the energy stored in the flexed fly rod, I do realize that. I used KE to illustrate that the energy of a cast relies more on velocity than mass.

Casting Physics


Master the Cast: Fly Casting in ... - George V. Roberts - Google Books
 

wt bash

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I'll agree with that 100%! My first fly rod was a "fast action" 9wt and once I figured out how the rod loads properly lined it was easier to figure out other rods. I think a rod right in the middle would be the best teaching tool from there one can figure out weather they want to move ahead to the fast tapers or move down to the slower tapers.
 

jaybo41

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Excellent post Silver, very well thought out and put together. Thanks for the education. I agree with your notion that medium-medium fast action rods are generally easier for beginning casters. With that said, and after some thought, I also think that depending on the caster's style sometimes it may be easier to learn on a faster action rod. Maybe even on a slower rod, again, dependent on style.

Also agree with your opinion that fast action rods make it easier to learn to cast a tight loop over a range of distances with a faster action fly rod than a slower action fly rod. I'm backing this up with personal experience. I had a Sage Launch rod that I was very proficient with in closer range, but I got sloppy going for distance. When I retired the rod and upgraded to a Z Axis, my distance improved significantly once I was able to adjust my stroke to suit the rod.

Again, thanks for the well written informative post and comments supporting the discussion.
 

chi flyfisher

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I had a Sage Launch rod that I was very proficient with in closer range, but I got sloppy going for distance. When I retired the rod and upgraded to a Z Axis, my distance improved significantly once I was able to adjust my stroke to suit the rod
I can attest to this, it was ugly with that Launch! :rain::biggrin:
 
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