Zen and the Art of Angling

Chapter 5

Introduction | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5

The Importance of Balanced Fishing Tackle

Caarton of Alistair

To fly cast effectively it is essential that rod, reel and line balance well. There are two key elements to having balanced tackle

  • The physical balance of the rod and line in your hand when you are set up ready to cast.
  • The rating of the rod and line which must be in balance.

Physical Balance:

Fly casting is a repetitive activity which may have to be sustained all day. Life is much easier if the tackle you use is balanced to minimise the effort and strain involved.

The balancing point is assessed at the location where the handle of the rod meets the rod. When the rod is set up ready to fish, the rod should balance on a finger at the end of the handle with a slight weight bias to the reel end.

The slight bias is eliminated as you peel line off the reel when you commence casting by reducing the weight of line on the reel.

This brings the balancing point closer to the point you grip the rod thus minimising strain when casting and enhancing a smoother flowing casting action.

Not everyone can afford to buy perfectly balanced tackle. You may use an old reel with a new rod in which case you can adjust the balance of the rod by carefully selecting a line and varying the amount of backing you use to achieve a balance or by adding weight with copper or lead wire.

Rod and Line Rating:

Casting a fly is a simple process of using a spring (the rod) and a weight (the line) to load the spring in order to propel an object (the fly) accurately and under control towards a target area.

In order for the process to work well the rating of the rod and the weigh of the line must be balanced to maximum efficiency.

Most modern fishing rods are designed on tapered graphite tubes, the structure of the tube being designed to enhance the 'spring' action of the rod.

The action of casting a fly compresses the wall of the rod on one side, making the rod 'want' to return to its original configuration.

The casting action takes advantage of this in - built memory to propel the fly line.

Fishing rods and fly lines are rated on an AFTM scale. The symbol # will be marked near the handle of a rod with a number, e.g. 10 / 11. This indicates that the rod is rated for a 10 to 11 weight fly line,.

Please note this number has nothing to do with the power of the rod and relates to the weight of line best suited to perform well with the rod.

Rod manufacturers tend to err on the safe side, often rating their rods one point down on the AFTM scale to avoid over loading rods. Generally speaking for Spey casting I will buy a line one point higher than the rod rating or in the case of a 10 / 11 rated rod I will go for the 11 line.

This is not always the case with all double handed and single handed rods, indeed ratings show variations from manufacturer to manufacturer and where ever possible it is advisable to try lines of matching weights with your rod (see if you can borrow a friends line).

Getting the right balance between line weight and rod rating is essential. A light line will not load the rod sufficiently to allow good casting.

A line that is too heavy will cause the rod blank to flatten during casting, which at best seriously diminishes the spring action of the rod and at worst can cause the rod to snap!.

Fly lines come in a variety of types, double tapered, weight forward or specialist Spey Casting lines. All lines have the same characteristic in that they are built thicker (heavier) in the middle portion of the line becoming thinner (lighter) towards the end.

This tapering is designed to allow the line to be propelled smoothly as the energy imparted to the cast diminishes.

The tapering reduces the weight of the line in proportion to the energy remaining in the cast.

Diagram of the line taper.

Diagram of the line taper

The importance of this balance between rod and line will become clear as you actually begin casting.

To begin with you should start with a relatively short line until you have acquired the basics of casting, 10 metres with a single handed rod and 15 to 20 metres with a double handed rod which in the case of the Spey line shown above would ensure that you are casting with the heaviest part of the line.

When you use a very short line you are using the lighter part of the line which is not in balance with the rating of the rod, it is too light, in consequence it will fail to load the rod. In due course you are encouraged to lengthen the amount of line you use as the additional weigh will improve your casting performance and presentation.