Putting It All Together

Putting It All Together

Assembling a rod; what is 'modulus' anyway; and booting up

  • By: Paul Guernsey
  • and Buzz Bryson
Now that the "unconditional lifetime warranty" seems to be fading away and most flyrod manufacturers have begun charging for repairs, I've decided to start being more careful with my gear. Is there a "right" way to assemble a fly rod? And how about putting it back in the cloth sleeve--do you put the tip sections in first or the butt?

The best way to assemble the rod is by working back--that is, beginning with the tip section and working toward the butt until the rod is assembled. It's best to do it this way because, if you start with the butt sections and attach the tip section last, you'll have a lot of weight and pressure on the thin tip sections.

It's not as critical how you put the rod sections back into the cloth bag; you're not likely to break anything unless you really jam the fragile tip in there and it gets hung up and snaps. But it's good practice to put the butt section in first, which will straighten out the cloth bag for you, thereby reducing the slight chance of the tip getting caught in a fold and breaking. In fact, I also try to minimize the overall diameter of the bagged rod so that it fits more easily in the tube. That's done by inserting the butt section by its tip, so the grip is at the top of the bag. The remaining sections are inserted large-end first into the bag. Done the other way, you can end up with a large stripping guide pressed against the cork, making it more difficult to fit the bagged rod into the tube.

What is the meaning of the term flyrod "modulus?" Is high modulus always superior to low modulus?

Modulus in general is a material's stiffness or its resistance to bending. In the case of fly rods, it applies to the graphite material used in the blank and not the stiffness of the finished rod.

Higher modulus is not always superior. But modulus does add another option to the rod maker's bag of tricks. A noted rod designer once told me that the taper design, not the material, was the most important part of making a fly rod "sing." But he added that having so many choices in material sure made designing a rod easier.

One would think that if higher modulus graphite is stiffer, then a quicker, more responsive rod could be built with it. And that is true: If two rods are identical in all ways except for differing graphite modulus, the rod with the higher modulus graphite will be faster, lighter and more powerful.

The downside is that higher-modulus materials are more subject to breakage, as they generally fracture more easily. Manufacturers work around this by using more or better resin in the "prepreg," which is the mixture of graphite fibers and resin that are formed into thin layers and used to wrap the blank. The relative amounts of fibers and resin can be varied to meet rod manufacturers' specs and needs. At times, rod builders "roll" blanks using different prepregs in different sections and occasionally even combine different types within a single section.

Bottom line: Higher-modulus is not in itself better. But it does allow rod makers to shave some weight, providing us with
some nice, light, eminently fishable rods.

I'm in the market for a new pair of wading boots. Should I stick with felt soles or should I spring for one of those new rubber compounds?

First, the two typically differ in more than the sole. Traditional wading boots are somewhat heavy, in large part because of the felt sole. Although they grip well on typical trout stream bottoms, they're not too great for walking on mud- or leaf-covered trails. The newer wading boots with rubber-compound soles are intended to combine the "walkability" of lightweight trail shoes and the rock-gripping finesse of felt. They do a pretty good job in this "one-shoe-does-it-all" mode and if you'll be doing as much trail walking as fishing, give them strong consideration.
In addition, rubber-compound soles probably are more environmentally friendly because they are easier to clean or even sterilize before you travel from one river to another. That's no small benefit in this day and age of whirling disease, New Zealand mud snails, didymo and other ills for which we anglers can serve as unwitting carriers.