FIBERGLASS MAY NOT BE FASTACTION, BUT THAT SERVES WELL IN MANY SITUATIONS
[by Alex Stidham]
Headed back from a recent fishing trip, I decided to hit a local fly shop and replenish my gear. The usual— two extra spools of tippet, an improved tippet spool holder, and anything else I couldn’t live without. As I looked around the shop, I was drawn to a row of conspicuous, brightly colored red, white, green, and blue rods, standing as harbingers of what I believe to be a growing revival in fly fishing: fiberglass. Not the usual rod thrown in among the graphite legions, but a legitimate selection of glass.
Ever since glass was introduced, people have fished it; but its slow, laid-back subtlety was all but replaced by graphite’s fast, aggressive, modern performance. Somewhere along the way, anglers realized glass had something to offer that graphite couldn’t afford. Hence, over the past decade, glass has slowly crept its way back to the water.
If you want the fastest, most accurate rod to achieve the greatest casting distance and precision landings, fiberglass isn’t your material. If you want something supersensitive and crazy strong, glass is worth a second look. It gives me everything I want. Here’s why.
Most glass junkies prefer these rods for the connection they feel to the fish. The slower, more progressive action of a glass rod lets you feel the subtleties of a fight. Rather than being dampened by stiff material and a fast recovery, every move a fish makes is felt through the length of the rod and into your arm. Fighting a fish with glass is a more tactile, sensory experience, providing an almost intimate connection with your quarry.
Another benefit touted by glass anglers is versatility. Glass allows for a wider range of usable line weights, and ultimately a wider range of flies and techniques you can employ with a single rod. A few modifications to the length of the casting stroke make it easy to delicately present dry flies one minute, then swing heavy sinking tips the next. My go-to, all-purpose trout stick is a modern glass, 8-foot-6-inch 6/7 weight. I can handily switch between presenting dry flies, pulling streamers on a sinking tip, casting a full sinking line, and dredging heavy multi-nymph setups under an indicator. Because there is so much action in the rod, I can have fun catching enthusiastic little brook trout or a chromebright steelhead, all with the same stick.
The most tangible benefit of glass is tippet protection. The deep bend of glass is like a built-in shock absorber. This protects light tippet during the hook set and initial run. Anyone who enjoys large fish on spring creeks, such as the Henry’s Fork or Silver Creek, or likes to throw small flies to big fish on massive, flat-surfaced tailwaters should at least consider glass as an option.
A demand for glass has carried over into the two-hand world as well. Several companies offer switch and Spey rods built with modern glass in modern tapers. The fast- or extra-fast-action graphite rods deliver a lot of power and precision, but they also demand a substantial amount of resistance to load and cast. Poor timing, an ill-formed D loop, or a less-than-straightline path on a heavy rod leads to little more than frustration. With a slower, softer action that is easier to load, timing and form are less critical. Beginners are able to move slowly through the casting stroke, and feel the rod load.
While glass may not be everyone’s final answer, it has a place in my quiver. Simply put, glass is a joy to fish and I prefer the connection to fish it gives me, something I can’t experience any other way