Q __I am building a two-handed 14-foot 9/10-weight fly rod. I am considering building the handle as follows: the lower handle 12 rings plus the cork ring on the reel seat. The forward handle has 23 rings. Do you have a preference as to whether the reel seat should be down- or up-locking? It seems to make sense to have a down-locking seat to force the weight of the reel lower on the rod. One more question – what type of line do you prefer when surf fishing with these rods?
I think you have the right number of rings. As for construction of the rod butt, I think you are right about lowering the reel weight with a down-locking seat. Because you are using a longer-than-normal rod, you’ll feel the tendency to use the same casting stroke as you would with a 9-footer. The distance the tip travels in the final moment of the cast during the speed-up-and-stop determines the size of the line loop. With the same casting stroke, a longer rod will develop a bigger and less efficient loop. Look at most anglers using 12- to 16-foot rods and their loops are 4 to 6 feet in size.
With these longer rods the upper hand should act as a pivot point. It is the lower hand that will control both the size of the loop and the speed of the speed-up-and-stop. For these reasons, the butt of a long rod should be long enough to hold comfortably in the hand.
As for which lines to use in the surf, it depends upon conditions. In a flat sea, a floating line works well. If there is any wave action, a floating line is a poor choice since the line undulates with every wave action, ruining your retrieve. You need to get your fly below the wave action to control the fly’s retrieve.
Most of the time your greatest problems when fishing the surf are heavy wind in your face and long distances needed to reach fish. The shooting head is the best solution for both.