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The One about Rods

You can think about fly rods like any other commercialized good - there are standard tiers of quality, price points, and perceived street cred / status associated with different brands. Luckily for all of us, the technology behind fly rod design and manufacture is to the point where even very reasonably priced rods - $150-350 - can compete with all but the very highest end rods ($1k and up) in terms of actually being a tool for casting a fly line and catching fish. Even then, the full range of ability of these top tier rods are generally out of reach of the average caster, despite plenty of marketing material claiming otherwise.

For your own knowledge and reference, there are three main materials associated with making fly rods, in order of old to new: bamboo, fiberglass, and graphite.

There are still a few bamboo rod makers around today, but most of the rods were made decades ago and are now considered prestige items when you can find them, with cults of rod collectors and a vibe similar to guitar enthusiasts who care more about the history than using the instrument. These collector rods are the ones that can get crazy expensive, in the many thousands of dollars for a mint rod from a particularly well-known maker.

Fiberglass was revolutionary when it came on the scene, and in many ways it opened up the market to lower income brackets. Fiberglass rods tend to be more clunky and wobbly than either bamboo or graphite, but some people love them for that aspect. We have recently seen a resurgence in the fiberglass rod market, with some companies selling new and improved versions and some selling that old school appeal.

Graphite is the favorite child and currently the best, cheapest material we have for making fly rods. Most rods are manufactured overseas (especially in South Korea), but a few are manufactured entirely in the US. As you would expect, these are typically the most expensive.

Other materials that people have made rods out of include everything from flex steel, aluminum, carbon fiber, hemp fiber, boron fiber... and those are just the ones I know about. A few of these limited edition rods are also quite expensive, north of $2k.

I feel very strongly that an accomplished caster should be able to cast pretty much any rod with a line designed for that rod. It might not be comfortable, and it might not work in all fishing situations, but the foundation of casting mechanics will allow you to cast any rod. Only by increasing your understanding and repertoire of technique can you climb to the top of the pyramid.

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