Monday, July 28, 2014

Glass vs carbon

 If you aren't interested in fly fishing then close this now, it'll be boring.

Since I started following The Fiberglass Manifesto I've been wanting to try a fiberglass fly rod. Coming from a cycling background I figured it might be similar in difference to a graphite/ carbon rod as a steel frame is to a carbon frame. I wasn't far off. I have two steel bikes, two titanium bikes and exactly zero carbon because I don't like carbon. This is because I've ridden all types and never felt that carbon had a life. Steel and Ti have personality and feel while carbon is just a dead feeling frame. And yes, I fully understand the importance of performance concerns. A similar idea can be applied to casting a fly rod and I noticed this literally the second I picked up my new glass rod.
 This happened by accident when my mom called me one day and said she was at a garage sale and an elderly man had a bunch of fishing gear for sale. He had a fly rod for $15.00, no details, but I told her to get it. Turns out it was a Gladding/ South Bend fiberglass rod. Not valuable by any means. Not like a Winston vintage bamboo that can sell for ~$7000. It's a usable rod that I can toss in my trunk or charge through a stand of brush and not panic if it gets a scratch. It was made in 1971 which is when I was born so that makes it sort of cool to me.

42 year old wraps still perfect. 
 It's heavy. It's fiberglass after-all. Like steel the liveliness of the material comes with a cost. It's 8'6" and felt like a noodle when I first lifted it. Any movement caused it to whip and bend where a carbon rod is far stiffer and requires that you make it move. This simple aspect is why I enjoyed the glass so much when I finally got to cast it. A carbon rod has a certain "margin for error" in my opinion, meaning that if your arm isn't moving perfectly straight in the fore/ aft plane... that's OK, the carbon will compensate. But with the glass rod I could immediately see the flaws in my cast. Any, and I mean even an inch or less, lateral movement caused the tip to whip laterally which is a cast killer. It took concentration to keep the tip in the plane.
 With the compliance of the rod I also found that my forward cast needed to stop at 12 o'clock rather than the 10-11 that I usually use. I literally have to stop the rod straight up in order to get a smooth and full roll of the line. The back cast didn't feel too much different.
 The thing I like most about the rod however is that it is a throwback to older times. It isn't cutting edge and I have a deep appreciation for that. Fly fishing at it's heart is not about catching fish. It's about the act of fishing and because of that I don't feel that expensive or cutting edge gear will enhance that... and in fact I could argue that it actually detracts from it.
 I can already see that this $15.00 rod will become my primary rod. I have 3 other carbon and the only advantage I see with (two of) them is there packability. They're 4 and 5 piece respectively so they are much more portable. Until I get to try a bamboo rod though... I'm sold on the glass.


Andy said...

Would you say that the glass is a faster action or slower action rod? A little flex or a lot? I'd imagine it would be not flex a whole lot.

Lucho said...

Super slow and VERY flexy. If you move the grip just ~3"-4" the tip will move 2-3 feet. It's like a noodle. My 9'4" medium rod flexes half as much.