Welcome to the Club
By Jim Repine, August 1966
I admit the older I get, the more of a traditionalist I become, probably a growing kinship with older things. Anyway if I could afford it, bamboo would be my choice in rods; very fine cane, and not only from the standpoint of aesthetics.

Graphite is amazing material. There is no disputing that less energy properly applied to lighter weight graphite will translate to a more energetic flex, than will the same effort applied to cane. It argues well that a long day casting a 12 weight rod over windy salt flats for monster tarpon is a much easier affair with this phenomena working for you, but I discovered something about myself on a recent month long Alaskan fishing trip.

While I never caught a fish I didn't like, in my angling soul of souls, I'm a trout stream-trout fisherman. I like the looks, feel and size of trout. I like where they live and the things I must do to catch them. I like going to their water with cane but I have long known all this. What dawned on me this season while catching many rainbows, dollies, silver salmon, and even one 25 pound chinook, was that a 7 weight rod with more heft than typical graphite feels great. In spite of everything advertising has tried to convince me of over these last few years, lighter isn't automatically better.

Tonkin still challenges gold, price-wise, and I'm a fishing writer. What to do? Along comes Walton Powell (actually he came along bunches of decades ago), master cane rod maker and one of the pioneers in synthetics with an ideal compromise; the Hexagraph rod. It's made from highest quality graphite, split into six strips the same as cane, fabricated into a blank with a light inner core material for added strength, and finished into a lovely "split graphite" rod rivaling fine bamboo in appearance. Though lighter, it feels and casts like cane. Slightly heavier, it has the flex qualities of graphite. I don't trust the word perfection but this comes as close as it gets to having the best of both worlds.

The secret according to Powell, has to do with things like six split graphite segments reconstructed into a hexagonal rod, eliminating the distortion of flattening during bending (loading) inherent in tubular rods, actually increasing it's tensile strength the more it bends. The result is improved durability of a solid, rather than a thin, hollow shaft. We supremely tested four Hexagraphs at our Chilean lodge last summer, putting them into the hands of a wide mix of guests. Many enjoyed them, some left hot to order one, and of special note, not one broke! Lodge owners will tell you, that is most unusual, even with the highest priced brands.

Says Powell, "We can make light, delicate rods, or heavier, strong ones. We can make any type action in any length for any line weight. We can obtain perfect unity and continuity of action and build a rod that is tough and durable, not plagued with breakage like so many of the high modulus, high priced tubular rods".

If for years now you have only cast graphite, and pick this rod up in a tackle store, it may feel strange at first. Spend a day or two with it on the water and I believe most will be very impressed.

Here's what happened to me in Alaska. After two weeks and a hundred or so fish, all caught on the Hexagraph, I was fishing the outflow of Naknek Lake (one of my favorite haunts) for big rainbows. I caught two trout over 23 inches and then decided to switch to my favorite 7 weight graphite (one of the top brands). I had fished this rod for two years in Chile and Argentina and found it to be excellent, and until that moment, my preferred overall rod. I took a nice fish but the tubular graphite now felt a little flimsy and I couldn't wait to get the Hexagraph back in my hands.

In Argentina, I usually manage to fish the exotically gorgeous Rivadavia River once or twice each season. Floating this turquoise blue waterway is a long day's adventure. Even when action is slow, excitement remains high because as you pass over the deepest pools, the water is so clear you can see trout; sometimes many, some huge. At times fishing is done by wading, though most of the day you cast from a moving raft. With the movement of the raft and the best fish almost always hiding under overhanging bushes along the shore, you must cast quickly with precise accuracy. If you hesitate, opportunities pass you by. If your accuracy is off even inches, you snag foliage, spook fish, and lose lots of flies. It's great fun but always challenging.

Last summer I fished the Rivadavia with a two piece, 8' foot, 6 weight Hexagraph. It's their "medium fast" class. First, I wanted to use my own #8 "Jim's Green Fall Caddis" because nothing seems to invite harder strikes or bring hungry trout up out of the deep water any better. I knew by afternoon the wind would be blowing hard enough to make a solid rod feel good.

I was fishing with Leon Chandler. We have been friends for more than twenty years. The interesting part being, that instead of Alaska or elsewhere in the States, we first met in Japan. We were both working at the Tokyo Fishing Tackle Show. Many Japanese anglers will remember that Leon was the first American fly fisherman to come to Japan after the war. He helped with the great revival of fly fishing that was born in Japan during those years.

The light was good most of the morning with high sunshine and blue skies. It was just right for photography and I couldn't resist taking pictures of Leon and his marvelous casting. Finally though, after lunch the cloud cover thickened and the only thing left for me to do was fish, not bad! We spent an hour in one productive wading stretch and my rod performed well but where the extra heft of my Hexagraph really made the difference was while the raft drifted.

Leon cast from the front, our guide rowed from the middle, and I was in the back. The breeze increased to a real wind making the "medium fast" the right choice for control and precision, but it was when a cast inches off the bank and under low branches produced a smashing strike and solid hook up that I knew I had the advantage. When you need a heavy rod bend to move a heavy fish, neither cane nor tubular graphite stand up to a Hexagraph.

Will Hexagraph eventually replace tubular graphite as the fabrication method for other rod makers? It's not likely and no reason it should. Typical construction and designs of many top brand fly rods today are marvels of this era's art. I have a fair number of them and wouldn't easily give them up. Yet, just as fiberglass and graphite haven't replaced fine bamboo (now enjoying a resurgence in popularity), Hexagraph will be as certain wine vintages are to discerning collectors. There will surely grow a solid fraternity of anglers who will sense and appreciate the unique collection of aesthetics, feel, and practicality that this new/old/techno/craftsmanship represents. If you are already one of us, welcome to the club!