Living the Bamboo New Age: the italian job

(text by Massimo Tirocchi)

INTRODUCTION

In this brief article I would like to share some thoughts regarding how the Italian casting approach can bring influence on the design of “modern” action bamboo rods. I’ll clarify better what “modern” means to me in the following parts of the article.

Before I go any further, I need to clarify something related to my general approach to developing tapers and also the implications that you’ll find in these pages and the related drawings.

My way to proceed is basically very simple; all my taper designs are based on the trial and error processes without using any software program. All my doubts and possible solutions come out of testing done on the river. The river is the one and only oracle I believe in. I don’t want to say that my way is better than others, it is just OK for my way to work.

Starting from this general approach, the concepts and drawings I’ll present in this article can be considered by a true “scientist” as not exact enough. For this I’m really sorry, but at the same time I think the drwaings are good enough to explain the concepts I’d like to share with you.

As most of you know, a lot of fly fishermen still today have the wrong idea about bamboo rods. In fact, often when speaking with them regarding these wonderful fishing tools, it seems that the time has stopped many years ago. They still consider bamboo rods like wonderful objects of the past, no more able to give them the modern features and characteristics in term of action, lightness, durabil- ity, etc.

The true story says that in recent years, the world of bamboo rodmaking has developed new design vectors that allow them to improve some of the modern features of bamboo rods. I’m talking about bamboo ferrules, hollow building, different sections, etc, etc. These vectors have become good in- struments to improve what I consider the main point of rod design, to carry out modern action bam- boo rods that in a few words can be described as the ability of the builder to achieve the best man- aging of the following trade off:

  • Total weight of the rod and its distribution
  • Rod action
  • Balance point of the rod

The European bamboo rodmaking movement (never forgetting the lessons learned by the great American rodmakers) seems to be working hard trying to bring some new solutions that involve both the process of building a bamboo rod and also the fishing features that can be offered to the most sophisticated fly fishermen. In my opinion, inside the European school, the youth Italian movement can offer something really special and unique. In fact, during the ‘70s in our country, a man (Roberto Pragliola, the most famous Italian caster) started to develop what is called TLT

(Total Casting Technique) also known abroad as the “Italian Casting Style.” This technique has specific rod requirements and if we try to bring these requirements to bamboo rods the result is amazing. It allows us to carry out rods able to join the historical bamboo verve with some modern fishing features. We can have bamboo rods with high performance in terms of rods able to throw light lines with high speed and very good control.

A FEW WORDS ABOUT “ITALIAN CASTING STYLE”

 

In order to understand this casting technique we should spend some time understanding where and why it has been developed. Roberto Pragliola developed his technique in order to achieve the best way to fish spring creeks and small streams. In fact, the natural environment where his TLT was born is the central part of Italy (Tuscany Region) where small streams and spring creeks are very common. Often these places are very rich in vegetation and often the most beautiful trout rise under a bush or in other places very difficult to reach with the classic wide loops. These rivers aren’t chalk streams but they run between big stones with strong currents. He thought that the right ap- proach to get the best fishing performance in these kinds of rivers must be based on two main points:

  • Lightness
  • Fastness

Here I will try to summarize just a few characteristics of his technique. Because is not easy to talk about TLT in few words, but what we would like underline are some main aspects useful to under- stand how this technique can bring innovation on bamboo rod designs.

The classic casting approach can be split in four moments:

  • Back cast
  • Stop
  • Forward cast
  • Stop

The TLT casting approach can be split in six moments:

Back cast:

  • Acceleration
  • Boost moment
  • Cushioning

Forward cast:

  • Acceleration
  • Boost moment
  • Cushioning

The following picture gives an idea about the increase of energy during the casting process. We are considering only the forward casts because the back cast the representation is the same.

As you can see in TLT, the way to cast is without stops. This consideration is very important be- cause it allows to us to present a focal element related to using a rod and the features of a rod: the natural timing of the rod.

In the classic technique the stop moment is due to the timing of the rod. In the back cast and for- ward cast what a caster does is a stop to wait for the rod bend and it gives to him the energy re- quired to throw the line. This concept almost doesn’t exist in TLT, because the principle is that if I wait on the rod timing, it is the rod that controls the casting and not the caster. We want to have as much control as possible of the casting in order to give the casting the speed we want and need.

Most of the people who try casting a rod inspired by this way to cast the first time said, “I cannot understand the timing of this rod.

In our approach, it is the caster who gives the timing and not the rod. We do this mostly through the tension of line instead of waiting for the bending of the rod.

In order to achieve this result, a fast action rod helps more than a soft one and so a fast, pro- gressive rod with good tip action is the right rod. In fact, using a parabolic action we are not allowed to treat the casting time as we want because the performance limits we set and the ac- tion of the parabolic rods in term of fastness.

The second element is the kind of casting loop required. We said that fishing small streams we of- ten need to put our fly under a bush or other difficult places. To do this, the only way to do that is through very tight loops. A very tight loop has two main characteristics:

  • First of all, if I want to go under a bush or other very difficult place I need to go there with a very thin loop.
  • A very thin loop has all the energy stored in one small part and it means that it gives back this energy to the line in a shorter time, giving to the line more speed.

Let’s think about this in two ways of flying:

  • Big jumbo jet
  • Tornado fighter aircraft

In the first case we have a plane with less speed and more lift. That means that if the engine stops, the big jumbo jet will keep floating in the air (at least for a short time). The fighter plane case is different. On it we have great speed but no lift, so if the engine stops, the plane will crash soon. These two examples can give to us a good image of the difference between a wide, big loop (jumbo) and a thin one (fighter plane). From now on, we can understand why TLT prefers the fighter plane.

Our approach prefers angled cast paths in order to achieve (on the base of the needs) one of these three results:

  • First is the fly on the water, second the leader and then arrives the line.
  • First is the last part 5/8 inches of the tip on the water, then arrives the fly, then the leader and at the last the line.
  • First is the 15/20 inches of the tip on the water, then the fly, then the leader and last the line.

These can be considered as the main aspects of the speed casting that have great influence on the rod’s design because from these two element we can get the third one. We said fastness and tension, but which is the worst enemy of these two concepts? The weight of course. So in our tackle, we would like to have the least weight possible and when talking about weight we talk about:

  • Light rods
  • Light lines
  • Light flies

Regarding the fastness we have different variables which play an important role:

  • Fastness of the casting movement (acceleration, which must be as much constant as possi- ble and the acceleration is made by translation and rotation – of course the tip path must be as straight as possible).
  • Fastness of the rod in terms of action
  • How much of the potential energy becomes kinetic energy applied to the line.

In our article we consider basically the action of the rod so we’ll discuss more about rod action next.

Today the paradigm for the high speed approach casting is to use rod no longer than 7’6” with light lines, basically #2 or #3 and of course using basically dry flies.

HOW TLT HAS INFLUENCE IN THE DE- SIGN OF THE RODS

 

As it has been shown in the book Magia sull’Ac- qua (Roberto Pragliola – published by Hoepli), in each rods live at the same time two kind of dynamics:

  • Section of the Rod that moves as a spring
  • Section of the Rod that moves as a lever

When the spring dynamic is higher in a rod we assume that its action is parabolic; when the lever dynamic is higher in a rod we assume that its action is progressive. It’s not difficult to un- derstand that a parabolic rod requires a longer casting timing than the other progressive rod, and we said that in TLT the casting timing can- not be given by the rod but by the caster.

So for this technique we prefer rods with a big percentage of the lever dynamic instead of the spring one. In fact, a faster rod will follow the movements of our arms and its delay in respect to the movements of the arm will be shorter.

The following pictures show this concept comparing the bending of a parabolic and progressive rod during the casting process. In the picture, the cushioning moment has not been considered because from our point of view it’s not strategic.

From the picture here above we can get some very useful info:

  • A parabolic rod has a longer casting time then the progressive one.
  • The parabolic doesn’t allow to make very thin loops.
  • The delay of the rod bending compared to the arm movement is bigger in the parabolic than in the progressive.

Here in the following picture we can see a casting made with a bamboo rod 6’8” for line 3 DT.

About this concept Giovanni Nese (member of the Italian Bamboo Rodmakers Association and one of the most innovative Italian rodmaker) wrote very interesting articles as result of studies and ex- periments. In one of his articles published on the TLT Academy website (www.tltacademy.it) Gio- vanni helps us to understand from a technical point of view some elements related to the weight as the enemy of the speed.

He says,

“Let’s analyze how technology evolves. From which the world is moving everything, or almost, is designed, built, so that whenever you have to move an object you face so that the object is slight. A lightweight object can move speed. Technology helps inventing ever new materials and leads to lighten the objects to move. There is an energy balance: the principle of conservation of en­ ergy; where to enter the words mass and speed. If I keep unchanged the applied Energy and i de­ crease the mass I can move the object with greater speed. We try to make explicit the concept with two sim­ ple numbers consistent with fisheries. The aver­ age speed of flight of a line is about 25 m/s weight of rat tail in an average about 10 g launch, mass 10/1000 * 9.81 = 0.0981 Newton, the total energy stored

E=1/2*m*v*v2            =            1/2*0,0981*(25*25)            = 30,65625[N*(m/s)2],

 

With a rod that launches the #6, I bring and start moving around 270 grams with a

cane #3, I have 220 grams.

  • Savings for you say, it gains the strength! Do you want to put as a more secure is the #6 in the event of a fall.
  • Yes! And then with this policy because when you go to the supermarket shopping won’t put the helmet on his head?

Of 270 grams those that move in speed are: 18 tail and about 10 of tip, 220: 10 are tail 8 of tip, 10 g less!”

 

 

CONCLUSIONS

 

Referring to the concepts discussed in this brief ar- ticle, we can get some good points that can surely give a contribution on the new way to think about the performances of a bamboo rod. Of course, we are talking about rods that must be kept into a length range between 6’ and no more than 7’2” though for light line range we could assume as #2 to #4. These numbers can also give the bamboo rods very good features in term of action of the rod, weight and distribution of the rod all along its length and can also give a tool with good balance without having to add a heavy reel.

I would like to make it clear that the goal of these thoughts is not to design a bamboo rod similar to a carbon rod, because these are two different worlds and for sure they will remain different (two para digms not communicating). But for sure they can give some help to the modern bamboo rodmaker. Being a modern bamboo rodmaker means you have a kind of duty. To improve, as much as possi- ble, the performance of these wonderful fishing tools. This is in order to give the bamboo the chance to be still considered as an effective fishing tool and not only collectable tackle to be kept hung on a wall.

Two final considerations:

The first is that we’ve given a surface look to this article and we could get two incorrect conclu- sions:

  • I can get to the same result using a rod designed for line # 5 with a line #3;
  • I could assume that stiffness is equal to say fastness.

As said these are two incorrect conclusions and it could be demonstrated talking about concepts like fastness and reactivity, or showing that we don’t need a stiff butt because to decrease the delay we need also a bending butt. But these are other stories and the work is still in progress.

The second consideration regards a mention of the frequency concept applied to a fishing rod. First of all, each blank has its natural frequency and usually the final rod made with this blank has a dif- ferent natural frequency. This tells us that a rod with an higher natural frequency is a faster rod compared to another one with a lower frequency. It’s very easy to understand that some main fac- tors affects the frequency of the rod:

  • Stiffness
  • Weight
  •  Length

We could assume that the natural frequency is equal to:

Natural frequency= Stiffness/Weight

What basically makes the difference between a bamboo rod and a a graphite rod is the efficiency of the material. A high modulus graphite rod with its lightness and high stiffness produce an higher frequency. Heavier bamboo rods exhibit lower frequency.

What can give us a clear idea about these concepts is the different waves of vibration. Looking at this picture can make the situation clearer:

Attention must be given to the third type of vibration, because as we saw in the previous pictures, there is a moment during the casting time where the rod is bent like a wave. So the knowledge about natural frequency must be added to some thoughts about the other type of vibrations and this, as we said before, is a work in progress.

A special thanks for this article goes to Roberto Pragliola for the huge heritage of knowledge he gave and is still giving to us. A big thanks also goes to the guys of the Italian Bamboo Rodmakers Association and its President Gabriele Gori. Last but not the least to Giovanni Nese for the innova- tion that he’s bringing to the Italian bamboo rodmakers movement and for the great help he gave to me writing this article.

(This Article has been published on the Power Fibers On Line Magazine – October 2011 Issue N.45)

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