What is Recovery Rate and How Does It Affect Fly-Rod Action?

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

By Louis Cahill

When we refer to a fly-rod as being fast or slow, what we are talking about is recovery rate.

Recovery rate simply means how quickly does the bent rod return to its natural, straight position. This recovery rate is inherent to the rod and can be observed whether the rod is under a load, as in casting a fly line, or just getting a good wiggle at the fly shop. The wiggle, however, is not a good test of recovery rate and even casting a rod it can be hard to judge the recovery against another rod without being pretty thorough about it.

So how do you quantify the recovery rate of a fly rod?

One method which is informal but better than the wiggle, is to grip the rod in your hand and punch that hand into the palm of your other hand. This gives the rod a very positive stop and if you pay attention you can judge how long it takes for the rod to flex down and back up. It works but is still pretty unscientific.

Steve Greist of Sage showed me a very cool trick for judging recovery rate and I asked him to share it. Steve has a pretty unique job at Sage. He is a materials designer and a pretty impressive dude. His job is to create new ways of combining carbon fiber and resins to create new materials, and those materials, more than anything else, determine recovery rate. When you hear about Sage’s Konnetic technology, thats what they are talking about, Steve’s material. He works directly with the companies who produce the fibers and his lab produces materials which sometimes go on to be used by companies like Boeing.

So to judge the recovery rate of his material, Steve does something interesting. He drops it. He makes untapered blanks and drops them on a hard surface. The impact sets off a vibration in the blank. This vibration is transferred into the air as sound waves, just like a guitar string or wind chime. The higher the pitch, the faster the recovery rate. Simply brilliant.

So if you want to judge the recovery rate of a fly rod, try dropping a mid section on the counter top at the fly shop. I’m not suggesting you simply buy the rod that sounds best but you will gather some good information to help you decide.

Here’s a question for you to think about. What was I doing in the Materials Lab at Sage? You will be finding out soon.

Watch, and listen, to this video to see Steve Greist perform a resonance test in the Sage Materials Lab.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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7 thoughts on “What is Recovery Rate and How Does It Affect Fly-Rod Action?

  1. Boing- isn’t that the company that makes those super balls you get out of the vending machine for a quarter.

    Sorry, couldn’t resist

  2. I can not resist commenting….your write ups are pretty darn good, but please!…..being a composites engineer and fly fisherman, wow. Not good. Fast action does not equate fast recovery, but it helps due to the distance and mass of the portion of the rod that travels to recover. Fast glass with have lower recovery. Is this important? Has it deterred the glass fans? No. So a fast rod that is high mod and light weight will recover faster than a slow rod with higher weight or lower modulus materials like bamboo or glass. So what.
    And dropping a blank to determine recovery? Please. Extremely unscientific! This is called ringing. Higher pitch indicates higher modulus, lower void content (higher compaction), lower resin content, and lower mass. This doesn’t say anything about taper and wall thickness, not to mention a bend profile that will actually load a fly line less than 50ft!

  3. Pingback: Three Good Articles | Fly Fishing Articles from Other Websites

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