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The Fly Rod-breakin’ Blues - Joe Mahler

July 12, 2022 4 min read

Fly rod breakage

At one time or another in every fly fisher’s life he will find himself quietly looking down at a broken rod. That sinking feeling. Maybe it was a favorite, or maybe it’s the night before a bonefish trip. There are many ways to break a rod and, over the years, I have been guilty of more than my share. Sometimes the fault lies in the rod, but more likely it is operator error. If you buy a quality rod in today’s market, you can expect that it will come with a “no questions asked” guarantee. The rod maker will repair or replace your rod, but you will be out of commission for a few days or a few weeks and you will pay a shipping and handling charge from $50-$100, depending on the manufacturer. Here are some of the most common causes of breakage and a few tips for keeping your favorite rods in service.

High Sticking

 

 

It is estimated that 75% of breaks are not related to fighting fish. Of the remaining 25%, almost all can be attributed to high-sticking. High-sticking occurs when the rod is raised to the vertical when fighting a fish or freeing a snag, placing undue stress on the tip section of the rod. It makes for a striking pose in oil paintings and catalog covers, but here in Florida it can quickly turn your four-piece rod into a five-piece model. A better choice is to apply side-pressure forming a deep bend in the rod. For freeing a snag try a quick side-to-side motion, or roll-casting toward the snag. If breaking off is necessary, point the rod tip directly at the fly and pull the line steadily. 

Fly rod breakage

Another type of high-sticking is gripping the rod above the cork handle when fighting a fish in hopes of gaining leverage. In many cases, this will hinder the action and place too much tension on the weakest part of the rod.  

Stringing up

Fly rod breakage

Some rods are broken before the fishing starts. When stringing up your rod, be sure to pull an ample amount of fly line through the tip and pull straight out while cradling the rod in the opposite hand. Pulling against the rod will result in a “U” formation in the top six-to-eight inches of the rod and likely cause breakage.

Nicks from weighted flies

Heavily weighted flies can be deadly on fish and equally deadly on fly rods. When a passing fly collides with the rod, a nick can occur, weakening the blank. This weak spot is usually discovered when fighting a big fish or making a particularly long cast. To avoid this, open your casting loop or use an elliptical or “Belgian-style” cast. Many top-quality rod blanks have high-tech resin coatings to resist impact. If you regularly fish with weighted flies, the extra money spent will be well worth it. 

Improper seating of ferrules

Fly rod breakage

Multi-piece rods come equipped with flexible ferules to give the most uniform action. In order for them to perform, they must be securely seated. Loose connections will give a “wobbly” feel when casting and can possibly break from the inside out. To properly seat your rod, push together with guides ¼ turn off and then rotate into position. When taking apart, reverse by turning the rod sections ¼ turn in the opposite direction and then pulling apart.

Keep ferrules lubricated by applying paraffin, candle wax, or bar soap. If your rod is hopelessly stuck together, enlist the help of a buddy. Each of you should place one hand on each side of the connection and pull apart. Rods that are left assembled for extended periods tend to be the hardest to free.  

Walking with rod in hand 

To avoid breakage by “feeding” your rod to a tree or bush, simply carry your rod with the tip pointed behind you, leaving the rod strung. Many rod tips have been left behind by catching the top eye on a limb and pulling the rod apart and not having the line to keep it together. Better yet, break your rod down when hiking through heavy brush. 

Boating a big fish

Fly rod breakage

When a big fish comes to the boat, things can happen fast. It is sometimes necessary to stick the rod deep in the water for a final dash under the boat. A rod under full load that touches the gunwale is likely to explode. Once the line is grabbed by hand immediately allow slack and plenty of it. From this point on, the fish should be hand-lined to submission, but be ready if the fish makes another run.

Road Rage 

Car doors, trunk lids and tail gates have all claimed their share of rod casualties, but my latest close call came when I left my rod and reel on top of my car. Luckily, as I drove away, I saw my outfit hit the road out of the corner of my eye. Amazingly, it resulted in only a little “Road Rash” to my reel. 

Fly rod breakage

I had always heard of rods falling prey to ceiling fans, but frankly I never really saw the danger. One day I walked into my family room, holding an assembled rod and looking toward the “Breaking News” on the television. News Flash: Ceiling fans do break rods. Sliding-glass doors, spring-loaded doors, narrow hallways, and lanai screens also pose potential hazards around the house. It is always best to disassemble your rod outside. And one last word of caution- DOGS LOVE CORK!

I hope that you will find these tips useful, and wish you and your rod many days of great fishing.

Author

Joe Mahler fly casting

Joe Mahler is one of the USA's leading fly casting instructors and author and illustrator of “Essential Knots & Rigs for Trout” and “Essential Knots & Rigs for Salt Water”. You can Book a fly casting lesson with Joe via his website here

 


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8 Responses

Auburn
Auburn

July 18, 2022

great!

Adam Payne
Adam Payne

July 18, 2022

Great article. I have just one question, what do we do with rod sections that are broken or even entire rods that are broken beyond repair? I’ve been pondering this question for quite a while now and have been looking at ways to reduce landfill of broken fishing rods. Each time I am at a local stillwater fishery I chjecvk if they have any rods that are being thrown away and if there are take them home. I then try and find other uses for them. So far I have managed to recycle them into tippet holders, tippet bars and have recovered the rod rings and other components with the aim of producing a rod from recycled components. I have also made beads from the broken rod sections rods and recycled the cork rod handle and the beads into a fishing lanyard. So far I have probably stopped about 10 rods form ending up in land fill. Not a huge amount but it’s just me and I have a day job, kids and also like to go fishing occaisionally. As an industry we don’t recycle enough and if we take a long hard look at ourselves I would say our use of materials is pretty bad! I want to change that nad I’m looking for ways in which to do that. My current project is to produce a rod which utilises mostly recycled materials. I have pretty much all the componenets which I have recycled from broken rods and I am currently making the rod handle from champagne and cava corks recycled from my neighbours. I would love to do this with an Epic fly rod but unfortunately don’t have the funds! Anyway I will see what I can find and provide an update at some stage!

Hal
Hal

July 18, 2022

You can add sliding down a steep bank with your rod pointing forward. I was told it was a very graceful slide, but when my 5wt stopped my slide into the water tip first, that ended the day. Yes, the tip got replaced but during the earlier days of the pandemic, the makers could only have one person in the same shop room at a time. It took over 6 months to get my rod back.

Rick Chavez
Rick Chavez

July 18, 2022

Well done .

Michael McMahon
Michael McMahon

July 18, 2022

I use one of the toe separators that
my wife wears home from pedicure and some magnetic tape to create rod
holders. Just stick it to the side of your vehicle, place your rod into it and string away. Haven’t had a rod tip vs a car or truck in years. If there are no pedicure people in your family, you can find the separators in the beauty aisle of most super markets.
Tight Lines

G.
G.

July 18, 2022

All excellent tips. Amazing how many videos you see, made by supposed authorities, who make many of these mistakes.-Particlarly holding the rod way up in the air. Never understood that. Also, all the preaching by some certified instructors all gung-ho about tight loops. We all make a mistake now and then.
I recently broke a bamboo rod at a ferrule. I was practice casting on grass and a leader knot caught a weed on the backcast just as I started forward. Luckily, it was not a difficult fix, but shortened the rod a bit..

Bryan Signal
Bryan Signal

July 18, 2022

Thanks folks guilty of a couple of these

Kind wish and have a good day

Wolfgang Szutie
Wolfgang Szutie

July 18, 2022

You neglected to state that when the bonefish goes underneath your boat while trying to unhook it to bring aboard. Once the fish goes under your boat, release the line rather than continuing to hold the line taut and the rod bending close to 180 degrees…..

The other rod breaking scenario, is after cast after cast, stripping the line and having the baby Tarpon follow it. The Tarpon is within one-two inches from the fly and suddenly turns away to either the right or left and will not take the fly. I believe that if this happened to Lefty Kreh, he would have taken the rod and broke it into two large pieces. I know, because only the guide stopped me from doing it while baby Tarpon fishing alongside the mangrove trees in Campeche Mexico!

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