Presented from Issue 93 by Peter Hayes

Short and Soft?
More versatility, greater accuracy and better feel I like to river fish. In fact I always have, since I was a boy growing up in St Leonards on the North Esk River.

Now, four decades later, I am a guide and there is nothing more that I love than to show my clients the great fun and excitement of small stream fishing. Being boys again I suppose. It is funny how as life becomes more complex we gravitate back toward the more simple things. To fish small streams well you must have a short rod. I remember years ago fishing with the great Rodney Foy who has been several times Australian Casting Champion. We would wade quietly up the stream taking it in turns to cast to sighted fish or likely lies. So often did I hear the words “you better take this one Haysie”. You see... Rodney’s rod was a 9 foot 5 weight (Interestingly the most popular and highest volume selling rod in the world).

My rod was a 6 foot home made fiberglass work of art that started off as an 8 foot blank. I had cut it and telescoped it in two places and trimmed a little off the butt. I could cast where Rodney couldn’t. Time and time again. Now that was back some 25 years ago and some things have changed.

For one, both Rodney and I are well healed enough to own McKean and Taransky cane rods. Rodney’s rod is a 7 footer for a 4 or 5 line and he believes it is the best wade polaroiding rod he has ever used. The rod is ideal for the fast, accurate, short casts that are often required in this fishing situation.

Virtues of being short

Well to start with the obvious thing is that a short rod can be used in tight spaces where you simply cannot swing a 9 foot rod. That is a huge advantage in small stream fishing.

A short rod is less inclined to spook so many fish because it doesn’t stick up in the air so much (this is another reason why Rod likes his for wade polaroiding).

There is much greater accuracy with a short rod rather than a long one. Given that the flyline, and ultimately the fly, follow the path through the air that the rod tip takes, it is fundamental that during the forward delivery cast the rod tip travels in a straight line path toward the target. I am sure you will understand that this is more easily achieved with a shorter stick than a longer one.

The only downsides that I can think of are that it is difficult to cast as far with a short rod. With creek and stream fishing this is not an issue though.

The short rod means that the leader join is often being pulled inside the runners and this nearly always sticks just when you don’t want it to. The fix for this is for you to order a Whitlock glue kit from me and start gluing in your leaders.

Another downside is that while overhead false casting the line is obviously lower to the ground and if you are not on the case with higher tempo casting the fly can snag high grasses.

Rod stiffness

The stiffness of a rod is how much it bends for a given weight. I personally like the feel of a rod that bends a lot when I cast it and when I catch a fish. It is purely a personal thing.

Over the years rod company marketing has had us believe that stiffer and faster is better. Why? I don’t know but it is simply not true. Trust me – I know.

From a casting point of view the softer rods having greater feel give me a better understanding of where the rod tips travels through the air. I am definitely more accurate with a softer rod. This is much better for hand eye coordination.

Further evidence of this goes back many years to my tournament casting days. I was once a champion with a fiberglass rod. When the rod was stolen and I had to replace it with modern graphite rods I was never any good again.

Softer rods always roll cast much better than their stiffer counterparts. Roll casting should feature heavily in any river fishing situation.

Finally, generally smaller fish are encountered and it is NOT necessary to have a stiff rod to fight them. Give them a break... fight them gently with a softer rod with more feel. Try it. You might even enjoy it.

Rod materials


These days Fibreglass has made a big resurgence. In the USA there is a real cult following.

A friend of mine, Warryn Germon, had a rod maker build him a rod a couple of years ago. The 3 piece, 7 footer, for a #6 is a sensational fishing rod. From memory the rod cost Warryn $1300 which is similar to the latest offerings from the leading carbon fibre companies.

Vision do a beautiful casting and fishing rod. Friend Mike Stevens has one and incidentally it is called a Vision Cult. Mike’s rod is a #3 weight and 5’9”. He loves it.


I love cane rods and I want everyone to know. Long cane rods are for killing snakes and tying up Tomatoes. Short cane rods are superb. There are as many actions and models as there are days in a year. They are robust and have longevity. If you invest in a cane rod it will be more valuable in the future. Not so with Graphite.

Good makers include Peter McKean of Launceston and Nick Taransky of Queanbeyan. The downside is that waiting lists for their rods are in excess of more than a year.


There are of course many modern short graphite fly rods on the market today. Two that I have had first hand experience with are Sage and Vision. These rods are featherweights compared to their longer and stronger brothers and they cast like rockets. You would not be disappointed with either brand should you buy one.

Peter Hayes