Sunday Classic / Has Distance Casting Hijacked Rod Design?

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It sure feels like we’ve all become too obsessed with distance. Photo By: Louis Cahill

How often do you really make a 100 foot cast?

Every time I visit a fly fishing trade show and walk by one of those 100′ casting ponds filled shoulder to shoulder with anglers all trying their best to land their fly on the far end of the casting pond, I ask myself, “is that really what the majority of anglers today think fly casting is all about”? A part of me thinks we should shorten those casting ponds all together, and instead throw out a bunch of target rings at random distances starting out at 20 feet. Maybe that would paint a clearer picture of what fly casting is about and how a fly rods performance should be judged. Casting a 5wt and shooting backing through the tip of the rod is hard to do, and something to be proud of, but is it really what we find ourselves doing when we’re out on the water trout fishing?

Furthermore, have we all become so tunnel visioned that we feel it’s correct to judge a fly rods performance and craftsmanship based on how much fly line it can pick up and carry, and how far we can cast a fly with it? That’s not how I judge a fly rod. It’s about a fly rods ability to drop a dry fly perfectly into the feeding lane of a rising trout, it’s about effortlessly making a nice side-arm roll cast along the far bank under the overhanging foliage. It’s about having a rod in my hand that gives me the confidence to feel like I’m in complete control for the fishing situation at hand. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of watching the fly rod companies battle it out on who can design the next ultra-light fast action broom stick. I’m ready for them to start taking a serious look at other areas of fly casting and rod design other than distance.

Anyone feel the same way or am I barking up the wrong tree?

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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20 thoughts on “Sunday Classic / Has Distance Casting Hijacked Rod Design?

  1. I’m in the same camp. I think my longest cast in the past 12 months was in the 70 to 75foot zone and that was with a 15wt and we couldn’t get the boat any closer to where we were casting.

    When I’m down the park practicing I have targets at 40, 50 and 60ft and try to go on windy days so that I can cast into the wind.

    I’ve also taught myself to cast left handed as it is sometimes quicker to cast left handed than backhanded. Works for me anyway. Cheers

  2. Spot on Kent. There’s a good reason why cane and glass rods are seeing a resurgence. They do the things that make us fishermen not casters.

  3. I tend to agree with you. Most casts I make are generally under 60ft with obviously some exceptions. My only caveat and to be clear this is a personal goal and not relative to all fly fisherman is that I want to “learn” to make that 100ft cast just to consider myself a “complete” fly fisherman.

  4. I agree. I mainly fish the streams, creeks, and rivers of central Texas. This summer I discovered fiberglass. It is much more enjoyable. I now think my graphite rods will only be used on big western waters. The chase of “distance, distance, distance” seems to be for an elite group of casters. The average fly fisherman in the average situations will never need to cast 100ft.

  5. I think there are a good many rods that focus on just being a pleasant casting tool but it really does get lost in the chatter of distance casting. I just picked up cabelas cgr series rod and your lucky to get 50′ out of it much less 100 but on a small stream in tight quarters this thing casts 5′ of line well and a 20′ cast is butter. I think that’s the hard part though, 20′ doesn’t sound impressive and its hard to talk about “feel” and ” delicacy ” without sounding too whimsical.

  6. Kent, Rod design is just another symptom of a changing market. Many people that buy fly rods do not fish, at least not very often. For them it is more of a hobby than a sport. That doesn’t make them any less important to the industry or resource but it does change the type of products and services that will be successful. More rods designed to perform better on the casting pond than on a brushy stream. Maybe fewer flies and spools of tippet, but more up scale reels, some painted to look like their favorite species. There are any number of ways people can enjoy fly fishing, none are bad just different. The way many people are choosing to enjoy our favorite pasttime seem to be shifting and I would expect the market to follow that shift. It’s all good, in my opinion.

  7. The bulk of my fishing is done in warmwater, casting flies way to big for the rod that’s throwing them. Distance is nothing if you can’t stick a fish. Every time I pick up a rod anymore, it feels like it was designed to only cast. It’s like Ferrari. Sure, everyone wants a fast car, but when you are driving it around town, the only thing it is good at is getting attention. And forget driving it off-road. I find that mid-priced rods are purpose built and it doesn’t hurt as much when you break one. I guess what I’m saying is; I’d rather touch a fish than be able to cast to it. I’m with you!

  8. Friends and I have been lamenting this trend of ultra fast rods for some time now. Yes, a rod needs to be able to cast some distance occasionally but more importantly, it needs to be able to protect very light tippets in technical situations…which is what my 30 yr old rods do very effectively. 🙂

  9. I’m mostly in agreement. However, working on your long game on a regular basis will also improve your short game tremendously. Learning to shoot line on the back and forward strokes, mastering the double-haul, learning the water-haul, etc. are all very helpful with the typical short-game that you have in trout fishing with a 5-weight (or smaller). Throwing 3 nymphs + spit shot 50 feet with a nice side-wind without tangling or hooking yourself or your buddies and with only 2 backcasts is not easy, but it can be done, and practicing long-distance casting makes you a more efficient caster all-around. You are correct about the rods–these days Fast Action is all the rage, but if your rod is too fast there is an easy fix–just put a 6-weight line on your 5-weight and you will in effect change the action to a slower rod. Easy fix. All that being said, practice when you can and most of all Have Fun!!

  10. Talk is about trout fishing correct?

    So there are two disciplines to trout fishing, river and stillwater. Rarely(never) is a 100 foot cast necessary in rivers. So I wont go into it.

    Stillwater fishing is a different ball game though. Some guys through chronie rigs, they aren’t casting far. Others cast and retrieve scuds, leeches, etc. in the application of cast and retrieve, 100 feet casting is crucial to catching fish. The more fish you present the fly to, the greater chance of catching fish you have.
    Outside of this, knowing how to cast 20 feet, and knowing how to cast 20 feet into strong wind are different. in fact one could argue casting 20 feet into a strong wind is the same as casting 100 feet.

  11. Spot on Kent, if you wish to cast 100ft there are guns designed to do just that 10/14 wt. 5wts were originally designed for finesse casting for stream fishing.

  12. You got me, Mr. Cahill! You can cut the casting pond by 50 feet for most purposes, and that’s a plenty. At least for most freshwater fly fishing needs.

    I use glass up-close for trout fly fishing, and the faster graphite fly rods if I need the distance in larger water. “Driving the Ferrari around town” all the time is just plain stupid to me, and doesn’t equate to being an accomplished, overall fly fisherman.

    There is a place for the longer cast, though. Saltwater fly fishing with heavier weight fly rods and line, especially. There, accurate, long casts, even when battling the wind can be critical. But longer casts should just be a part of one’s overall talent, and at least to me, soft accuracy up-close can be just as impressive.

    Jack Nicklaus is a fine saltwater fly fisherman. He enjoys the sport in Florida, where he has a home. When watching one of his interviews I was more impressed with how he could cast a practice fly to land in David Ferrety’s lap or over his ear up-close, rather than making the longer casts for bonefish, while fishing the flats.

  13. Well, 100′ is not what I am interested in – unless I learn to spey cast sometime. While I have a high end rod that does pretty good at protecting light tippets, the last two months I have been using a 25 year old Fenwick Eagle 6 wgt. While it is graphite, it has a soft feel and loads just fine with a $30 line I got on sale. And the fish in the South Fork of the Snake don’t seem to mind that it isn’t the modern fast gun that sits in the garage now.

  14. In the early ’90s I gave up hunting for good and traded my 6mm Ruger for a Sage RPL 5wt 2 piece. At the time the rod was considered fast, now it’s called moderately fast or just right. I matched the rod with a Ross Gunnison reel and the combination is my go-to 90% of the time. The rod has become an extension of my arm and fits my less than perfect casting style. I fish the rivers and streams of Pennsylvania and a 5wt handles delicate drys, heavy nymphs, and whatever else I chuck. I’d love to see Sage reissue the RPL, a great trout rod in my opinion. Make it a commemorative or retro, tart it up with superior fittings and cork, but keep it a graphite III 2 piece with the same taper. Meanwhile, keep an eye on eBay.

  15. It has certainly translated to the fly line manufacturers. In an effort to match these rods, many of the top selling lines are designed to “launch” rather than to cast. Such a shame. Some of us truly enjoy casting…and casting realistic distances.

    Some of these lines have such aggressive tapers, their presentations are about as subtle as throwing a lawn chair into a swimming pool. But hey, they cast far, and apparently that’s what sells.

  16. Personally I am very much on the same page, I tell my clients that they are called Fishing Rods and not Casting Rods for a good reason. Other factors such as protection of light tippet, the ability to cast short and accurately without too much effort all play a part. That said, the distance fraternity do for fishing what formula One Racing does for motor vehicles, providing a front end limit. So better rings, slicker lines, better understanding of rod design can all feed back into genuine fishing rods. Commuter vehicles take some of the advances of racing cars and make engines more efficient, but they don’t all have to be stroked and bored, turbo aspirated, desmodronic valved monsters. Take the good and skip the bad.. Where most of us fish, accuracy, presentation, the ability to mend line and fish fine tippets are all more important for most of us than raw distance. Perhaps have a look at

  17. No one rod works for everything. If you only fish for one species maybe. When I throw big flies for northern pike in Canada I like a Sage Largemouth, when I fish for smallmouth in the Boundary Waters a Sage 5wt. TCX with a 6wt line is great. At home in Florida a TCX 9wt works for snook and redfish, a Scott 11wt Heliply for tarpon, or a Sage Bluegill for small bass and bream. When I go to North Carolina for trout it is a Scott 3wt SES or a Jim Reams 5wt bamboo. Right tool for the right application.

  18. Pingback: 8 Things That Are More Important Than A Long Cast | Fly Fishing | Gink and Gasoline | How to Fly Fish | Trout Fishing | Fly Tying | Fly Fishing Blog

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