Article Avoiding Broken Rods!

I am based in the London, UK area but I visit WA at least once a year to see granchildren, last year I managed over a month fly fishing in wonderful Washington. Fishers on this site have been helpful in getting me into some super fishing so by way of saying thank you I would like to share an article I wrote for my blog on how to avoid breaking rods. I don't think I can link you to the blog because it would break the forum rules. So here is the article:-

So here are some tips drawn from my fifty years of experience of breaking and not breaking rods. My experience is mainly with fly rods but the principles can be applied generically. As you will see from the list sadly, most rods are not broken by big fish!

Threat No 1: The car door or boot lid (trunk lid in the USA). Sadly lots of rods get shut in car doors, by you, your pal, the kids or the wind. Similarly slamming shut the boot and then finding it won’t shut because it is squashing a rod ferrule is a sad experience.

Solution: Keep rods in cases when in cars or car boots. Whilst getting the rest of your kit together, having set a rod up, locate it somewhere safe where it cannot fall or be blown over. The magnetic rod holders you can clip on the side of your car are ideal, however, I have never owned one. I tend to lean the rod between the side of the car and the wing mirror, which could be courting disaster!

Threat No 2: The big foot. I am amazed at the number of fishers who leave rods lying horizontal on the ground waiting for themselves or some unsuspecting passer-by to crush it accidentally.

Solution: If you can lean the rod against something, even if it is your fishing bag and part of it is just elevated a couple of feet above the ground that makes it much more visible. If I am teaching a group casting and they need to put their rods down, and there is no alternative, I have them lay the rods close to, and parallel with, the water’s edge.

Threat No 3: How you carry your rod. If you are not very careful tips get broken off rods as you are walking along when they are carried horizontally pointing in front of you. This is because there is the danger of your wrist relaxing and the tip of the rod jamming into the ground and snapping off. If you hold the rod tip higher there is a risk to your pal if he is walking in front of you and he turns round to say something and he gets jabbed in the eye.

Solution: Hold the rod as shown in the picture. It is out of the way and if you go under low branches they will tend to push it down. It is probably not a good idea to hold you rod high like this in electrical storms or anywhere where there are overhead power lines. It is appropriate to carry your rod horizontal and pointing in front of you when you are weaving your way through bankside shrubs and jungle!

Threat No 4: Using the rod to release a trapped fly. We all get the odd fly stuck up a tree or on the bottom and we all give it a hard pull. However, some have been known to pull so hard they not only lose the fly they also break the rod!

Solution: Get hold of the line and pull that taking care to avoid cutting your hand with the line and getting the fly in your face. Years ago I read of a medic who pulled on a leader to get a fly out of a tree only to have the fly end up embedded in his eye. The irony of the situation was that he was an eye surgeon. I always wear eye protection when fishing and turn my face away when pulling trapped flies.

Threat No 5: Busting the blank. This is when a rod joint has worked loose and the male ferrule ruptures the female ferrule. I had this happen to my 6 piece 15 foot salmon rod a few years ago when a fishing guide was demonstrating his version of the snap T cast to me. It was the largest section that got broke! Fortunately Fulling Mill provided a replacement section and the guide covered the cost. I warn new fishers that if when casting they sense a clicking of the rod then either their reel has come lose and is about to drop into the water or they have a loose rod joint.

Solution: Put the rod sections together firmly. I like to finish with a slight twist. If ferrule joints on single handed rods regularly work loose try rubbing candle wax on the male ferrule. Any form of Spey casting tends to work ferrule joints loose because of the twisting action. So Spey casters sometimes tape the joints. The way recommended by Michael Evans (suggested to him by a surgeon) is to put two longitudinal strips of tape covering the joint (the splints) and then on top of that wrap tape around the two strips. If you only wrap the tape around the joint the twisting action tends to loosen the tape.

Threat No 6: Damaging the rod blank with a fly strike! If on the forward cast a fly, particularly a heavy fly like a gold head, lead head etc. hits the rod near the tip it can either break it outright or damage it such that when it comes under strain it fractures and breaks at the point of impact.

Solution: You could solve the problem at source by not using heavy flies and instead using sinking or sink tip line to get the fly into the catching zone. If you are going to use a heavy fly then opening your casting loop can help, as can directing the fly further away from the top of the rod on the back cast. Heavy flies are a danger to you and anyone near you. Years ago I heard Charles Jardine tell how he saw a boat angler bury a gold head nymph into the back of the ear of his boat companion. After it was dug out (I think at hospital) they carried on fishing. I few casts later the same thing happened again! Having had the second one removed they carried on. It was only when the third hit occurred that the victim decided to call it a day! Hats and eye protection and nice high back casts are what I like to see. Ideally the less experience caster should be casting over the water and not over the boat.

Threat No 6: Falling on your rod is always a risk whether you are getting in or out of a boat, climbing down a bank or getting over a stile.

Solution: I never get in a boat actually holding a rod. If I am on my own I put it in first. If I am with a mate we pass the rods to whoever is in the boat first. When climbing down a steep bank I see if I can pass the rod down first or leave it behind whilst I climb and then reach back for it. At stiles I usually pass the rod over the fence and lean it against the fence. If I get caught out on a slippery patch and sense I am going to fall I would rather gently toss the rod onto long grass or a bush than risk falling on it.

Threat No 7: Dropping something heavy on the rod! I included this because I will always remember seeing angling TV’s John Wilson catch a hard-won pike from a boat. In order to pick the big pike up so he could pose for the camera, he laid his rod across the boat gunwales. He held the pike up and smiled for the camera. The pike was camera shy and flipped right out of John’s grasp only to fall on the rod and snap it in half!

Solution: Be careful who you pose with.

Threat No 8: Not matching the line weight to the rod. An ATFM (Association of Fishing Tackle Manufacturers) 7 weight rod will cast a 7 weight line perfectly. It will also probably cast an 8 weight line reasonably well but put a 9 or 10 weight line on it and you are likely to overload it and break it when trying to cast.

Solution: Match rod and line weights. Years ago before I understood that, I acquired a second hand Normark rod complete with line and reel and just could not make it cast properly. So having given up with it I did the next best thing and gave it to my friend, Steve. The next time we were fishing together I noticed that not only was Steve fishing with it but he was casting brilliantly. When I asked him what the secret was he told me that he had taken it down the tackle shop and the shop assistant had tried a couple of lines on it and supplied him with the appropriate one.

Threat No 9: Overloading the rod tip when playing a fish. This is when you have a fish on and you are trying to bring him (or her) to the net. In order to do so you have the rod nearly vertical, so the rod as a whole stops being a shock absorber and a lever and all the weight and energy of the fish is stressing the fine tip of the rod. This can snap the tip.

Solution: Long-handled landing nets help as they keep the fish at a distance. Bringing the fish to the net when you have got it on its side on top of the water helps. Holding the rod high by the side of your shoulder rather than in front of you also helps.

Threat No 10: Moving long rods by road from one beat to another. If you have assembled a two handed rod and taped all the joints you will be reluctant to dismantle it. Trying to relocate by tying rods to roof racks is risky and more risky still is trying to hang onto them outside of vehicle windows.

Solution: Although quite expensive, properly-designed bonnet and roof rod holders with suction clamps are the way forward. Hopefully your ghillie or guide will have some.

Well, I hope that has been of interest and you will either consciously or sub-consciously be protecting your rods more If you have any ideas, suggestions or war stories please feel free to share.
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