Understanding Carbon Trout Rods

Tangled

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Dec 28, 2015
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Check up the cc's on a Sage One, that is about as versatile and all round a rod as I have come across, a 5 weight is all you will ever need for trout in the UK.
The Sage ONE looks like another overweight rod.
If I was picking a Sage rod just by number I'd pick the XP

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Fuffa

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Aug 2, 2020
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Understanding Rods

My Christmas present to the forum. Careful how you unwrap it.

This understanding is about modern, single-handed, carbon fly rods.
It’s very much ultracrepidarian, but maybe you can help me by responding in the thread below.

Introduction
At the risk of stating the bleedin’ obvious, fly rods allow you to cast your line and fly where you want them to go. They also have two other functions; line control and hooking and playing a fish. Line control is about getting the line to do what you want it to do in the air and to control its drift once on the water. And of course, once you’ve tempted your trout, the rod gives you the necessary force to set the hook and the strength and responsiveness to play the fish. To do all this it needs stiffness and strength plus the flexibility to load and release efficiently during casting and be able to absorb shocks without breaking. It’s a lot to ask of something that’s often 9’ long but weighs less than a pack of cards.

Materials
Fly rods have been made of all sorts of material; traditionally split cane (bamboo), then fibreglass and now carbon (often, and wrongly, called graphite). All those materials are still in use, fibreglass is especially making a bit of a comeback and some like the image of the cane rod, creel and tweeds. A pipe is not obligatory. There are few tank aerials around these days though.

In the transition we’ve passed through boron and are moving towards graphene (which is atom-thick carbon). But the majority of our fly rods are now tubes made of carbon fibre, additives and resins.

The rod blank is a tapered hollow tube usually made in four sections to aid transport. It has no fittings and is by far the most important part of a fly rod. Everything else on a rod can be regarded as necessary but largely cosmetic – it’s the blank that casts the fly; with your help or hindrance.

All carbon rods are made from sheets of carbon fibre impregnated with resin, the resulting composite is called prepreg. The process of making carbon fibres and prepreg is a hi-tech business done in highly specialised plants. No rod builder makes their own prepreg, it’s all bought in, usually from the Far East – Korea, Japan or China. The quality of this prepreg material defines how good a rod can be made but doesn’t predict how well it will actually be made.

Prepregs are made of differing grade materials. You may have seen the acronym IM in some rod advertising as in IM8, IM6 etc. This stands for intermediate modulus. It’s intermediate because it’s between SM (standard modulus) and HM (high modulus). Rods will often be described as ‘high modulus’ in the marketing puff but don’t be over-impressed by it, most of the sciency sounding words used about rods in adverts is hype. And, of course, it’s not actually high modulus, it’s higher modulus – than something else that’s a bit lower.

Modulus is a measure of elasticity and its opposite, stiffness – the higher the modulus the stiffer the material. Don’t take away the impression that the higher the better. If that was true rods would used HM material not IM material. Rods need to be in balance - too stiff and they become pokers (and also increase in brittleness). Too elastic and they become Geoffrey Boycott’s sticks of rhubarb.

You may hear that an IM8 blank has a faster action than an IM6 blank. Well it might or might not, it depends how the rod builder actually made his blank and what he wanted to achieve with it.

Just to confuse further, the IM values are not standard, they vary between manufacturers; one guy’s IM6 is another’s IM7. The actual standard is an absolute measurement of tensile modulus, a measurement of how much it stretches when a force is applied. Europeans measure that in Newtons per square meter (Nm2) or GigaPascals (Gpa) and Americans in pounds and inches, Million Modulus (MSI) but you’ll never see anything as useful as that written on a rod.

You may see Ton (abbreviation of Tonne) eg 24Ton, or 24TC. IM6 is roughly the same as 24Ton. If your rod is in the IM6 or IM8 ball park, you’re roughly in the right area, just don’t automatically think that 8 is better than 6.

So, back to carbon. Here’s a short video of how carbon fibre prepreg is made.


Resins are as important in prepreg material as the carbon fibre itself and are equally hi-tech. They often contain additives that help produce better rods. The term nano appeared in marketing rods some time ago. It refers to nano-scale (one billionth of a meter), microscopic silica spheres made by 3M and introduced into their resins.

Reddington is credited with the first production use of nano-particles is a rod but it wasn't successful. Hardy used the 3M nano-spheres in their patented Sintrix range of rods and claimed ‘up to’ 60% increase in strength and 30% decrease in weight and was generally regarded as a real step change in rod design and function.

Since then you’ll see the word ‘nano’ added with gay abandon to the labels of many rods; but exactly what that means for that rod, is often not at all clear.

Prepreg material has fibres that run longitudinally up the rod blank. This provides great strength under bending forces but is weak when crushed or twisted. To overcome this the rod needs reinforcing material interspaced between the carbon that go around it transversely and provide hoop strength. This material is called scrim and can be made of fibreglass or carbon fibre. Fibreglass is cheaper and is easier to work with but is heavier. Ultra-light premium rods will probably use carbon scrim – eg Orvis Helios 3.

This is a graphic of prepreg on a Maxcatch rod (note 25T & 30T usage) costing just £45 on Amazon, £20 from Maxcatch direct. Posh materials are not confined to posh rods, just sayin’.

View attachment 33478

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07FSGNRF7/ref=twister_dp_update?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1

Graphene
Graphene has been grasped by rod builders as the next wonder material for rods and there seems to be good reason to think that it will be.
Graphene is one atom thick carbon.

View attachment 33479
Graphene’s prime attribute for us of course is its strength, 200 times stronger than steel apparently (carbon fibre is only five times stronger). The current meme is that a net made of single atom graphene weighing the same as a cat’s whisker could support the cat. I wonder who came up with that and why?

View attachment 33480

I think many of us imagined graphene rods to be made of graphene fibres like carbon fibres, but that’s a puzzling concept as if you put a layer of graphene on top of another you get, well, carbon (assuming they bond), which sort of removes the point. Not only that but the longest string of graphene ever made is only a few feet and costs an unimaginable amount so it seems unlikely that it’ll be found in our rods for quite a while, if ever. Certainly, any breakthrough with fibre material will come from the aerospace and motor industry first.

It’s more likely that its use in rods will only be as an additive into the resins like 3M’s nanospheres – but lighter and apparently better.
“The current commercial industry practise within the recreational composites market is to mix a small amount of graphene flakes, commonly called Nanopowder, into the resin that makes the carbon fibre epoxy impregnated material (prepeg) that fishing blanks are made from.” CTS Fishing

Rods claiming graphene use:
  • Snowbee Prestige G-XS (trout)
  • Century Stealth Graphene S50 (carp)
  • The Mackenzie FX1 (salmon)
  • Vision XO Graphene (trout)
There are dissenting voices though.

“CTS investigated graphene as an additive to our resin system some years ago. We found no evidence that adding graphene nanopowder to the epoxy resin improved any of the characteristics we were looking for in a material for fishing rods.

Conversely, we found evidence that adding more than 10% nanopowder to the epoxy matrix, increases its brittleness. In a fishing rod we rely on toughened epoxy resin systems to distribute impact shocks, protect the laminate and support the fiber in compression.

We concluded that adding a bit of graphene to our resins might be good for the marketing department and our ability to sell a higher priced product, but marginally detrimental to performance.”
CTS Fishing
https://ctsfishing.com/spotlight-on-materials-the-lowdown-on-graphene/

Certainly, so far it seems like the most outstanding difference from non-graphene rods is their staggering price. And the necessity to point out that the guy who discovered/invented it got the Nobel Prize for it in their marketing.

However, I suspect graphene is here to stay and its development will follow the usual pattern of expensive low volume production into low-cost, mass market applications. But I’ll be following my dad’s advice “never buy a Mark I of anything”.

This is a really interesting video of graphene production and its use in state-of-the-art bike frames.


Rod Building
If the quality and type of prepreg defines how good a rod can be, it’s the design of the blank and it’s manufacture from it that determines how good the final rod will be. You can easily make a bad rod from good prepreg. I could probably do it all day long.

Rods are made by wrapping the prepreg ‘cloth’ around a shaped mandrel. A mandrel is a tapered, solid, stainless steel rod that provides the form for the inside of the rod. These days there are usually four mandrels for a four-piece rod. The mandrel is the most important piece of the rod builder’s kit because it quite literally forms the blank. It’s generally designed in-house by computer, then farmed out to a precision machine engineering plant to manufacture.

The prepreg material is then cut into the correct pattern for the rod called a flag. This pattern is critical to the performance of the rod and can be quite complex in design. (Very cheap rods tend to have very simple designs.)

The flag is mechanically wrapped around the mandrel under pressure then the whole thing is wrapped tightly with tape to hold it all in place while it’s hung in large ovens and heated to fuse the resins and fibre. Once cured the blanks are cooled and are ready for turning into fly rods by the addition of paint, rings, whippings, handles and reel seats.

But a picture saves a thousand words and a video a million. Sage from 2020


All about Rods and Capitalism
The story above is probably the image all rod makers would like you to takeaway with you all the way to retail. Technology combining with small scale human craftsmanship, personal obsession, individual engineering genius and endeavour creating a unique product that can be patriotically badged with country of origin. And for a very few rods that’s pretty much what you can get. But that is no longer the predominant process.

In this globalised world, outsourcing of some or all of a brand’s rods is now the norm for most well-known names and seemingly homespun independent brands are often not what you would imagine they are.

For example, the Shakespeare, Greys and Hardy UK brands were bought by the US company Pure Fishing in 2013. Pure Fishing is itself a subsidiary of the Jarden Corporation which was bought by Newel Brands in 2016 and is now finally owned by Sycamore Partners (2020) – a US private equity company.

You may recognise some of the other fishing brands they own: Abu Garcia, All Star, Berkley, Chub, Fenwick, Hodgman, Johnson, JRC, Mitchell, Penn, Pflueger, Sebile, SpiderWire, Stren, and Ugly Stik.

Who are Sycamore? Well they’re a homely little rod outfitter, set up alongside a freestone river in Montana…no they’re not, they’re what we’d more usually call Wall Street asset strippers…

“Sycamore Partners is a private equity firm based in New York specializing in investments through a variety of private equity strategies, most notably leveraged buyouts, distressed buyouts, complex corporate carveouts and debt investments. The firm has more than $15 billion in capital under management.” Wikipedia

Another corporate takeover story is G.Loomis. This iconic US company has been owned by the Japanese company Shimano since 1997. They took Gary Loomis’ company so far down what Gary thought was the wrong road and he objected so strongly that he left to form his own company again. (Shimano went on to sue him for trademark infringements). The G. Loomis Asquith rods were designed in the U.S. but the blanks were rolled in Japan and the rod finished in the U.S.
Gary’s podcast telling his story is a good listen.
http://www.itinerantangler.com/podcasts/podcast66.mp3

"Many of the best rods are built in one factory in Korea. Of these rods built in Korea, the Hardy rods are designed in England, the Douglas rods are designed here in the U.S., the Loop rods are designed in Sweden. The Orvis Clearwater rods are designed in Vermont and built in the orient. The TFO rods, the Taylor rods, the Mystic rod, and the Waterworks rods are all designed here in the U.S. and built in Asia." Yellowstone Angler

Echo fly rods are designed in the USA and built “offshore” (I believe Korea). Reddington rods are built in China “and other countries”. St. Croix also make their own but use Mexico for their cheaper rods. Both Orvis and Winston outsource their entry-level lines.

Sage and Scott make all their own rods in the USA.

Whole rods are now routinely made in the far East under OEM licences and badged for the brand. Sometimes the rods are designed in the original countries and manufactured elsewhere but increasingly even major brands are simply buying new ranges ‘off the shelf’.

Because many of these premium brand rods are often made in the same factory, the Asian manufacturers are able to manufacture at scale with lower labour costs, bulk bought materials and can spread R&D across many product lines. Having volume allows investment in technology, machinery and quality control all of which reduces unit costs further. It is rumoured that the factory gate cost of even the most expensive, outsourced high-end rod is <$30.

At the other end of the scale, there are large Chinese fabricators that reverse engineer rods or build generic rods which are sold at fishing trade shows in China where the only differentiator is the logo they attach to the blank. Mega retailers like Aldi and Lidl sell these rods here quite regularly and they are surprisingly functional.

Here’s the test of an 8’ #5/6, 3 section, Paladin carbon composite rod, reel, line, leader, backing and flies for the silly price of £29.99.

If you fancy yourself as a fly rod own-brand, fill your boots
https://www.made-in-china.com/products-search/hot-china-products/Fly_Rod.html

China also sells direct to the end user at extremely low prices, cutting out all the intermediaries that take percentages that make the normal retail end price so high. One brand that is very popular here is Maxcatch, a brand owned by Qingdao Lei Chi Industrial & Trade Co, Ltd. They can deliver a perfectly competent rod to your door for <£20 and a very good one for £50.

Where is all this going? Well it’s worth saying that just because a rod is built in Korea doesn’t make it a bad rod. In fact, the opposite; introducing scale into manufacture of hi-tech equipment is normally the way improvements in manufacture occur. We don’t make iPhones by hand one at a time. It’s really up to the brands to keep the high standards they need to support their prices.

In contrast to the Sage video earlier, this is a video of the more down-earth way that rods are made in South Korea for sale by the American company Temple Fork Outfitters (TFO).


But it does make you wonder a little about what those companies that have pretty much outsourced everything bring to the party apart from brand, marketing and distribution overhead. At the moment they can rightfully claim design expertise but unless they’re very careful, that too will go and be replaced simply by expert buyers and maybe eventually total disintermediation by the end-user.

In the end there are six categories of rod. Those rods:
  1. that have been designed, rolled and assembled by the company whose name is on the rod eg Sage
  2. that have a blank designed by the company whose name is on the rod, had its manufacture outsourced and then assembled the rod themselves eg some Hardy rods (still?) and some boutique custom rods
  3. that have a blank bought “off the shelf” by a knowledgeable buyer then been assembled by the company whose name is on the rod eg some boutique custom rod builders and, if rumours are correct, Hardy.
  4. that have a blank designed by the company whose name is on the rod but has then had its entire build outsourced. eg some Orvis rods, the Clearwater range?
  5. that have a blank bought “off the shelf” by a knowledgeable buyer and had its assembly outsourced eg Greys, Shakespeare
  6. that have been bought complete from a wholesaler for supermarket sale eg Lidl, Aldi

With a few exceptions, you’ll find that the scale of 1 to 6 above, also determines price, high to low.

In practice, you’ll find that some major brands have rods that fall into more than one category, the most common being companies that make their own premium-price rods but also sell an ‘entry-level’ line eg Orvis.

If it matters to you, ask your retailer or the manufacturer where your rod is built.

Can we fill this matrix?

Rod Name
Designed
Blank Made
Assembled
Bought
Sage X​
Sage USA​
Sage USA​
USA​
n/a​


A bit on Rod Weights
"Some say a rod has an optimum loading point and works best with that weight of line. I can’t see how that can be possible? Who decides on what the “optimum” line loading is? Which expert caster from the many good casters in the World, should be used as the benchmark for rating a rod's optimal loading? It is a daft notion isn't it?" David Norwich, rod builder.

You’ll see from David’s comments that fly rod weight can be more than a little controversial and you can get lost in weeks of bad tempered argument about it. I've got the T shirt.

Regardless of argument, rods are labelled by the manufacturer according to a particular weight of fly line that they notionally think they are appropriate for. That weight of line is measured at 30' less the level tip and it's regardless of line taper. Please see the ‘Understanding Fly Lines’ thread for more information on fly lines.
https://www.flyfishing.co.uk/threads/understanding-fly-lines.617762/

Putting aside any controversy for the moment - we'll get into that in a minute - you may see at least three fly rod standards referred to:

The AFTM (Association of Fishing Tackle Manufacturers) System
The AFTMA (American Fishing Tackle Manufacturers Association)
The AFFTA (American Fly Fishers Trade Association)


They're all the same thing but AFTTA is the most recent. Here’s their chart:

View attachment 33481

Rod Actions
You can think of rod action as moving from traditional to modern. The older split cane rods are usually very slow and whippy. That is, they bend throughout almost the length of the rod; from tip to a foot or so above the handle in a nice arc. Fibreglass rods too tend towards the slow, full-flex action, while modern carbon rods tend to be faster, bending most towards their tips. Some say these rods can be too fast for UK fishing as a lot of the modern American rods seem to be designed for casting tight loops a long way against a strong wind.

A slow rod flexes more and naturally creates a larger loop which is associated with better presentation but less distance. In the right hands fast rods can create tight loops that propel a heavier fly further. But fast rods are also harder for the less experienced caster as they provide less feedback (being able to feel the line load the rod) and require more precise timing.

For these reasons, most UK anglers go for the compromise of medium to tip action.

View attachment 33482

Of Springs, Levers and Loading
I'm told that not so long ago there was a big bust up on fly fishing forums about whether a rod was acting as a spring or a lever. The spring camp claiming that the weight of the line, being given force by the casting stroke, causes the rod to bend storing energy that's then liberated when the rod unloads at the end of the cast, propelling the line forward.

The lever camp saying no, the rod is providing mechanical advantage by extending the casting stroke.

Well it turns out that both sides are right, but the lever side is rightest. It's about 80:20 lever:spring. The lever is technically a third class one - its fulcrum is at one end of the rod.

I only mention this because there's still soreness around and you will get picked up if you casually use the word "load" like you're priming a spring.

The 20% that is actually spring - ie stored energy - in the cast is very useful though, as it smooths out the cast and adds that 20% kick at the end of the stroke just when you need it.

If you use a bow-and-arrow cast, you would be correct in calling that a spring action. Just sayin'

If you want to go into it further, there's an excellent article here:


A little bit about Swing Weight
Swing weight is how 'heavy' a rod feels when it's in motion. If differs from the absolute deadweight, static measurement of a rod placed on scales.

In engineering terms it's its Moment of Inertia (MoI) as measured from an axis. In our world that means the effort we need to use to move the rod; the axis being the butt or the rod as we swing it. Rods of the same dead weight can feel heavier than others when swung - they need more effort for the same movement.

Because the swing weight works as a square of the distance from the butt, longer rods will feel heavier than shorter ones of the same dead weight.

And because of this square of distance calculation, rods of the same dead weight and same length will feel different when swung if their tips are heavier or lighter. The heavier tip rod will feel heavier when swung.

A heavier rod will always have a higher swing weight than a lighter rod.

Just get a light rod :)

For the technically minded

Rod Power
Things can get confused at this point as the two terms ‘action’ and ‘power’ seem to be used interchangeably when people are describing a rod. I’ve seen a ghillie push my rod into the ground to get a feel for how much it bent and where, and declared it ‘powerful’. I agreed because I could chuck quite a big lure with it, but now I think all he was doing was seeing its action – ie where it bent.

Power, when we're talking about rods, is actually a measure of stiffness, that is, how much the rod bends for a given weight, not where it bends for a given weight.

The image below demonstrates this. Up to a point, the stiffer a rod is, the more powerful it is. The AFTTA value given to the rod should tell us that, for example, a #7 weight rod is more powerful than a #5 weight rod but might have identical action ie bend in the same place.

View attachment 35986

Tim Rajeff of Echo rods' video providing a good explanation.
https://youtu.be/tHlJQUOm7wM

Which brings me to the Common Cents System. This is an idea born out of the frustration of the AFTTA system being entirely subjective.

“This was the question that Dr. William Hanneman asked himself some years ago as he pondered why no two 5-weight rods possessed the same amount of power. After all, just what makes a 5-weight rod a 5-weight rod? At what point does a 5-weight rod become a 6-weight rod? Contrary to popular belief, there is no standard nor system to quantify or measure rod power by objective means - that number you see on the side of your rod is a purely subjective rating.”
https://www.common-cents.info/CCS_basic_Layout_1.pdf

Sadly (in my opinion), the rod making industry has never formally adopted it, publicly at least. It is used a lot for custom and hobby rod building, many boutique rod builders and some major brands too. Epic is an example and Gary Loomis in his new venture North Fork Composites business supports it.

This article by Steve Parton who was the guy behind the determination of Shakespeare's rod weighting for 20 years is well worth reading and demonstrates what an inexact process it really is.


I've places a long and detailed article on the CCS and rod building history in the next post for those interested in the detail of it. It does get quite nerdy...

The controversy
If you have read the 'Understanding fly lines' thread you will know that line manufacturers often overweight their lines.

"An engineer by training, my brain desperately hopes that the industry strictly followed the standards, at least for a while. One thing I do know for sure is that line manufacturers no longer follow that standard in most cases. It is actually rather challenging to find a modern fly line that conforms to AFFTA Standards. And, if you are like me, who typically really likes how rods cast when lined at or near the AFFTA Standard, just buying a fly line based on a product description and a numerical line rating on the box NO LONGER WORKS MOST OF THE TIME!."


Some do this deliberately and tell you about it - eg, the Orvis Clearwater is 1.5 time overweight and is a useful tool for its stated purpose - but many don't tell you that their #5 is actually nearer a #7. Why would they do this?

The answer is a very strange one, they appear to be doing it because rod makers are under-weighting their rods; a fast rod with #5 on the label may be objectively nearer a #7.

Knowledgeable people here will tell you that rod weight labelled by manufacturers is only a 'guide'. But it seems case that there is no longer a standard for either line or rod because the actual, objective, standard for lines is not adhered to in most cases and there simply is no objective standard for rod weight.

"This may come as a bit of a shock, but there is no industry adopted standard for rating the power of fly rods - none. There is a well established industry standard to measure the weight of fly lines - but many manufacturers make fly lines outside the standard, seemingly just doing their own thing."
Epic Rods.


He goes on to explain why:

"... it’s clear that one company's 7 weight is another companies 5. And, if you want to present the market with a more powerful, stiff rod, simply build what could be called a 7 and label it as a 5."

He names Sage as a routine offender. People here offer two well regarded Sage rods: the TCR and the SLT. The TCR is designed for long - tournament long - casts and high line speeds and therefore works to its optimum well past the 30' standard of line outside the rod tip. It actually comes out at #7.2 in the CCS table.

The Sage SLT in contrast has a slow action, is good for shorter casts and lower line speed and is a true #5 according to CCS. Both are labelled #5 but have a large power difference between them - more than #2 line weights (44%).

Bear in mind that lines weigh more as more of their length is aerialised. So a rod designed to load comfortably at 30' might struggle once twice that length of line is aerialised because it's carrying more load. Whereas a more powerful rod might struggle to comfortably deal with a short line.

Expert casters here say that a #5 line works well on both the Sage SLT and the TCR and they clearly do; the SLT should because it's the correct weight for the standard and the TCR wins casting competitions. But with the TCR you have to be comfortable with 60'+ of line out. It's a tool for a single purpose, to cast a long way in a tournament or in the surf confronting a head wind. Average casters - and I believe even good casters would not be comfortable using that rod for general use. It also would not easily cast, say, 20'.

So modern carbon rods do not need to conform to any line standard at all. If you add to this the fact that individuals bring their own non-standard behaviour to casting, you finish with a real dilemma - how can a rod, line, fishing situation and angler be matched properly?

The starting point is to do a lot of research on the rod so that you don't buy entirely the wrong one for your job - don't just think that it says #5 so it'll do. Read what the manufacturer says is its intended purpose. It's probably still best to buy a line the same weight as the rod; after all, that's what the manufacturer recommends and it's generally accepted that all rods will work within at least one and often two weights of its label. You may have to experiment a bit with line length and action, but it will work.

Try before buy is always touted as the answer but it's very difficult for most of us to find a fly fishing outfitter where you can do that - we have to do most of our retail work on line now.

The best answer for a beginner is to get casting lessons. They serve two purposes, the first and most important being that if you become a good caster, you can adapt to be able to use anything and also know what you're looking for in a rod and line and it lasts for life. The second is to take the teacher's advice on what tackle to buy, then forget about it and think only about fishing.

If you're a beginner or just have no interest in all this technical stuff and want a forgiving general purpose rod that's a true #5 ask for one with an ERN of 5.5 or near, with a medium to medium fast action. If the retailer doesn't know what an ERN is, find one that does.


Rod Handles
There are several handle shapes but the three most popular are the Full and Half Wells and the cigar.

View attachment 33483

You’ll find the Half Wells and cigars on smaller, lower weight rods and the Full Wells on heavier ones. The changeover usually occurs at around #7. No one knows why. Or do they?

Most fly rod handles are made of cork. It’s lightweight, waterproof, can be shaped easily and it’s traditional. It comes in grades, the one you’re looking for is AAA but in truth, it’s hard to find one that isn’t described as such from the major brands – even the cheap ones. (But you’ll still hear complaints about them.) The difference is in the fineness of the cork, you’re looking for no fillers that will inevitable fall out after a while.

On cheaper rods you can get foam EVA handles but they’re fairly rare. Personally, I think there’s an element of conforming to a traditional convention rather than utility here and some say that foam handles will eventually be adopted more universally. Surely if we can have space age technology in our rods we shouldn't be using 17th century technology in our handles?

The manifold handle is an attempt to think ergonomically about the task it does. It generally has to be retrofitted.
View attachment 34785

All about Price
Oh, yes.

The “cost of rods” thread on this forum has over 2,800 posts on 141 pages. It’s a subject we all appear to be interested in from those prepared to spend many thousands of pounds on premium rod collections to those searching the Maxcatch site for cheap Chinese imports.

If someone asks for a recommendation for a 9’ #5 rod he’ll get as many different recommendations as replies and he’ll have no way of knowing which is best for what he can afford.

In the hope of finding some more objective way of establishing which was the ‘best’ rod for a particular price I started researching. And, of course, it’s not easy - in fact, it’s virtually impossible - to find objective answers. The only reviews I’ve been able to find that actually attempt to measure the claims made by manufacturers are those done annually by Yellowstone and Trident tackle shops in the USA.

They test and report on many aspects of a rod but there are two particular variables that are actually measurable, not just opinion or preference; they are performance, which is defined as casting accuracy at 25’, 45’ and 70’ targets and price ($). Using the results from 7 annual tests I graphed these (and other variables) to see if there was a relationship with price.

In all but one test I could find no statistical relationship between price and performance.

Here are all Yellowstone’s performance and price data for 2013 through to 2019 shootouts poured into one chart. 156 rods of differing weights. (I've adjusted for different scoring conventions used in different years.)

View attachment 33484

So what is it saying?

1. The Y axis (vertical) is performance. The X axis (horizontal) is price ($).

2. The R2 value is a measure of statistical correlation which is asking the question, 'is there a relationship between price and performance?' To be pretty confident of a relationship, statisticians need a value of about 0.4 or higher so, as it's only 0.18, all we can say is that if there is one, it’s weak.

3. If you look at some of the individual price and performance points you can see why.

- At a performance score of 70 you can buy a rod for $400 or $800
- For $1500 you can buy a rod that performs no better than one at $625 and only very marginally better than one costing $250
- The $800 price point is very popular for premium rods but half of them are performing at the same level as $200 rods.
- For pretty much every price point you can find a good performing rod and a much poorer performing rod.
- No rods perform terribly, and if you look at the spread - ignoring the outliers - all rods hang in a range between 75 and 90. While, again ignoring outliers, price spreads from around $175 to $900. ie, there are steep diminishing returns if you are attempting to buy performance – even if you manage to choose the right rod.
It’s also fair to say that, with a few exceptions, all these rods are good rods.

If you read the ‘cost of rods’ thread you’ll find hundreds of pages of heated argument about these graphs with many complaints about methodologies and integrity and competence of the testers (and the analyst). But the same conclusions are found in the Trident shootouts and there is also a distance casting test published on the Sexyloops site that comes to the same conclusion.
https://www.sexyloops.com/articles/8rod.shtml

When we get several different experiments by different experimenters giving the same answer we get a good indication that the conclusion is probably correct.

So, what does this mean? Well to put it simply if you knew nothing at all about rods you could not walk into a shop, buy the most expensive and expect it to be the best performing rod in there. (In fact, the most expensive rod is never the best performing rod, often because it is loaded with expensive cosmetics.) Some inexpensive rods perform very well and some expensive ones perform less well. You can't be sure that buying an expensive rod will get you a better performing rod.

Buyer beware.

You should also note that these tests never include really low-cost rods like Shakespeare, yet many Shakespeare rods can be very good fishing tools indeed. This is only because the two shops refuse to stock low cost rods. Similarly, when there are reviews in the Trout and Salmon magazines, low price rods are rarely included.

"I personally feel that rods in the £100 to £200 price range represent the best value for money in today's market. In fact I'm finding it almost impossible to justify the high prices of some rods." Our own Rob Edmunds, match angler, former Troutmasters Champion. Trout Fisherman, June.

A few years ago, I had a once in a lifetime opportunity to fish for salmon in Russia (I’ve now repeated this once in a lifetime experience twice more :). I had a 24-year-old Argentinian guide for the week and caught my first salmon in the first hour. At the end of the day he took my £150 Greys GR50 trout rod and double-hauled the Barrio line to the backing, reverse cast it an equal length, snake rolled it around then whipped the fly back to himself catching it on the rod before handing it back to me. That 'cheap Hardy' as he called it could do a vast amount more than I'm still capable of doing with it. I decided then that there's absolutely no point me spending any more money on a rod without learning how to use the one I've got better first. So I find myself disagreeing with Yellowstone when they say this. But, of course, their job is to sell expensive rods…

"Some people might consider high priced rods status symbols. For others, seeing how a rod performs in an expert caster’s hands, convinces them it would make them great anglers as well, or at least take them to the next level. Surprisingly, this is often true. Great rods don’t make great casters, but there is no doubt that they will improve any angler’s casting skills and his ability to catch fish. Don’t fret about the price – you’ll find some ingenious way to sneak it into your collection of rods without the mrs. (or mr.) finding out." Yellowstone Angler.

Far, far more important than what label is on your rod, is that your line and rod are a matched pair. It’s really hard casting a line that doesn’t suit your rod. Put a £100 line on a £1,000 rod and unless they’re balanced you might as well be using Geoffrey’s rhubarb.

And let's not forget ability. An instructor told me that casting is 70% caster and 30% gear. I reckon it’s almost 100% caster until you can get to a level of competence where you’re able to squeeze the potential performance out of whatever stuff you have. If you’ve ever watched someone casting with a broom handle or even just their arm you begin to get a clue. Here’s Marina Gibson casting without a rod:


Ownership and the pleasure of nice things
As an ordinary caster and one who is allergic to spending unnecessary cash I need to address my bias a bit and point out that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with buying expensive stuff if that’s what floats your fly.

Nice things are nice to have and the one thing that actually does have strong correlation with price, is quality of build. Spending more gets you better fixtures and fittings. Having said that, none of the rods in the Yellowstone or Trident shootouts are poor quality so you pay a lot for small increases.

Even so, it’s nice to own and use quality stuff.

Classic rods
There are rods that were comprehensively the best in their time and built wonderful reputations, what are they, could we ever agree? Well probably not but a discussion here came up with this list from about 50 mentions, in order

Loomis GLX
Sage SLT
Sage RPL
Redington NTi
Hardy Zenith

Breaking Rods
Modern fly rods are very strong but also fragile – they can be broken very easily by hitting them with anything hard and/or sharp. Standing on a rod or trapping it in a car door or electric wing mirrors (yes, I did) will snap it instantly. Jam the tip into the ground while walking or stupidly poke it into a tree trying to retrieve a fly (yes, I did) will also accomplish the task with surprisingly little effort.

More surprisingly, hitting the rod with a weighted fly can also break your rod, not perhaps immediately, but when it’s next put under pressure such as when you play a fish. Any small nick in the blank can weaken it terminally.

Manufacturing defects can cause rod breakages but they are likely to occur when you first put pressure on your rod and you generally see them as a clean break. A break that leaves a large jagged area – a delamination break, a ‘delam’ – is generally evidence of an overloaded rod.

[…] these high-modulus, high-strain-rate, thin-walled rods are extremely strong and are highly unlikely ever to break under normal use. Almost all rods are damaged by other means – an angler accidentally stepping on them, hitting them against a hard surface while casting, or storing them where a toolbox or some other heavy object can slide into them. Then, with the damage done, the rod collapses while under the stress of fighting a fish. So while high-modulus, high-strain-rate rods are not brittle, they do require more care in storage and transport.“ G.Loomis Corp

It’s almost impossible to break a medium weight rod by just trying to lift a dead weight, it takes a lot of strength and courage to achieve it. But you can easily snap it in your hands by applying a small force over a short area. Here’s a great video of Tim Rajeff at Echo breaking rods to explain how and why they break.


Warranties
Pretty much all big brand manufacturers provide some sort of lifetime warranty system over and above the normal 12-month guarantee that retailers must provide.

But how can an object that is so fragile be guaranteed? Some anglers love these guarantees and others are deeply suspicious of them. Obviously, the cost of warranties have to be inbuilt into the price. What would the rod cost be without the warranties and why do we have no choice but to buy one?

If you cast your mind back to the price/cost of rods section you’ll see that the speculation is that rods actually cost very little and sections of rods are obviously a fraction of that. Are the manufacturers making a profit out of fulfilling their warranties? Still, if you’ve just spent £800 on a rod, I can see why you want insurance.

To find out what your warranty covers, for how long and for how much, you’ll have to read the small print. But as a guide here’s Yellowstone’s analysis of rod warranties just remember that this is for the USA buyer, UK may be different.

“Nearly all manufacturers now have some kind of limited “Lifetime warranty.” Well, the Orvis unconditional guarantee is only 25 years. However, nearly all manufacturers are charging a “handling fee” of $25-$100 to repair or replace your broken rod. In addition it will cost you $15 or more to ship your rod in for repair or have your local dealer do it for you.

The Loomis NRX LP gets a perfect score of 10 for their excellent Expeditor repair program which costs $100, but returns the angler a brand new rod, not a repaired one, in just a few days! The Expeditor policy on the IMX Pro is $85.00. This same Expeditor service applies to the Asquith but the fee is $275 for 2nd day air. Because of the cost, we downgraded the Asquith to 7 points. As part of the Expeditor policy, Loomis includes a FedEx call tag so that you don’t have to spend any money to send the broken rod back.
For broken rods that are not registered to the original owners, most companies are going to charge you $150 or more for repairs. Below the final results charts we give you the exact repair charges for each manufacturer.

Here is a recap of each manufacturer’s current policy, their latest fees and what we have experienced for repair time required. Remember that it will cost you an additional $15 or more to send your rod in unless you are using the G. Loomis Expeditor program.

Douglas – Lifetime warranty. $35 handling fee. Rods are repaired, not replaced unless broken. Usually takes 1-2 weeks.

Fenwick- Lifetime warranty. $25 handling fee. Broken sections are replaced. Sometimes the whole rod is replaced. If Fenwick determines that there was a defect, the rod will be repaired or replaced at no charge. Usually takes 2 weeks.

Hardy – Lifetime warranty to original owner. $75 handling fee. Rods are repaired or sections replaced. Shipping is from their US warehouse, usually takes 2 weeks.

G. Loomis – Lifetime warranty to original owner. If you feel your rod has broken because of a defect, you pay to send the rod to their warranty dept. and they examine it. If the rod is broken because of a defect, or while fishing, replacement is free. No handling fee. If broken from neglect or any other cause, you must use the Expeditor service. You call in and incur a credit card of $100 but you get a brand new rod in 3-4 days. The Expeditor service for the NRX or NRX LP rods is $100, while the IMX Pro rods are $85.00. The Expeditor service fee for the Asquith rods is $250.00 for ground or $275 for 2-day air. With your new rod they include a FedEx call tag so that it does not cost you anything to return your broken rod.

Loop – Lifetime warranty to original owner. $60 handling fee. Rods are repaired or sections replaced. Same day or next day shipping if they have the parts in stock, if not, usually takes 2 weeks.

Mystic – Lifetime warranty to original owner. $50 handing fee. Rods are replaced. Usually takes 1-2 weeks.

Orvis – 25 year warranty to original owner. $60 handling fee. Rod is repaired, or sections replaced. Usually takes 2-4 weeks.

Sage – Lifetime warranty to original owner. $25 handling fee on current rods. $75 on recent rods within 10 years, $125 on classic older rods. Rods are repaired, not replaced except for broken sections. Often takes 4-6 weeks.

Scott – Lifetime warranty to original owner, $50 handling fee. Rods are repaired, not replaced, except for broken sections. Usually takes 2-4 weeks.

St. Croix – Lifetime warranty to original owner, $85 handling fee. Rods are repaired, not replaced except for broken sections. Usually takes 2-4 weeks.

Taylor – Lifetime warranty to original owner. One year warranty on hardware and guides. $50 handling fee. Rods are repaired or replaced. Usually takes 1-2 weeks.

Temple Fork Outfitters (TFO) – Lifetime warranty to original owner. $35 handling fee. Rods are either replaced with a new rod or the broken section is replaced. Usually takes 1-2 weeks.

Thomas and Thomas – $55 repair charges for the original owner, includes shipping. Non-original owner $150 per section. You must register the new rod within 30 days.

R.L. Winston – Lifetime warranty to original owner. $75 handling fee to original owner, $150.00 charge to all others. Rods are repaired, not replaced. Usually takes 4-6 weeks. New rods must be registered at time of purchase.
Yellowstone.


My own experience is with Greys here in the UK. I was charged £30 for a replacement section and it was delivered 3 days later. I was delighted.


A rod’s a rod for A’ that
Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Hardy,
What's Hardy? it is nor cork, nor carbon,
Nor ring nor ferrule, nor any other part
Belonging to a rod. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? that which we call a rod
By any other name would cast as sweet;
So Hardy would, were he not Hardy call'd,
Reel in that dear Perfection which it owns
Without that title. Hardy, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of ability
Cast all myself.

Shakespeare (Agility, 9’6”, #7)

I've never heard the question ”what rod did you catch that on mate?" Have you?



Tight lines, Tangle




Further Reading and Miscellany

Steve Parton (Sparton) The true cost of rods

http://www.sexyloops.com/sparton/graphiterods.shtml

Gary Loomis His story and How Rods are Made

https://www.itinerantangler.com/blog/podcasts/2011/06/14/from_scratch_how_fly_rods_are/

US Rod Builders website – big resource and forum
https://www.rodbuilding.org

Paul Arden Fly Rod Design & Testing

Wildman in the Forest – Paul Arden’s Hot Torpedo. It’s craft not science.
https://www.sexyloops.com/index.php/ps/reviews
(If you want to see what an expert caster can do with a rod, join the video at 24mins 50secs)

UK Boutique Rod Builders
There are still a few rod builders that make small volume and custom rods in the UK. You can get beautiful rods built to your specification at a very reasonable price from these guys. (This isn’t a recommendation – I’ve never bought or used any of them.)

Steve Parks at Atomsix
http://www.atomsix.co.uk/

Mike Bell at BlokeRods
http://www.blokerods.co.uk/

Roger McCourtney
http://www.peregrinerods.co.uk/

One of the few remaining UK rod blank manufacturers is
Stephen Harrison
https://www.harrisonrods.co.uk

Dave Hughes makes the Lohric Fly rod from Harrison blanks
https://www.edencustomrods.co.uk/

Chas Burns also uses Harrison blanks I believe
http://www.burnsbuiltrods.co.uk


Simon Barnes at Simba Rods

Videos I couldn't include (space limit)
This is our very own David Norwich making rods (2010)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9QWWozl6mg&ab_channel=Howitsmade

This is Thomas and Thomas making rods (2015)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9QWWozl6mg&ab_channel=Howitsmade

Hardy test video
https://youtu.be/MGJRnYPrkdk

Making carbon fibre prepreg at scale - BMW
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-8m0CHtEPw&ab_channel=SMRTGadget
Fascinating....thanks.
 

andygrey

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The Sage ONE looks like another overweight rod.
If I was picking a Sage rod just by number I'd pick the XP

View attachment 36599
Here we go again...
I have a two 5wt XP's (a 9' and a 9'6") and also have cast a few 5wt One's as some friends of mine have them. All cast with the same line (not just the same model, the exact same line...).
I know you don't accept opinions... only measurements but if you were to blind cast the XP next to the One you would almost certainly say that the XP was the stiffer rod.
 

Tangled

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Here we go again...
I have a two 5wt XP's (a 9' and a 9'6") and also have cast a few 5wt One's as some friends of mine have them. All cast with the same line (not just the same model, the exact same line...).
I know you don't accept opinions... only measurements but if you were to blind cast the XP next to the One you would almost certainly say that the XP was the stiffer rod.

Well that's interesting. Both rods appear to have the same AA. So why would a rod that is objectively measured to be the stiffer feel less stiff?
 

andygrey

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Well that's interesting. Both rods appear to have the same AA. So why would a rod that is objectively measured to be the stiffer feel less stiff?
Well, that's a very good question and we have of course been here before.
I would suggest that the ERN measurement is not comprehensive enough to measure a rods stiffness outside its single point of measurement and that different rods have differing rates of stiffness outside the ERN measurement criteria. A rods stiffness is not linear through it's entire range of flexing, just because 2 rods show the same ERN does not necessarily mean that they are equally stiff when bent to a greater or lesser extent. If for instance a rod is at its elastic limit where the ERN is measured it will have an almost exponential increase in stiffness just past this.
This is the issue I have with using the ERN as a de facto grading method.
 

Tangled

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Well, that's a very good question and we have of course been here before.
I would suggest that the ERN measurement is not comprehensive enough to measure a rods stiffness outside its single point of measurement and that different rods have differing rates of stiffness outside the ERN measurement criteria.
So it's a bit of a paradox.

The ERN measures stiffness by determining the weight required to bend one third of the rod length.
That's a decent enough measure of stiffness.
A rods stiffness is not linear through it's entire range of flexing,
Well yes, they're tapered and profiled. But the ERN measures the overall bend regardless.
just because 2 rods show the same ERN does not necessarily mean that they are equally stiff when bent to a greater or lesser extent.
It shows that they are equally stiff, by definition. 'Greater or lessor extent' is meaningless in this context.

If you mean they may bend differently at different applied loads I don't have any information on that, but it seems unlikely except at extremes.

If you mean rods with the same ERN may flex differently in different sections of the rod, then yes they could but that's measuring action and it appears that the XP and the ONE have the same AA.
If for instance a rod is at its elastic limit where the ERN is measured it will have an almost exponential increase in stiffness just past this.

Well of course the ERN goes nowhere near a rod's elastic limit. And virtually no ordinary circumstances do. I suspect also that in practice a carbon rod's yield point is actually right next door to its failure point.
This is the issue I have with using the ERN as a de facto grading method.
It's certainly interesting, but if your experience is universal, it means that the system is useless which it doesn't seem to be as it's widely used by rod builders and competition casters. So it's a bit of a riddle.
 
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andygrey

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So it's a bit of a paradox.

The ERN measures stiffness by determining the weight required to bend one third of the rod length.
That's a decent enough measure of stiffness.
A 'decent enough measure of stiffness' at only one loading condition. 2 rods bent to one third of their length may require the same force to achieve this, but what about one quarter, one fifth etc. etc. Can you hand on heart tell me that you can extrapolate the one third value across all loading conditions?
Well yes, they're tapered and profiled. But the ERN measures the overall bend regardless.
Nope... it measures the force required to bend at one measurement point... namely one third.
It shows that they are equally stiff, by definition. 'Greater or lessor extent' is meaningless in this context.
See above...
If you mean they may bend differently at different applied loads
That's exactly what I mean.
I don't have any information on that,
Maybe get some information on it then.
but it seems unlikely except at extremes.
Proof?...

If you mean rods with the same ERN may flex differently in different sections of the rod, then yes they could but that's measuring action and it appears that the XP and the ONE have the same AA.
Well of course the ERN goes nowhere near a rod's elastic limit.

What about a REALLY stiff rod?


And virtually no ordinary circumstances do. I suspect also that in practice a carbon rod's yield point is actually right next door to its failure point.

Correct. But once the elastic limit is reached, there is a period of 'lock-up' where excreting more force does not result in more flex. Carbon fibre doses't break just past its elastic limit, actually quite a way past it.

It's certainly interesting, but if your experience is universal, it means that the system is useless which it doesn't seem to be as it's widely used by rod builders and competition casters. So it's a bit of a riddle.

All I am saying is that whilst the ERN is a useful 'starting point' as a guide, it is not infallible and it's limitations should be understood.
[/QUOTE]
 
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Tangled

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A 'decent enough measure of stiffness' at only one loading condition. 2 rods bent to one third of their length may require the same force to achieve this, but what about one quarter, one fifth etc. etc. Can you have on heart tell me that you can extrapolate the one third value across all loading conditions?
I can tell you that that ERN measures the overall stiffness of the rod. It's an average. That's all.
Nope... it measures the bend at one measurement point... namely one third.
Nope, it measures the stiffness of the entire rod, not stiffness at a point in the rod.
See above...

That's exactly what I mean.

Maybe get some information on it then.
Ah, wouldn't that be useful, actual data.

Proof?...
You claim, you prove.

Well of course the ERN goes nowhere near a rod's elastic limit.

What about a REALLY stiff rod?
What about it? All our fly fishing rods bend beyond that deflection, that's why it was chosen.
All I am saying is that whilst the ERN is a useful 'starting point' as a guide, it is not infallible and it's limitations should be understood.
There's nothing remarkable about that statement, I've said it to you several times. No-one claims it's infallible.
 

andygrey

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I can tell you that that ERN measures the overall stiffness of the rod. It's an average. That's all.
This statement encapsulates your fundamental misunderstanding of the ERN. It’s not an overall measurement of a rods stiffness, it’s as measurement of a rods stiffness at a certain point of measurement.
You need to understand this distinction to be able to move forward.
Nope, it measures the stiffness of the entire rod, not stiffness at a point in the rod.

Ah, wouldn't that be useful, actual data.


You claim, you prove.


What about it? All our fly fishing rods bend beyond that deflection, that's why it was chosen.

There's nothing remarkable about that statement, I've said it to you several times. No-one claims it's infallible.
 

Tangled

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This statement encapsulates your fundamental misunderstanding of the ERN. It’s not an overall measurement of a rods stiffness, it’s as measurement of a rods stiffness at a certain point of measurement.
It measures the rod's overall stiffness. Not at a point, overall. The rod is anchored at its handle with a weight attached to its tip. It's a measure of the whole rod.

You need to understand this distinction to be able to move forward.
Ditto.

btw I've asked this question at Sexyloops

"Could I ask a question of you guys that have cast a million rods? Without looking at the ERN, which feels the stiffer rod, the Sage XP or the ONE?"

One result so far from Lasse. He think that the ONE is the stiffer rod.

That's the trouble with subjective responses and single data points.
 

andygrey

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It measures the rod's overall stiffness. Not at a point, overall. The rod is anchored at its handle with a weight attached to its tip. It's a measure of the whole rod.


Ditto.

btw I've asked this question at Sexyloops

"Could I ask a question of you guys that have cast a million rods? Without looking at the ERN, which feels the stiffer rod, the Sage XP or the ONE?"

One result so far from Lasse. He think that the ONE is the stiffer rod.

That's the trouble with subjective responses and single data points.
You’re posting on Sexyloops?
Sorry, but if you thought this was a tough room, you’re in for a shock!
 

Tangled

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You’re posting on Sexyloops?
Sorry, but if you thought this was a tough room, you’re in for a shock!
All forums are the same. If anything Sexyloops is pretty civilised. Been there for months, read it for longer.
 

ohanzee

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Here we go again...
I have a two 5wt XP's (a 9' and a 9'6") and also have cast a few 5wt One's as some friends of mine have them. All cast with the same line (not just the same model, the exact same line...).
I know you don't accept opinions... only measurements but if you were to blind cast the XP next to the One you would almost certainly say that the XP was the stiffer rod.

I'd say the One is more responsive, and that 'stiffer' is too basic a term to even describe the comparison.
 

ohanzee

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Like you can only have tight loops from a fast actioned (stiffer??) rod?

The TCR is like a 6 inch 5 weight grafted onto a 7 weight, cast off the tip and you get laser loops, put out more line and it beasts it, but the blank is now bending a bit more so the loops get a bit bigger.

I don't know any other rod(Orivis hydros maybe? Scott S3?) that does that by design alone.
 

aenoon

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The TCR is like a 6 inch 5 weight grafted onto a 7 weight, cast off the tip and you get laser loops, put out more line and it beasts it, but the blank is now bending a bit more so the loops get a bit bigger.

I don't know any other rod(Orivis hydros maybe? Scott S3?) that does that by design alone.
Apart from the fact that it is the person on the end, the caster, that determines same loop size?
 

andygrey

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It measures the rod's overall stiffness. Not at a point, overall. The rod is anchored at its handle with a weight attached to its tip. It's a measure of the whole rod
Yes it measures the whole of the rod, but only at one loading condition. I can't see why you can't get this?
 

Tangled

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Not really, Sexyloops is more adept at cancelling nonsense ideas that are tolerated here.

They're certainly better at understanding theoretical and engineering concepts and more tolerant of discussing different ideas I'll give you that.
 

boisker

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They're certainly better at understanding theoretical and engineering concepts and more tolerant of discussing different ideas I'll give you that.

you haven’t bombarded them with 5,522 posts yet... report back when your SL post count increases from <20 up to 2000 posts on one of your pet topics and see if they are still responding 😂
 
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