The current trend in fly fishing is for less expensive equipment. There are pop up rod companies sporting fly rods, that are “just as good if not better” than some of the more well known fly rod brands. With that, we’re here today to go against the grain and make an argument for expensive fly rods. This is not an argument against the lesser expensive fly rod companies but more of a validation of some of the major brands.
Fly fishing is not an “inexpensive” sport. Like a lot of other enjoyable outdoor activities, skiing, golf, or biking, fly fishing equipment can be really expensive. And just like a lot of other outdoor activities and sports equipment, there is a reason expensive fly fishing gear is expensive.
One question we hear a lot, “is an expensive fly rod that much better than a cheap one?” We’re not here to answer that question, but what we will do is show the things to consider while researching a fly rod for purchase. Things like research and development, construction, craftsmanship, etc.
When purchasing a fly rod, the adage “buy the best you can afford” applies. Have you ever seen Tiger Woods, use a cheap set of irons? An expensive fly rod will not make you a better fly angler, but a skilled fly angler will understand and feel the difference in a quality fly rod and will take your fly fishing experience to the next level.
Research, Development & Materials
In the last century, fly rod construction has seen dramatic improvements in materials and design. Innovation in taper design, materials, and construction are all on the cutting edge. All these things take research, development, and time. The idea of working within the constraints of fit, feel, comfort, and accessibility all have to be worked into the design of a fly rod. It’s this research and development is where a hefty portion of the cost of a fly rod. When there is innovation in fly rod development, it’s usually R&D from a major brand that has the resources to develop innovation.
In terms of materials, it takes research to make sure the right materials are used the right way. It’s no accident that graphite is now used in the majority of fly rods produced. Even within the world of graphite, there are special technologies that are considered for better performance, durability, strength, all while weighing less. The modulus and tonnage ratings are how a fly rod’s strength to weight ratio is measured. A fly rod with a higher modulus or tonnage has a better strength to weight ratio, resulting in a better performing rod. Material technology and design are major considerations that will impact the cost of a fly rod.
The way things are built, how they are built, and where they are built is a sign of quality fly rod. Many of the famous rod manufacturers of high-end fly rods are built in the United States of America. Part of the reason is they have stringent requirements on the actual manufacturing process, and quality control at this level is more expensive. Producing a consistently high-quality product is paramount. Some companies will sacrifice production quantity to make sure the quality of the build is near perfection. This by no means is not a knock on fly rods, built-in other countries. There are a lot of very high-quality fly rods made in other countries. This is strictly a statement on the quality control process of high-end fly rods as part of the expense.
The quality of the comments used on a high-end fly rod is also much better. Slick guides, cork quality, reel seat, and even the rod tube can up the cost of a fly rod. Stripping guides are made of two parts, the frame and the inner ring, that also have different performance levels based on material, density, and weight. Higher-end fly rods will usually have lighter, smoother, and thinner inserts, allowing for better performance.
Not all cork is the same. The rod price is directly proportional to the quality of cork used. Cork, like many other things, is graded. The highest-rated cork or often referred to as Flor Grade cork. A Flor grade cork will be fuller and cleaner in appearance and will not have as many voids or cracks.
Reel Seat & Components
The reel seat will contribute to the cost of a high-end fly rod. Some will say the reel seat doesn’t make a difference, and the insert is only for design purposes. We disagree. A poorly designed reel seat with locking rings that don’t have gaskets can lead to a bad day when your reel falls off your rod while you’re out on the water. We do admit there are some pretty reel seats out there.
The warranty policy of a rod is a contributing factor in the cost of a fly rod. The more expensive the fly rod usually signals a better warranty policy.
Just like anything else, cheap is cheap, and fly rods are no different. A good quality fly rod is what it costs because of everything that goes into building it. Ultimately, a high-end fly rod will fish and feel better than a lower-end fly rod and allow for a better experience. The trick is, will you be able to feel the difference? Your casting skill, fish fighting ability, and the fly line will make a difference in rod performance. A fly rod is a timeless piece of gear. You get out of it what you put into it. With simple care and mindfulness, it can last a lifetime.
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