What Is Fly Fishing:
Fly fishing is like an onion, there’s many layers to it (get it, Shrek). Without breaking down each layer of it and all the nuances, I’m going to try to define fly fishing as general as possible.
Fly fishing is a technique of fishing where a weighted line is used to load and cast the rod, rather than the weight of the bait, lure, etc. Generally, the “lures”, called flies, used in fly fishing are hand-tied using threads, feathers, furs, and synthetic fibers to replicate a bug in a particular stage of its lifecycle, but can also imitate a fish or crustacean. These flies are specifically designed to be fished on the surface or subsurface, typically they are not interchangeable.
The History of Fly Fishing and The Rods:
Although the origin of fly fishing isn’t super well known, it is generally believed that it began in 2nd Century Rome. The popularity of the sport didn’t really kick start until the 1600’s where English rod makers were able to develop rods similar to ours today. During the same time, fishermen in Japan were revolutionizing tenkara, a form of fly fishing that doesn't require a reel and typically used for smaller streams/fish. The connection between these two is unknown, if there’s one at all. The likelihood is that both regions were simultaneously developing similar techniques. The rods used during this time period were made of solid wood, but with the gradual taper we see in our rods today.
It wasn’t until 1845 where Samuel Phillipe created the first ever split-cane bamboo rod. This was the most revolutionary technological advancement that fly fishing has seen. The rods were hollowed out and were able to develop true tapers that required a particular line grain to cast the rod effectively.
Quickly after this big step began the introduction of fiberglass built rods. Fiberglass allowed for rods companies to produce cheaper rods that performed at a much higher level.
Fast forward a century and we saw the first ever graphite rods in 1973 made by Hardy and Fenwick. This was the final evolution of fly rods and the vast majority of rods are made with this material today. Graphite allowed for faster line speeds, reduction in weight, similar production costs of fiberglass, and greater developments in rod tapers. Today when we’re making a decision on a rod to purchase, graphite is the most used rod material. However, some rod manufacturers opt for boron as a substitute. Fiberglass and bamboo rods are still produced as well.