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Fly-Fishing: Competitive anglers spur use of longer rods

Thursday, January 16, 2014
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We seem to be in an era of long fly rods, and New York’s own Cortland Line Co. is establishing itself as a leader in the field.

Last summer, the company unveiled a series of five long rods, designed for fishing nymphs, but adequate for other uses such as dry flies or streamers.

Generations of trout fishers have considered the nine-foot, 5-weight rod the standard all-around choice. Today, Cortland, Sage and Grey’s carry 10-plus-footers in line weights as light as 3.

They’re catching on as more and more anglers are experimenting with direct-contact nymph fishing. The technique generally relies on weighted flies rather than split shot to reach fish holding deep, and does away with strike indicators.

The angler makes short drifts through likely holding spots at close range, often using a long leader with little or no fly line off the reel. It’s highly effective, and many fly-fishers find it more fun than staring at a bobbing indicator.

I’d like to think the development of tenkara fly-fishing, with its 12- to 15-footers, helped to convince the rod industry to stretch out its reeled rods, but the real inspiration is competitive fly-fishing.

The tight-line technique was developed by European tourn­ament fly-fishers. As competition fishing has grown in popularity in the United States, the method is starting to catch on among purely recreational anglers, too.

The long rod allows anglers to hold the leader completely off the water, avoiding drag from intervening currents and maintaining constant contact with the fly. It’s the same thing that makes tenkara fishing such an effective way to catch trout.

The rods are necessarily light, to reduce the fatigue you could otherwise expect from casting an 11-footer all day. Much emphasis is placed on where the rod balances; a “fulcrum” in the cork handle reduces swing weight.

An example of a rod designed for this kind of fishing is the Sage ESN, for European Nymphing System, perhaps the single most popular stick among American competition

anglers.

“Being able to load the rod with just the weight of a tungsten-beaded fly and a 20-foot mono leader, there just wasn’t a rod out there that was able to do that,” said Russ Miller, a rod designer for Sage and a member of Fly-Fishing Team USA.

Members of the TroutLegend competitive fly-fishing league recently voted the Grey’s Streamflex Rod of the Year for 2013. Streamflex rods are available in 10-foot,

2-weight and 11-foot, 3-weight, among other configurations.

And now Cortland is winning rave reviews with its Competition Nymph Rod line. It comes in five models, from a nine-foot, six-inch 2-weight to a 10-foot, six-inch 4-weight.

Cortland’s rod uses single-foot guides rather than snake guides, which require half as much epoxy and thread, reducing the rod’s weight. Instead of paint and varnish, it has a matte finish, which also reduces weight but has the added advantage of less fish-frightening flash, and it has a fighting butt, which helps with that all-important balance.

Devin Olsen, one of the country’s best-known comp anglers and winner of the America Cup tournament in Vail, Colo., in September, sang its praises on his blog, The Tactical Fly Fisherman.

“If you’re like me and are more interested in performance than aesthetics, I highly recommend this rod,” Olsen wrote. “I suppose there isn’t a greater testimony I can give it beyond the fact that I will be fishing it in competitions this year right along my ESN’s.”

 
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