In the history of Fly Fishing it is now past the advent of the “slow” action rod, perhaps it’s more of a “second coming” or as audiophiles like to classify things “second-wave” of slow. While many of us who are fans of full flex are celebrating there are many who don’t share our enthusiasm. In fact there are many who are either new to the sport or new to slow action rods that hate the damn thing. To understand and utilize the value, purpose and application of a slower action rod you must realize that all rods are tools. Like any other tool it must be used for it intended purpose in order to realize it’s full potential. As a good friend and local rod builder, Tim Bennett, always says: “It ain’t the tools, it’s the craftsman.” You’re the craftsman and the rod is your tool to build your cast, use it wisely.
Sometimes I like to think of the fly rod as a battery. We are storing energy in the rod and release it into the fly line, which carries our fly when we cast. You can put too much or too little energy into the battery. Too much and you explode the light bulb (or the battery for that matter) when you plug it in. Too little and the light bulb won’t light up. The same applies to our cast, too much energy and at best we get poorly formed loops, snap off flies, or worst: broken rods. Conversely, too little energy we get poorly formed loops, wind knots, and casts that fall short of the intended target. We want to store the proper amount of energy in the rod during the casting stroke so that when we release that energy at the end of our casting stroke it smoothly transfers into the fly-line creating a nice loop and delivers our fly with perfect presentation.
Mantra: Start Slow, Quickly Stop.
Slow rods are great tools but using them requires a specific approach, mainly: SLOW! When you want a good loop with a full flex rod (and for any rod really) you want to smoothly accelerate to a stop. To do this you need to start slow this means beginning your cast at a speed that allows you to gradually increase your speed during your casting stroke. This applies in both the forward and the back casts and is critical for slow rods.
Smooth, graceful casting is what enticed many of us to pickup the sport. In fact it’s supposed to be that way. If you look at many great casters you will notice that they unroll large amounts of line effortlessly. Let that be an example, there is a reason for this. These casters start slow and stop quickly!. If your hand is moving as fast as you can from the start (too much energy) you have no way to increase your speed (smoothly accelerate) as you approach the all-important stop.
This is the biggest mistake I see being made by many casters. Failure to STOP! At the end of your back-cast, at the end of your forward cast and most importantly on your presentation or final cast. You must stop if you want to send your fly-line at a target. Whether the target is a fish or a safe area behind you for your back-cast. If you want the line to go there you must smoothly accelerate the line in that direction then stop. The stop will shape your loop. Generally the more abrupt you stop, the tighter your loop will be.
It’s important to realize that slow rods are valuable tools but like any tool they are subject to the hands they are in. Understanding that slow and smooth acceleration during the casting stroke is critical to getting the most out of your full-flex/slow action rod. Remember to start slow and accelerate to an abrupt stop. Starting slow is the key here, you will feel the rod bend (or load ) as you accelerate to your stop. Remember casting is relaxing when your doing it right!