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Hot Topics

Heat damage; The high cost of fishing gear; Getting kids started

  • By: Paul Guernsey
  • and Buzz Bryson
I fish a lot and usually leave my gear (rods, reels, pack) in my car all day, every day. Oh yeah, and my waders are always in the trunk. How bad is this for my stuff?

Well, in the summer, your trunk will get just about as hot as the passenger compartment with the windows rolled up. If you're in the mountains of Montana or Idaho, or the cool woods of Maine, you might be able to get away with it. But in south Florida, heck, anywhere in the South, and in most of the rest of the country as well, it gets hot that time of year. Keep storing things in the trunk, and it won't be pretty. Your "rubber" stuff will go first, as the plasticizers bleed out in the heat. Your lines will get stiff and begin cracking, and your waders won't be far behind. I once ruined a good pair of waders because I kept them in my '71 VW Bug right behind the rear seat-in other words, right under the rear windshield. The heat and sunlight ruined them over the course of a single summer.

If your gear is noticeably warm to the touch when you open the trunk, definitely consider another storage option, at least for the delicate stuff. The good news is that heat probably won't hurt your rods or your flies, or any reels that don't have line on them. -B.B.

Why does fly tackle cost so much when conventional gear is so cheap?

Several reasons: The fly-fishing industry is small relative to the general-tackle business, and miniscule compared to other outdoor activities (golf, for instance). There are few economies of scale available to fly-fishing manufacturers; R&D dollars and other overhead costs have to be recovered over a relatively small volume of sales.

The built-in profit for fly-fishing retailers must also be somewhat greater than for other businesses. But, lest you think your local fly-shop owner is getting rich at your expense, try to remember the last time you were in a "big box" store and were able to find a clerk-sorry, an associate-who could explain (much less demonstrate) how something worked. Time is money, and the intensive, hands-on nature of fly-fishing retail does add some expense. Next time you're thinking of saving a buck by buying over the Internet, consider the service at your local shop as a premium and worth that little bit of extra cash.

Labor also comprises a big portion of manufacturing expense. Most American-made rods are considerably more expensive than the ones that, in recent years, have been arriving from overseas. That's not to say, however, that some of this foreign-made tackle does not perform well on the water. Ultimately, the question of whether to "buy American" is one that each of us must answer for him- or herself.

All the business stuff aside, there is also a quality component to the cost of fine fly tackle. The latest (lightest, toughest) graphite materials are considerably more expensive than earlier materials. A plain (albeit durable and practical) reel seat might cost under five dollars, while one of those nice, machined-and-polished aluminum or nickel-silver reel seats, complete with a handsome wood insert, can cost 5 to 10 times that amount. Throughout the design process, rod makers face decisions such as, Do I use the more durable hard-chromed stainless steel guides, or the cheap ones that look similar? Should I save some time and materials by using one less line guide and spacing the others slightly farther apart? And, since quality cork is getting really hard to find, will my customers notice if I go to a cheaper grade?

We could go on through each piece of gear (machined versus molded reels; hard-anodizing versus "painting"), but you get the idea. As we are offered more and more choices in fly gear, there will be an ever-broader range of price-points to choose from. But then, fly-fishing is supposed to be the thinking person's sport, right? -B.B.

I'm very new to fly-fishing. I am also a grandfather, and at some point would like to introduce my five grandchildren to the sport. The oldest child is five. I do not want to start too early, nor do I want to wait too long. I would like some advice concerning when to, how to, and what type of equipment to look at.

Some people get their kids out fly-fishing at a very young age-5, or even younger. But it depends on the kid. My son, who is 10, and my 7-year-old daughter both prefer a spinning rod. So when we go fishing together-almost always for smallmouth or sunfish or some other high-catch-rate species-they use the spinning rods and I use my fly rod. I figure that when they're ready to graduate to fly-fishing, they'll let me know, and I'll allow them to use my stuff a few times before buying them their own beginner outfits.

Meanwhile, we're fishing together, and they're catching some fish, and those are the two most important factors in getting them hooked. I might add that, when you're talking about a bunch of kids, I imagine it'd be a lot easier on the (adult) nerves to work with ones who are spin-fishing rather than whipping around a fully armed fly rod.

But sooner or later the older kids will be ready for one of those starter fly-fishing kits. A lot of the major flyrod and flyline companies sell an inexpensive packaged rod, reel and line, and most of these will work just fine for kids.

I can't stress too strongly that even when you get the kids into fly-fishing, you have to make sure they see plenty of action, or they'll get bored even sooner than they otherwise might. Unless you're lucky enough to live in some kind of trout paradise, think bass, sunfish, schoolie stripers-anything that bites readily.

One more word of wisdom: Sunglasses. In any situation where new fly-fishers are in close proximity, eye-protection is a must.

Good luck. I won't say "have fun" because I know you will. -P.G.

Got questions about anything under the fly-fishing sun? Write to Ask FR&R, PO Box 370, Camden, ME 04843, or e-mail us at [email protected].