One significant perk of working at Scientific Anglers HQ is the casting deck. A bit of practice or prototype testing after a hectic afternoon is always welcome. Usually, I grab one of the same few rods for every session – partly because they’re handy, and partly because casting the same rods all the time makes evaluating different fly lines more meaningful.
But occasionally, a special rod comes along that deserves to be wrung out thoroughly for its own sake. One of those arrived this summer from Cameron over at The Fiberglass Manifesto, part of his demo program. It’s an Epic fiberglass rod, from Swift Fly Fishing, built up by George Minculete of Tight Loop Fly Rods.
The workmanship speaks for itself – this rod is obviously more than a tool. The photos here illustrate that well enough, as does this photo essay by the maker of the rod’s construction. But at Scientific Anglers, the casting deck is the proving ground, no matter how pretty the rod.
Swift Fly Fishing bills these rods as “Fast glass,” and it is fast, when compared to some vintage rods and some small-stream contemporary glass rods out there. But it is still definitely a glass rod. For us mostly-graphite folks: it’s heavier than you’re used to. Slow down and open your stroke a bit. Be mindful of tip-bounce. Don’t fight it.
Over a few weeks this summer we tried a variety of lines on this rod, and found that if we followed the advice above, the rod would do its part to place flies. Even being a five weight it would throw a six weight Mastery GPX without really breaking a sweat; just add poppers, and you have excellent river smallmouth medicine. Five weight trout lines were accurate and easy to lay out quietly; this rod would be very comfortable dropping Borcher’s parachutes into feeding lanes on the Au Sable come May, and would have the reserve strength to subdue the shouldery brown trout that live there. This is a fishy rod.
But from a line geek’s perspective, the ultimate test of a rod is the Mastery Expert Distance taper. This line is precisely weighted, has a subtle weight forward taper with a very long belly, and is made for those who enjoy casting for its own sake. It’s made for perfecting your loops – or being humbled by them – and for carrying lots of line in the air. This line does not respond to heavy-handed corrections for bad form – and neither do glass rods.
So we strung a five weight Mastery Expert Distance on the Swift Epic eight-foot five weight. The bright orange line betrays flaws in your stroke as it runs off the tip in what appears to be slow motion. It forces you to cast the rod, and does not allow you to force the rod to cast. You have to relax and let all the parts – rod, line, fingers, eyes, hand, arm – work together without conscious interference from your brain. When you can do that, when you can get out of the way and suddenly a cast feels and looks perfect, that’s when you understand.
And that’s what glass rod aficionados like about these rods. You have to work with them and can’t get better results by casting harder. This Epic Fast Glass and the Mastery Expert Distance taper combination is a perfect example of this.