Snap, Crackle, Pop

Snap, Crackle, Pop
Fly Rod Storage Cases (from left) PVC rod tube, cordura covered rod tube, aluminum rod tube, single carry case, double carry case.

I broke my first fly rod back in 1979. It was an 8 ft. Garcia 6-weight, out of the package barely a week. A slippery cypress root on the banks of Onion Creek near Austin took me and the Garcia down one afternoon while I was putting the stalk on a trophy sucker (believe me, Onion Creek was a world class sucker fishery). I shook off the slimy scuff marks but was horrified to see the rocks had left my new fly rod looking like a folded tent pole. I was devastated. And so, from those humble origins my long and fruitful career in fly fishing and fly rod breaking began.

Over the years I've caught my share of fish, and broken more than my share of fly rods. I've busted them in car doors, on ceiling fans, and in the forks of trees. I once magically broke a fly rod while pulling it out of the carry case, got it fixed, and on the next trip crushed it under an Igloo cooler that poor rod. I lost a handle off one rod to black mold, and a friend's brittany pup chewed the handle off another during a dove hunt. One unfortunate 7-weight got body-slammed by a T-post driver in the back of a ranch truck (that one was just plain ugly).

At least I've never broken any one else's fly rod (as far as they know), and lately my track record seems to be improving. This is due in part to today's tougher tackle, but it's mostly due to years of heartbreaking and expensive mistakes that taught me the importance of correctly handling and storing my stuff. So, let me share with you a few equipment lessons I have learned the hard way, beginning with the simple rod tube.

Rod tubes are a fly rod's best friend and worst enemy. Made of aluminum, plastic, and reinforced leather or nylon, the purpose of a tube is to provide protection for fly rods during transport. They do this quite efficiently. But there are several pitfalls associated with tubes. First, most rod tubes are round, so if a good-intentioned angler pulls them out of the truck and sticks them on a boat, the tubes rattle and roll on the floor like an empty bean can- all day long. And, the round tubes are a slip hazard. Tubes bundled together, or tubes with square outer shells solve some of the noise and slip problem. But the biggest problem with most tubes is that they are airtight. They trap moisture. Moisture sealed in a rod tube will quickly mildew, soften, and corrode the components of a fly rod. For this reason, NEVER store a damp or dirty rod in a tube, even for a short period of time. And, if you choose to keep fly rods in a tube for an extended period of time, open the cap and make sure the tube can breathe. Otherwise, your eyes and your nose may be in for an unpleasant surprise when you finally pop open the top.

The rod tube's easy-going cousin is the carry case. Carry cases started showing up about 15 years ago. I love them. While a rod tube can only handle disassembled fly rod ferrules, a carry case allow an angler to store a broken down fully rigged rod/reel/line combo without having to unstring and unscrew everything. Their design makes carry cases handy for pond-jumping, extended float trips, or fishing from a boat or vehicle that is not equipped with fly rod holders. They aren't too cumbersome and offer a good balance of convenience and protection. Carry cases do have some limitations though. One disadvantage is that if you step on the padded pouch end that shrouds your reel, you could break off the reel handle or damage the reel seat. And, because a fly rod might come in and out of a carry case many times during the course of a day, sand and other abrasive materials can find their way in to the lined tube where they vibrate against the rod and damage its finish. The biggest risk to the rod, though, is when it is being slid in or out of the carry case. If the ferrules are slid at an angle, or if the rigged fly is inadvertently pushed inside the tube, they can snag on the liner and pinch the rod causing the tip to snap. Trust me it can easily happen. Still, carry cases are versatile and work well for their intended purpose. From the carry case we move to the third type of protective device- the fly rod holder.

Fly rod holders come in all shapes and sizes and they are not all created equal. When considering a fly rod holder, think first about what sort of punishment, vibration, bouncing, and rotating the fishing vessel will be subjected to. For example- a Scotty rod holder is a great choice for a kayak, as is the rod holder built by Tite-lok. But, neither is the best choice for safely securing a rod to a vehicle bouncing down the beach all day long. Padded, magnetic, T-bracket rod holders designed to secure rods at the base and midway up the ferrule work better for super-rough vessels like beach vehicles. Believe it or not, a square trashcan with a padded rim works pretty well too.

Most premium flats boats come equipped with built-in rod holders. Run-of-the-mill boats do not, so an aftermarket holder needs to be attached. Boat-mounted fly rod holders can get a bit tricky too. Some designs, like inexpensive plastic tubes modified with deep slits in them, seem like an easy solution. But, the slits have a tendency to eat away at the base of the cork grip on large rods. And, when these holders are mounted on the side of a console, care should be taken to ensure the rod ferrules have ample clearance and do not rattle against the grab rails. iFly manufactures a nice fly rod holder that will safely hold most rods, even big offshore rods. The iFly unit is a tube with a wide and smooth channel cut in it to accept the reel seat and a rotating upper sleeve that surrounds and secures the ferrule.

Next to a safe appropriate design, consider ease of use. Is the rod holder convenient and accessible? How difficult is it to add/remove rods to the holder? Do the fly rods mounted in the holder get in the way of casting, driving, paddling, or moving around the vessel? Will the tips of the rods bang against low overhead objects or do the rods stick out where they can be easily snagged and pinched by a mangrove or boat dock? These are the types of questions you should be asking yourself before you start drilling holes.

No doubt, rod tubes, carry cases, and fly rod holders can protect and extend the life of your tackle.
But you should keep in mind each piece of equipment is designed for a particular purpose. Recognizing this early on will help you spend more time fishing and less money on repairs and maintenance.