Running Around with Fly Rods

With the kids off to college and me having resumed the bachelor’s life, I get to fish pretty much when I want

By Rob Breeding

There was a time when I used to break down my fly rods after each use. That was an appropriate habit back in the days when I was raising kids and familial obligations meant I didn’t get to fish much. But these days, with the kids off to college and me having resumed the bachelor’s life, I get to fish pretty much when I want.

When life allows you to fish multiple times a week, or better still, everyday, breaking down your rod whenever you leave the water isn’t the best option. This is especially true with the popularity of four-piece fly rods. Breaking those suckers down and reassembling them each time can be excruciating, especially when The Professor always drives around with his nymphing rod fully rigged.

More than once I found myself fussing with leaders while he was over in the river shouting about all the fish he’s catching.

There are plenty of rod case options. I’ve long had one of those durable, double fly-rod cases made by Mountain Cork down in Utah. It proved its worth awhile back when Funkmaster Fred was backing his van down to a wildcat put-in on the South Fork. He had the rear doors open so he could see where he was going. Unfortunately he hit the brakes, and out slid my rod case. Before he realized it he was backing again, this time with the case jammed between the bumper and the raft trailer. By the time I got Funkmaster’s attention, he’d backed another 10 feet down the hill.

The case was a bit scuffed, but the rods were unharmed.

The drawback to that case is that both rods have to be broken down into two pieces. It’s possible to leave the rods rigged and slide them into the case, strike indicator, split shot, flies and all, but that’s not terribly convenient. The leaders get hopelessly tangled and the hooks snag on the lining material in the tubes. I love that case, but you really have to cut off your flies to make it work.

My short-term solution is to just leave my rods rigged up in the truck. I have a crew cab so a 9-footer fits diagonally, the reel end on the head rest of the driver’s side back seat, while the tip sits on the dashboard in front of the passenger.

My 10-foot nymphing stick is a far greater challenge. I have to contort that rod to get it in the truck in a way that makes me fear I’ll break it. Then I have to repeat the process to get it out. In the meantime the rod bends around the rearview mirror awkwardly and as the leader slackens, flies usually fall out of the hook keeper and embed themselves in my upholstery.

Also, the tip guide tends to get caught between the edge of the dash and the windshield. It’s inevitable that someday I’ll break a tip with this makeshift solution.

There are some nice roof-mounted cases on the market to keep rods intact and safe. This is my long-term plan. Denver Outfitters makes a roof mounted case out of aluminum tubes and a polycarbonate case for the reels. It has the advantage of holding fully assembled 10-foot rods. And there’s a Montana outfit that builds Big Sky Rod Boxes. These heavy-duty 18-gauge steel cases are bomb-proof, but supply hasn’t been able to keep up with demand so there’s a waiting list.

Unfortunately, I need to buy a topper with a roof rack first, so this solution is gonna set me back more than $2,000. It’s worth it, as three or four fully assembled fly rods and reels can easily retail for double that amount. But if I keep spending my bucks on new gear, I’ll never set aside the change for the proper gear carrier.