Probably one of the more lively debates anyone can get into about fly fishing is what type of fly rod works best. Some people will argue that bamboo fly rods are the best. Still, others will argue for graphite fly rods. And still, others will say it doesn’t make a difference as the cheap fiberglass fly rods at the local department store work just as well. So, exactly, what are the differences in what fly rods are made out of – and does it really matter??
Bamboo Fly Rods
Bamboo fly rods are the “traditional” fly rod. Bamboo fly rods were one of the very first fly rods ever created, and the fact that they still around say much about how well they perform. Bamboo fly rods are made by taking very thin triangular strips of bamboo and then gluing them together to form hexagon shape blank. Today’s better quality bamboo fly rods are also generally “impregnated” with various plastics or other compounds that help to both protect the fly rod as well as prevent the fly rod from developing a permanent case of the bends. These “impregnated” bamboo fly rods require no maintenance, in comparison to other bamboo fly rods that only have topical varnishes applied. From time to time, these types of “varnished” bamboo fly rods need to have additional treatments to protect the rod from the elements.
Bamboo fly rods inherently have slow fly action. They are also quite a bit heavier in comparison to today’s lightweight graphite and glass fly rods. Despite this, and their high cost, Bamboo fly rods are still considered the finest fly rods on the market today – especially for anglers who fish for wary trout on very light tippets.
Fiberglass Fly Rods
Fiberglass fly rods have several redeeming features. First, and probably most importantly to most anglers, is that they are very inexpensive in comparison to graphite and bamboo fly rods. Secondly, fiberglass fly rods at times seem virtually indestructible. Fiberglass rods are impervious to heat, cold, water, and the sun. Third, fiberglass fly rods are extremely light but still strong – it is very unlikely a fish will ever break a fiberglass fly rod, although stepping on one the wrong way will do the trick quite nicely!
Fiberglass fly rods have a hollow core, which is why they are sometimes referred to “hollow glass” rods. Fiberglass fly rods are made by wrapping cloth, which contains glass fibers, around a dowel. Then the whole thing is baked at high temperatures in a pressurized oven. When the baking is done, the fly rod has a hollow core that is surrounded by the fiberglass.
Fiberglass fly rods use to be very popular. However, today, you’ll have a difficult time finding one except in your local department store. And the reason for this is because graphite fly rods have come along, relegating fiberglass fly rods to most people’s garages and attics.
Graphite Fly Rods
Graphite fly rods are the “newest” fly rods on the block. Graphite fly rods are also the most popular fly rod today.
It should be noted that there are different types of graphite in today’s graphite fly rods. And new types of graphite are always being introduced. The primary difference between various forms of graphite is the weight – some graphite are simply heavier (in grams) than the other. Not surprisingly, the lighter the graphite is, the more expensive the fly rod is, too!
When fishing around for a graphite fly rod to purchase, it also needs to be remembered that graphite fly rods span a wide range of prices. The inexpensive graphite fly rods will, generally, be significantly heavier than more expensive graphite fly rods – sometimes weighing twice as much! Additionally, inexpensive graphite fly rods generally also lack some of the finer details found on more expensive rods – such as poor quality reel seats, guides, and wrappings. In short, with graphite fly rods, you get what you pay for. Buying a cheap graphite fly rod is likely to lead to additional purchases of replacement fly rods in not to long of a time. By contrast, spending the money upfront to get a good graphite fly rod will likely mean you can count on the fly rod for a lifetime of service.
Graphite fly rods are generally more expensive – and sometimes a lot more expensive – than fiberglass fly rods. Yet, despite the added expense, graphite fly rods are by far and away the most popular fly rod today. And the reason for this is simple. Graphite fly rods are significantly lighter than fiberglass fly rods. Graphite fly rods are also more forgiving to beginner casters and allow for both longer and more accurate casts. In short, graphite fly rods allow anglers to cast longer and more accurately than when using fiberglass rods – and the lighter weight makes a day of casting seem far less fatiguing.
Fly Rod Types Summary
Thus, unless you just need a fly rod to give to the kids for fishing in your local pond (a fiberglass fly rod will do nicely for this) or need a classy fly rod for ultra-demanding spring creek fishing, a graphite fly rod is today’s fly rod of choice.