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If I may be allowed to pontificate on the subject of 5 foot fly rods.

I fish a lot in the small local streams in my area, where a lot of them are so small I can jump across them without getting my feet wet, the bushes grow right up to the bank and the tree branches sometimes totally cover over the water. I also like to hike up to higher elevation streams in the Sierra Mountains. and they for the most part are fairly small also.

So, I have put a lot of thought and effort into designing a 5 ft. fly rod. I chose 5 feet for a length for no better reason than I wanted a rod shorter than a 7 ft. Sir D that I usually use, I wanted to try a one piece rod, and my planing form is 5 feet long.

One consideration for the way I use a short rod is that casts longer than 15 - 20 feet are very rare, most casts are from a few feet to 15 feet. A 15 foot cast is still in the front taper of a fly line (don't forget the length of the leader), so making the rod for something like a 5 wt. line isn't good. Usually ends up being too stiff.

This part is a little counterintuitive - I made the rod taper slow. At first it seemed like I would want to make a fast rod, and I did - a fast 2 - 3 weight, and it ended up being terrible until I put a 5 weight on it. what did the 5 wt. line do? It slowed the rod down, loaded it more and made it bend down to the handle - sounds like a slow rod....

In thinking about that for a bit I realized that if I looked at the casting in terms of actual lengths of the portions of a rod that do the work of casting - on my fast 7 ft. rod 4 to 5 feet of the rod is flexing during a cast - maybe I should get 4 to 5 feet of the short rod flexing during the cast, not 3 feet. I needed the same amount of work from the bamboo to cast the same amount of line. Everything pointed to making a slow taper for a short rod.

So I tried that. On paper the stress chart looks like a slow rod. In actual usage it does not feel like a slow rod due to the weight is a lot less, and there are probably leverage effects in there too. Another benefit of a slow taper - the rod roll casts very well also.

But - the slow 5 ft. rod did not cast distances past 25 - 30 feet very well. I could live with that for awhile, but occasionally I did need cast farther. That lead me to try an extended swell just in front of the handle. I was hoping that if I lengthened out the swell it would take the flexing energy during a cast, store it and give it back. I may be deluding myself in thinking that that is the way it works, but in any case I now have a 5 ft. rod that I can cast out to about 45 - 50 feet, roll casts well, and still handles short casts without a feeling of being overly stiff.  (Darryl Hayashida)

    The small streams that I fish are somewhat similar to what Darryl describes, very tight quarters. My belief is that light lines are not desirable in the situation. Basically, you need to get into position and make a cast with no flailing around. Presentation or delicacy is not the issue; approach is  the issue. On the one hand, you need a responsive tip to make short casts, on the other hand, if you get to an area where you can cast longer, you need to have enough butt strength to do it. The only way to do that with a short rod is to cram a lot of taper into it. In other words, a fast rod.

    The 5 1/2 footer at the Rodmakers site was derived from a mighty mite taper, but not the one also listed at Rodmakers. I found the original to be way too stiff, but it would carry a lot of line in the air.  What I did was revamp the first 20" of the taper, dropping the tip from .084 to .062, which is pretty drastic. The new rod would still carry a lot of line, but would now cast a tight loop with with little more than the leader outside the tiptop. I stretched the rod 6" by extending the butt for a bit more distance capability. If I were starting from scratch today, I would likely have smoothed out the "hinge" in the middle. I'll bet that would be a mistake.   (Tom Smithwick)

    One of my all time favorite rods is Bob Nunley's 504a. It is a one piece, and the taper is in the taper archives. I have made 10 or 12 of these, and they have all gotten raves from the folks who won them at various sporting banquets. I can cast it in my basement, and I sent the fly an honest 50 feet on the Nantahala to nail a 20 inch brown. I am still trying to figure out what makes that taper perform so well.

    I would urge those of you interested in short rods to try one. One thing to note- make it with a short reel seat of 3 inches. It changes everything. You will have to use a short cap, thin ring, and a small reel, but it will be worth it. Like D. Hayashida describes, I have turned this taper into a two piece by simply cutting the finished blank it half. the two piece version casts just fine.

    One other thing to note, when you make a rod like this, be sure and get a bag that has an extra pocket for a stiffener. It really supports the rod during transport, and makes it very easy to get it out of the case without putting the tip in harms way.

    The only bad thing about this taper is that I have so many requests for it that I haven't made many other rods this past year. Planing a long rod is a bit tricky, so have some extra strips handy for your first try at one.  (Jeff Schaeffer)


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