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Ian Miller:  

Ian Miller - 'Barra'

"Guide Me"

Handcrafting a Flyrod

Okay, so you’re well aware that fly rods are sensitive creatures. Their physical characteristics of power and balance are critical attributes - too soft and they are deemed to be ‘sloppy’ - too stiff and they are seen as somewhat unforgiving and hard to cast.

Thus their integrity is easily compromised. They can only stand a minimum of components before the inherent weight of these fittings can become detrimental to their ‘fel’ and ultimately their performance. So, to choose just the right componentry for any given weight fly rod is to walk a very fine line between maintaining all those beautiful performance characteristics, and still fitting out the rod with quality guides, tip and handle to deliver peak performance. The solution lies in selecting just the right bits and pieces and securing them strongly to the blank without excessive use of epoxies and thread.

Fortunately these days we have quite a range of quality, high performance components to choose from. One the guide front, even the humble snake guides have undergone some transformation nto a ‘single foot’ design, and they are available in different coatings to complement any given application and aesthetic. These allow the guide to be fixed to the rod with one less binding.

Fuji’s ceramic ring guides also have a strong modern following, particularly with their new ultra-lightweight design, and Gold Cermet guides have proven to offer performance advantages and corrosion resistance for those who want the absolute best.

So which guides are the optimum choice? It always amuses me that the topic of fly rod guides is so emotionally debated. For some reason, perceived performance and personal preference seem to take precedence over actual suitability and practical performance aspects. The way I always try to approach the topic is to step back and take a long, hard (and totally impartial) look what is most suitable. Sometimes it’s snakes, sometimes ring guides. I do however always use ceramics for stripping guides.

For saltwater use, ring guides usually get the nod on the other hand, ultra light freshwater blanks usually get fitted with single foot snakes, in black finish to enhance the stealth aspect. If you really like ring guides however, the new Fuji LNSG/UNSG ultra-lights are excellent.

I also always look to fit the very largest sizes that the rod will handle. Done with the right mixture of sizes, this will enhance casting performance without imparting too much weight. The tip-top is the ‘red zone’ when it comes to negative weight influences, so choose the lightest fitting with the largest diameter. For a while now we have been using regular single foot Gold Cermets on Saltwater sticks for this purpose, and they work well.

You may have also noted a friend away from using hook keepers. To my way of thinking, this is a good idea! The problem with using a hook keeper arises when flies are unhooked from them to begin casting. Often the butt leader connection is still inside the rod tip, and when the fly is pulled down to strip line and one of those connecting knots jams in the guides...@%$!#!!!!!!! Believe me, a lot of rods get broken like this. You’re better off to do away with the hook keeper and instead pull the whole leader outside the rod tip, loop it around behind the reel and hook the fly into a convenient guide further back up the rod, and still pull the line out with care!

When it comes to securing guides to the blank, use a small amount of fine thread, and no filler if you can do without it. This will help the epoxy finish to penetrate the wraps better and give the guide a good foundation to avoid getting the wobbles. And don’t overdo the epoxy - just enough to cover the bindings is usually ample. Happy Wrapping!


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