8-Strength

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How can you break your rod while casting? I’ll get to that, but first let’s think about the strength of a rod. Fiberglass is a very strong material that resulted in a rod lighter than bamboo, but not as light as modern graphite. Fiberglass rods were initially designed to cast like soft bamboo, and still can’t produce the fast action of graphite, but it can take more abuse.

I mentioned in the last post that most of the fibers in the material run the length of the rod. This arrangement resists bending and makes a stiffer rod. The stiffer it is, the faster the action is. Weight of the rod (not line weight) is the trade-off. Graphite wins in the fast vs light competition. Fibers also wrap around the rod. These provide radial strength and keep the rod from deforming too far out of round under bending stress. Though a fiberglass rod won’t cast the distance of a graphite, it will produce a more delicate and controlled cast than graphite. The bamboo guys will argue that cane rods are even more delicate and controlled.

Rods get abused when I fish. There is the yearly fall into the rocks, which is the reason I avoid expensive reels. There is also the larger fly hook hitting the rod at many miles per hour during an marginally controlled cast. Both situations can nick the surface fibers of the rod. This creates a weak spot. Graphite has a softer surface, thinner wall thickness, and faster line speed (fly velocity), and suffers greater damage.

A fly rod is designed to have high bending strength and adequate radial strength. It’s not designed to have high resistance to twist. This leads to a weakness you can exploit if you wish to break your rod. Casting sidearm is a useful technique in a variety of situations. Double hauling sidearm is powerful, but puts great stress on the rod. The caster must apply enough power to keep the line from dropping to the ground during the back cast. It’s necessary to keep your thumb behind the direction of the cast so that the guides face in that direction. Look at the diagram and imagine the twist put into the small diameter tip section of the rod if the line is pulling as shown. Always keep the guides and reel aligned with the direction of the cast.

Here is another tip breaking technique that works best on fast action rods that bend mostly in the tip section. Before you cast, when first pulling line out through the guides, grab the leader and pull down parallel to the raised rod. This forces the maximum bending stress into the tip section at its smallest diameter. It’s much harder to break the rod if you pull away from it, which applies the stress against the rod length.

Lastly, we can break the rod at the ferrule. Again, this is best done during a sidearm cast. I discovered this while practicing with a 9 weight rod. The middle rod section slipped forward during a double haul cast. This put all the bending stress on two points as seen in the diagram. Point 1 couldn’t break through the side, but the rod split at Point 2. I’ve also had the rod tip section come loose on light rods and fly out into the water. The first reaction is to look around and assure that no one saw that happen, then I retrieve the section and put the rod together again. There is a solution to this problem — St. Croix Ferrule Wax. Apply it to the male ferrule and they won’t slip.

I’ve gotten off on a bit of a casting tangent. But my rods suffer enough during normal use, so I try not to add to it through improper use. In the next post I will discuss assembly of the rod, and in the last post I’ll find the right line for it.

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