QUESTION: Where should the balance point of a fly rod be when mated to an appropriate reel loaded with the proper line and backing? What is the best method for determining and adjusting the rig to attain proper balance? What are the effects of an overly “tip-heavy” or “butt-heavy” combination? _ David S.
ANSWER: Gday David, thanks for the question. This is probably one of the more vexed questions as there are quite a couple of different approaches, and since its fly fishing there are plenty of strongly held opinions, so I’ll try on touch on a few and then give you my personal approach.
First off I would say this is a topic a lot of people either ignore or don’t really take into account enough, particularly with regard to different rod lengths. A 7’6″ 4wt has very different requirements to a 10′ 4wt for instance
The balance point question is interesting as something as simple as changing reels can effect the feel of a rod markedly, and to a lesser degree effect your casting/enjoyment in some instances. I see a lot of people measuring balance points right at the front of the cork grip. But what might be best is to consider where you normally place your forefinger on the underneath of the rod, which would form the fulcrum for the rod to rotate on the forward cast. Next time you are playing with a rod, try moving that forefinger back and forward a quarter of an inch or so to see how little distance can change the balance point.
Now one of those points of divergence is right here, do you balance the outfit with the line on the reel or with say 30′ of line out of the rod tip. There is some logic to the latter approach but the majority keep the line on the reel. But in reality its up to you. certainly the balance will change as more line is pulled off the reel, after all line and backing can add 25% to 30% to most reels.
Interestingly enough I just read a whole web discussion on this very topic off an UK fly fishing forum that in which 2 theories of balance were advocated I’d not heard before, so for completeness I’ll include them as well. First off some were touting using a reel 1.5 times the rod weight, other said modern graphite fly rods were better off being cast without a reel at all?As I said there are lots of opinions.
But your personal choice is really going to come to the fore in the matter of degree of balance. But from my own perspective what you want to avoid really is the extremes, ie way too tip heavy or way too butt heavy. Personally I’d regard strongly tip heavy rods as more of a handicap than butt heavy, particularly if you are one of the many with a tendency for tailing loops.
Tip heavy rods tend to promote that concave rod path that leads to tails and wind knots. I see this a lot in the 10′-ers which have become popular in recent years, but people still want to put their 9’er reels on them. There is a big difference. Butt heavy rods just tend to feel heavy, which depending on your casting fitness (ie the ability to do the same thing over and over) can be fatiguing.
But then again I’m not one of those lighter is always better types. If I can use a sporting analogy, when I was playing cricket I tended to use some fairly light bats, which were better for a lot of crossbody “baseball-style slugging” and rapic changes of direction. Then I shifted to some heavier bats, which very very good for technical “straight line path” hitting.
Translating that to casting ultralight rods are fun for messing around short casts, curve casts and the sort of small creek casting they are designed for. For distance casting, where tracking is more critical, I prefer some mass in my hand.