Often with winter comes broken fly rods and sad drive home from the river. No, we’re not talking about slip-n-falls onto your favorite rod (studded boots from Santa can fix that!) We’re talking about breaking rods with sections that won’t come apart.
Fishermen start their day in the cold and as the day warms up, their rod sections expand. It doesn’t take much but by the time you call it quits your favorite fly-rod seems impossibly joined in a single piece. Many anglers grit their teeth and pull at the fragile sections in an attempt to free them and snap their rods in the process. I’ve seen it happen many times and it’s sad to watch someone snap their rod in a parking lot all while trying to put it away safely in a case.
I had just such a day last week after hitting the river with 26 degree air temps and wrapping up with temps in the 40’s. When I packed up my waders and vest and attempted to put my fly-rod in its case I was met with an immovable rod section on my favorite custom rod. I safely stored the rod in my truck where nothing could harm it (racks on the inside of the vehicle are worth their weight in gold!) and decided I’d give it a try at home. The front or rear dashboard of most cars will accommodate half a fly-rod.
Un-sticking a rod at home is easier than in the field. You’re hands are warm and you have resources at your disposal. The goal is to cool the rod-blank enough to shrink it and have the sections come apart with a minimal amount of twisting and gripping. In my most recent case of a stuck rod, I was able to simply lay my rod on the kitchen counter while running cold tap-water over the ferrules (the male and female pieces that connect the rod) while I unpacked the rest of my gear. On my first attempt to free the sections I failed. I placed it back under the running water, cracked open a cold beer and washed my wading gear off….then tried again with blood-pressure-reducing success!
What if you’re not headed home and your rod MUST be stowed in the case? Hit the first aid kit! Those ice packs aren’t just good for cooling down an emergency beer at the campground. Place the rod ferrules on a wet rag or towel with the ice-pack on top. Let it sit as long as you can stand while the rod sections cool down. Ten minutes or so should be enough though there is a “but” here; if it doesn’t budge, don’t muscle it, give it more time to cool off and try again.
Above all, don’t wrench your rod apart by holding the guides; they’ll give before anything else. For more twist free pulling power, hold the rod sections with your forearms around your knees. Using your knees to push your grip open will allow you to pull the rod without a twist. Stay calm when you’re rod sticks and put it in the car to deal with at home when you’re not tired from fishing all day or all night. Cooler heads and hands are much better at unsticking a rod.