To satisfy these requirements in one rod is very difficult, so rods are made which place more emphasis on one particular quality, often at the expense of the others. A rod with great casting qualities will tend to be stiffer and will be less forgiving when fighting a fish, so it needs to be used with a heavier leader - which may be more easily detected by the fish. A very flexible rod can be used to cast slowly and accurately, will soak up the energetic activity of a small fighting fish but will not cast the line very far and will be unable to handle a large fish. A travelling rod that can be broken down into five or more pieces to fit in your suitcase will have to sacrifice qualities of flexibility or sensitivity. Compromise is often the key.
A fly fishing rod needs to do several jobs. Firstly it must cast the line, which requires strength and spring so that it can act like a catapult to shoot the line great distance when needed - or very accurately and gently when that's the order of the day. Secondly it must retrieve the line, which requires sensitivity so you can feel the line as it is recovered and know when a fish takes the fly. Thirdly it must fight the fish, which requires the ability to cushion the leader and soak up the shocks as the fish runs and jumps. Finally it must be transportable, which means that it must be capable of being manufactured in sections which come together to act as a whole when assembled.
Fly fishing rods are designed to fulfil particular requirements depending on the type of fishing you are doing, so it's really important to ensure that you buy the right equipment from the outset. It's a waste of time, effort and money equipping yourself with a small stream rod if you intend going after the monsters that may lurk in the depths of a big lake or reservoir. That may seem like an obvious statement - but it's not quite as easy to get the right equipment as you might expect. It's all about length, strength and flexibility and knowing how these qualities meld together to give you just the right tool for the job. This chapter will give you an insight into these secrets.