Fond of Fiberglass

The other day I dusted off an old favorite fly rod, took it fishing, and couldn’t help but wonder why I had neglected it for as long as I had. It’s a little 7-foot, #4-weight fiberglass rod. If you haven’t ever fished fiberglass, you ought to give it a try, and here’s why:

For starters, fiberglass usually isn’t nearly as expensive as the modern generation graphite rods can be. Granted, a fiberglass rod isn’t made of “space age” materials, and it’s not going to help you punch an 80-foot cast through a screaming headwind. Then again, I can’t think of the last time I punched an 80-foot cast through a screaming headwind, at least not on a trout river. In my mind, it’s better to “cast with your feet,” meaning you should sneak up on fish, get as close as you can, and then make a short, accurate cast, rather than some long hero cast. And fiberglass rods shine at close range, offering exceptional feel as you load the rod, which translates to effective roll casts and overhead casts.

Point two is that fishing with a fiberglass rod will make you a better caster. That slower, more deliberate action (and the feel I just talked about) forces the angler to have a smoother stroke. Fast action graphite rods are like golf clubs with oversized heads and large “sweet spots.” They cover up inherent casting flaws. No such luck with fiberglass. You need to hone the tempo and timing, and start and stop the cast in precise positions, otherwise the cast won’t go. That’s actually a good thing. When you hone your cast, you can translate that to any rod with great effect.

Third, playing a fish on a fiberglass rod is a blast. The super-sensitive action of fiberglass, and the way fiberglass bends right into the butt section of the rod, can make tying into a 10-inch brook trout feel like fighting a tarpon. I also think that sensitivity translates to better landing percentages. Common wisdom dictates that you should use big rods when you fight big fish. I agree with that to an extent. I would also suggest, however, that when you’re fighting larger fish, especially in currents, it’s best to have a rod that allows you to feel every subtle movement and burst, because that ultimately helps protect your tippet.

If you’re thinking about trying a new rod, before you go out and drop a lot of money on “generation next” (which will be old news in a year), consider connecting with a classic fiberglass rod. You won’t be disappointed.

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Kirk Deeter

Kirk Deeter

Kirk Deeter is an editor-at-large with Field & Stream, and he co-wrote The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing with the late Charlie Meyers.