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I would like to start a new thread.  I've been working on a taper and have been revisiting the archives.  This time something occurred to me. What differentiates a good rod from a bad one.  In looking at the stress curves of different rods, most show the greatest stress near the tip but some show the greatest stress at the butt.  Some are designed to distribute the stress evenly across the rod.  Some have a uniformly increasing diameter with various slopes to the change while others have the "parabolic" change.  Some are "smooth" tapers while others have multiple radical changes in slope of the taper.

What I am getting at is that looking at the curves, basically any "stick" of bamboo would fall into near/on one of these tapers.  There is a pretty wide latitude between the "fast" rods in the archive and the "slow" ones.  In other words, give a monkey a knife and some strips of bamboo. Let him whittle them and glue the results together and (within reason) it would fit within the range of tapers in the archive when matched to the right(?) line.  So, what makes a good taper? (Onis Cogburn)

    I could be facetious and answer your question, "one I designed", but actually I don't know if there is such a thing as a bad rod.  I made a very slow parabolic taper once, and when an expert casting instructor tried it and handed it back with the comment "It's no damned good."  I just figured I'd keep it for myself.  Then another caster tried it and nearly broke my arm twisting it to sell to him.  He claimed he could cast a full fly line with little effort.  I think that the differentiation between good and bad is largely a subjective one.  On the other hand I once cast a very renowned rod maker's rod and thought it a piece of crap, but I noticed that many of the guys on the list have made that same taper and praised it.  Go figure.  (Ralph Moon)

    I've been struck with the way you can have two experienced casters, who describe the behavior of a "good rod" in similar terms, but who prefer different taper styles. One may like straight tapers like Garrison's, the  other may be talking about very compound tapers like a Phillipson, or a so-called "parabolic" rod (one that flexes a lot in the butt while having a relatively stiff tip and mid section). I think an individual's body dynamics must have a lot to do with the tapers he or she prefers, so I suspect it's as much a question of a good match between a person and a rod as it is "good rod, bad rod."

    My personal answer to "good rod" is a taper that, when cast gently, flexes mainly in the top third of the rod, but when pushed for more power flexes rather deeply into the butt. At least that's how I experience them. The ones I like have tapers like the Phillipson 8 1/2 ft 5 wt PowerPakt. When you graph these tapers (with distance from the tip along the x axis and flat-to-flat dimension along the y axis) you get a line with a characteristic shape. Just about where each ferrule is located you have a steep section (an area where the shaft is getting thicker at a faster rate - that is, a stiff area). Just before and after these steep areas are relatively flat areas (where the rod does not thicken as quickly - these areas flex more as the energy of a cast travels down the rod shaft). These are VERY compound tapers, compared to Garrison-like tapers where the line on the graph goes up at about the same slope the whole way (after the first few inches), or a "parabolic" rod where the line is like a long low hump, which approaches a flat line in the butt. To me, the different shapes of these lines are easy to translate into the action of a rod, which I find difficult to do when looking at stress curves. Anyway, that's my idea of a good rod.

    I haven't seen comments on this on the list, but I think these tapers I like lend themselves to 3-piece construction because the extra stiffness at the ferrules actually helps. Other tapers might not work so well in 3 pieces and would be better in two or even one piece. But I don't think a taper of the kind I like would be much better as a one-piece rod, because as I said the ferrules seem to help. This is just my impression, I haven't tried it.  Those on the list who like one-piece rods - what kind of tapers do you use for them?  (Barry Kling)


I have been following this discussion with a great deal of interest, and I would like to make a few observations.

#1  I would like to know what constitutes a good rod.  I have told this story before on the list and I beg your pardon for repeating.  A FFF certified casting instructor cast one of my early self designed rods and after three casts handed it back with disgust that the rod ain't no good.  OK  Now angler no. 2 comes along and after breaking the mid section of his Leonard rod took my rod and fell so deeply in love with it he broke both arms trying to buy it from me.  I have great respect for both guys.  But how can they be so diametrically opposed considering the same rod.  My opinion?, one of my better designs, but it takes a capable fly caster to make it do its best. Second point on this question.  Again I have told this story to the list, but here goes again.  I once had the good fortune to cast a Garrison rod.  Compared with a cheap Montague Sunbeam, I would have taken 1 Sunbeam to 10 of the Garrisons (as a fishing tool now, not for investment)  My opinion of the Garrison was that it was a poorly designed and flawed rod.  (Beat me, I have blasphemed).  The Sunbeam was a sweet casting little gem that frankly looked like hell, but was a FLYROD.  Now in my experience the name of the rodmaker and his reputation are not in and of themselves indicative of a "good rod"  The action of the rod does not necessarily determine if it is "good" or not.  So  What is a good rod.  When you can answer this question then we can go on to determine how to produce a good rod.

#2  How do we do it???  I started out just after Garrison's book was published designing my rods by his techniques.  It was laborious    and    time    consuming.     Results.     Two   designs and permutations that I consider to be as good as any I have ever cast.  One that was a perfect abomination and two or three that were mediocre to good.  I don't think that the Garrison way is the way to go, since it produced for me at least varying degrees of success.  I still wonder though if someone might really like the design I despised.

#3  Tweaking.  Here is where I get spammed.  I have always considered rod building to be a creative process.  The rod builder like the painter selects his medium (bamboo or paint), his tools (a brush or a plane) and this theme.  Now I recall very few painters who went around painting masterpieces that were exact copies of another painter.  Sure lots of students copy, but the master creates.  In rod building Some great names have created rod designs that have become masterpieces.  What right do we have to copy their work and then tweak it.  That is not to say that I have never used someone else's' design.  I have done so and will do so again, if I have a direct commission to do so.  I DO NOT THINK I HAVE THE RIGHT TO TWEAK THE DESIGN OF ONE OF THE MASTERS.

I'll probably think of some more later, but I have gone on long enough for now.   (Ralph Moon)

    Great questions, and I have my answer to the first one.  A great rod is one I can cast well and is suited to the circumstances for which it is currently being used.

    The "well suited to the circumstances" part is pretty objective.  Everything else is very subjective.   There are great rods I have a dickens of a time trying to cast. I know they're great because casters better than I think so, and I value their opinion.  I, however, don't like them because they are not suited to my skill level/style, or I am not suited to theirs.

    Everything from the caster to the line to the weather affect the rod and it's response.  I know this is obvious but it's why even the accepted ideas may have discussed become to some degree subjective.

    What an education for a newbie!!!!  (John Dotson)

    There is a fellow that many of us know that can take most any decent rod and cast a full line.  By his own admission, he can't cast a Para (at that time, anyway). Now, that is his definition of "can't cast", which means he can throw more line with one than I can, but the fact remains that to his way of thinking, there are vast differences in the rods. He doesn't disparage the Paras at all, he just wasn't comfortable with the timing, and could not make one perform to his satisfaction.

    I'm pretty well of the opinion that many of the classic tapers were developed empirically. They built rods, and cast rods, until they worked.  I'm pretty happy using those tapers. Now, that said, we have multiple versions of many tapers. We don't know if the maker developed different tapers, or if it is a result of a measurement error, or a typo. In many cases, our tapers were taken over varnish, with the thickness estimated. All that adds up to where I wouldn't feel guilty if I saw something I didn't like and decided to change it.  (Larry Blan)

      Your man sounds like a good distance caster, so he won't like a rod designed for short range work, just like someone who only fishes streams will like a Para, but won't like fast tapers at all.  (Robin Haywood)


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