Ever since the first fiberglass fishing rods were manufactured, this material stood out thanks to its affordability, lightweight construction, and unmatched durability which make it perfect for fly fishing. Nowadays fiberglass rods such as the Shakespeare rod and reel are making a comeback and we have prepared an informative article to get you up to speed.
A brief history
Fiberglass is a material that was first developed during World War Two with the primary goal of being used in aircraft applications. Fiberglass can be molded easily into any shape and it has outstanding mechanical strength which makes it capable of handling a wide range of applications without breaking and out-performing most of the other materials on the market.
It didn’t take long for this new material to be employed on mundane items and the first fiberglass rods were built in the 1940s and until the 1970s fiberglass was the most common fly-rod material. Fiberglass replaced bamboo as the preferred fly-rod material because it was easier to work with and cheaper.
The first fiberglass rods were made by wrapping the impregnated fiberglass cloth over a wooden core and then wrapping the rod in cellophane. Later on, the process was changed to be more economical by using a steel mandrel that was reusable. This new technique was so efficient that it is still used to this day for both fiberglass and graphite rods.
While the 1950s marked the beginning of fiberglass rods, they were still quite rough and not able to compete with bamboo or other materials since the performance and action weren’t there just yet. Despite being cheaper, serious fishers still preferred going with bamboo.
It was not until the 1960s that companies such as Hardy, Orvis, and Winston started to make fiberglass rods capable of competing with bamboo. Because fiberglass was so much easier and cheaper to manufacture and able now to compete performance-wise with the classic rod materials, it soon became a hit among amateur and professional anglers alike.
Fiberglass rods can be mass-produced without the need of many skilled workers and they require less maintenance. There is no wonder why people were left in awe by this new fishing equipment.
During the 1970s graphite was introduced and it soon began to compete with fiberglass. Because graphite was lighter, a feature that is very important for fishing rods to have, most companies started to drop the production of fiberglass rods.
In the last decade, new rod designs have been made and they are now being used to improve and make fiberglass rods a viable option once more. The interest in this type of rod is growing faster than ever before and major manufacturers are starting to pay attention.
The advantages of fiberglass
Fiberglass is a material that is stronger than bamboo and graphite and that makes it a perfect choice for travel rods. When you are walking through rough terrain or just bushwacking along the stream bank you can feel more relaxed if you carry a fiberglass rod and not one made of delicate and expensive graphite or bamboo.
This leads us to another big advantage that fiberglass has, and that is the price. Most often than not it is the price, not the features that a product offers that matter the most to the average buyer and this is where fiberglass has a big lead. While a good bamboo rod can cost more than $1000, a high-quality fiberglass rod can be found under $300.
Anglers are also big fans of the way fiberglass feels in the hand. After using a graphite rod for an entire day it is not unusual for your arms to be sore. With fiberglass, you do not need to slow down your casting stroke since you’re letting the rod do most of the work.
A fiberglass rod can take the weight of the line, it bends deeply and will send out casts as far as 30 to 50 feet with outstanding accuracy and ease. Furthermore, these rods are also great for beginners, particularly for fly fishing since it is much easier to get the timing of the back and forward casts right.
While looking at it from a more technical standpoint, professional anglers prefer fiberglass because it is better at protecting the tippets of all diameters while still giving the user the ability to put as much pressure on a fish as needed. Since there is less worry that the line will break, anglers can land fish quicker and easier.
Furthermore, fiberglass is very similar in feel to bamboo and once a fish will take the bait, the rod will react immediately. It can make fishing that much thrilling, especially for amateurs since every shake and run that the fish makes will be noticeable, giving you enough time to react.
What are the disadvantages?
There is no perfect product and there is always a tradeoff depending on the type of material you use for your rod. In the case of fiberglass, it is heavier than that of graphite but much lighter than bamboo. This is by no means a deal-breaker, but if weight is very important for you, you will need to consider this aspect carefully.
Another aspect to bear in mind is that glass rods don’t come in long sizes and that is because they don’t perform very well for lakes and larger streams where wind might be an issue. In these conditions, 5-weight graphite rods are the better choice.
Finally, fiberglass is a material that is slower. It is not a fast-acting fly rod and you should not use it as such. If you are looking for a fast-acting rod, then graphite is a much better material for this task.
The options that are available
While there are many differences in manufacturing that make each fiberglass rod unique, the two main types of fiberglass that are used to make fly rods are E-Glass and S-Glass. The main difference between the two is that E-Glass is a bit slower than S-Glass, but even then depending on how the manufacturer rolls and tweaks the rod, the difference is very subtle.
Because glass fibers are clear, these rods come in a wide array of colors and they are much easier to customize than bamboo. Manufacturers can add dye to make the rods in almost any color you can think of. While bamboo and graphite can be painted, they will never match the brilliant colors that fiberglass rods can achieve.
Modern fiberglass fly roads are generally sized with 6’ and 7’, 3-to-5 weights. With that said, the latest advancements in manufacturing technology have made it not at all uncommon to see fiberglass rods that reach lengths of up to 9 feet long.
Know when to use a fiberglass rod
Similarly to the bamboo options, rods that are made of fiberglass are best used in the shorter lengths, under 8 feet. While you can indeed find good fiberglass rods that are over eight feet, most anglers don’t recommend them since it is in the short length that these rods truly shine. This is also where most trout are caught.
Fiberglass rods that use 2- to 4-weights are perfect for use in small spring creeks and for stream fly fishing where you need to employ a stealthy approach if you wish to catch the fish. Don’t expect to use a fiberglass rod on the big water, as they are designed for fishing dry flies on smaller water.
Fishing in small streams is another area in which this equipment excels since fiberglass can bend and flex a lot without breaking. You will also be able to manipulate your line while it is still in the air so that you can avoid the line getting stuck in bushes, banks, or trees.
In recent years, the interest in heavyweight fiberglass rods has increased significantly. Some manufacturers have pursued this trend by creating products that can be used on species such as salmon, lake-run browns and steelhead, as well as skinny-water species like redfish, carp, and even tarpon.
In these situations, fiberglass has an advantage since it can load with minimal false casts and it is capable of providing incredible leverage. With how fast things are moving, it should not be a surprise if, in the next couple of years, we will see even more choices for anglers who prefer a fiberglass rod.