Testing your Fly-fishing-rod.

You have now decided, in general terms at least, the type of fly-fishing-rod you need. Now it is time to visit your local tackle-shop in search of the perfect rod.

You need to know if the combination of fly-fishing-rod and reel that you intend to use on the river is one you are comfortable with. To enable you to do this you need to try out prospective rods with the reel attached. So if you already own a reel bring it with you to the shop.

The first thing you should do when presented with a new rod is to test its curve. To do this carefully invert the rod so that the tip is gently touching the floor and the butt end is at shoulder or head height. With the reel facing upwards and the rings on the inside apply sufficient pressure to bend the rod.

Inspect how it curves. A good rod will exhibit a uniformly smooth curve from the butt end to the tip. If the curve alters dramatically at any point this may be because there is a weakness at this point and the rod should be rejected.

If you are happy with the curve turn the rod over so that the rings are now on the outside and repeat the procedure. How much force do you have to exert to achieve the same degree of curve as before. If you find that it is easier to bend the rod one way rather than the other this suggests that the rod has a pronounced spine. With carbon fibre rods which are made from hollow blanks this usually means that the blanks have exceptionally thin walls and could shatter at any time! Again, this fly-fishing-rod should be rejected.

In practice the vast majority of rods will pass the above tests but checking the curve will eliminate those rods made from defective blanks.

Of course I am not suggesting that you test the rod to destruction. Just use a gentle pressure to check the curve. The amount of force required to produce the curve will give you some idea of the stiffness of the fly-fishing-rod. Bearing in mind that if you require a nymphing rod then you shouldn’t need to apply a tremendous force to bend it. On the other hand if you require a fly-fishing-rod that will enable you to cast great distances then the rod should feel rather stiff.

Having discarded those rods that failed the curve test you are now ready to subject the remainder to a further test. Pull 10yds of line, plus leader off the reel so that there is 10yds of line outside the tip ring. The line should be of the same breaking strain that you intend to use in the future. Now cast the line to see how the rod feels in action.

Take note of how the line goes out, is it straight? Does the backcast flow out smoothly. When you stop the backcast does the tip come gently to rest or does it ’waggle’. Also, does it require much effort to cast the whole 10yds of line.

If everything is satisfactory up to this point then we only have a couple more tests to perform. For the first of these pull five yards of line from the reel and let it fall to your feet. Take hold of the line with your non-rod hand at the same point that you used in the previous test and make a cast. Did all five yards of line go out or was there some left lying at your feet. If there is some remaining then there is probably a problem with the rings on the rod.

The rings can be set too far apart causing the line between them to be too slack which results in friction between line and blank. There may be too many rings which again generates unwanted friction. Either way if all the line does not go out you should reject the rod.

If you have got this far and are still satisfied with the fly-fishing-rod then there is one last test to perform. This test is not only an assessment of the rod but also of your casting ability. The aim of this test is simply to discover how far you can cast the fly. For best results it should be performed over grass, as taking measurements is far easier than it would be over water. Unwind a quantity of line from the reel and let it fall to the ground. Don’t unwind so much line that there is a danger of it becoming a tangled heap on the ground. Make your cast and the pace out the distance to the fly.

Anything above 25yds with a double taper is satisfactory, a little longer if you are using a weight-forward rod, perhaps 30yds. If your cast length is significantly shorter than this you need another rod or a new casting technique!

Don't be too concerned about the length of your cast though. Distance is only important if you intend to hurl a shooting head vast distances.

Of course you don’t have to buy a rod, you can make your own from a carbon fibre blank but doing so involves a considerable amount of work and the results are often disappointing.

The important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t buy a fly-fishing-rod without trying it. You may be tempted by the glossy advert or swayed by a friends recommendation but until you have tested the rod you cannot be sure it is right for you.

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