"Why do you think fly rods break?" [don't answer that]. Ask that question and you'll get many answers -some along the lines of "crappy rod" or "it's the manufacturers fault, they're ripping us off".
Well, maybe... they could be right. But what would the manufacturers say?
Four manufacturers have contributed over several years to the small fly rod collection in my garage – used by our family and occasional guests. Recently, I contacted one of the rodmakers, mainly out of curiosity, raising some questions about rod breakage, changing production standards, etc. When I heard back, the response was a nice long letter about my questions – and some insights about rods they see returned from Alaska. I appreciated his response. I don’t know that it’s so important which company it was – there were common truths in his comments. Here’s some of what was included:
[Quote]: There are two truths in fishing; all rods break and all waders leak.
Of all of the rods that are broken (including our competitors) 99% of them are caused by angler error. High sticking, lead eyes, car doors and tailgates are the most likely candidates. Breaks caused by lead eyes or high sticking are always subject to scrutiny...slamming the tip in the tailgate is obvious.
Lead eyes breaks may not be apparent at the moment the collision occurs, but if any of the fibers are damaged, it is only a matter of time before the rod fails. The higher the modulus count (back to hyperbole) the more susceptible a rod is to an impact break as it takes less material to achieve a desired stiffness.
High sticking breaks are a simple matter of physics. Carbon fiber has a 3 to 1 stretch vs. compression ratio (give or take but 3/1 is close enough), on the contrary, fiberglass (think ugly stick) is almost 1 to 1. When a carbon fiber tube is bent past the materials capabilities the bottom part of the bend collapses into itself...The radical taper on [our best] rods creates a longer stiffer butt section, which shortens the arc in the upper third of the rod. Longer less aggressive tapers are not as susceptible as the rod can be shaped into a longer smoother arc.
Once a rod/series is approved for production, there are no changes made in the materials and/or our manufacturing process for lifetime of that rod/series...consistency is paramount. We also keep very close tabs on rods returned for warranty work (as do our competitors), less than 1% of our total rods in the market are sent in for repair on the annual basis. I would also venture a guess that's pretty much the industry standard.
PS: Alaska is very tough on rods...most are high sticking breaks...LOL [End Quote]
Interesting insights there and I appreciated the response. My comments:
I've caught myself high sticking. Not often - but enough that when I'm into a good fish - I focus on NOT high sticking. I've seen experienced friends high stick - and one, an excellent fly fisherman, broke his rod tip, also landing the fish.
I use an elliptical cast to minimize dings on my graphite rods, mainly because I use heavy flies, many of them with lead eyes or bead heads. I never want to my rods to fail on a good fish and the technique prevents many rod collisions, plus tangles and whacks on the back of the head - all quite common especially when we're learning in Alaska.
Stiffer, high performance rods might be more susceptible to breakage. Might be a non-issue in experienced hands.
Expensive rods tend to be owned by more experienced fly casters. One reason they might break less is angler technique - PLUS great incentive to not abuse those spendy carbon fibers!
Just sharing some comments from someone in the business. Still quite a few variables/unknowns when someone describes failure of a piece of gear. When it's friends who praise or criticize gear, fly rods or otherwise, we have some perspective on their comments because we know them and how careful they are about forming conclusions and opinions. It's harder to weigh comments from those we know less well, it seems to me. What does seem reasonable to me is that rods do break. When they do, sorting out why they broke can be tough - good rods have built-in vulnerabilities. High performance rods even moreso. And if it was something I did -well, I might not even recall because I was just trying to work that whole gravel bar stretch before it got too dark to fish!
(Which is tough to do actually. If you can cast, it turns out fish can see your fly. Steelhead anyway!)