The resurgence of fiberglass as a rod blank material has been going on for quite awhile now, and certainly the new crop of models being introduced by large manufacturers like Redington and Orvis are testaments to the fact that the demand (and market share) for fiberglass rods is growing.
I don’t know if it’s true, or even where the numbers are coming from, but I’ve heard it said time and again that, “there are more bamboo rod makers now than in any other time in history”, and I have a sneaking suspicion that the same could be said of the cottage industry rodsmiths utilizing fiberglass or graphite. Without even trying, I can think of five or six individuals that are “rolling their own” or working directly with a production house to have rods rolled to their own specifications. Many of these rods are, according to all the feedback I’m hearing, excellent performers, and in many cases, have a little eye candy to boot.
Additionally, companies like Sage with their Circa series graphite models, and Scott with their new Radian series (also graphite) are promoting products that have been designed to provide more “feel”.
I find this to be a significant change in direction, as it just wasn’t that long ago when “fast”, “powerful”, and/or “light” were the buzz words being used in the industry. Whereas now, “smooth”, “feel”, and “finesse” seem to be the messages I find in the marketing campaigns. That’s not to say that the “flagship” series for most major manufacturers isn’t a fast powerful rod. In most cases it still is, and even Scott’s new Radian is touted as, “Where fast meets feel.” But from my perspective “slower” rods overall are gaining in popularity, and not viewed like they were by many, even just a few years ago.
The “retro” trends in consumer products have unveiled themselves in everything from attire to automobiles, and even to (arguably) the most “retro-resistant” of consumer products: electronics. So to think that fishing tackle would somehow be immune to such trends is probably pretty naive thinking.
Having been in this game awhile, I take some satisfaction in having “been there, done that” when I see things returning to where I still happen to reside. But I don’t know if that is because it’s comfortable for me, or truly “better”. I’m certainly not arrogant enough to think that my way of thinking is the only correct line of thought, and I have truly been impressed with a number of “high tech” rods that I’ve cast, fished, and owned. So I’m not convinced that a slower, full flexing rod is truly the best, even if they are what I typically prefer.
At the other end of the spectrum you have individuals like Wayne Maca that are taking bamboo rods into new directions by incorporating “high tech” elements into them. Modern composites are one example of this, and another is the adhesives bamboo rod makers now use. In fact, I doubt there is a qualified bamboo rodsmith today that wouldn’t praise the advancements in adhesives since the “good old days”. So even in the “retro” world of bamboo rods, technology is making in roads and an impact on what is available to us.
So what does it all mean, and what’s the point of this post? Simply this: I’m convinced that there have been, and will continue to be, advances in technology, and the limits of what is possible in fly rod design and performance will likely fall time and time again. Truly, the plethora of quality rods already currently available is astounding, and I salute those that have been, and are, so dedicated to the R&D it takes to produce them. But here I sit, also firmly convinced that these new products will likely be different, and perhaps even improve upon the rods I currently own, but I doubt that any of them will make me any happier than I already am when fishing.
That won’t keep me from admiring and even purchasing them, but again, I doubt I’ll find anything I simply can’t live without. Of course, if you’d like to prove me wrong, by all means, please give me the rod of my dreams. I promise I’ll fish it and let you know if you succeeded.