Here's how to balance a fly rod and reel, which can make a bigger difference than most realize.
When most people decide to purchase new fly rod, they tend to give it a tremendous amount of thought before making such an important buy.
They consider the length of the rod, the line weight it was designed for, and most importantly, they consider the action. All of these factors will have a tremendous effect on the feel of the rod when casting.
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However, when it comes to purchasing a fly reel, people tend to only consider the robustness of the drag system and the aesthetics of the reel design, and completely ignore the weight of the reel.
A fly rod and reel outfit that is not properly balanced can have some seriously adverse affects on your ability to make accurate casts over long periods.
For instance, a fly reel that is too heavy for the fly rod with which it is paired will cause the outfit to feel butt heavy. This causes the caster to use more energy than necessary to start and stop the rod at the beginning and end of the casting stroke.
This will cause you to overshoot or undershoot your target, resulting in wasted time and energy while you wait for the fly to drift to a safe place for pick up before you have to cast again.
On the other hand, having a reel that is too light will cause the outfit to be tip heavy, which requires more energy from the caster to lift the line from the water and perform both the back cast and forward cast.
Having a fly reel that is not properly balanced with its respective fly rod also results in premature fatigue of the caster's arm due to the extra energy required to cast an unbalanced system. This extra expenditure of energy can result in excessive stress on the tendons of the caster's wrist and forearms which could result in mild to severe discomfort, or more serious injuries like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
Here's a quick tip to try before purchasing any fly reel: Mount the reel into the reel seat on your assembled fly rod, and hold the rod horizontally in front of you with your non-casting hand. Place your casting hand on the handle, fingers pointing down. Wrap your fingers around the bottom of the handle as comfortably as you can.
Now, grasp the handle as if you were going to make a cast, then remove your all of your fingers from the grip except your middle finger. Does the rod balance with the reel and line locked in place in the reel seat?
Use a basic, comfortable grip to balance your rod and reel. Image via NickHartFlyFishing.com
If the balance point is forward of you middle finger, then the outfit it tip heavy and, if the balance point is behind your middle finger, then the outfit is butt heavy.
The ideal balance point is directly under the middle finger, and by balancing the rod and reel combo, you will enjoy greater accuracy and much less fatigue in your casting arm.
Regardless of which fly reel you choose, it is important to find one that is neither too heavy nor too light for your particular fly rod but, that also has both the line and backing capacity that you require.
Let me know in the comments below if you have other ways of finding the perfect balance, and hopefully we'll all be owning the ideal combination of fly rod and reel and avoid fatigue along the way.