My fly rod is a metronome; its steady beat keeps the rush of the world at bay. If that beat is too fast, it pulls me out of the moment, sucking away my focus with the current. There is a rhythm to everything, and fiberglass rods tick at just the right speed.
Romance aside, though, why return to an older material when innovation is pushing new boundaries every year? The world moves fast, even the world of fly fishing. Good, better, and best become fluid as this year’s model is replaced by next year’s, boasting improved accuracy, lighter weight, and probably both. It’s easy to become jaded about the onslaught of technology, but the rods on the bleeding edge are genuinely amazing. Fly rods are more accurate than ever and their actions are so fast and well damped, that with a little work you can crank out 50 or 60 feet of line almost effortlessly. But there’s more to fishing than the bleeding edge of technology, there’s more than line speed, and because most streams aren’t 60-feet wide, there’s more than distance, too.
If you pursue angling more for meditation than sport—if the rush of cool water against your waders offers solace from whatever rat race pays for all that shiny gear—then you might want to protect that magic by avoiding the vanilla burden of too much consistency. Mechanical efficiency can be the enemy of passion.
Fiberglass absolutely demands that you slow down. A lot. Most ’glass rods reward an almost languorous bent. Spend time contemplating the meaning of life during each back cast, and your fiberglass rod will pay out line with stately efficiency. If you’re used to casting fast-action graphite, this can take some getting used to, but the upshot is that you’ll begin to feel the line loading and unloading the rod as you cast. This extra information and the extra time you’ll have to process it will make you a better caster.
In all sizes, fiberglass rods flex almost all the way to the cork. This protects smaller tippets and makes smaller fish more exciting, while still offering you the muscle to fight large fish in stronger currents. And because more of the rod flexes, it does more of the work for you. Fiberglass rods will force you to slow your cast and let the rod do more of the work. Your shoulder will thank you. And you may find yourself casting better and fishing more accurately at the end of the day, as you won’t be fighting the muscle fatigue from pushing the latest graphite boom stick.
It’s not all sunshine glinting artfully from layers of thread-wrapped fiberglass, though. There is a price to be paid for that unhurried action and it’s your old enemy, wind, that will collect the toll. Gusts have always been the chief enemy of a good backcast, buffeting and tumbling your line and fly just when you need them to smoothly transfer energy. And the lower your line speed, the longer your fly line will be subjected to the malicious tangling forces of the wind. Because fiberglass rods are inherently slower than their graphite counterparts, they are subject to more buffeting. Unless you spend most of your time lake fishing in Wyoming, or pitching brightly colored flies on salt flats, the compromises are certainly worth exploring. After all, if fly fishing is an escape, why would you ever want to hurry that along?
Written by Jeffrey Stutsman
Jeff is a writer, photographer, and editor who lives near the Rocky Mountains. When he was a child, only books, fish, and a couple of old cameras kept him out of trouble. Today, he spends as much time as possible outside, preferably near a stream with a rod in his hand. Follow him on Instagram here.
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Let’s hear some of your thoughts in the comments! Have you fished with a fiberglass fly rod?