Is Your Fly Rod Too Fast?

Is Your Fly Rod Too Fast?

Plus, avoiding tailing loops, and an angler's fear of failure

  • By: Buzz Bryson
  • and Paul Guernsey
I bought a rod that I think is too "fast" for me--maybe too advanced. I am probably not a good enough caster to make it work right, in other words. But I really don't want to drop another $600 on a replacement rod, so what do I do?

Have you tried e-bay? Seriously, I share your pain--been there, done that. Worse, I've done it after "parking-lot testing" a rod. Whether one falls for the advertisement (they are good, aren't they) or some hero casting out behind the fly shop, it's all too easy to choose a rod that impresses with distance, but subsequently is too fast for us at normal casting distances and rhythms.

But there are options. First, of course, is to see if the dealer will exchange it for a different rod. Sometimes, it can be that simple. If not, adjusting the line is a good next step. A too-fast rod, particularly in the lighter trout weights, can respond significantly to incremental changes in the fly line. Try (and please, go to the nearest dealer and see if he has demo lines you can use before you spend even more money) lines that are a bit heavier. For instance, SA's GPX and RIO's RIO Grand both are designed to be around one-half-line-weight heavier than standard lines, and Cortland actually offers many of its Precision tapers in half-weight sizes.

If the half-step increase in line weight doesn't tame your rod sufficiently, try a line that's a full size heavier--a 6-weight line on a too-fast 5-weight rod, etc. or try a double-taper line. Although it's rated the same as a weight-forward for the front 30 feet, beyond that distance the DT's body will load the rod a bit more.

You can also adjust the leader, making it a bit shorter and the taper a bit steeper. But while that will help load the rod, it will also make for a harsher presentation…

If none of the above works, you may find that your only other option is to bite the bullet and buy a new rod. --B.B.

What exactly is a tailing loop? Why is it bad, and how do I avoid casting one?

A tailing loop is caused by an uneven, poorly timed casting stroke that usually includes stopping or slowing the acceleration move (the power stroke or "speed up and stop") of the cast. This often happens when the caster begins his forward cast before the line has finished straightening out on the backcast, or when starting the backcast before the forward false cast is finished, and if that happens when the rod tip is moving in a straight line, the two legs of the U-shape loop collide with or even cross one another. The leader typically tangles on itself, often causing the fly and leader to land in a pile. Add a bit of bad luck and you'll also get a "wind knot" as well.

How to avoid tailing loops? Time your casts so that the rod doesn't unload too soon. Typically, the tailing loop occurs when a moderately good caster is trying to gain extra distance by applying a bit of extra power. When that power is applied too soon and the rod can't maintain its acceleration to a stop (power is one thing, acceleration another) it begins to unload and straighten, and the loop narrows, crosses and tangles in a tailing loop. The key to extra distance is not raw power, but rather a quicker acceleration and a dead stop at the end of the stroke. And, if you dip that tip just a bit after the forward stop, that'll provide extra insurance against a collision as well. --B.B.

I have a weird psychological problem. Every time I screw up badly--blow a cast, lose a big fish or break off a big fish--I feel so terrible about it that it ruins the outing for me. I feel even worse when I'm fishing with a guide, because then it seems like I've let the guide down. Could it be that I'm just not cut out for this sport?

Believe me, I know right where you're coming from, and I can assure you that you are cut out for this sport, because it's obvious how badly you want to succeed at it. You just need to keep fishing and working on your casting and fish-fighting skills--and you also need to learn to take it a little easier on yourself. Nobody throws a perfect cast every time, and nobody lands every fish they hook. Fly-fishing is a challenging game, and that's why it holds such fascination for us. If it were easy all the time, it wouldn't be any fun.

As for the guides, don't worry about letting them down. They're working for you after all. And sure, they want you to do well when you're fishing with them, but either way, they get paid just the same. Also keep in mind that your typical guide has seen a lot of anglers at work; no matter who you are, he's seen better anglers than you, and he's also seen much, much worse… --P.G.

Got questions about anything under the fly-fishing sun? Write to "Ask FR&R," PO Box 370, Camden, ME 04843, or e-mail us at