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How Not to Break a Fly Rod: Don't Grab Above the Grip

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June 25, 2013

How Not to Break a Fly Rod: Don't Grab Above the Grip

By Kirk Deeter

Most fly rods break as a result of human stupidity. Of course, many rods carry a no-fault warranty (meaning we're already paying, in advance, for the replacement or repair of broken rods), which is probably why we're careless and slam rods in screen doors and tailgates, walk them into trees, step on them, and so forth.

Sure, there are lemon rods that will break when fish pull on them. But operator error—whether that's casting a heavy fly into your own rod tip, or allowing a fish to run under the boat—is usually what causes breakage.

The number one human cause of broken rods is a simple move many of us instinctively make, and most of us don't realize we're doing it, or that it's a problem.

When you're fighting the fish, you want to get more leverage, so you instinctively grab up on the rod. Problem is, the rod was designed to flex in that area above the handle, and when you make that an anchor point, you shift the pressure there, to a smaller-diameter and more vulnerable part of the rod. The rod is far more likely to break when you reach up and grab above the handle than it is if you keep your hands on the cork where they belong. I've seen many rods intentionally broken for testing purposes, and this move is the surest way to make them shatter.

So keep that in mind, and tell your fishing buddy who grabs the rod to let go. You'll save him/her the headache of a broken rod, and the rest of us the built-in expense of paying for it.

Comments (18)

Top Rated
All Comments
from KeyWestFishingC... wrote 41 weeks 6 days ago

Our Key West fishing guides teach this as one of the first things when someone is a novice fly fisherman. It's a great tip and good topic to cover

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 41 weeks 6 days ago

That's a topic that has been presented many times, but I know of no one that has broken a rod that way. I would say that it is confined to salt water fishing when breakage happens. Most, like myself, use a hand to support, and gently pump a fish towards you, but do not grip, and apply a lot of leverage at that point. Biggest problem that many anglers have is they do not know how to apply drag, and remove drag using the rod angle. They think fish should be played off the reel's disc drag, and have the rod held high when a close in fish dives avoiding the net.

-3 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 41 weeks 6 days ago

Am I the only one who sticks the fighting butt in the front of my pants and grabs the rod blank near the stripping guide to rest my arms during a long fight?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 41 weeks 6 days ago

Dangle, you don't catch fish that fight strong enough to break a rod when handled above the grip. I prefer long fighting butts on anything that will see fights longer than 5 minutes, it takes away the temptation to choke up for more support.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steve in Virginia wrote 41 weeks 6 days ago

Another way to avoid breaking a rod -- don't close a car door on the rod. I learned that one the hard way, but kudos to Orvis for honoring their warranty!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 41 weeks 5 days ago

koldkut...learn to play fish properly. I've caught hundreds of steelhead on large Western Rivers using a click drag fly reel, and a 9 ft. 6wt. No need for any fighting butt. Let the fish tire itself..you strip, or reel when it rests. Give it a try.

-4 Good Comment? | | Report
from kkh wrote 41 weeks 5 days ago

i know for a fact that this is not "confined to saltwater fishing". i am a fly fishing guide in colorado and i have seen it happen once, and heard of it happening another time. there is a huge trout at the dream stream we call "walter". about a half a second after i yelled "dont put your hand there!"....SNAP. and this is someone who knows how to fight fish. he just made the mistake of putting his hand in the wrong place. what kirk said about "anchor point", pressure, etc, is absolutely true. proportionately, a large trout on a 4 weight can be the same as a large saltwater fish on a 10 weight, as far as pressure and force. ive seen it with my own eyes.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from kkh wrote 41 weeks 5 days ago

and dangle, maybe u dont need to be so condescending.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 41 weeks 5 days ago

kkh..Nice wild guide story! Guides guide duffus anglers that need baby sat. I know, I was a guide for 25 yrs. Big fish, so what! Let the fish run when the pressure gets so great! Guides have hundreds of stupid angler stories to tell if they guide very much.

-3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 41 weeks 5 days ago

And kkh. When a guy tells you that you don't fight fish strong enough to break a rod, condescending is just my starting point! Koldkut is a rookie angler at best, and a distant second to the quality of fishing that I get on a regular basis.

-4 Good Comment? | | Report
from Greenhead wrote 41 weeks 5 days ago

kkh, I wish I could give your comments more than one +1, both of them.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 41 weeks 5 days ago

Part of the problem is not just the high grip on the blank but many guys oversize their tippet so instead of the line breaking, it's the rod.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 41 weeks 5 days ago

Here is the background on that hand placement thing. Early on saltwater fishermen broke graphite rods, one after another on bigger saltwater fish that would SOUND! The angler would attemt to deadlift the fish up placing his hand forward. Graphite had no forgiveness. The industry even went to recommending you use glass over graphite on saltwater fish if you were deadlifting with the rod. My point on freshwater fishing is this. What is a 4x, or 5x tippet rated at?(lbs test) Look at 2x and 3x. Now fill a bucket full of rocks that weigh 4 lbs., tie your line to the bucket, and lift with your flyrod. You won't lift the bucket. Few ever put as much pressure on a freshwater fish with the rod as the tippet is rated. I sure don't. But you have to know how to play a fish. A friggin bluegill can break a rod if you hold the rod straight up, and try to lift it out of the water. There is a whole lot of ignorance out there. But those that know how to play a fish won't break the rod holding their hand there. They can feel how much pressure is being applied.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 41 weeks 5 days ago

Another story relating to that. I guided two guys from Cleveland, OH. We are fishing a backwater channel, and I'm working with one client while the other guy heads on down the bank, and proceeds to cast his fly into the bushes on the opposite bank. I see him with his hand exactly like in the photo, and he's fully flexing the rod tug of warring trying to break off the fly...guess what broke?...The guy comes walking back, and tells me my Sage Rod was defective that it broke before the tippet broke. Really?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from tacomanusmc wrote 41 weeks 4 days ago

Dangle, first you say you've never even heard of a rod breaking like that, and now you say you've seen it in person.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 41 weeks 3 days ago

Good to see someone is following along. I've never seen a rod broken on a fish by placing your hand at that point. And the point is by placing your hand there that is where the rod will break. This guy broke my rod in the tip section, not where his hand was, but it surely can break where your hand is if you apply more force than the rod would accept. I told the guy...if you tie that rod to a bucket of rocks that weigh 4 lbs you couldn't lift the bucket of rocks with the rod...it doesn't have that much power. So what would win the tug of war when you tried to break a 4 lb tippet? When you are snagged, you grab the line, and straight line pull, and pop off the leader tippet,and take all pressure off the rod. And the guy did pay to have the rod tip replaced. You can hook a fly on a bank weed, and you can't break off the weed with your rod much of the time.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 41 weeks 2 days ago

Somebody have tacamanusmc's address? I need to send him a bill for that professional advice I just gave him. He thought it was free.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from rab wrote 40 weeks 2 hours ago

This is an article written for people who don't know how to properly/safely fight a fish by decreasing the mechanical disadvantage of a third class lever (rod).
Many experienced anglers use this technique without problems. Moving a hand above the grip also increases the control one has over the direction of the pull. Any angler who has broken a rod using this technique probably would have broken it doing something else that was outside of their skill set. I'm with you Dangle.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from kkh wrote 41 weeks 5 days ago

and dangle, maybe u dont need to be so condescending.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from kkh wrote 41 weeks 5 days ago

i know for a fact that this is not "confined to saltwater fishing". i am a fly fishing guide in colorado and i have seen it happen once, and heard of it happening another time. there is a huge trout at the dream stream we call "walter". about a half a second after i yelled "dont put your hand there!"....SNAP. and this is someone who knows how to fight fish. he just made the mistake of putting his hand in the wrong place. what kirk said about "anchor point", pressure, etc, is absolutely true. proportionately, a large trout on a 4 weight can be the same as a large saltwater fish on a 10 weight, as far as pressure and force. ive seen it with my own eyes.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 41 weeks 6 days ago

Dangle, you don't catch fish that fight strong enough to break a rod when handled above the grip. I prefer long fighting butts on anything that will see fights longer than 5 minutes, it takes away the temptation to choke up for more support.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from tacomanusmc wrote 41 weeks 4 days ago

Dangle, first you say you've never even heard of a rod breaking like that, and now you say you've seen it in person.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steve in Virginia wrote 41 weeks 6 days ago

Another way to avoid breaking a rod -- don't close a car door on the rod. I learned that one the hard way, but kudos to Orvis for honoring their warranty!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Greenhead wrote 41 weeks 5 days ago

kkh, I wish I could give your comments more than one +1, both of them.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from KeyWestFishingC... wrote 41 weeks 6 days ago

Our Key West fishing guides teach this as one of the first things when someone is a novice fly fisherman. It's a great tip and good topic to cover

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 41 weeks 6 days ago

Am I the only one who sticks the fighting butt in the front of my pants and grabs the rod blank near the stripping guide to rest my arms during a long fight?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 41 weeks 5 days ago

Part of the problem is not just the high grip on the blank but many guys oversize their tippet so instead of the line breaking, it's the rod.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 41 weeks 5 days ago

Another story relating to that. I guided two guys from Cleveland, OH. We are fishing a backwater channel, and I'm working with one client while the other guy heads on down the bank, and proceeds to cast his fly into the bushes on the opposite bank. I see him with his hand exactly like in the photo, and he's fully flexing the rod tug of warring trying to break off the fly...guess what broke?...The guy comes walking back, and tells me my Sage Rod was defective that it broke before the tippet broke. Really?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 41 weeks 5 days ago

Here is the background on that hand placement thing. Early on saltwater fishermen broke graphite rods, one after another on bigger saltwater fish that would SOUND! The angler would attemt to deadlift the fish up placing his hand forward. Graphite had no forgiveness. The industry even went to recommending you use glass over graphite on saltwater fish if you were deadlifting with the rod. My point on freshwater fishing is this. What is a 4x, or 5x tippet rated at?(lbs test) Look at 2x and 3x. Now fill a bucket full of rocks that weigh 4 lbs., tie your line to the bucket, and lift with your flyrod. You won't lift the bucket. Few ever put as much pressure on a freshwater fish with the rod as the tippet is rated. I sure don't. But you have to know how to play a fish. A friggin bluegill can break a rod if you hold the rod straight up, and try to lift it out of the water. There is a whole lot of ignorance out there. But those that know how to play a fish won't break the rod holding their hand there. They can feel how much pressure is being applied.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 41 weeks 3 days ago

Good to see someone is following along. I've never seen a rod broken on a fish by placing your hand at that point. And the point is by placing your hand there that is where the rod will break. This guy broke my rod in the tip section, not where his hand was, but it surely can break where your hand is if you apply more force than the rod would accept. I told the guy...if you tie that rod to a bucket of rocks that weigh 4 lbs you couldn't lift the bucket of rocks with the rod...it doesn't have that much power. So what would win the tug of war when you tried to break a 4 lb tippet? When you are snagged, you grab the line, and straight line pull, and pop off the leader tippet,and take all pressure off the rod. And the guy did pay to have the rod tip replaced. You can hook a fly on a bank weed, and you can't break off the weed with your rod much of the time.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 41 weeks 2 days ago

Somebody have tacamanusmc's address? I need to send him a bill for that professional advice I just gave him. He thought it was free.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from rab wrote 40 weeks 2 hours ago

This is an article written for people who don't know how to properly/safely fight a fish by decreasing the mechanical disadvantage of a third class lever (rod).
Many experienced anglers use this technique without problems. Moving a hand above the grip also increases the control one has over the direction of the pull. Any angler who has broken a rod using this technique probably would have broken it doing something else that was outside of their skill set. I'm with you Dangle.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 41 weeks 6 days ago

That's a topic that has been presented many times, but I know of no one that has broken a rod that way. I would say that it is confined to salt water fishing when breakage happens. Most, like myself, use a hand to support, and gently pump a fish towards you, but do not grip, and apply a lot of leverage at that point. Biggest problem that many anglers have is they do not know how to apply drag, and remove drag using the rod angle. They think fish should be played off the reel's disc drag, and have the rod held high when a close in fish dives avoiding the net.

-3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 41 weeks 5 days ago

kkh..Nice wild guide story! Guides guide duffus anglers that need baby sat. I know, I was a guide for 25 yrs. Big fish, so what! Let the fish run when the pressure gets so great! Guides have hundreds of stupid angler stories to tell if they guide very much.

-3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 41 weeks 5 days ago

koldkut...learn to play fish properly. I've caught hundreds of steelhead on large Western Rivers using a click drag fly reel, and a 9 ft. 6wt. No need for any fighting butt. Let the fish tire itself..you strip, or reel when it rests. Give it a try.

-4 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 41 weeks 5 days ago

And kkh. When a guy tells you that you don't fight fish strong enough to break a rod, condescending is just my starting point! Koldkut is a rookie angler at best, and a distant second to the quality of fishing that I get on a regular basis.

-4 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment