by Charlie Downs
My favorite rod? Might as well ask me what my favorite beer is. The answer is the same for both questions – “whichever I have in my hand at the time”.
I remember clearly the anguish I experienced many years ago trying to decide what to buy for my first “good” fly rod. Up to that point, I’d only owned one rod, a Heddon “Pal” and the Pflueger reel that I had gotten as a Christmas gift when I was ten years old. I still have both the rod and the reel, and like their owner, they have weathered nicely thank you.
This was well before the availability of information on the Internet so I’d perused stacks of tackle catalogs in my quest to find the perfect rod. Did I mention that my disposable income at the time was what you might refer to as severely limited? So armed with a head full of other people’s opinions on what constituted the ideal rod, I went to visit Fred Pfister, the owner of “The Sporting Tradition”, the Orvis fly shop in Lexington, KY. My fishing at that time consisted almost solely of occasional forays into the Great Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee, and I wanted a rod that would be appropriate for the small streams and tight casting conditions that were prevalent there.
Fred patiently explained the merits of the different rod lengths and line weights, strongly recommending an 8’6” 5 wt. Wow, that sure looked like an awful lot of rod for the little fish I was accustomed to catching in the park! I listened intently to his sage advice regarding longer rods equaling better line control, ease of mending, versatility in fly choice, etc., then completely ignored his advice and settled for a 7’ 4wt rod of modest cost.
I still have that rod too. I’ve taught a number of people to fish with it over the intervening years and fished my beloved mountain streams happily using it for a long while.
When my financial situation improved somewhat, I invested in a second rod, this time following Fred’s advice and buying an 8’6” 5wt. It went on the next Smokies trip and I was surprised at how much more line control I had with the extra length. I was able to “dap” a dry fly in pockets of water without laying any line at all onto the water! When I did make a longish cast, it was much easier to mend line with the added length. How about that! The fly shop guy knew what he was talking about! That happens sometimes.
The point of this long-winded harangue is that all of the many rods that I fish with now are a “favorite” for different reasons depending on the fishing situation. A short rod is certainly handy for bushwhacking a rhododendron tangle, but that long rod will allow you to stay back away from the water farther on a small stream resulting in fewer spooked fish.
Whenever someone comes into the shop now, looking to buy a first or first “good” rod I find myself passing on Fred’s wisdom. Whether it’s one of the fine Scott A3s, the many St. Croix models or the very affordable Redington rods, I recommend they go with an 8’-8’6” 5wt. Then I let them make up their own minds. There really is no “wrong” choice. C.D.