Gear Changes and Adaption

In the previous post I spoke about a practice session using different lines on two 5wt rods with different actions. Same reel for both rods. The gear variations weren’t huge in quantitive terms but taken altogether they did produce significant demands for adjustment in order to maintain control and sustain efficiency.  They changed the feel and, in particular, the feedback provided while casting. Not many casters need to be told that qualitative differences matter because they do and because changing outfits requires our sensory motor system to adapt. Adapting is what fishing demands of us and the better we are at it the better our fishing will be. Simply put, it is an integral part of sound casting technique.

Here in Melbourne Australia we are back under even stricter lockdown so casting practice is out for me until restrictions are eased. As I’ve become fond of saying, when it comes to transmission of the virus population density is indeed a problem. Sigh. My last extended practice session involved another cut at adaption, this time by changing the weight of the outfit by changing reels – heavier reel, lighter reel and zero reel (off the rod and in my pocket).

It all started, as these things often do, with a discussion of how reel weight affects the feel of the rod. My friend in the UK said it made a lot of difference, to the point where shedding the reel made some of his rods come alive.  My own experience suggested it made a difference but not to same extent. So we started weighing some of our reels with different lines spooled up and I devised an experiment. Off to the park I went with my two 5wt rods and various reels and lines. I set up a targets at 60′, 70′, 80′ and 90′ and after limbering up I put the two rods and two different reels (GT125 5wt on an SKB 6/8 cassette reel and GT90 5wt on an ancient Danica 6/9) through their paces. With the reel pocketed that made a total of 6 combos.

Lest anyone think that I’m trying to promote any of the gear, I’m not. This stuff is simply what I fish(ed) and practice with most often. Normally I avoid any mention of brands or models but in this instance an exception has to be made. Why avoid tackle talk? Because technique can’t be bought at a tackle shop.

The Tests

Practice regime for each combo – limber up, short accuracy work, some TLT (Svirgolato and Lancio Angolato), single hand spey, backhand side as well as forehand for overhead and spey.  Casts were then repeatedly made to each target finishing with a series of longer casts 80’, 80′ plus, 90’ and 90′ plus. No casts made for maximum distance. The idea was to get familiar with each combo applied to wide range of lengths and tasks. Sundry extra combo swaps were thrown in to check felt differences.

Didn’t take notes because this was about qualitative feel rather than quantitative fact. Conditions were wet ground and a very slight head wind which was actually good because there were no free lunches on turning over the leader completely at distance or with roll casts.


Two overall “metrics” – performance and preference. For this exercise mechanics are a side issue to caster experience.

Rod 1 Hardy Wraith 590

No significant performance outcomes except maybe for shorter casts <60’. At that distance the feel aspect actually favoured the heavier outfit. Of course this is the one I and my sensory motor system know best. Going up from zero reel to heaviest reel, yes I could feel the heavier weight/load especially at medium to longer distance. Didn’t really like the zero option until the carry was 70’+. Then things smoothed out nicely.

Takeaway? Slight preference overall for the lighter reel. The rod is an absolute weapon in fishing terms with a really nice balance of power and finesse – distance, accuracy and specialty casts.

Rod 2 Sage X 597

No significant performance outcomes. Zero reel felt especially “off” with this rod – heavier tip, whole thing felt a bit wobbly and unbalanced until the longer casts were being made.

Takeaway? Clearer preference for the lighter reel. The weight and effort distribution were nicer on this rod which needs a gentle approach to truly show its class. More about finesse than power but the power of this rod is not to be underestimated when stroke timing and effort are properly adjusted.


I didn’t think that the action and feel of either rod were “set free” by the lighter reel or by no reel but I did like the effect of less weight for stroke control – except for the shortest casts with the Wraith 590. Would not choose the no reel option for either rod. Of course it’s a) not an option and b) the least familiar combo. Confession time, I placed an order for  a lovely reel with nordic design and engineering. Sadly, haven’t had the chance yet to see how it fishes and what it’s like to cast but I expect pleasant experiences in both domains.

My suggestion, with due regard for individual preferences and needs, is to try switching gear around occasionally during practice sessions. It reduces boredom and increases skill.