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 Post subject: A UL 5-weight?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 01, 2020 11:55 am • # 1 
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Is the 3-weight the modern-day equivalent of a 5-weight?

Now, before you all chide me for even daring to mention something so heavy as a 5-weight on this forum, please hear me out.

I started fly-fishing, if memory serves me at all well, in 1965 when I was 14 years old. The rod used was a fiberglass South Bend 6-weight that my father foolishly lent to me, and it was pretty good for casting poppers to bluegills and bass in a local lake, especially if they were dumb enough to fall for the game. A few were, at least enough to keep my interest.
But back then, my biggest interest was UL spin-fishing. There was a small stream with brown trout and the occasional brookie across the road from our house, and an even smaller tributary of it few hundred yards behind the house. However, that noble pursuit became corrupted upon repeatedly meeting an adult fisherman who successfully fished the larger of those two streams using what then was considered an ultralight fly rod and dry flies. It was a 5-weight glass rod.

So by 1969 or 1970 I became much more interested in fly fishing. At that time, one could locally find fly rods in the 6 ½- or 7-foot range as light as a 5-weight, but not any lighter. So of course I ended up with more than one outfit like that. And they served me well to fish for and catch many panfish, a few bass, but mainly trout. Such an outfit even worked occasionally for coho salmon.

As for lines, one could find 5-weight lines with little problem, and occasionally even a 4-weight. However, my blue-collar budget and small-town environment limited my shopping to local sporting-goods shops, stores like K-mart, and an occasional foray to a Cortland shop in nearby South Bend, Indiana. Little did I know that for people with deeper pockets, split bamboo rods were available down to the equivalent of 4-, 3-, and even 2-weight, as well as corresponding silk lines.

Therefore, for all practical (is fly fishing practical?) purposes, the 5-weight was rightfully considered ultralight.

Sometime in the early 1980s, Orvis introduced some rods and lines in the 2- and even 1-weight categories. But again, they were out of the ball park for me, just something to wish for. Sometime in the mid ‘80s, a garage sale held by a local TU member turned up a rather unique little rod. It was a fiberglass rod, perhaps 5’9” that had been adapted from a longer rod, and the owner claimed that it worked well with a 3-weight line for short casts. For some of the small brook trout streams that I fished, that proved to be true. Not too long afterward, another 3-weight was built by yours truly, and…

Nowadays, the 3-weight rods are generally accepted and widely available. Two-weights are not too hard to come by, and 1-weights are also out there. Sage did us the debatable favor of marketing rods and lines of 0-, 00-, and 000-weights. That certainly caused many fly-fishers to believe that it was possible to build and fish with equipment below the 1-weight lower limit previously established by the AFTMA. Of course, those outfits gained some popularity for a while, but now they have pretty well faded by the wayside, and if you look hard enough on the internet, you can find blanks to make up rods in those weights.

Nonetheless, it seems to me that the availability of commercially available lines is a more telling story. Back when the 5-weight was widely regarded as ultralight, one could easily find floating lines and occasionally find sinking lines. Nowadays, one can easily find floating lines as light as a 2- or even 1-weight, but hardly anything lighter. And when it comes to sinking lines, you would be hard-pressed to find a 3-weight.

My opinion is that the 3-weight now occupies the niche that was occupied 40 years ago by the 5-weight. What do you think?


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 Post subject: Re: A UL 5-weight?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 01, 2020 12:28 pm • # 2 
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I started with a 7 weight Heddon fibre glass then down to a 5 weight carbon which I thought was normal but that the 3 weight was ultra light, although I fish my 3 weight much prefer my 2 weight ultra light.


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 Post subject: Re: A UL 5-weight?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 01, 2020 4:10 pm • # 3 
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Historically speaking you're correct- 5wt was the lowest and lightest line out these. Many of the FR2000 cortland translucent glass rods rated for WF5 will throw 4 weight line as well and feel like a three weight in my hands.

I believe Larry might have an HI Queen Elizabeth from the 1950 s which will actually throw 3wt line well

Les


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 Post subject: Re: A UL 5-weight?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 01, 2020 4:28 pm • # 4 
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PampasPete wrote:
Nonetheless, it seems to me that the availability of commercially available lines is a more telling story. Back when the 5-weight was widely regarded as ultralight, one could easily find floating lines and occasionally find sinking lines. Nowadays, one can easily find floating lines as light as a 2- or even 1-weight, but hardly anything lighter. And when it comes to sinking lines, you would be hard-pressed to find a 3-weight.

My opinion is that the 3-weight now occupies the niche that was occupied 40 years ago by the 5-weight. What do you think?


Yeah, I think you’re probably right, at least in some sense. In the past materials and potential were probably more limited on the lighter end for structural integrity so 5wts were about as light as most wanted to go be it consumer or manufacturer.

Think about where modern rod blank technology is now compared to 40 years ago and we see quite a difference, light AND strong is now very possible at a reasonable price. Decent lines to go with those blanks as well, at least in the 2wt and higher range.

Realistically, at this lightness of being most of the lines marketed as “Euro Nymph” and some low diameter lines by Sunray are about all there is. Not sure how much anyone can do beyond that paradigm in terms of engineered tapers and typical distances fished with the lighter stuff. Gotta admit, the grain weight parameters (margin of error) in sub-2wt lines is a pretty narrow target to try and hit in manufacturing. This is probably the end of the game in advancements, from here forward it’s level lines in low diameters “for use on 1wt-4wt” as often described in the marketplace.


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 Post subject: Re: A UL 5-weight?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 01, 2020 11:26 pm • # 5 
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From my reading of fly rod history, most rods produced in the 1950's were probably 7/8 weights, with a few 6/7 weight rods. Of course at that time, a lot of rods didn't come with a recommended line rating. As Les mentioned I have a Horrocks-Ibbotson Queen Elizabeth Model 1200 produced in 1953, which at 6' 9" in length, will cast a WF3 line pretty well. I think it would probably have been considered a 5 weight in those days, though the numerical ratings had not come out yet. H-I described it as an ultralight rod. Over the following decades, the "standard" line weight gradually dropped. By the time I started flyfishing in the late 80's, 6 weight was considered pretty much the standard all around rod weight. By the mid 90's, this had dropped to 5 weight, and a few would say the "standard" rod is now a 4 weight. I believe a poll of flyfishers would still hold out the 5 weight as the all around workhorse rod at this time. I think I would go along with the premise that the 3 weight rod of today is like the 5 weight rod of old. When I first started fishing with a 3 weight in the early 90's, I thought I had really gone light, and could see no purpose in a lighter rod. I now routinely fish 2 weights and have recently acquired a 1 weight.

Larry


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 Post subject: Re: A UL 5-weight?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 02, 2020 5:41 pm • # 6 
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I don't have the fancy words or reasoning behind it but in 1976 I bought my first fly rod and still have it, is a 3 wt .. I was too new to consider it anything but just that , a 3 wt . It has worked since then great and have caught my biggest trout to date with it a very fat 28" brown . I'm lucky I guess as many say it is too light to fish tailwaters and wide waters etc but it does just fine for me . I now have 0 wts to 8wt but don't really know why I have a 6, and 8 as they have never been used .


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 Post subject: Re: A UL 5-weight?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:13 pm • # 7 
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Jangles, that's interesting. Could you tell us more about the 3-weight that you got in 1976?


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 Post subject: Re: A UL 5-weight?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:13 pm • # 8 
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Jangles, that's interesting. Could you tell us more about the 3-weight that you got in 1976?


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 Post subject: Re: A UL 5-weight?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:42 pm • # 9 
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It's a Cabelas Three Forks 7'6" 3wt . I believe it was 76 because that's when I started fly fishing . If I'm wrong I apologize but I don't think I am . I also picked up a Eagle Claw 3wt and a White River Dogwood Canyon 8'6" 5wt around the same time .


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 Post subject: Re: A UL 5-weight?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:51 pm • # 10 
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When I started fly fishing in the early 60's, fly rods were classified as A, B, C, D and E; to apply a numeric rating for a fly rod in that time period confuses me. I am just guessing, but I think the C was equivalent to a 6 wt, the D seemed like a 4/5 and the E like a 3/4.


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 Post subject: Re: A UL 5-weight?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:59 pm • # 11 
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…………….………….Stupid post...……………………...on my part...……………...sorry...………….


Last edited by jangles on Sun Jan 05, 2020 9:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: A UL 5-weight?
PostPosted: Sun Jan 05, 2020 8:05 pm • # 12 
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Interesting bit of history offered by JimRed. The method of classification has clearly evolved over time. A 1878 catalog for some of the first production split bamboo rods (made by E.P. Bartlett) lists "heavy, medium and light" as the classification. The "medium" 10' rod weighed 7.5 ozs. A 1950 catalog from the Amherst Fishing Rod Company used actual weights of the rods, with the UL of the day a 8' rod at 4.5 ozs.


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 Post subject: Re: A UL 5-weight?
PostPosted: Sun Jan 05, 2020 11:29 pm • # 13 
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Before the AFTMA (American Fishing Tackle Manufacturing Assoc.) fly line weight ratings were set up, an older system had been in use with bamboo rods and silk lines. The fly line rating was usually listed with 3 letters. In converting the older method to the newer AFTMA ratings, the middle letter would correspond to the modern line weight. The letter A would correspond to the modern 9 weight, and going through the alphabet would gradually decrease the line weights, such that D would be 6 weight, F would be 4 weight, etc. If the first and last letters were the same that would indicate a double taper line. If the first and last letters were different, that would indicate a weight forward line. Thus a line rated IGI would be DT3, while HDG would be WF6. When fiberglass rods first came on the market in the late 40's, the old line ratings were still in effect. In actuality, the old ratings were not concerned so much with line weight, but rather line diameter. The AFTMA ratings were put into effect in 1961, with the weight rating determined by the weight of the first 30 feet of line, measured in grains. On a lot of the older rods, there was no mention of the recommended line rating, so it was up to the rod owner to determine which line they felt was best for the rod. Even today the listed line rating is, at best, a recommendation rather than a rule.

Larry


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 Post subject: Re: A UL 5-weight?
PostPosted: Thu Feb 04, 2021 1:04 pm • # 14 
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I'm not that old (39) and when I got into fishing, 6 weights were standard for trout rods, 4s and 5s were talked about and considered on the lighter side of things. I read about 3 weights as "ultra lights" and not considered serious tools. I did get Orvis catalogs (ordered my first commercial flies from one of those "free half dozen flies, just pay shipping" advertisements they put out. I lusted after the One Weight, partly because of their club and the pictures of big fish on the tiny rods.

I've been pretty hard core about ultra light fishing a few times - phases I go through. UL rods are a hoot, and you can land big fish readily enough on them. I enjoy casting light rods too, so little effort compared to say my 6 or 10 weights. I'm not ready to add new rods to my stable right now, but I miss the 2 weight I built years ago (that I sold off) - I'll eventually build another one. UL spin fishing is where I'm getting my UL kick right now.

My 5 weight glass is slow and wiggly enough to give the feel of fishing with an UL rod, so I'm not missing out on a lot.


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