In this technological world it’s hard to remember the ‘fishing’ world from long ago. In fact, the outdoor world didn’t have the high-class gear it has now, and people relied on nothing more than their hands and skill to make sure their families were fed. But depending on the anglers you speak with – whether competitive or commercial – there are various views on the oldest versus the newest equipment.
You would not assume that a talk about fishing rods/poles would be that in-depth. But the fishing gear ‘conversation’ offers a wide range of topics from long, flexible glass fibre composites to carbon, all the way to bamboo. Whereas commercial fishing requires nets and various other gear, it has always been the ‘sport’ of angling where the fishing rod is the most important, and usually the only necessary, piece of equipment to have on hand.
Competitive casting is a true industry now, with many heading out to events all across the country. People are taken very seriously because the pride and determination of competition comes along with learning the ‘art’ of casting. Yes, this is an art form in its own way, and the people who compete in these contests completely understand.
When it comes to fishing rods the two areas of flexibility and length are the most important. (i.e., the longer the fishing rod, the greater the mechanical advantage you have in casting.) Looking back, you can find this ‘art form’ existed almost everywhere around the globe, far before companies came along to enhance the fishing rod and gear industry. In fact, there are actual stone inscriptions that archaeologists have dated all the way back to 2000 B.C., that prove ancient Egyptians, Romans, you name it, also believed this was one sport that was a true art form.
Back then, of course, they didn’t have the synthetic materials, such as fiberglass and graphite composites we all have to choose from nowadays. But they did have the Tonkin bamboo, Calcutta reed, hickory, maple, etc., that not only provided them with food for their family, but also caused our ancestors to go out and learn every nuance of angling.
The fishing rod was then and remains a three-piece item. The butt was usually maple with a bored bottom; the midsection was created from Iron wood because of its thickness; and the tip was generally made from bamboo for its elasticity – giving the ancient angler the ability to throw the bait much further and more accurately. Handles and/or grips were put together from cork or cane, and as the days rolled by and various chemicals arrived, an Irish or bone glue held these pieces in place. Guides also came along, but not until the 17th Century, and were basically no more than wire loops. You would think these outdated items would simply be found in a museum nowadays, however, many present-day anglers still trust in the Tonkin split-bamboo rods. In other words – just because it’s old, doesn’t mean it’s not the best.
England was the huge producer of fishing products that were available all over the world, and that really stems from the fact that the royal ones saw fishing the same as they did fox-hunting. It was a calming, almost religiously practiced sport. But around the middle of the 1800’s, a man by the name of Samuel Phillippe made the first six strips of Calcutta cane. This was revolutionized by Hiram L. Leonard, who found a way to actually manufacture the Calcutta cane rods for the general public.
As with anything, the older an item became the more expensive it became, which is when the technological world took over and began making rods from new materials. The world saw everything from all-steel rods, which were far too heavy and completely non-flexible, to fiberglass rods that improved the sport for many.
And now…we come to our world. Today, the ideal rod has a smooth, progressive taper from butt to tip, and the advanced materials and composites have allowed rod makers to tailor the rods in order to give more distance and accuracy to the angler’s cast.
Generally there are three types of rods used today; graphite, fiberglass and bamboo. Bamboo rods are the heaviest of the three, but people still use them for their feel. Fiberglass rods are chosen by the new and younger fisherman because they are literally indestructible. And today’s most popular rod tends to be graphite, because of its light weight.
As time rolls forward, more and more companies are getting involved in finding a way to create fishing rods that will help one and all learn and enjoy the ‘art of casting.’