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March 17, 2011 / flogginwater

Long Rods – THE way to fish (most of the time)

I’ve gone through a lot of trends as an angler. I’ve been a hard core worm drowning machine, to chucking power bait on sliding weight setups, to ditching bait and becoming a die hard fly fisherman – to easing off on the fly-only attitude and becoming as much of an artificial lure guy. I’ve done short rods, long rods, heavy rods, and light rods. I’ve been fishing almost as long as I’ve been alive – the earliest memories I’ve got from fishing are when I was about 3 years old – fishing out of a little 11 foot fiberglass boat boat with my old man and my brother, or occasionally out of a 12 or 14 foot wooden boat rented down at Diamond Lake, and fishing with the old man and mom. Then there was the time I was four years old, fishing off one of the docks on Lake Merwin in SW Washington, casting a 5 inch purple & red paddle tail rubber worm under an old red & white clip on bobber with my trusty Zebco 404. I don’t think the old man ever expected me to catch anything with it – but I wanted to fish, and I think he wanted me to shut up. So I heaved that rubber worm out with all my might – and wouldn’t you know it – a 16 inch Koke thought that looked like a good meal. That was my first big fish.

I also remember being mad as hell at the old man for grabbing the rod out of my hands when the fish dove under the dock – it was *my* fish, damnit! I’ve finally let him live that down, more or less. That was only 25 years ago.

Through all these ups and downs – I’ve settled on a few ideas. First – I like light tackle fishing. For me there’s more “sport” to it – it’s more fun to catch fish on light gear, light gear being subjective of course. Light tackle trout fishing might mean rods & reels suitable for 1-4lb test line and tiny lures. Light tackle for coho salmon might mean rods rated for 6-10lb line. Light tackle for kings would be going with rods rated upto 20lb test. Light tackle is subjective – and doesn’t mean I’m going steelheading with my trout rod. Well, maybe on small creeks that only get hatchery fish – because all hatchery fish must die – and preferably wind up on my grill…

For fly fishing – that means I like rods 4 weight and lighter. I do fish my 5/6, and occasionally heavier rods – but the average trout in the waters I normally fish would barely put a bend in a rod heavier than a 6. Where’s the fun in that? For these light rods, I like rod lengths between 6 and 9 feet – the short rods being more tactic or water specific. I fully intend to scrape up the money to get a new TFO 6′ 2 weight rod this year, to replace the one I sold a few years back when I needed the cash. That rod, while not a general duty rod – was a GREAT panfish rod, and a wonderful small stream dry fly rod. Small streams and dry flies going hand in hand, of course.

I tend to gravitate to rods in the 8-8’6″ range for most of my fishing though. These rods seem to have that wonderful balance of backbone, light weight, and casting ability.

On the gear side of things – I’ve come to the conclusion that longer is better, especially for all but the bushiest of streams. For years my go-to rod has been my Okuma Celilo 7’6″ rod. It’s a wonderful rod, but I’ve always felt that it was lacking something – length. I’ve wanted a much longer rod for a while. I’ve found one recently that *almost* is what I’m looking for – it’s the newly revamped Okuma Celilo – this one in 8’6″, also ultra light in rating. The thing that slightly annoys me about my new longer Celilo – is that I only gained about 6 usable inches in overall rod length, for a rod 12 inches longer than my old standby. This is partly accomplished from the down locking reel seat on the new rod, vs up locking on the old one. The new rod has a longer grip – which I’m not necessarily fond of. While it looks alright – I’d much rather have had a rod with a shorter grip (I don’t need the leverage a long grip provides for 2 handed casting with such a small outfit – I’m not lobbing three pounds of lead half a mile into the surf with this rod) and much more rod out in front of the cork.

For the type of fishing I do most of – more rod ahead of the reel seat is a plus. It’s better for line control when fishing flowing waters, it allows longers casts when I need longer casts, it lets me shove the rod tip further under water when I want a lure to run deep, and gives me more leverage against the fish when playing it – which is nice when playing big fish on light line.

So my quest to find the holy grail of light spinning rods isn’t over – but I am still happy with my Okumas. You won’t see me buying a rod shorter than 7′ for my spinning needs any time soon – longer is better. I will even say that on busy, cramped streams, the longer rod still makes more sense – as it will let you poke through the brush and flip a lure into a tight pocket, or just poke through and drop the lure in the right current seam. You don’t need a lot of casting room for such activities. In this vein, I can’t wait to try out my new Shakespeare Durango panfish rod – a 12 foot telescoping graphite rod that has no reel, no guides – just a tip top that you tie your line onto. This will surely see double duty from fishing lures, to tenkara style fly fishing on small streams this year. I’ve already got a 9′ 4X dry fly leader setup for it, that will also work great for fishing trout magnets, chenille jigs, and small spinners with (over broken water, so as not to spook the fish). I’m excited.

Other rods on my list of gear to get is the Cabela’s Fish Eagle 11’6″ light action rod. The model I’m eying up is rated 4-8lb line, and has a similar feel to it as my 7’6″ Okuma, which is rated 4-10lb and is also light action. The Fish Eagle rod would serve doubly well as a good float rod for steelhead jig fishing.

I’m planning to try my hand at building a custom spinning rod, if I can scrape up funds for the components I want. I absolutely love my Okumas, and they will still be my go to rods – but I really want to try making a nice 9, or 9’6″ light spinning rod off of a fly rod blank (fly rod blanks have thinner, more sensitive and responsive tips, and are generally smaller in diameter throughout the rod, with thicker walls than the average spinning rod, making them stronger blanks also). With this, I can use the exact components I want, with the handle design I want. The perfect Trout Magnet fishing machine is what I intend to build.

Why do I dislike short rods? It’s not that I dislike them – but they don’t offer the same advantages longer rods offer, in most scenarios. Shorter rods make you work harder to cast farther, although shorter rods can be better for close in, precision casting. Shorter rods tend to be stiffer than their longer counterparts with a similar line or power rating. I like a little more of a slower action for most of my fishing. Shorter rods aren’t as fun to fight a fish on either, most of the time.

Short rods are alright for bait fishing from a boat, where you don’t need to cast, and often times you’re just dropping bait over the side and waiting for a fish to eat. I still like my long rods for that, too. Short rods are great for skipping lures under docks with low clearance, it takes more effort with a long rod to do that. Short rods suck for drift fishing. They can’t mend line very well, they can’t keep line off the water, unless you are 10 feet tall and have arms that hang down to your feet. They don’t let you work a lure over as much water with a zig-zag retrieve (where you sweep the rod tip side to side as you retrieve it). They don’t let you plunge the tip under water and reach the same depths as long rods do, even when taking in rod flex. They don’t let you reach out over an underwater ledge nearly as well when fishing rivers or creeks – meaning you’ve either got to wade closer to the edge, or not fish it as effectively with certain methods.

Yes, they’ve got a place – they just don’t have much of a place in my quiver of rods. I like a rod that’s at least 6 feet long, 7+ feet being better.

My wife, on the other hand, likes shorter rods – she uses a 6′ Celilo, and a 4′ Quantum Teton (the newest model to bear the Teton name) as her main rods. She says my 7+ footers are too heavy for her. Personal preferences. Usually when she fishes with me, we’re fishing from a boat, and she tends to prefer trolling spinners, or casting to near-by structure. She still catches fish, so I don’t say anything about her rod choices.

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