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I’m a Philly guy, so I’m into cheesesteaks.

Anyone from the City of Brotherly Love has their favorite cheesesteak place, and often those are semi-obscure, neighborhood eateries. But the big “debate” usually lands on Passyunk Avenue in South Philly: Are you a Pat’s fan, or a Geno’s person? It’s funny, because some of my closest friends are absolutely die-hard, one way or the other. And that’s never made much sense to me, because, in my mind, they’re both wonderful. I have never, ever, found a cheesesteak that can remotely compare to the real deal. I have tried, and hoped, and given all the shots I can. But I am convinced I will chance upon a unicorn along the river banks before I find a real Philly cheesesteak (Whiz-with) outside of Philly.

What in the world does this have to do with fly fishing?

Well, I often find the “debates” among fly rod aficionados to be similar. Some people are dyed-in-the-wool Orvis fans. And some, by comparison, will only fish Sage rods. Or others like Scott, or Winston, Loomis, et. al. That’s all fun and good.

But in my mind, assessing the performance and value of a fly rod is even more subjective than trying to rate how any combination of steak and cheese will dance across one’s taste buds.

I get the biggest chuckle when I read someone panning a fly rod. Let me tell you a little secret about the person who writes, “This new rod stinks, and this is why…”

He (or she) can’t probably cast very well in the first place.

Because the bar has been raised so high in recent years in terms of materials, and design, and so forth, that production rods of ALL price points can and should be able to perform reasonably well in the hands of any semi-decent caster.

Here’s the real deal: I do plenty of rod reviews, and I certainly have favorites. But I always point out that what flips my switch may not flip yours. And I always follow the “Thumper” rule. Thumper, from the Disney film “Bambi” said, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Sometimes, what you do NOT read can and should tell you quite a bit.

Trust me, I’m all for the “Shootouts” and the comparative debates. (Yellowstone Angler always does a fair and thorough job.) Heck, I can’t imagine how many cheesesteaks both Geno’s and Pat’s have sold by having people walk down the street to take a bite out of the other option. Just be careful when you read rod reviews, and don’t latch on to some person pontificating about how the tip flex in this model is so amazing, or the spline alignment of this rod is so terrible, because most of the time, that’s sheer opinion. And more than half the time, it has to do with how advertising butters the bread.

At the end of the day, the only rod that matters is the one that you pick up in your own hand, and cast, and feel good about, and get better with. It doesn’t matter what Kirk Deeter, or Tim Romano, or anyone else says about it. Of course, we have our own hunches and we’re going to point you in the right direction as best we can. But don’t ever underestimate your own role as the most important critic. That’s what fly shops are for… to help you play that role.

Pat’s, Geno’s… Orvis, Sage… they all taste really good to me.