Breaking Too Many Rods...

I am not pleased with two graphite rods that in the past year have broken right at boat-side after fighting a nice fish...

Q I am not pleased with two graphite rods that in the past year have broken right at boat-side after fighting a nice fish. Both were top-of-the-line rods that cost me a great deal. The manufacturers honored the repair, but I think when you pay that kind of money your rods shouldn't break that easily. Can't they build graphite rods stronger?

I suspect that it is not the rods, but your fish-fighting technique that breaks the rods. Each fall I fish at Cape Lookout in North Carolina for the great run of albacore. I usually see fly-fishermen break several rods. In every case, it is the angler's fault. The problem is called ''high-sticking.''

To understand how a rod functions, try a simple experiment with a friend. Run at least 15 feet of line through the fly rod and wrap the line around the butt section so the reel is eliminated from the equation. Firmly grasp the end of the line. Have your friend pull nearly straight back on the rod. You will feel a strong pull by the rod. Ask your friend to gradually raise the fly rod to a vertical position. As the rod tip rises, the pull of the line exerts less pressure on your hand. At a vertical position, even with an 8- or 9-weight fly rod, only ounces of pressure are being applied. This same condition exists if you move the rod sideways instead of vertically.

When you bend only the butt section, you are using the strongest part of the rod and applying a lot of pressure. But as the tip rises, the bend moves up the rod until you are fighting the fish with the fragile tip. That is why you are breaking rods. When you use 10-pound-test tippets or stronger, you need to fight and lift heavy or strong fish with the butt, never with the tip. Obviously, fragile tippets will mean using more of the tip section to strike and fight a fish.