Raspberryfisher's Blog

notes on fishing & travel

Balancing my Spey Rods

with 5 comments

This is for historical and reference purposes for other people. When getting a new rod, the next two questions, what is the right line weight and how do I balance the rod with a reel. Both of these issues come back to personnel preference.

So beyond the simple mechanics, the balance becomes a function, for what purpose (the cast, the swing or the fight), where do you want to hold the rod (the fulcrum point) and when not in balance, where do you want the extra weight to place (rod tilt back or forward).

My preferences:

  • I focus on balancing the rod on the swing, when it is being held in one hand in a relaxed grip and simple line manipulation is being done with one arm.   I want the fulcrum where my index and middle finger will rest.
    .
    Through a day, I will shift the fulcrum between these two fingers, but once the balance is close, you do not think about it. You just shift your hand, without thinking about it, but you need to relax.
    .
  • Acknowledging efficiency of handling between the cast and swing; and most rod designs, my hand will ride to the top, so the optinum fulcrum will typically be near the top of the cork (typically 2 to 3 inches). See photograph below.
    .
    The placement must also consider-account how I wrap the wrap my hand around the handle,  place my thumb and design of the handle   (I strongly prefer small taper cylindrical handles with no notches for the thumb).
    .
  • Now for the conflicting requirements  …..  When in deep water, my arm is bent and the rod butt sits  under my forearm and my wrist is flexed forward. In this extended wrist position, I prefer to have a setup where the butt is a little light, the handles rises into the heel of my hand (or even under my forearm). In this way, I can hold the rod softly as I swing the fly and do not have use my wrist to keep the rod at the right angle.
    .
    But when I am in the shallows, the rod is drop down (hangs down), and a heavy reel allows me to move my hand back and around for comfort.
    .
    This is why it is important that fulcrum is not at the top, but a little back to adjust to the conditions, to have a little flexibility in shifting the fulcrum.
    .
  • Acknowledging as line goes out, the reel loses weight, then the fulcrum moves back; so I typically balance my outfit with the head just out and the fulcrum is where I would place my middle finger (or index finger + 0.25-0.50″ inches).
    .
    In this placement, my hand is likely to drift back as line is released, but can shift up, if I wade deep and want the rod to tuck under my arm.

With this, here are some numbers for my rods ….

  • Loomis Roaring River GLX Greased Line 15′ 9/10– currently with a Delta Long Multi-Tip Line:
    • Reel is a Nautilus 12S – works right, reel weight with backing and line: 19.6 oz.
    • Reel weight with Head Out: 18.1 oz and balances at 2.5″
    • Weight with 20′ of running line out: 17.7 oz and balances at 2.6″
    • Weight with all line out (only backing on the spool): 17.4oz and balances at 2.8″
    • Weight of Nautilus 12S Reel, as per specification: 13.5 oz – just right.
      .
    • And yes, a slightly lighter reel would work, less say no lighter than 12.5 oz.
      .
    • Ideal Empty Reel Weight: 12.5 to 13.5 oz.
      .
  • Scott G 1409 – old by todays standard and has a definite finger notch that pushes the idea placement to 1.2″ from the top. A balance setup would be a reel weight of 12.2 oz with the 30′ of running line out (Skagit), such as the following Nautilus 12DD without the added weight.
    .
    It was once suggested my Loop 3W would work, but it was too light.
    .
  • Sage Z-Axis 7136 with a Airflo Skagit Head and ELF Running Line.
    • Reel is a Nautilus 12DD – reel weight with backing and line: 13.9 oz.
    • Reel weight required to balance at 2″: 13.2 oz
    • Weight with Head Out: 12.3 oz
    • Weight with 30′ of running line out: 12.o oz.
    • Weight with all lonly backing on the spool: 11.5 oz
    • Weight of Nautilus Reel, as per specification: 10.1 oz
      .
    • Ideal empty Reel Weight is 11.1 to 12.0 oz 
      .
    • Next step: Add 30′ of T-17, which is 510 grains or 1.165 oz.
      .
    • Alternative Reels:
      • Lamson Waterworks UL4 – 10.5 oz (closer)
      • Abel 12W – 10.7 oz (a little better)
      • Tibor Gulfstream -11 oz – right on
      • Nautilus 12S – 13.5 oz – too heavy

My other reels, my Loop 2W (5.8 oz) and 3W (6.7 oz) are too light for my liking and have returned to being single handle rod reels, and though spool for single handled steelhead and salmon, my Islander 4.5  (9.9 oz (also would be a little for the Sage 7136)) would be to light.

There are many good manufacturers, and I am not paid by any or resepresent any, so the above references just reflects the tools that I have. If I was a better caster, I might be able to provide a good assessment of these rods, and as ar as the reels I own – there are all different, they all work well.

Why don’t rod manufacturers define a method then measure and publish balancing weights to assist us. With reels and lines are hundreds to thousands of dollars, a starting point would help us.

Balance point allows the thumb to rest uncrowded at the top and the fulcrum under the first two fingers.

I have a short 2×4 block with a small hex embedded in the end, which provides the contact to determine the fulcrum.

If you have a new setup:

  1. Take an existing *light* reel whose empty weight is known with a representative line.
  2. Strip the line out, as if you are swinging the fly.
  3. Balance the rod at the desire location.
  4. Add weight (I have ball bearings in a tube) over the reel, until it is balanced at the desire fulcrum.
  5. Measure the added weight.
  6. This is the weight you need to add either on the reel itself or how much heavier the new reel needs to be.

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Written by raspberryfisher

2011/07/30 at 19:44

Posted in Fly-Fishing, Spey

5 Responses

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  1. […] Update to my earlier post on rod-balancing: After some experimentation and time in the river, where am I with my Sage Z-Axis 7136. I am going to keep the Scandi, and forsake the Scandi. I might devote the Scott 1409 as a Skagit setup, but after I master this rod and improve my casting. […]

  2. […] – OHaus Scout fine weight scale (0.1 to 200 grams) use to weigh eyes, hooks, lines, et […]

  3. […] with a Nautilus 12S places the top hand high at 2.5″. It has a long grip, but I am going to leave as is. […]

  4. […] Weight – Do I want to balance the rod and reel for comfort in fishing.  Yes, specifically when I doing high rod techniques (french leader) or two-handed fishing. […]

  5. […] spey rods, especially large line / long rods that are greater than 13′, a heavy reel is a good thing to keep fatigue in the wrist down, as you let your fly fish. This is […]


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