I recently had the opportunity to cast an incredible 5wt rod, circa 1913 split cane attached to my fly with a leader from that its owner had been using since the 1972 [not an exaggeration]. Without counting, I estimated a minimum of 10 neatly tied blood knots along its 12 irreplaceable feet of silk braiding. At first glance I thought back to my first dirt bike, a 1982 Yamaha IT 200 with silver duct tape keeping the padding from falling out of its torn seat and zip ties stitching the front and rear, plastic fenders together; not to mention the foam pipe insulation place on the cross section of my handle bars acting as “protection.” This rod had unquestionably been fished and held great sentimental value.
As I lifted the rod its weight took me by surprise. For a second I thought the tip was stuck in one of those infamous unseen objects that grab your feet, in attempt to make you go swimming, while walking along shore line. However, I could see that the rod tip was lifting just fine; all 10 pounds of it. Balance had obviously not been thought of when this rod was built. It felt as if I had lifted it by the wrong end.
My first back cast went ok, then as I attempted my forward cast at a pace that would have been perfect with a graphite rod, I thought, “Well, this isn’t going to end well.” I was right. 30 feet of bunched up line and leader splashed heavily on the water only a few feet away from my feet. And to top it off, Reed chuckled loudly in the back ground.
Knowing I could drive the Sherman tank of a fly rod I was careful to watch my back cast slowly unwind behind and when I say slow, that is an understatement. As Reed so elegantly put it, “You can start your back cast, light up a cigarette, have a sip of coffee and still have to wait before making your forward cast.”
In the 20 years that I have been fly fishing, I had used only one rod until this past fall when a great friend gave me a TFO 9’, 5 wt. graphite rod that was half the weight of my 1990 8’ 6”, 5 wt. fiberglass Fenwick. The TFO had a noticeable difference in line speed which took some getting used to. The engineer in me couldn’t simply accept the fact that I felt as if I had to rush my casting in comparison to my Fenwick®, which only lead to more curiosity when I found that there was a thing called Fly Rod Flex Index that measures a rods action. Casting Reeds circa 1913 split cane rod made the lights come on and suddenly it all made perfect sense. Some rods are faster or slower than others and this particular rod was slower than a one legged dog on tranquilizers.
Once getting the timing down and learning to take my time [I mean, really taking your sweet arse time] the antique rod was a pleasure to cast.