Fly Rods for Sale…$800. Not to be confused with the 800 lb Gorilla.
I recently followed a link from Wind Knots & Tangled Lines to a blog post at Fly Fishing & Tying Obsessed. The post is titled, “I Am Disgusted”. Apparently; the rant was set off by a new Orvis Catalog. It is an interesting post, and you should definitely check it out along with all the comments. It got me to thinking and feeling slightly guilty. I have been posting about my love for the Sage One fly rods, specifically my new favorite 4116 Sage One Switch rod. I realize it is an expensive specialized rod that many anglers will not likely feel that they can afford. I have the rod because I work in both the guiding and retail side of the fly fishing industry. My business owns a large number of premium fly rods and clients utilize them on my guided trips. Of course I also get to use them when I go fishing. That is a benefit most recreational anglers don’t have. Believe me when I say there are other trade-offs.
Many anglers seem to view fly fishing tackle as somehow different from other retail goods and become offended when they view the costs as being too high. A day seldom goes by when someone in the fly shop does not react to the price of a high end fly rod. Then they go to the gun counter and spend $800 or more without batting an eye. The reality is that premium tackle is very specialized, available in smaller quantities and as such, priced accordingly. High end rods also carry no fault warranties that must be factored into the selling prices. While some domestic companies may be more altruistic than others, they still need a profit to keep the wheels turning and to keep on developing new and better fly rods. If consumers don’t view newer generation rods as better than older generation rods, they go out of business.
Still, do we need $800 fly rods to catch fish? The answer is clearly no. If you are an experienced caster and educated angler, you can handle just about anything and catch fish. That may be why Yvon Chouinard and Craig Mathews have taken up Tenkara. Why than are some rods over $800? How about looking at it this way: Do you need a 60” LED Flat Screen to watch the Super Bowl? Well we all know the answer to that. Will the experience be more enjoyable on the big screen? I think that answer is obvious. We all make our choices based on our perceived needs, desires and resources. I would rather have a 27” TV screen and an $800 fly rod. That’s my personal cost to benefit analysis.
Still, $800 dollar fly rods seem expensive, but maybe we can look at them another way. Remember when home computers first came out? A decent machine went for over $2000. For less than $300 now, you can get a better machine than $2000 would buy in 1994. My smart phone is better than my first computer at 1/20th the cost. Thanks to $800 dollar fly rods, the same is true in the fly fishing market. For less than $300 now, you can get a fly rod that is likely as good as or better than, the most expensive fly rods available in 1994. If you want the best of the best at any given moment in time, you will have to pay a considerably higher price. In a few years, the technology in the Sage One, Orvis Helios2, Hardy Proaxis, G. Loomis NRX, Loop Cross S1, Winston Boron III-SX etc. will be available in less expensive rod models. That’s because there will be $900 rods that have features and benefits not available in the premium rods of today. That is how retail works.
You get little benefit from an $800 fly rod if you have a .50 cent cast.
Are rods under $300 any good? Check out the St. Croix Imperial Series. They are made in the U.S.A. with models starting under $200. Will they deliver a fly like the Sage One series? Not quite. Are they durable, quality, domestically produced rods that will provide years of service and fun? Absolutely!
All the previously mentioned manufacturers of premium fly rods also offer rods at several price points. There are also decent rods available for less than $100 that will still get you on plenty of fish. The Redington Crosswater Series starts at $69.95. You can get the Minnow outfit with line and reel for $99.95. Guess who owns Redington? Sage does. They certainly know that it is essential to have outfits available at price points anyone can afford. Lower priced tackle is also essential for getting kids involved in fly fishing.
I got started with a discarded bamboo fly rod. I added a level Cortland 5wt fly line purchased with my paper route money from a Sears Store. I did not even have a fly reel or backing. I pulled line loosely in coils from the spool for 20’ casts in the pursuit of panfish. I had as much fun with that partial outfit as I do with my 4wt Sage One Switch Rod today. It’s all relative. Give me back one summer season of free time on Boulder Lake and the Manito-wish River with that old bamboo and I will gladly trade in my Sage Ones.
How do you feel about $100 fly lines!