03/21/09

Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1. Blue-winged Olives (Baetis) - sparse hatches
2. Blue Quills - hatching
3. Quill Gordons - hatching
4. Hendricksons - could start within a couple more weeks
5. Little Black Caddis - hatching
6. Little Brown Stoneflies - hatching
7. Midges - hatching in isolated locations
8. Streamers - matching sculpin, baitfish and small crawfish

How Fly Rods Are Made
I am sure you know that fly rods are not the only fishing rods made of graphite.
Other types of fishing rods are also made from graphite. A rod blank cannot be a
very expensive thing to manufacturer or otherwise you wouldn't be able to by a six
foot long casting or spinning rod for less than ten dollars. In fact, graphite fly rod
blanks are not expensive from a material standpoint at all. Here is my over
simplification of how fly rods are made.

Before I get started, lets get this out of the way. Fly rod modulus is a term you will
often see when you are looking at the rod manufacturers specifications or
information about the rod. Modulus is a very overused word. In layman's terms, it is
simply a measure of the graphite's resistance to bending. In other words the
materials stiffness to weight. Modulus is measured just before the graphite breaks
when bent. Manufacturers start out with rolls of graphite material. The rolls have
fibers made of carbon that all run in the same direction. If you have ever broken a
rod you would have noticed these fibers that run the length of the rod. The higher
the modulus, the more a given amount of material will resist bending. Manufacturers
can make lighter rods that are still strong using high modulus carbon graphite. You
will see 50 to 80 million modulus graphite fly rods. However, many other factors
other than the modulus of the graphite come into play. The answer to strong, light
weight rods isn't just high modulus graphite material. There is a lot more to it than
the modulus of the graphite used. You may also hear that the high modulus
material cost more. Maybe so, but if it does it probably means the graphite material
in a fly rod cost a $1.25 instead of a $1.00. Yes, I made those figures up but my
point is the graphite material used for the rods is not really a big price factor. In
fact, the cost of a fly rod has little to do with the cost of the material. It has a far
more to do with the cost of the labor. Continuing along with cost, I doubt the fly
rod's actual material and labor cost equals anything near the cost of marketing the
fly rod. Brochures, magazine ads, fly show cost, rep fees, lifetime guarantee, 40%
dealer profit and a lot of other things go into the price you pay for a fly rod. If fly
rods were expensive to make how could some mail order companies sell a Scientific
Angler's 5 weight, 8 foot, six inch long, graphite fly rod for less than thirty bucks. It is
not exactly a piece of junk either. It looks good and will cast flies sixty feet.

Back to the blank manufacturing, these rolls of flat, thin, graphite material are cut
into triangle shaped pieces according to a specific plan for the particular rod being
made. The fiberglass has a sticky side that is wrapped around a mandrel or a metal
rod the size and shape of the inside of the particular section of the rod being made.
The fibers are all running in the same direction as the rod section. Additional
graphite material called scrim is used to give the rod strength in the opposite
direction of the  fibers running long ways with the length of the rod section. In other
words, adding scrim results in fibers running in both directions - linear along the
length of the rod and the scrim fibers running around the rod. If it were not for the
scrim fibers, the rod would flatten when it was bent. These fibers are "tacked" to the
mandrel in just the right amount and places necessary to provide the flexing and
strength of the rod according to the design. The design of the mandrel (size and
shape) and the application of the scrim determines the rod's flexing characteristics
or action. The mandrel with the graphite fibers tacked to it is placed in a machine
that rolls the fibers on the mandrel at a certain preset pressure. Extra material is
added for the ferrules and rolled into place by the machine. The section of the rod
is then covered with a heat resistant film and placed in an oven to bake. It is curred
under relatively low heat. The mandrel and the film that covers the rod section is
removed leaving the hollow rod blank section. The rod is then painted with an
epoxy type paint and allowed to cure.

Now, I wonder why a fast action rod usually cost a lot more than a slow action rod?
They remind me of the price of shrimp. A few year ago I asked a guy in a sea food
store in Orange Beach, Alabama, what the difference was in his $5.00 per pound
shrimp and his $8.00 per pound shrimp. He gave me a grim look and said "the
price".

Copyright 2009 James Marsh