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All about fiberglass fly rods, with Cam Mortenson

Description: My guest this week is Cameron Mortensen of The Fiberglass Manifesto [51:24]. Cam is one of the most knowledgeable anglers when it comes to fiberglass fly rods. I know a lot of listeners are curious about glass rods, and so we can to answer the questions: What is the history of fiberglass rods? How do modern ones compare to the older styles? What are the advantages of fiberglass rods? What are the drawbacks of fiberglass rods? What are the new 4-piece Orvis Superfine Glass rods like? If you've been curious about trying a fiberglass fly rod, I hope this podcast answers some of your questions.
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Podcast Transcript:

Tom: Hi and welcome to the "Orvis Fly Fishing Podcast." This is your host, Tom Rosenbauer, and my guest this week is Cameron Mortensen. Cam is the founder and the editor and the publisher of a blog/website called "The Fiberglass Manifesto." And if you haven't visited the website, even if you're not interested in glass rods, it's a great website, lots of good fishing stuff. And Cam is probably the foremost expert, or what I consider the foremost expert on fiberglass fly rods in the world. And so, we explore some questions that you might have about fiberglass rods. You may have been interested in trying one. So what are they like? What do they feel like? How are they different from graphite rods? What kind should you get? What should you expect from a fiberglass rod? And what situations are better suited to a graphite rod? So I think you'll enjoy the conversation with Cam. He's always enthusiastic and articulate, especially when talking about fiberglass rods. So that'll be coming up quite soon.
But first, we'll do the podcast...we're doing the podcast. We'll do the Fly Box, which is where you ask questions and I pick some and try to answer them if I can. If you have a question for the Fly Box, you can send it to, either attach a voice file or you can just type your question in your email. And by the way, thank you very much to all of you who sent in voice files. I was a little short on voice files for a while, but I got lots of them now. So if you had a voice question and you don't hear it in the next couple weeks, don't be disappointed because I may still read it. I'm working my way through all the calls, so thank you very much.
The first one is...let me start that again. First one's an email from John from Brookings, Oregon. Thank you for taking the time to read my email. I have a couple questions for you regarding the strip set. I must admit that I don't have the time to listen to all your podcasts, so please forgive me if you've already answered this recently. I like to listen while I mow the lawn, but your podcasts come out more often than I mow. Maybe you either need to water your lawn more or I need to do fewer podcasts. I'm wondering what the benefits of the strip set are and what the difference is between the strip set and the trout set. I mean, I understand the difference on my end of the line in what I am doing, but what is happening to the fly in the line and the water that makes it ideal in certain situations over the trout set? I sometimes streamer fish for large coastal cutthroat in my local rivers, so I am also wondering if the strip set is something I can apply here or is it only reserved for saltwater? Thank again for your time and your podcast. I often pick up good info that I can apply on the water. I look forward to hearing from you.
John, you know, I have answered this a number of times but it seems like it's not sinking through and people are still confused. And honestly, I'm a little confused sometimes with the difference between a strip set and a trout set and we should probably not use the term trout set, although we all do. Trout set is kind of a derogatory term that saltwater guys use when people that trout fish a lot go to fish saltwater and they raise the rod tip. So it's really more either a straight set where you're pointing the rod at the fish when you set the hook, or an overhead set, where you raise the rod tip like you're gonna make another cast. That's a trout set, raising the rod tip. So as I understand it and in my experience, any time you are stripping the fly toward you, you're actively moving it, it's a good idea to use a strip set. So this would be, you know, fishing a nymph really fast in still water, it would be fishing a streamer, and it would be fishing a streamer anywhere, anywhere at all. That rod tip should be pointed at the fly, and when you set the hook, you should just make a very firm strip until you feel the resistance of the fish.
And the reason for the strip set is...well, there's a couple of reasons. One is that when a fish is chasing the fly, if you raise the rod tip, you're often gonna pull the fly up and away from the fish as opposed to setting it firmly in the fish's jaw. And there's another reason for doing this. If the fish just kind of bumps the fly, sometimes they'll bump it with their body or they'll just nip it and they might keep going after it. Sometimes they try to cripple a baitfish or a crayfish or a crab or a shrimp or something. If you trout set and lift that fly up, you're gonna lift it up and away from the fish, sometimes out of the water, whereas if you just keep stripping and make a long strip as if you're gonna strip strike, you're not gonna pull the fly away from the fish and the fish may come back for another grab.
So the other thing is for very large fish that have really, really toothy jaws, you're more in a direct line with that fly and you can make a firmer hook set because you're pulling straight on the fly as opposed to the bend of the rod interceding in that connection. So, you know, a trout set is used when you're fishing a dry fly, when you're fishing a nymph, when you're fishing a nymph with an indicator. You know, anytime you're really dead drifting, you want to raise the rod tip. And then, there's another hook set, which is almost no hook set at all, and that's when you're swinging a fly downstream of you, when you're using the current to swing it, it's a good idea not to set the hook. Just let the fish set the hook itself because you're already on a tight line and the line is already under tension. And by setting the hook when the fly swing's below you, you can often, again, pull the fly away from the fish. So it's best to not set the hook, wait 'til you feel the pressure of the fish on the line, and then raise the rod tip.
So I hope I've cleared that up for John and a lot of people. And generally, any time you're dead drifting or floating something, you want to set the hook by raising your rod tip overhead. And any time you are stripping a fly through the water on an active presentation, you want to use a strip set.
Jay: Hi, Tom. This is Jay Holland from Washington State. First of all, I'd just like to know if you've ever fished for a sea-run cutthroat or coastal cutthroat on the west coast. It's not a very often talked about cutthroat species and would just like to hear if you have any experience in chasing them. Second of all, a question about gear. I use the Orvis PolyLeaders for chasing sea-run cutthroat and I use the 7-foot fast sinking, to be more specific. The one that I'm currently using, the tippet material that's integrated, is running short and as far as I'm running out of room to tie in the swivel that I use. Is it okay to cut back that brownish PolyLeader material to expose more tippet on the end to, you know, make the life of the PolyLeader a little bit longer? I'd love to hear your thoughts about this. Thanks so much.
Tom: Well, Jay, you know, I've never fished for coastal cutthroat and I'd like to someday. And I know a couple people who are very good at coastal cutthroat fishing and they would be really good at doing a podcast. But they told me they didn't want to do it because they don't really want a lot more pressure on the coastal cutthroat fisheries. So I don't know if I'll do a podcast on coastal cutthroat because the people that I would like to get on the podcast don't want to do it. But I can answer the second part of your question, and that's the PolyLeader. You know, the best thing to do, if that piece of tippet on the PolyLeader gets too short, is not to try to strip the coating off to expose more of that core. The best thing to do is to just cut it off and tie a nail knot on the end of the piece of sinking line, just tie a good nail knot with, I would say, like, something around maybe 16 or 20-pound monofilament. Put a nail knot on that and then tie a tippet ring or a micro swivel on the end of that. And that piece should be short, maybe, I don't know, anywhere from 3 to 6-inches long. And by putting a tippet ring in there, now you can attach any size or any length of tippet you want on that PolyLeader. So I wouldn't try to strip that coating back, but just tie a nail knot on top of there and should be a better connection for you.
Okay. Another email. This one's from Josh from North Carolina. Thank you for all you and Orvis do to help with the great sport of fly fishing. I never had a fishing mentor, but the tips from the podcast have been invaluable in helping me get started. Last year, you helped me pick out my first fly rod from a question I submitted and I got my first trout, a wild brown about 7 miles deep on a trail in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Needless to say, I'm hooked and now I have a few more questions. One question I hope will benefit many people, the other might be more specific to my situation. First, I live about equal distance from the mountains and the beach here in North Carolina, so the opportunity for saltwater versus trout fishing is about the same. But in my backyard are numerous areas for largemouth bass that I've begun to pursue. My only rod is a 9-foot 5-weight but I want to add a rod that will work for both largemouth and light saltwater. I will be chasing bass in lakes, in small streams, as well as red drum, or whatever will bite in the coastal areas. I've seen you and others recommend a 9-foot in an 8-weight or 9-weight for both the situation, and I was wondering if I would be too disadvantaged in the saltwater if I went with an 8-weight. I'd still like to be able to feel an average size bass when I land one as this is my primary quarry. Or should I just go with a 9-weight in case it gets too windy out there?
Second, I found a local stream that is full of small bass and even a few longnose gar near my house. It is slow-moving water, about 2 feet deep, and I've been trying to land some of the bigger bass to no avail. All I've tried so far are Wooly Buggers, Caddis, Cicadas, and Chubby Chernobyls all in about size 6. The bass will follow the fly sometimes but rarely take it. Meanwhile, the panfish won't stop taking it, which is great, except they steal it in front of the bass' face. I've varied my retrieval with minimal results. Any suggestions on getting these picky bass to bite? Oh, and this has all been over the summer at about mid-day as that's the only time I can get out there for now. Looking forward to hearing your answer on the podcast. Thanks for all you do.
Well, Josh, in your first question, you know, it's always difficult choosing between two line sizes that are close. You know, there isn't a ton of difference between two different line sizes and that's why most people, you know, skip line sizes and go every two or they do odd numbers, you know, if they have a stable of fly rods. And in your situation, I would still go with a 9. The reason is that first of all, I think the flies you're fishing for largemouth are too small and we'll get to that in a minute. But, you know, in saltwater, you're gonna have wind, you're gonna want to occasionally throw a really large fly and you're just gonna be struggling more with that 8-weight. The other thing is there are gonna be times in saltwater when you wanna throw a Depth Charge line or a heavier sinking line and those rods really do perform well with a heavier rod. So I would go with a 9-weight. I think you'll still have lots of fun landing bass with that 9-weight and, you know, modern graphite rods are so light and flexible that you'll even have fun with panfish on that 9-weight. I fish for bass with a 9-weight and I'll occasionally catch a decent bluegill or pumpkinseed and they still bend the rod. So I would go with a 9-weight.
And onto your second question. I think you're fishing flies that are too small. A size 6 Wooly Bugger, Chubby Chernobyl may not be enough of a mouthful for those bass. And they see something moving and they investigate, but it's kinda not really big enough to satisfy 'em. And that, I think, is why you're catching those panfish. So I would go with some bigger flies. And, you know, mid-day, you're probably better off with some sort of sinking fly. And God, there are lots and lots of bass flies that you might want to try a diver type, like a Dahlberg Diver, or something with lead eyes or heavy eyes that sinks deeper. But I would go with the bigger fly and I would either get a couple patterns from the Orvis website or I'd go to my local fly shop and just ask 'em for some larger bass flies because I think you're just fishing too small. And, you know, you did the right thing. You varied your retrieve to try to get the fish to take, and if it still didn't take, I'd try a bigger fly and see if that works. What fly pattern that's gonna be, I don't know. You're gonna have to experiment and that's the fun of fishing. But try a bigger one on a 9-weight and see how that works out for you.
Kevin: Hey, Tom. Kevin in Boise, Idaho. I haven't called in in a while but you helped me out a lot when I was first learning to fly fish maybe five or six years ago. And today, I have a tip, a question, and a product idea for you. The tip is that on a recent backpacking trip into some high alpine lakes, I realized I forgot my dry fly floatant. So what I did was remove some of the desiccant packets from my freeze-dried food and crushed those with a rock and then put it into a plastic bag and then used that as my shaker. Worked really well. Not sure if it's any different than the commercial stuff you buy. But it worked in a pinch for me and thought maybe other people who are absent-minded like myself might be able to use that little tip.
My question is, or came up when I was fishing in these lakes, was about flies because I was using an Adams primarily, probably one of the most used flies, and was wondering if there are royalties with flies when people create new flies. I know that you have your name on quite a few different patterns, so maybe there's a royalty on those. The other flies that came to mind were things like the Game Changer and whatnot. But anyways, I was just curious if there are any royalties involved with people who come up with new fly patterns. And then, my product idea is in these days of rising river temperatures and knowing what the water temps are and when to stop fishing, I personally don't have room to carry a thermometer on my vest. But the idea came to me is if I could find a waterproof thermometer, maybe encased in plastic or something, that I could lace into my boots. I could just keep that thermometer on my boots whenever I got out of the water, I would have the temperature right there handy. Anyways, hope you're doing well and have a great day. Thanks. Bye-bye.
Tom: Well, Kevin, that's a great tip, you know, and I've often thought of using crushed desiccant for fly powder because I think it's the same stuff. I think it's sodium silicate and I think that's what's in a lot of these powders. I may be wrong. I'm not a chemist. But great idea and, you know, those things come in everything from food to electronics, and we get a lot of them. And why throw them out when you can put them to good use? So, you know, there are also people that put those in their fly boxes, in their reel cases and stuff to absorb moisture. So they are handy and next time you get one, don't throw it out.
Regarding the fly royalty issue, yeah, there are people that make royalties on flies. Some people don't, some people just put the fly out there and like to share it with others. Other people will go to a fly company like Umpqua or Orvis and/or Fulling Mill and submit their patterns. And then they will get a royalty on the fly. It's not a way to make a living, believe me. But, you know, if you've created some intellectual property that has value, then, you know, I think it's fair for someone to receive a small payment for that.
Regarding your product idea, I'm not sure if I'm there, Kevin. I think if you had a thermometer flopping around in your boot, it would kinda get in the way, might catch fly line, would probably get broken eventually. And I think it's a solution in search of a problem. You know, it's very easy and what a lot of my friends do with their thermometer is they take an old piece of fly line or a piece of string and they tie it to the thermometer and they just, you know, dip it in the water on the string and then pull it up and read the water temperature. Funny, I remember years ago, there was a product developer that I worked with that had this idea for a thermocouple that would be lashed to your boots somehow. And then there would be a wire running up through your waders and you could instantly read the water temperature. But honestly, it's not that hard to dip a thermometer in the water. Personally, I don't even use the string thing. I should if I was smart. But I just hold my thermometer in the water with my hand and then read it. So not a big deal. I don't think I'm gonna be able to talk to product developers into that one. But keep your ideas coming. Maybe you'll come up with something that's a little more practical.
Here's an email from Dave from Auburn, New York. I have a question regarding the use of old wet flies. Recently, I was fishing a beautiful stretch of a local trout stream for approximately 45 minutes with no luck. This stretch of stream seemed too good to leave and I was observing some slashing rises. I tried many flies and was convinced that soft tackles were the answer. Nothing. Frustrated, I tied on an old wet fly pattern, unknown name, and proceeded to land three browns in short order. My partner laughed and said, "Yeah, the old duck wing wet fly still works." My question is does anyone still use them? If not, why? No place anymore? I heard you joke with a guest once dismissively about their use and I'm just curious about their demise. I'll never forget a presentation I attended 30 years ago in your old stomping grounds at Syracuse given by Lefty Kreh. He walked in and disarmed a crowd by saying, "I get a kick out of you guys making a big deal of trout fishing. Guys, all we do is throw a little brown hummer at a trout and try to catch it. You're making a big deal out of it." Sometimes I wonder if hundreds of fly patterns are necessary considering those three browns I caught that day obviously didn't realize that there were better patterns to choose from. My question isn't intended to insult anyone, but sometimes I wonder if we're trying to split the atom. Your thoughts?
Well, Dave, I agree with you 100% and with Lefty, and I don't remember dismissing old-winged wet flies. But if I did, I shouldn't have because I still use them myself. There are times, particularly when there's drowned spinners or drowned caddis flies that have come back to lay their eggs and they will dive underwater to lay their eggs. So there's a real place for the old duck wing wet flies. And they do work at times. Again, I still use them and have some in my box. So if I dismissed them, I was mistaken or maybe you took my comments the wrong way. Now, they are more difficult to tie, which is why some people don't like 'em, you know, getting those duck quills set on a wet fly is not easy to get 'em set right. So maybe that's why I was dismissing them because they were difficult to tie. But yeah, absolutely they work. Trout aren't any different than they were 150 years ago. They're still the same. They still eat the same stuff and there are times when flies that were first tied, you know, in the 1400 and 1500s will definitely catch fish. So yeah, you know, we get wigged out on fly patterns and we shouldn't. There are thousands and thousands and thousands of fly patterns. Do we need all those? No, absolutely not. Do they make it more fun? I think so. You can make fly selection as simple as you want or as difficult as you want and it all depends on how you want to play the game. So I'm a fly tier. I like playing around with different fly patterns. Do I need 'em? No, I don't. I could probably get by with, you know, some pheasant tails, a couple streamers, and parachute Adams most of the time. But I like playing around with different flies.
Don: Hey, Tom. This is Don from Northern Illinois. Just listened to your latest podcast and you solicited some questions, and I've got two fairly specific questions maybe you can help me with. Number one, I was out fishing for smallmouth the other day early in the morning and really not having any luck. And on two separate occasions, there were fish, I'm assuming bass, which were rising or really multiple splashy rises, one against a bank and another against a halfway submerged tree. And it wasn't like they rose and grabbed something. They kinda crashed against the shore and against the tree two or three times, really got my attention. I'm assuming they've got a minnow or a baitfish corner there and are getting it. I threw a popper to the area and no luck. So wondering if that is indeed what's going on and how I could fish to this.
Then number two, when I'm fishing, particularly with my 4-weight and 5-weight, I tend to get a lot of curl in my slack line as I'm casting. So I'll take my reel off and I'll rotate it counterclockwise, get the curl out of my slack line, and then a little while later, have to do it again. And I'm assuming it's because my fly is twisting in the air and this is particularly a problem when I'm fishing a hopper or a bigger fly with a lot of air resistance. So not sure if there's anything you can recommend regarding casting technique or ways to get the curl out of the line. So that's it. That's my two questions. Hope to hear from you. Thanks.
Tom: Well, Don, what you saw of those splashy rises against the bank is almost certainly a bass chasing baitfish. Probably fairly small baitfish if you couldn't see anything. And, you know, the way to fish that is you can try a popper. That will work sometimes, a slider, which is kind of a popper turned around the other way is probably a little bit better idea. You know, poppers are generally fish who are trying to attract fish from a distance or trying to imitate a frog or a mouse or something. But when they're chasing baitfish, sometime poppers don't work as well. They will work, but sometimes they won't work as well. A slider, like a Sneaky Pete, might work better. But probably the best thing to use is a streamer. And if you can see the baitfish, you can often see 'em in the shallows or see 'em fly out of the water. Try to imitate the baitfish, the size and the shape of the baitfish, as best you can with a streamer. But I would think throwing a streamer into that mess of splashing fish is probably the best thing to do. And you may want to resist the urge to strip the streamer really fast. You know, the bass are gonna slash at those baitfish, and then they're gonna come back around and look for the injured ones and crippled ones. And so sometimes a streamer fish fairly slowly, even though you want to fish a fly fast through that kind of action, sometimes a slower strip or even just throwing the streamer in there and letting it kinda hang in the current will work. So try that.
Regarding the curl in your slack line, I have a feeling you're talking about your leader, not your line. But I'll cover both. First of all, if you've got curls in your fly line, best thing to do is just stretch that fly line before you start fishing. And you can stretch it by pulling coils out and just stretching it with your hands. Or you can, you know, hook your fly line around a nail or, you know, someplace else where it's not gonna move and just walk back and point the rod tip straight at it and just stretch the line a little bit. That'll take the curls out of it. But I expect you're talking about curls in your leader and that comes from having an air-resistant fly with a leader that's too light. So what I would do is use a shorter, heavier leader. Generally, you can get away with a heavier leader with big air-resistant flies. Otherwise, it's gonna twist and spin. So try to go with a little bit shorter, a little bit heavier leader. And then you can try casting with a more open loop. You know, we all strive for a tight loop when we're casting, but in this case, if you've got a big air-resistant fly and it's twisting your leader, try casting with an open loop, which is just making your casting arc a little longer. So maybe let your back cast drop a little bit more than you normally would in a good cast. That will give you a little bit more open loop and that might help keeping that leader from twisting.
Here's an email from Danny from Johnson City, Tennessee. I have to clap back a little bit over the little bit of trash-talking you did on tenkara style fishing you did in the recent episode. Let me say up front, I fish both western style, what you call big boy fly fishing, and tenkara style, and I definitely fish western much more than tenkara. So we are pretty simpatico. I also love the show and enjoy your commentary even when we disagree. My friendly beef with you today is over the dismissive way you described tenkara as if it's not big boy fishing just because it doesn't involve the use of a reel. Was there no big boy fly fishing for the hundreds of years between the invention of the dry fly and the invention of the reel? Tenkara is an important part of fly fishing history. As the kids say, "Put some respect on the name."
Additionally, it is very well suited, better suited in my view for tight technical stream fishing. I often hit the brookie streams with my friend, him on a 3-weight combo and me on an 11-foot Tenkara rod. And I keep up with him in numbers, even outfished him once or twice. And I believe I am indeed a big boy, even with tenkara in hand. Hardly any of this matters though since we're really just talking about preference and I'm not looking to convert you. If you've tried tenkara and prefer western, that's cool. Vaya con dios, etc. But I wish you would have been a little less dismissive of the fishing style on the podcast. You're one of the most influential voices in North American fly fishing and while I don't expect you to stump for tenkara, I do wish you would avoid demeaning it on the air. There's enough elitism in fly fishing as it is. There are already plenty of you guys and I do mean guys in the sport who look down on tenkara for frankly silly reasons. But it really is an inherently valuable and admittedly also limited form of fishing that is especially good for fly fishing for beginners. It's how I got in the door, in fact, and it's the style on which I plan to train my 6-year-old son. Please don't contribute to the bro culture in fishing by demeaning this historically important and contextually useful style of fishing. Anyway, if you're out on any tight brushy creeks and see a 6-foot-tall, 260-pound man, lightly tossing 10 feet of fixed line on a 5-foot tenkara rod, please be sure to tell this big boy tenkara angler, "Hello." Thanks for the podcast. It's the best pod in fishing and a joy to listen to.
Well, Danny, I stand corrected. And you are absolutely right, I was wrong. I shouldn't have made any disparaging comments toward tenkara. In fact, I've done a number of tenkara podcasts back in the archives, done 'em with Daniel of Tenkara USA, who's a good friend. And I sometimes almost make those comments to tease Daniel because he knows that I enjoy tenkara fishing and I don't do it as often. I prefer to use a conventional rod with a reel mainly because, I don't know, I like fly reels and I like fly casting. And tenkara has some casting involved, but it's a little bit different. So I don't do it as much as I used to, but I shouldn't have disparaged it. And you're right, the last thing that I want to do is to instill any elitism into fly fishing or into my own take on fly fishing. And I don't want to contribute to the bro culture for sure. So thank you very much for calling me on that and I promise you that I will not disparage tenkara or any other kind of fishing on the podcast in the future. And if I do, you all are welcome to call me on it. So thank you very much.
Here's an email from Mark. Just wanted to say thanks for the podcast and let you know about my recent fishing experience with my new H34 weight. Paired it up with a Mirage reel. Though I wouldn't recommend it for most people, I used this setup yesterday carp fishing and it held up great. I was well into my backing all day long and it was flat-out fun. I caught several in the 20-pound range and maybe bigger. One thing I would like you to bring up on your podcast is that guides are not casting instructors. We'll help. But a day learning to cast with an instructor is different than a day fishing with a guide. New fly fisher people would have a better trip if they would learn a little bit of casting before they show up at the ramp.
Well, Mark, it sounds like you're a guide, and yeah, don't try this at home, kids. A 4-weight on 20-pound carp is a tough thing to do. And I've seen it done before. Mark has done it, but boy, that's a lot of work. I'm glad to hear that 4-weight H3 worked out for it, but, you know, with carp, I fish 'em with a 7-weight, but lots of buddies fish 'em with an 8-weight. And if you're gonna tangle with fish in the 20-pound range, you're better off with a 7 or 8-weight. But congratulations on that. And you are absolutely right. You know, guides are teachers. Guides are great teachers. But guides are there to teach technique and to teach natural history and to teach what the bugs look like on the water. But you don't want to have to have a casting lesson with a guide and that's a really good point. In fact, I don't guide for a living and never have, but, you know, when I am taking someone out fishing, I'm not gonna give them a casting lesson either. And what I tell them, I fished with a friend recently for striped bass who had not done much fly fishing, and I said, "Okay, before we go, I want you to be able to cast 50 feet accurately. That's all I ask for before we go. So get out there and practice before we go." And by God, he did practice and he did really well and the fact that he did that casting practice beforehand, before we were on the water chasing fish, really, really served him well. So thank you, Mark, for that reminder and that's a good reminder for all of us.
Here's an email from Mark from Western New York. Growing up on a private fish hatchery along with parents that fly-fished since the 1950s, I was exposed to it at a very young age. A good majority of their free time was spent on the waters of the Catskills fishing the Beaverkill, Willowemoc, and the Neversink. During that time, they amassed quite a collection of rods, reels, flies, etc. I now have some of that collection, which includes a variety of early Orvis graphite rods, Orvis reels, and well over 100 flies from the late 1970s to early 1980s, some tied by my father and some tied by shops in the Roscoe area, including some tied by the Deadeyes and other artists of the era. There are some that are truly works of art. My question to you is how would you feel comfortable in using these flies? They have always been stored indoors dry and show no signs of degradation. Does the metal in the hooks weaken over time? I'm sure the natural materials are not as good as they once were, but you can't tell by just handling them. I guess my main concern would be breaking off a fish due to metal fatigue. How long do you keep flies around? Let me know what you think.
Well, Mark, I think in that time period, you probably are safe using those flies. You know, as long as there's no visible rust on those hooks, I don't think you're going to experience metal fatigue. And if there's a metal engineer out there that can correct me, please do. But I think that it would take a lot longer and, you know, more environmental variations for the metal in a fly hook to degrade than that. However, if you know some of those flies are tied by the Deadeyes or the Darbees or other famous tiers of the era, I wouldn't fish with those flies. If there are any that are absolutely identified as being tied by them, I'd keep them in a collection somewhere because they're probably too valuable to be fished. But if you don't know who tied what, then yeah, I'd use 'em. And I think the hooks are gonna be fine. You know, I know I have flies in my fly box that were tied in the 1970s and, you know, I'll still pull one out occasionally and I've never had a hook break. A hook that wasn't visibly rusted. I've never had a hook break that wasn't visibly stressed or rusted. So I think you're gonna be fine. Use 'em, but save some of them too. Put 'em aside and put 'em in an airtight container and save 'em for the future.
Here's an email from Mike. Thank you and Orvis for all you do on behalf of conservation and ensuring resource preservation for future generations. I value this more than your products, which are also great. I am from Houston, Minnesota, and my primary fisheries lie in the driftless region of the aforementioned state. I must tell you how impressed I am with my 9-foot 5-weight Helios 5F rod. A true joy to use in virtually all scenarios. In fact, I enjoy it so much, I am contemplating purchase of another for bass and carp fishing that I have yet to do on the fly. I would do this both locally as well in the lakes, in the Northern Minnesota, very much tradition for the people of my state. With this in mind, I am curious about the utility of a 7 versus 8-weight rod. The bass are typically not huge, a few pounds at most, but the flies sure look huge. In contrast, the carp are, well, carp, usually not that big, but spooky and flies comparably small. How would you suggest thinking about the difference between the 7 and the 8-weight rod for the above and species? Does an 8-weight really confer that much greater ability to cast large streamers and poppers versus a 7? Does a 7-weight really present flies that much more delicately to a spooky carp relative to an 8? Is 7-weight too little for the occasional large fish that might take a fly, which include the wayward pike that seem to eat just about anything when their blood is up? Any advice would be appreciated. I will need to save up considerably for this rod and would like to have as universal a tool as possible. Thank you for your consideration and willingness to share your knowledge.
So Mike, you know, if you've been listening to the Fly Box, you know this is a recurring question. And it's a good one. But there is no real good answer. The difference between a 7 and an 8 is fairly small. And so, you know, I think there are a couple things to think about. One is that you have to decide which species are you going to go after the most? Which is the most important? And with carp, it's smaller flies in delicacy. With bass, it's a little bit bigger flies and, you know, you may have the occasional largemouth that you need to wrench out of the weeds and an 8-weight can help you do that a little bit better than a 7-weight. But either rod is going to do just fine for you. What I tend to do, let's say I'm fishing an 8-weight and I want a little bit more delicacy. Let's say I'm fishing an 8-weight. I usually fish a 7 for carp, but let's say I'm fishing an 8-weight for carp. Well, what I'll do is I'll extend my leader, I'll tie 3 feet of additional butt section on my leader, and then maybe a little bit longer tippet. So any delicacy that I might have sacrificed is gonna be ameliorated because the fly line's gonna be further away from the fish. So sometimes with a heavier rod, just going to a longer, slightly lighter leader will help your fly land more softly.
Now the other end of it, let's say I'm fishing a 7-weight and I'm fishing for carp but I see a big largemouth and I want to tie on a big hair bug. Well, I can also change my leader to help that 7-weight present that bigger bug to the bass and I would cut my leader way back to, like, 3 or 4 feet, make it really stiff, or just tie on a, you know, big, heavy piece of level monofilament in 20 or 30-pound test. Largemouth bass are not leader-shy. And then, use that because the shorter, stiffer leader will help that 7-weight present that bigger fly.
So, you know, I don't think we spend enough time thinking about your leader's suitability for the species you're chasing, and I think that's one of the most important things in fishing, is choosing the right leader. In your case, I think you're gonna be fine because you want an answer from me, I think you're gonna be fine with a 7-weight. I think you're gonna appreciate that 7-weight with the delicacy in carp, and then if your bass are not that big, I think you don't have to cast very far generally for bass, so that 7-weight will make the short cast with the bigger flies just fine. Try to cast a more open loop. And you can also, you know, if you want, you can also get a line such as a Bank Shot or a Power Taper for that 7-weight to help you throw those bigger flies. But just remember to put on a shorter, stiffer leader. Maybe carry two leaders with you. Carry a short, stiff one. The short, stiff one could be just an old trout leader cut back to, like, 5 feet. You know, once you've used a trout leader, used it over and over again and you want to go to a fresh leader, you can just cut that old trout leader back, keep that in your pocket. And if you switch from carp to bass, you can just use that shorter leader or vice versa. So hope that helps, and again, I think 7-weight's gonna be the better rod for you.
Ben: Hey, Tom. This is Ben in Brooklyn, New York. I have two questions for you. One, within two months of each other, I had two 9-foot 5-weight tips break off. One was an Orvis, one wasn't. Both are under five years old and they broke off with maybe a half an inch from the actual tip of the rod. And it happened when I was just gently stringing them up at the time. There's no single event I can think of that might have done that. I do occasionally drive with them strung up in my rental car, but otherwise try to take good care of them. Any thoughts on what might have happened?
And number two, I didn't start fly fishing until my mid-30s. I love to fish, especially for trout in the Catskills, and it's one of the few ways I can get a break from a pretty stressful job and my cell phone for six to eight hours and truly focus when I go out. But I'm still relatively new to it, and from time to time, I find my mechanics just totally breaking down on the stream, especially when I get frustrated. When that happens to you and you're not sure the issue and you get frustrated, how do you reset so your brain doesn't make things worse?
Tom: Well, Ben, to me, I don't think keeping your rod strung up in a rental car if you're careful is gonna hurt the rod. It's when rods bang against a hard surface that they get little fractures. And those fractures can sometimes then cause a rod to break later when you're playing a fish or, as you said, when you're stringing up the rod. I suspect that you have a Clouser Minnow/split shot problem with your rods. I suspect that you probably are either fishing some big weighted streamers or you're fishing a nymph rig with some split shot. And if you don't throw a nice, open loop, and especially if you throw a tailing loop with your line where your fly goes underneath the fly line on your forward cast, you may have nicked those rods with the either heavy streamer or a split shot. And I think that is probably why they broke. So casting a more open loop is just...opening up your casting stroke a little bit or using a Belgian cast will help in that situation when you got a big heavy fly. And there are also lots of videos on YouTube about, you know, how to eliminate a tailing loop. One of the best tips I've ever heard is to make sure that you raise and lower your elbow when you cast. And if you do that, if you concentrate on raising and lowering your elbow as you cast, you'll hardly ever cast a tailing loop. And that's what causes a split shot or a weighted streamer to intercept the tip of your rod. And, you know, rods breaking half inch from the tip, that's pretty typical. So I think that's what happened, and if not, then I'm not sure. I'm not sure what the problem is. If you don't use weighted flies, I'm not sure why they both broke in the same spot.
Regarding what I do when I get frustrated and my mechanics break down, you want to probably do as I say and don't do as I do because if you talk to any of my fishing buddies, they would say that I just throw a hissy fit and keep fishing and things go quickly downhill from there. So we all have those moments. The smart thing to do would be to sit down, let somebody else do the fishing if you're in a boat. Or if you're wading in a stream, sit down in the bank, relax, do whatever you do to relax, smoke a cigar, have a sip of Scotch or beverage of choice, or do a little meditating, which is not something I can do. But yeah, when you get frustrated, you do need to chill out somehow. And, you know, your casting mechanics shouldn't break drown from a strength issue. I mean, fly rods weigh a couple ounces, and even if you cast them all day long, you shouldn't be tired. If you're tired when you're casting, then you're stressing out and you're pushing too hard on the cast. And that's what makes you tired. Or you're tense. So, you know, when things break down, it's best to take a break however you individually are able to take a break and clear your mind. But to keep fishing like I do is not the best solution. So don't do what I do.
All right. That is the Fly Box for this week. Let's go talk to Cam Mortensen about the world of fiberglass fly rods.
So my guest today is Cam Mortensen. Cam is the owner and the sole proprietor of "The Fiberglass Manifesto." And if you're into fiberglass rods or you're into fly fishing at all, you have probably read "The Fiberglass Manifesto." Even if you don't fish glass, it's just a great...I guess you can call it a blog, right, Cam?
Cam: Yeah, I used to be embarrassed it was a blog but then I've really embraced it. And, you know, I think where websites don't necessarily change a lot, like, the ability to blog is that, you know, new content can go up continuously, whether it's daily or every couple days.
Tom: Yeah, and you put great stuff up there just about fishing in general. You're an all-around angler. You love carp and you love trout and panfish and all kinds of stuff. So it's a great website or a great blog. But we're gonna talk about glass rods today because I get a lot of questions about glass rods on the podcast. And so, let's kinda start with the basics and then get a little more geeky. But, you know, what is fiberglass? When did people first start using it? And then we'll talk about, you know, older fiberglass versus modern fiberglass rods.
Cam: Well, I mean, I think it goes all the way back to the World Wars. You know, prior to that, you know, fly rods were very much made with bamboo. And through development of new materials for the war, they found fiberglass, and then realized that it could be made in a tubular way that they could make fly rods out of. And it was just so much easier to produce a fly rod with that material that, oh, just like when graphite was in, or was coming in and kinda put fiberglass out of business, it was very much the same way with fiberglass to bamboo where, you know, I think you were left with just a handful of companies that were still doing bamboo but oftentimes transitioning to glass. And I think there was that same transition that happened with graphite, you know, when that became the popular material.
Tom: What exactly is fiberglass?
Cam: Well, it's a material that has, you know, fibers, you know, long fibers that are made of glass. And it creates a fly rod that is gonna be, you know, lower modulus than graphite and it's gonna cast, it's gonna load slower. It's gonna have a different feel than graphite does. It's less brittle, you know, so you're not always gonna have to worry about breakage maybe as much as you would with graphite. But it's, you know, I guess now 20 years almost of fishing fiberglass fly rods exclusively. I just think it's a wonderful material for making fly rods because you can do many different things. And, you know, depending on the type of glass and, you know, a lot of the glass that's being used now is gonna be E-glass or S-glass or T-glass. They have different modulus, meaning that typically, E-glass is gonna be a slower, or it's gonna be less modulus, a slower fly rod than maybe an S-glass. S-glass is typically gonna be lighter for a finished fly rod. But then what's really interesting is you have these crazy taper makers and blank makers that can, you know, do really wonderful and different things with both of those, you know, E-glass and S-glass to make longer rods or slower rods. And, you know, there's a lot of a talent in a lot of these blank makers in really creating specific tools in glass that definitely do things that maybe most people wouldn't think that glass would be able to do.
Tom: So you can combine S-glass with E-glass? You can combine the two into a blank?
Cam: You know, I haven't really heard about overlaying sheets of fiber and doing that, but, you know, I think that there has been some mixing where there may be sections that are in different glass. I've never really heard about 'em laying up those materials. Now there are companies that will use glass and graphite together, you know, especially in the butt section of a Bluewater rod or something for tarpon, you know, they want to increase that strength. And so, that can be helpful there.
Tom: So you and Shawn Combs, the Orvis rod designer, are good buddies and fishing buddies. Which glass does Orvis use? I don't even know. I should know. Which glass does Orvis use in our blanks?
Cam: Well, back in the day, I think those Golden Eagles, those were E-glass. And then the last two generations, the newest generations, those are S-glass.
Tom: And the S-glass is the more modern, is the lighter?
Cam: I would say, yeah, it's more modern. The fibers are...there's more modulus in there so you're gonna have typically a more progressive, a fast reaction rod. And which, you know, oftentimes, you know, depending who the maker is, can give the ability to make longer fly rods that, you know, aren't gonna be tip heavy like you might find with E-glass. It just kinda opens up some new doors for, you know, the use of fiberglass. And then there's resins and there's all these other, you know, kind of magic that goes on in different makers' shops to create some really special fly rods.
Tom: Mm-hmm. So tell people what's so special about glass? I mean, you literally haven't fished a graphite rod in how long?
Cam: It's probably...well, I've been running TFM now for almost 14 years and I was hanging out pretty much full-time on the Fiberglass Flyrodders forum three years before that. I mean, we're like 17 or 18 years of really not fishing any graphite at all.
Tom: Nothing. Nothing.
Cam: Yeah. Not unless, you know, unless it's, like, put in my hand, then I'll cast it a little bit. Kinda crinkle up my nose and put it back down and get my glass rod. Literally, everything from a 2-weight, you know, all the way up to two-handers and 8, 9, 10-weight fly rods are all in glass. And I think that the reasons why you want to fish glass, if somebody was looking for a new redfish rod or a new tarpon rod, I probably wouldn't suggest that they go out and buy a glass rod. If they really wanted to experience what glass is about, get a 3-weight, get a 4-weight, get a 5-weight, you know, do something maybe trout-focused. Maybe do warm water for bluegills. You know, maybe a smallmouth rod in a 5 or 6-weight, something fun like that. And then, if it's something that resonates with you, then you might want to start adding to your fly rods from there.
And that's exactly what happened to me. I had a Featherlight 5-weight that I used for years, and then transitioned to glass and came back to, or excuse me, transitioned to graphite, came back to glass. First rod back was a 7-foot 3-weight. Really enjoyed that and just over time just added a 4-weight, added a 5-weight. You know, wondered what an 8-weight would be and added that. And so, you know, it was a progression where I was like selling graphite rods to fund glass rods to the point where like I didn't have any more graphite rods to sell and I was just fishing glass all the time. And I haven't regretted it at all. To me, it gave me like a new focus and a new learning point within fly fishing. I think all of us need new things in our life to, like, research and learn about and kinda get jazzed about. And so, for me, it was, you know, glass rods, and part of that was, like, click and pawl reels and it was like researching all the way back to, you know, developing different collections. Like I've got, oh, a couple, two, three dozen JW Young clicker reels from England that... I mean, you can still find them on eBay for $50 or $75, new in the box and they're just, I mean, just wonderful, wonderful reels. And so, that was kind of another rabbit hole to go down.
And, you know, over time, you know, I think back to when I started TFM, there was maybe a dozen rod makers and rod companies and rod shops that were, like, building glass. And so, there just wasn't a lot of choices. In fact, a lot of times, there was just several people making blanks and then it was kinda different rod builders' interpretation of how they were gonna build those out. So there wasn't a lot of difference. You know, there was a 7-foot 3-weight, 7-6 4-weight, 8-foot 5-weight and there was a lot of people doing that. But over time, you know, over the last 15 years, we now have rod companies, rod makers that probably number... I mean, I think I've got close to 100 listed on TFM and I'm probably missing, you know, 100 that are out there.
And, you know, what that's done is that it's developed... We've had small shop rod makers that develop a real niche, you know, and it might be small stream rods. You know, if you think about Chris Barclay, you know, his bread and butter is 2, 3, 4, 5-weights for the waters he fishes in North Carolina or the driftless, you know, those type of waters. Then you've got other builders like Dusty out of Livingston Rod Company that is very western-centric. He's in Montana so he has western glass. They're longer glass. They're, you know, built and made for fishing on tailwaters and in western situations. And you've got other builders, they kind of build on everybody's blanks. You know, I often talk about Shane Gray or Matt Lederman, you know, they're just like magic makers in their shop about creating like a very special fly rod on whatever blank somebody wants them to build on. And then you got companies like Epic and Orvis and others that just build, like, a spectacular, you know, S-glass fly rod that's gonna be great, you know, all across the board, you know, for a lot of different angling situations that you can dry fly fish with them, you can throw a stream rod on, you can nymph fish, you can go out to the flats, you can be on a trout stream. They're gonna be something that, you know, can...kind of an all-around workhouse type of fly rod that is really helpful to have.
Tom: So we still haven't gotten to the root of it. What's so special about a glass rod other than the fact that they're different? What is the mystique? How do they feel? You know, I mean, a lot of people are curious about glass rods. What is it that makes 'em special?
Cam: Well, I think it starts with the cast. So I'm not a spectacular fly caster, but for me, glass rods have been very helpful because there's a feel and there's immediate feedback with a glass rod that I don't necessarily have that...I'm not in tune with that with graphite rods. And even when I pick up a graphite rod now, it does not have that same alive feeling that a glass rod does. And so, you know, when I'm casting, I can feel that rod loading, and I know when I need to make the forward part of my cast. And so, I think that's helpful for people that have been fly fishing for 20 years, but I also think that it's really helpful for people who have never picked up a fly rod before that if they pick up an 8-foot 5-weight that's got a 5-weight line on it, or you can even overline it just to give them that much more feedback, that they can learn the mechanics of fly fishing a lot easier on a glass rod.
That said, I wouldn't ask 'em to pick up a 2 or 3-weight rod and do that in glass or graphite. I think it's important that you start with a rod that's pretty easy for you to learn those casting mechanics on. So there's the feel and the castability, but then there's just, you know, immense fun in hooking a fish on glass. You're getting that full bend of the rod, you know, like some people think that it's like this noodle, you know, going full bend-o. So there's that aspect of really being able to feel the fight of the fish. I mean, even down into the court, you're gonna feel that rod bending. But another benefit to that, especially when you're fighting bigger fish, is that there's tippet protection. And then for me, I really feel like I can leverage and turn fish much easier with a carbon glass rod because that whole rod is acting as a shock absorber. So any type of run where, you know, on a fast action graphite rod, you might be worried about putting that much leverage on a fish, you know, with fiberglass, you know, everything from carp to tarpon, I've really felt like I could make, you know, that fish turn its head and get away with things that I might not be able to do with a graphite rod.
Tom: Okay. Fair enough. And how about short casts? Are fiberglass rods really better at short casts? Are they really more delicate, do you think, than graphite rod, comparable graphite rod?
Cam: Well, I think that there's some real benefits, A, like something simple as roll casting, so small stream type situations. Roll casting, bow and arrow cast, there's gonna be a benefit there. And then, even, you know, for me, I do a lot of flats fishing for carp or even saltwater, there's a real benefit that I feel like instead of with a fast action rod where you might have to do two or three false casts to get that head and a 30, 40, 50-feet of line out, like, with a glass rod. And all of this is in mind that you've really worked on, like, fine-tuning what fly line goes on that fly rod. But from fishing enough in the front of the boat with guides that are like, "You didn't need to do that third false cast, like, let's do that in two," or even getting down to, like, doing it in one or water loading, you know, 40 foot of line and laying it out right in front of the fish, I really think there's advantages to glass in even in a flat situation too that has advantages over graphite rods.
Tom: Okay. How would modern glass rods compare to, you know, the ones that I grew up with in the late '60s and '70s when they were, if you didn't have bamboo rod, you had a fiberglass rod? And most people had fiberglass rods. How do they compare?
Cam: Well, I'd never want to badmouth, like, glass from the '60s and '70s because there are some really sweet, you know, fly rods that are out there. You know, Phillipsons and Golden Eagles and Hardys and, you know, the list goes on. But I think if you took all the glass from the '60s and '70s and you took all the glass that's being made now, you would see there's a lot of differences in the technology that you use, the tapers that are available, like, different materials being used, how the rods perform, you know, I think overall are gonna be a lot better. The rods are gonna be lighter. They're likely stronger. I mean, there's just these advantages that, you know, in time and technology, you know, things just get better. And so, if you've not fished glass, or let's say you fished glass 30 years ago and you hated it, and your friends made fun of you, you know, I would say give glass a try again. And make sure that you're not setting yourself up for failure. You know, maybe not go out and grab an 8-weight in glass, but get a 3 or 4 or 5-weight in glass and see what you think from there.
You know, have it so you can compare, do I enjoy this 4-weight, you know, more than this 4-weight in graphite that I've been fishing for years? Does it do the same things? Does it do 'em better? Is it more fun? You know, that's where a lot of times it wins out, you know, with me over time is that in the beginning, I thought, "Well, I'll just fish these rods for trout and warm water," and then over time, it's just like, "Well, that 8-weight was actually more fun than the graphite 8-weight that I had." And can it do everything? You know, a lot of times, people say, "Well, if it's windy, you don't want to fish glass." And maybe I'm just so focused on it and, like, committed to it that I just fish those rods no matter that. But, you know, the other thing is if you take the time to, like, learn what fly lines work best on certain rods and certain situations, I don't know, I just haven't felt like I was missing something by not having a graphite rod in a certain situation.
Tom: Mm-hmm. So you talked about fly lines and the importance of matching the right fly line. What type of fly line or what taper is gonna be better on a glass rod in general?
Cam: Well, there's some companies. You know, I think a lot of times, the general trout tapers, you know, work on trout rods. And then, there's some companies, oh, like, 406 Fly Lines that went back and found, like, old taper recipes and had that, you know, when everybody was fishing glass and those have been a really big hit with both bamboo and glass guys. And so those tapers have been a good fit in both weight forward and double taper. And then, most of the rod companies have been real good about, you know, having double tapers around that are a good fit. SA and RIO both have a creek line that's really neat on, you know, 3 and 4-weight glass, it roll casts super easily, really fun to use. And then as, you know, depending on what you're doing, so some of the pike and musky tapers are super on glass for turning over big flies. And, you know, when I talk about like advantages of glass over graphite, you know, having those right fly lines for, like, pike and musky, for tarpon, saltwater situations, I find that the fly rod in glass does a lot of the work in that casting mechanics for turning over and for casting big flies. Streamers, super big streamers for big toothy fish or even in saltwater, you know, flat situations, having just modern fly lines that were designed for, you know, maybe a graphite rod really transition nicely on a lot of glass rods.
Tom: Wow. Okay. Which of the Orvis lines do you prefer on your glass rods?
Cam: You know what, Tom? I don't know if I've really fished too many of the Orvis lines. I fish a lot of SA lines, you know, and I think that there's some overlap there as far as tapers. Actually, the last one I remember that I really, really liked and I would fish a lot are the Siege lines. Those would turn over streamers super easy and they actually... I mean, they would seriously overline glass rods. But they actually would perform really great.
Tom: Siege lines?
Cam: Yeah, you guys made those a few years ago. They were a streamer line.
Tom: I don't even remember that. You sure it wasn't Scientific Anglers?
Cam: Maybe Siege was SA and then there was an Orvis line that was, like, the same thing...
Tom: Yeah, it could be.
Cam: ...but you guys made it before they.
Tom: It could be. I don't remember that name. But of course, Orvis owns Scientific Anglers, so the lines are gonna be relatively comparable. Although the Orvis lines are just a little bit different, but usually not that much different. And you've tried the new four-piece glass rods that we just introduced. What do you think of those rods compared to the three-piece?
Cam: Well, I'm super happy that they all transitioned to four piece because I travel enough that it makes it a lot easier for those to come with me. And from the beginning, I've loved the tapers of the superfine glass. I mean, they're that much better now that they're four-piece. I know that there's been some minor tweaks in the taper from last gen to this gen. But, you know, these are a great fly rod that are easy for me to recommend because I get a lot of emails where people are like, "Hey, I'm looking for my first glass fly rod," or, "I'm looking for a certain line weight." And it's always a really easy recommendation for somebody that's looking for an all-around fly rod they can do everything with, and that it's made in the USA and that it has a great warranty and the price point is, you know, surprisingly in line with what you'd expect for a fly rod with those characteristics. And so, you know, overall, that series is one of my favorites, you know, just to grab anything from the 2-weight up to the 8-weight. And the 8-weight is in my top three of 8-weights that are being made in glass. For me, you know, the versatility of that 8-weight is that it's really great with something like a bonefish taper. But then you can throw something on there such as, "Oh, I fish a lot of the tight and short and the Bass Bug line from SA, even Outbound lines from RIO, and it handles those lines great too." And so, where I kinda thought that the 8-weight might be kind of like a light 8, I mean, I've gone on redfish trips and carp trips and it actually handles some of those heavier-headed lines really, really spectacularly as well.
Tom: And you've actually worked with Shawn on the Orvis glass rods and done some testing. Can we mention that? Can we say that?
Cam: Yeah. I think one of the neatest benefits to writing TFM over the years is that I've been able to be kinda everybody's secret keeper. You know, and I've tried to always, like, never betray trust and anything I'm working with with Shawn is a different conversion than I'm having with Tim Rayjeff at Echo. It's a different conversation than I'm having at Reddington. And, you know, every company's different and the focuses on what they can do is different. And I'm kind of a soundboard for what people are looking for in glass. And so, it's been really neat over the years to work with Shawn, work with everybody else in small ways, kinda feed different companies, like, "Hey, it would be really cool if you did this or that." And some companies can do it because it fits into kinda what they're working towards, and other companies are like, "Eh, this is probably not a good fit for our lineup." But, you know, it's kinda neat to especially in that first generation of glass, worked with Shawn a lot, you know, kind dialing in the aesthetics and what we're looking for in a taper and I think that's just been built on with this next generation. I love how they look. Love that they're four-piece. Love how they cast.
And it's kinda neat to have been around this for so long that we're seeing companies that are making investments in, you know, a glass rod, but then they're going back to the drawing board a few years later to come out with another generation and another generation. And, you know, that speaks to people's interest in glass and it's always gonna be a niche, but it's kinda neat to sometimes blow a company's expectations of what they thought they'd sell in glass, I think even Orvis included in that, that, you know, there is a lot of interest out there for it. And it's kind of a neat thing to add to the list of fly rods that companies are able to offer.
Tom: Yeah. I mean, Shawn says that he really stuck his neck out when he first came to work for Orvis. One of the first things he said was, "We should make a glass rod." And everybody says, "Shh, quiet, quiet. Don't say that," in an interview. And the sales of the rods blew us away. They were just amazing and it's become a super, super popular rod.
Cam: Well, and for good reason. I mean, they're just great rods and it's neat to have something in the whole spectrum of, you know, fly rods. And, you know, going back 15 years ago, that spectrum was pretty narrow as far as what was being offered, price points, different tapers. And now, you know, you've got, you know, 100 different choices and that super fine glass, you know, really fits in a sweet spot across a number of different line weights. And so, it's always a great option for somebody. And as somebody that writes about glass, suggests glass to people, and loves to fish fiberglass fly rods, it's really neat to have all these different options out there because it's always good to give somebody two or three or four or five different things for them to look at. Because I think researching, going and finding those rods and casting them, and fishing, you know, different rods is what makes all of this fun. And to have all these different choices, it just really makes the whole experience that much sweeter, because it comes down to people like to fish 'em and companies keep investing in research and keep going back to the drawing board to create more really fun glass for everybody to fish.
Tom: Yeah. So I'm gonna put you on a limb here. Let's say I'm kind of your typical trout angler, right? I fish, you know, little bit of small, mostly medium-sized streams, occasionally a bigger river. I want to try a glass rod for the first time. Which Orvis model would you suggest someone pick up?
Cam: You said the majority of the time, you're kind of on small to medium waters?
Tom: Yeah. Yeah.
Cam: I mean, that 4-weight is sweet. And, you know, I think the 5-weight is, in my mind, more towards, like, bigger water, Delaware [inaudible 01:19:45] out west. And that 4-weight can get by in those situations. So if you were primarily on small to medium water and just wanted a daily driver, I think that 4-weight's gonna be the one to reach for. And that's also a good indicator of, "Oh yeah, I like this fly rod," and then you're gonna add, you know, others from the series to that. You know, there's that rule of two. So, you know, there's nothing wrong with getting the 4, and then you find you're on blue lines a lot more, then you get the 2, and then you're gonna go do something in salt or carp or bass. And then you get to eight, and then, you know, before you know it, you've got, you know, three, four, five, six fly rods all in the same series. But that 4-weight's a good one to start with. You will not go wrong with that rod. And you've fished that rod, haven't you, Tom?
Tom: Yeah, a little bit. Little bit. You know, you and I have talked about this, I love bamboo rods. I love cane rods. And if I'm gonna reach for a slower rod, nice, relaxed casting and, you know, mostly dry flies and smaller fish, I'm gonna go for my bamboo. But I have fished that 4-weight glass, yeah. I've fished all the glass models, yeah.
Cam: Like I said before the call, someday I might graduate to bamboo. But right now, I'm still super satisfied fishing all these different glass rods, and yeah, they're just a ton of fun.
Tom: Yeah, they sure are. They sure are a lot of fun and they're durable. You know, if you're someone who's banging around in rocky creeks and climbing around rocks and things like that, fiberglass rod is gonna be more durable. You can whack 'em on a branch or on a rock and chances are, you're not gonna hurt it.
Cam: They can still break.
Tom: Yeah, yeah, of course.
Cam: I've snapped tips off on a hatch of a stiff or, you know...
Tom: Yeah, of course.
Cam: They can only take getting hit with dumbbell eyes so many times before they give up the ghost. But for the most part, I mean, there's been times where I've fallen or had fly rods fall off cars or off boats and they're surprisingly durable through a lot of different mishaps.
Tom: Well, the wall thickness on a glass rod is thicker and, you know, the impact resistance is higher.
Cam: Yeah.
Tom: So Cam, what do you think are the best uses for a glass rod? I mean, assuming most people are gonna have, you know, couple graphites, maybe a glass, maybe a bamboo, but, you know, majority of their rods are gonna be graphite. What's the best place to fish a glass rod? What kind of situations do you really want a glass rod?
Cam: I think there's gonna be your typical kind of conventional ways to use glass, which is gonna be small stream. It's gonna be panfish. It's gonna be, you know, that bang-around rod that's always, you know, at the ready. And in those situations, I think glass, that's a sweet spot for glass. And then I think there's some unconventional ways to use glass that, you know, I think back to going down to Punta Allen, we had a day that was like no wind. We decided to not fish permit that day. And we had these schools of, like, small to medium-sized bonefish. And I had a 6-weight glass rod with a bonefish line. And it was, like, the perfect rod to use in that situation. The line would just barely hit the water and just caught bonefish after bonefish. And so, there it just seemed like a very perfect tool for that situation.
And, you know, we talked about, you know, big toothy fish, pike, and musky. The times that I've done that game where you're constantly casting and casting and figure 8-ing and all that mess, you know, I think glass has a real benefit in situations like that as well because that rod loads the line and that fly and know, there's times where it just rockets where it didn't take hardly any, like, strength, arm strength and that the rod was doing all the work. And so, I think there's some, like, unconventional but perfect situations with glass. Even, like, standing on top of a ladder at Pyramid Lake years ago. I, on the last day, decided to use this glass two-hander with an outbound weighted line. And that thing, one back cast and it took seemingly like 100 feet of fly line out. And I was able to reach places that I hadn't reached for, like, the past three or four days before. And so, it was like I wish I had picked this up the first day. So, you know, I think that there's ways as anglers to think about perfect situations for glass. But then if there's things that you're doing that may be better with glass, it's kinda neat to try that as well. And you might find that it's, you know, something you enjoy or is more effective for you to use in what would typically be thought of as a graphite situation.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Yeah. I mean, we're not always talking about practicality, right? We're talking about having fun.
Cam: That's what it all boils down to. That's what's kept me interested in this glass game for, I mean, almost two decades now, is just that they're fun to fish and it keeps more [inaudible 01:25:32] popping up that are super fun to fish. And, you know, and what it's done is it's, like, developed this community. You know, I started this #glassisnotdead hashtag years ago and I think, I haven't checked it for awhile, but it's over 75,000 photographs on Instagram have that hashtag to 'em. And that's not just me and my mom using that hashtag. It's lots of other people that are out there, you know, tagging their adventures. They're rod-building, you know, new rods that they have in their stash and it's kinda neat to see the world over, you know, what people are using fiberglass fly rods for.
Tom: Yeah. I mean, it's a whole new world. It's a new area to explore in fly fishing. And you do a lot of carp fishing with glass, right? You're a carp aficionado.
Cam: I love carp. They're just so fun. I know that they're not native. And, you know, there's two parts of my brain. Like, I would much rather fish for natives where they're supposed to be, and that's like little brook trout and warm water species and different basses. And then there's this other part of my brain that it's kinda neat to see all the different places that carp have taken up residence and that they hardly ever all feed the same.
Tom: Boy, isn't that the truth?
Cam: And it's crazy that, like, the carp on Lake Michigan chase crayfish and goby. And then you go to, oh, somewhere near you, and they're plucking, you know, mulberries off the top water. And then you go out to Portland and fish the Columbia River and they're like focused on clams that don't move. And so, it's a different presentation. It's a different way to get them to eat. And, you know, it's kinda fun to show up at places that everybody would expect you to be doing something else. Even trip to Montana ended up fishing this lake in, it was like an irrigation channel. And there was all these carp that were just stacked up. You know, those took like a pink gacha [SP] which probably doesn't make sense at all. But it's just neat to, like, find something and figure out what makes them eat. And carp are pretty neat to...they're a neat species that you can tell if they like something or don't like something. It's hard to coax them into something that's hard-wired in their brain like that is or is not food.
Tom: Yeah, I find them one of the most interesting fish I've ever fished for just because you're right, ever place you go, there's a different trick, there's a different deal, and even sometimes, different times of day, they're doing different things.
Cam: Mm-hmm. You know, I fish a lot up... Every year, I go up to Beaver Island. And what's been neat about that fishery is that, oh, the 12 or 14 years I've been going, like, water levels in Lake Michigan have gone up, like, 5, 6, 7 feet. And so, there was places several years ago that were flooded that hadn't been flooded in decades. And so, there was one year, it was like 99% of the carp were in the weeds and in the trees. Like, you would not find them cruising on the flats because you'd hear 'em splashing and making noise and eating and just chilling out in the grass. And now the lake's gone down a few feet and so now, like this past summer when I was there, the fish are all back out on the flat. And so, they went from feeding and hanging out in the grass and looking for crayfish and things to eat there back to the lake where they're chasing gobys, they're looking for crayfish and, you know... So they're constantly changing too, you know, depending on where they can get to and what the food that they're looking for to eat is at.
Tom: And what length and line size do you like for carp fishing, in glass?
Cam: It depends on where we're at. So like on Lake Michigan and you're, like, there's 1 to 3-foot waves and, you know, it's very much like a flats, like a saltwater flat situation, I think in my mind, I wanted to go up there with, like, 6, 7, 8-weights. But now I just bring an 8-weight on a super nice clear day with no wind. But typically, we're fishing 10-weights there really just to, like, present flies to where they need to go and, you know, that's big water and you kind of fish it with that big water mentality. But then I've been to other places where you're using 6-weights. I think the best all-around that you can get by is likely an 8-weight. There have been a lot of places where I've fished for carp on an 8-weight. That's a good all-around, and that's such a versatile rod. You know, you might buy it for carp, but you can also do redfish on it. You can also do largemouth bass with air bugs. You know, you have a lot of versatility with that 8-weight rod.
Tom: Yeah, yeah. And even smallmouth with an 8-weight, because the glass rods bend so much, it's still a fun fight with an 8-weight glass rod.
Cam: Don't get me started on smallmouth. I might like them more than trout sometimes. They're just such a neat fish. And also a fish that's kind of all over the place, whether they're supposed to be there or not. And it's been neat over the last few years to see smallmouth kinda get a lot more positive press, maybe people that have fished certain places, which not everybody is fishing for smallmouth. But they're such a neat fish and really one of my top favorites to look for.
Tom: Yeah, they're an amazing fish, and you're right, they're almost everywhere and you don't have to worry about water temperatures when you're fishing for them. So it's a good summer target.
Cam: Something we found this year on Beaver Island with the smallmouth up there's that just like permit will, like, hover over a ray, and you'll see that, this summer, we found where the smallmouth were following the water snakes.
Tom: No kidding.
Cam: There was this 4-foot long water snake that was underneath this rock and there were, like, 3 to 5-pound smallies that were just down there, like, waiting for that snake to push out a sculpin or gobies or crayfish from under the rock. I mean, they were just sitting there hunting, and then there's other times where the snake would be swimming, you know, under the water looking, and there'd be a smallmouth that would just be hovering over it just waiting.
Tom: No kidding. Wow.
Cam: Which was the first time I'd seen that. We saw it over and over again this summer. It was kinda neat. Maybe that's just something that know, that's learned from the smallmouth that, you know, when those snakes come out with a big goby in their mouth, it's an easy fish for them to take away from them, or maybe they're waiting for them to push 'em out from under rocks. I don't know. It's just kind of was surprising to see because it was something we hadn't seen up there before.
Tom: That's fascinating. Well, that's what happens when you fish. You know, you never know what you're gonna see and a new observation that kinda turns on a lightbulb. That's cool stuff. Well, Cam, I want to thank you for taking the time to talk about glass rods with us today, and hopefully, we've answered some questions that people might have about glass rods out of curiosities. And you're the man who probably knows more about glass rods than anyone. So I really appreciate you sharing your knowledge.
Cam: No problem and if... You know, I get emails all the time or Instagram messages or Facebook messages about, you know, I love helping people figure out what glass rod they're looking for and kind of connecting them with the right builder or right rod company. Oftentimes, they get recommended to Orvis to find glass. But, you know, always feel free to reach out. Part of the enjoyment of writing "The Fiberglass Manifesto" now for almost 14 years has just been the community that it's built and all the different people that I've been able to meet along the way.
Tom: Yeah. Yeah. Well, thank you, Cam, really appreciate it. We've been talking to Cam Mortensen of "The Fiberglass Manifesto." And you heard him. If you got a question, you can email him. But you better recommend an Orvis rod, Cam, when somebody from the podcast emails you, or I'm gonna be mad at you.
Cam: No worries on that.
Tom: All right. Okay, Cam. Thanks very much.
Cam: Thank you. I appreciate the time, Tom.
Tom: Okay. Bye-bye.
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