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There are a good number of folks on the board who are on pro staff or are designers themselves or just plain rod junkies. When you go to a Speyclave or get a new design from a manufacturer or just trying stuff at your local shop, how do you evealuate it? I'm especially interested in how you evaluate rods and lines. But I'd be interested in how you evaluate orther bits of gear too. Reels, leaders, leaders, backing, etc.

How do you know something is a winner? What makes you buy?
 

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Geoff,

Before I buy anything, whether it by furniture, a car, a pickup, a tool, or a fly rod, I first decide what I want, what I want it to do, and why. After making these decisions, I go about narrowing down my choices by taking things like my preferences into consideration and the price I am willing to pay (or can afford). Since I am also a firm believer in buying the best you can afford, which many times is not the most expensive, although it can be, it is never the cheap stuff.

I then go and try the products that fit the narrowed down choices.

When it comes to rods specifically, I like rods that are: 1) fast-recovering; 2) stiff or medium-still (regardless on line weight);3) have a tip with enough strength not to collapse under a heavy casting load (this so you can reach and make long casts without the rod tip collapsing, to aid in picking up line from the water, and to aid in moving sink tips or sunk lines-note: I look for this in both single-hand and 2-hand rods); 4) progressively distribute the load down the blank as you increase casting power and distance; 5) have the blank accept the increasing casting load without any abrupt transitions or flat spot; 6) be able to take a very strong and abruptly applied power stroke so I can cast with very little backcast or D Loop formation room; 7) with a 2-hand rod be able to cast at least 70' with the line not more than 1'-2' behind the rod for a very shallow D Loop because you need to do this at times when fishing; 8) the rod loads and cast everything from short casts to long casts without undue effort; 9) has a low swing-weight (especially with the long 2-hand rods of 15'-18' that I prefer); 10) does not feel tip-heavy; 11) has a comfortable grip for my hand (not to small or too big); 12) does it shoot line well and easily whether casting belly or running line; 13) doesn't have more than one minor bounce of the tip on the cast; 14) oversized guides (they aid in shooting line belly); and 15) the overall fit and finish and quality of the fittings used on the rod.

For reels, the criteria are: 1) is a disk drag; 2) is the drag smooth; 3) can it be palmed; 4) does it have good backing capacity; 5) is it easy to change from right-hand wind to left-hand wind (I wind with my left hand); 6) is it easy to change spools; 7) is it pleasing to the eye? (i.e. no rough spots, gouges, uneven anadizing or poweder coating, etc.); and 8) is the reel foot dovetailed into the reel body (this for the added strength it provides). I don't care if it is machined or cast aluminum (although machined looks nicer because they are smoother) because both are plenty strong. The weight of the reel doesn't matter that much, although I perfer a heavier rather than a lighter reel on long 2-hand rods because they better ballance the rod and are actually easier on the wrist and forearm as you fish out each cast in a day's fishing.

For lines: 1) is it smooth?; 2) does it turnover well close and at distance?; 3) does it turnover well with wind resistant flies (this doesn't matter with the lower trout weights)?; 4) does it shoot well?; 5) is it supple without being wimpy?; 6) how well does it float?; 7) how well does it hold up when fished for a year?; and 8) can I see its tip at distance?
 
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