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The Technology of Fly Rods, An In-Depth Look at the Design of the Modern Fly Rod, Its History and Its Role in Fly Fishing - Don Phillips

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Reviewed by Terry Lawton


This book arrived on the morning of my wife's birthday which meant that I wasn't able to start reading it immediately. But when I did get started, it was difficult to get my nose out of it. The Technology of Fly Rods, An In-Depth Look at the Design of the Modern Fly Rod, Its History and Its Role in Fly Fishing by Don Phillips, has what must be the longest subtitle for many a year. But it does tell you what the book is about.

This is a book for the more technically-minded: anglers who want to know something about how rods are designed and made and how we have arrived where we are today. The author is a fly fisherman, mechanical engineer and the inventor of the boron fly rod towards the end of 1971. The names in the Acknowledgements read like a Who's Who of modern American fly fishing. There would seem to be nobody worth knowing who is not listed by Don Phillips. These are all people that Phillips has worked with, fished with and counts as friends.

Rod design has never been a simple or straight forward process, even in the days of bamboo rods when rod builders had the vagaries and inconsistencies of the raw material to deal with. At least today's rod designers and builders have the benefit of a material with known, consistent properties. The author starts of with a look at the history of fishing rods going back some thousands of years and how early rods came to be used for fly fishing. He then moves on to look at US fishing rod patents and the fly rod manufacturing process.

There is a chapter on component design and a series of chapters that link together covering fly rod design requirements, material properties, taper and cross-sectional geometry and the fly rod design process. Compared with the number of pages devoted to the early days of fishing rods, the development of built cane rods etc, this last chapter on the design process could have been more extensive.

All those of us who wish to cast better will gain much useful knowledge from chapter 9, Casting the Line and the Fly which starts by identifying the fly rod's function during casting. Although this chapter, like others, contains the odd mathematical formula - to find a line's kinetic energy - I don't think any non-mathematical or technical people should be put-off reading the book. A full understanding of some of the maths is not essential and there is an extensive glossary of technical terms. Although the subject of the book is very technical, Phillips is to be congratulated in writing a book comprehensible to and, more important, accessible to the fly fisherman with an inquiring mind.

What about the rest of the book? Well, in addition to the glossary just mentioned, there is a listing of all the US patents relating to fishing rods issued between 1854 and December 31 1998 (not something to make your heart beat faster!) and bibliographies covering the earliest books, nineteenth and twentieth century books, rod building books, an extensive list of magazine articles and technical papers relating to fly rods and casting.

I was, perhaps, slightly disappointed that the book did not go deeper into the actual design process and how progressive tapers vary from, for example, tip-action rod tapers. I am sure that Don Phillips has another book in him that will answer these questions which are, perhaps, outside the scope of the book. Any angler who wants to find out more about fly rods and what makes them work will find the book, which lives up to its title, very rewarding.

The Technology of Fly Rods, An In-Depth Look at the Design of the Modern Fly Rod, Its History and Its Role in Fly Fishing by Don Phillips. Published by Frank Amato Publications, Inc at $19.95. Paperback 116 pages.






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