Monday, November 30, 2009

The Magic Bean Factor

In our journey as fly anglers, we progress through many stages. At one point or another, many of us fall for the magic bean factor. I define this as a search for a short-cut, usually in equipment, which will give us an advantage or substitute for a lack of skill. The magic bean factor is what often sells expensive high-end fly rods to novices. By purchasing that wonder-rod that costs more than a mortgage payment, we may be able to reach further, be more accurate, or become a better angler.

In some cases where necessary skill-sets and foundations have already been developed, buying that wonder-rod or reel may actually step up our performance. However, in many cases the money may be wasted. Thousands of golfers spend millions of dollars every year buying the very set of clubs that Tiger Woods is using, in hope that they can hit the ball farther or more accurately. In essence, they are attempting to buy a skill advantage.

Often it does not work. I see anglers all the time that have very excellent equipment, and cannot use it. I was and am still guilty of this myself. Some rods I fell out of love with, only to pick them up years later when my skills had matured, and then fell back in love with the rod. The equipment does not make the angler; the angler makes the equipment.

In simplified terms, it is the skill of the angler in conjunction with carefully chosen equipment for the situation that produces the best results. No short-cuts to the top.

When we get frustrated with something in our casting, we must ask the question “Is it me or the limitations of the rod/reel/line?” I would argue that in the majority of cases it is us. Equipment has come a long way in the past two decades. Although there are a few truly bad rods and lines out there, most manufacturers produce fine tackle. They could not stay in business in an increasingly competitive industry if they made junk. Chances are that any modern rod that we own today would cast circles around the rods that anglers such as Walt Johnson, Lee Wulff, Wes Drain, Earnest Schweibert, or Lefty Kreh used back in the day.

A good way to find out what your rod and line are capable of is to hand it to a good caster. Sometimes it is so humbling to watch as he or she tosses out a perfect cast. Harold Blaisdell wrote about his meeting with Wes Jordan in The Philosophical Fisherman. He was humbled to watch Wes pop out hundred foot casts with a small cane rod, while he reached a certain distance and then turned the loop into wild noodles. He discovered his limitations vs. the limitations of the equipment he was using.

This is not to say that one should not go out there and buy the best equipment he or she can afford. By all means, do so. However, if the equipment upgrade is intended to solve issues best worked out through time on the river or in practice, we have the magic-bean factor at work. The equipment will never make us better anglers, only we can do this.


  1. Erik, awesome post! I think we've all seen or been victim of this phenomenon, "Attempting to buy a skill advantage." I like that. Succinct and oh so accurate. As a parallel, how about "suckered by slick advertising and a sexy paint job?" (not me of course...)Magic bean or not I'm still in search of the "perfect" fifteen foot eight weight. Hee hee!--AJ

  2. I like that "Suckered by slick advertising and a sexy paint job."

    That is marketing...
    I should follow this with an essay on how to market a fly rod...


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