hey BH Spey,
This is an interesting post! For any kind of meaningful response about why you might be breaking rods, my first question might be: what kind of “salmon” are you fishing for and how big are they? Are these 75 # Kenai king salmon? Are you fishing in Norway for 40 lb + Atlantics? Next, what does "tailing" mean? How are you landing these fish?
First of all, you shouldn’t be breaking rods when you’re landing fish whether you fish alone or with ten other guys and whether you’re fishing a ST. Croix or a Sage!
Second, I can only surmise that you’re talking about “normal” sized salmon. By normal I mean 10 - 40 lbs. Those two rods you broke are good rods and I think if used properly, they easily would have handled fish of that size. It’s my opinion any rod of similar weight and specifications, if subjected to inappropriate stress (The “U” shape you refer to might be included in that category), would also break.
I think you were just very lucky that you never broke your Sage doing this in the past. Maybe I’m wrong about this. If so, I’d love to hear about it from an engineer, with details about construction differences between the rods and why one rod can put up with that type of stress and why another can't, based solely on engineered construction.
Let me describe how I land fish. When I’m not salt water fishing for salmon out of my boat (with a net) I fish for steelhead in rivers. In over 25 years of fly fishing for these creatures, I have never broken a rod. Period. I should also tell you here that I do 99 % of my steelhead fishing alone and that over the years I have landed many steelhead over 25 # and several over 30 # so from a weight standpoint, they are more than likely in the same category as the “salmon” you refer to unless you are in fact talking about Kenai fish.
So, I went through one phase for several years where I exclusively used a single handed 5 weight rod even though I had a closet full of 9 and 10 weight double handers. This was a cheap Lamiglas I built on a $ 60 blank. During that time I caught lots of fish and plenty of big ones. When you’re fishing a 5 weight for big fish everything is decided, of course, during the landing of the fish (if you want your fly back and you don’t want to break the rod).
A side story: when I lived in the UK I purchased a salmon “tailer”. Perhaps you know that it’s essentially a wire snare that snaps onto a fish’s peduncle (the “wrist” of the tail). When a fisherman slips it over the tail and pulls back on it, the snare is disengaged from a retaining clip and it springs closed. It’s a deadly way of bringing a fish out of the water. Once that snare closes they ain’t going nowhere. That to me is “tailing” a fish. Is this what you’re talking about when you say you’re “tailing” your salmon?
The first time I used my tailer on a steelhead with my 5 weight rod (thinking I’d be cool like Ed Wulff) I saw that the wire snare had cut into the tail skin of a nice big native buck steelhead I was going to release. It made me feel so bad I never used that “tailer” again. So much for “tailing” a fish.
But with trial and error I figured out how to keep using my 5 weight without breaking it, even on big steelhead. How? Once the fish was in the shallows, before they bellied up to the beach where their actual physical weight was on the rod tip rather than supported by water, I tucked the rod under my arm and grabbed the fly line. Then bit by bit, I hand-lined the fish onto the beach. This required good knots (I used 10 – 12 # test and always retied my knots throughout the day) and tremendous care never to let the line wrap around the rod tip. When the fish was tired, I just gently snaked it up on the beach by hand. If it wanted to run some more, I let go of the line and let it run, always taking care that the line did not wrap around the rod tip (certain disaster) as the line went back out again behind the running fish.
So, I have landed hundreds of fish doing this. All you need is a gently sloping beach and a bit of patience. You don’t need a buddy to help get the fish even more frantic than it is already! If you don’t have a gentle sloping beach, lead the fish into a small bay or just pull it up close enough to the shore to get the hook out. The rod is only used to get the line out there, hook the fish, and get it close to the beach. The line and your hands do the rest of the work. This works on steelhead, chums, kings, silvers, Atlantics, any “normal” salmon. Would I do this on a 50 # Kenai fish? Maybe once.
If you want to beach a fish using the rod itself, that’s just as easy. However, in my humble opinion the letter “U” should never be included in the beaching sentence, whether you’re fishing alone or with a beach full of people to help you. Simply sweep the rod sideways towards the beach once you have the fish in close. Downstream is better because then you’re using the current. Once it’s head is near the beach, reel in the line and walk toward the fish keeping just enough pressure on the rod tip to keep the fish steady. Lift the tip as you approach the fish. If it decides to take off, let it, again making sure the line doesn’t wrap around the tip.
Each time you get the fish back to the beach it’ll have less strength to take off another time. When the time is right, you’ll know it. Then reel your way back to the fish, keeping moderate pressure on the rod and fish but never imparting any dramatic bend to the rod tip. Again, the letter “U” should not be on the menu here!
When you’re ten feet away and it’s head is steady, walk slowly and quietly to the fish. The more frantic you get, the more frantic the fish gets. Reach down, grab the leader (making sure there’s slack in the line so the rod tip is not bending at all) and with your needle nose pliers that are ready, you pop the hook out then nudge the fish back into the water with your boot. If you have killing on the mind and you’re allowed to, reach down and grab the fish behind the gill plates at that point.
The rod should never be in a “U” shape unless you’re in a boat (with a net) or on a casting platform like they have in Scotland and your ghillie has the net. Under both of these circumstances, the weight of the fish is in the water, not on a beach.
Stick to that procedure (with your own particular embellishments, of course) and you won’t break rods landing fish, whether it’s a
$ 200 St. Croix or an $ 800 Sage. If either of those rods are subjected to undue strain, the sound of them breaking will be remarkably similar.
The sound of a breaking rod is an entirely democratic sound as maybe you know. It doesn’t differentiate between economic status or social hierarchy. It just breaks and that’s the end of it and I think most of the time, it’s operator error. Good luck!