Anything Fly Fishing

How to Break a Fly Rod

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This might seem an odd title since most of us would prefer not knowing how to break a fly rod. Said differently, we would rather not actually have any experience breaking a fly rod. But since it happens, you might be better off knowing how it can happen. That way, maybe you can avoid it. My guess is you can’t, or at least, I can’t.

The last time I returned a fly rod for repair I was amazed at the options on the form I had to fill out. I was shipping a rod back to the manufacturer and filling out a form online. Based upon their experience, I suppose, the multiple-choice answers for how the rod was broken covered everything you might guess, and a couple reasons you might not. Except for the reason mine broke.

More on that in a minute.

Some of the more common causes are easy to imagine. Car and truck doors apparently eat a lot of rods. Seemingly, all you have to do is lean your rod against a vehicle and walk away. When you come back, your 4-piece rod will now be a 6-piece rod. I’ve not heard that any model vehicle eats more rods than others though I suspect old trucks have more experience.

Trucks apparently eat a lot of fly rods.

Ceiling fans seem to eat a lot of rods as well. I’ve not done this myself but it was third on their list of reasons, so I guess it frequently happens. If it were me, I’d blame the fan problem on global warming.

Another top reason for breaking rods is a broad category called Accidents. I’ve seen rods broken by feet, boat seats, overhead limbs, and snakes. Note that rods were not designed to come into contact with any of these items, so I find it hard to blame the rod manufacturer. In any event, the Accidents category might catch most of these situations.

Hook Set was also on the list of causes for broken rods and I can see how that might happen. It would be quite lively playing the fish afterwards with the butt section in one hand while the top half of the rod was sliding down your line toward the fish. And if you broke your line in the process, the top half would probably sink well out of reach. It might make the remaining rod easier to return for repair but could weaken your case that it was once a whole rod.

Casting likewise causes enough rod breaks to make the list. I’ve seen anglers on the water whipping their rods so quickly the flies snap off on the backcast. This can’t be good for the rod as making the top-reason list sort of proves.

Another category, Fell While Fishing, apparently happens frequently as well and deserves its own box to check on the form. In recent years, I do this often but tend to spare my rod while sacrificing my body. They also have a place for fishermen who do this to be repaired; it’s called the hospital.

They also have places where fishermen can be repaired.

Getting back to my rod, it actually broke on a fish, sort of.

One of my buddies was visiting and wanted to cast some, so we went to a small pond nearby. He was interested in a few casting pointers as well as tips on what type rod to buy.

Mainly, our plan was to flail the water. But there was a chance to catch a fish, since during the winter the pond is stocked with a few trout. It helps with cabin fever.

I took along three rods for him to use. One was admittedly cheap, another a mid-priced rod, and the third was a higher-priced rod. I let him cast all three to see which he preferred.

While he was casting, an odd thing happened. He hooked a trout. Not just any trout, but one of the larger ones. It was at least a couple pounds and hit hard. My buddy panicked, grabbed the rod above the first ferrule, and started walking backwards to drag the trout onto the bank.

I think this was a technique he learned fishing with Ugly Stiks for bluegill or small catfish. As fly fishing goes, I don’t recommend this approach for landing fish.

During casting practice, catching fish can be a distraction at best and a problem at worst.

But it was effective. By the time I got over to him, the trout was up on the bank right beside my 6-piece fly rod. The rod had snapped on each side of the hand supporting the upper rod.

And you can guess which of the three rods he was using at the time. Of course, it was the expensive one which explains why I was filling out an online form to return it to the manufacturer.

So, when I got to the part of the form asking for the reason the rod broke, I checked “Other.” Where they asked for further explanation, I explained that it was broken while a fish was on. What I really wanted to say was that I loaned it to a guy more used to fishing with Ugly Stiks.

I hadn’t told him prior to this casting exercise which rod was cheap, mid-priced, or expensive so his preference wouldn’t be influenced by the price. After the trip when I asked which rod he preferred, of course he picked the cheap one. Probably because it cast more like an Ugly Stik.

When it comes to ways to break a fly rod, I’ve concluded there are far more ways to break an expensive rod than a cheap one. And when anyone comes over and wants to try one of my rods, I’m handing them an Ugly Stik with a fly reel taped on.


Jim Mize finds that fly rods are more likely to break when they are your favorites. You can purchase Jim’s new book, The Jon Boat Years, at or buy autographed copies at You may also purchase his books here at

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