Maybe you’ve got a kid, and you’d like her to play with something that would slowly infuse her with the fly obsession.  Maybe you don’t want your casting arm to rust during the off season, and want to be on top of your game for the opening. Maybe you’re a newbie, and you’d like to get acquainted with the sport before actually going on the water. Maybe you’ve got a thing for gadgets. Or maybe you’re like me, maybe you’re just in love with the flying line, you get off feeling the loop traveling down the line, feeling the fine flex of the rod…

If you fall in any of these categories, or related ones, then you may want to consider an indoors rod. The last couple of years have seens plenty of those very short rods, including a special line, designed to practice at home. The basic argument is that fly fishing is like so many other disciplines: good training opens doors, and finally makes the experience more intense, and the pleasure deeper. I’m not sure everyone feels it, but I certainly do. You know, that moment when you lie the line exactly where you wanted, backhanded and under that branch, and in the middle of your grin, there’s the idea that this cast deserves a take, and that last year you would have ended in the tree for sure…

So, training is often a good idea. But sometimes the weather is shite, or you don’t have the time to go out, and if you’re in town, you got to face the horde of those part time clowns who will ask whether the catching is good (may they rot in hell). Hence the indoors practice rods, that you’ll leave rigged and ready in a corner of the living/office, and grab when you’re on the phone with aunt Janet, aiming countless roll casts at that power strip over there. Rods you’ll even let your kids play with (not in the living!), and you’ll pack in when going to Aunt Janet’s, where there’s no fishing but room enough for a nice loop.

There’s a whole bunch of practice rods, you’ll find most of them here. I’ve tested two. The first is an Echo MPR which was given to me by Mike Surtees a night of many drinks when, I think, he realized that despite his considerable instructing expertise, he would probably fail to solve in a couple of hours my tracking problem. The second rod is a Redington Form Game, cunningly used by Cyril to infect his kids with the fly bug. between those two rods, you’ll get a good idea of what the market has to offer.


Echo MPR. Micro Practice Rod. It’s the one at the bottom on the picture. Two piece, a tulip shaped grip made of EVA foam. The workmanship on my MPR is mediocre. Tippy action, but you don’t really feel it that way because the line is really heavy. It’s made of long piece of synthetic rope with a red yarn tapered leader. It weights a lot and that precisely what allows one to cast with ease, i.e. to “load” the rod with a normal stroke. Sensations are particularly clear (even frankly exagerated, which is good for a beginner).  All this mass has a lot of inertia, that’s even how you define it, and at least to things follow. (i) The rod works in slow motion. Even if you can easily manage some line speed, it’s even easier to watch your loop travel slowly down the line, which gives you plenty of opportunities for cool air mends, trick casts, and generally messing with the line. There’s a buttery smoothness to the MPR which I find totally addictive. (ii) You can really roll cast on slick surfaces, the rod loads against the line’s inertia. At the same time, you could regret that inertia, because it’s got nothing to do with a real line, and because when you aerialize the whole rope, the rod feels a little overwhelmed. On the other hand, distance casting with an indoors practice rod is just a silly notion (that’s obviously why I tried). Last regret: the diameter of the rope makes hauling unpleasant if not impossible. So that’s not your rod to prepare that Bahamas trip.

Based on what you see on the many videos on the tube (but without first hand knowledge) I’d say that the other rope lined pratice rods (TFO, Orvis and Royal Wulff) will probably behave in the same way.

Redington Form Game. With this one, things are different. The rod comes with a PVC line, just like the real thing. There’s an integrated leader, and the taper is almost continuous from the fat butt to the thin leader. That makes for very nice roll casts. The rod is a two pice affair, painted red or blue, and the craftsmanship is good. There are alignment dots (I’ll never quite get why people like those). Half wells cork grip, feeling nice. Without the rope’s inertia, the casting cycle is faster, much more like what you’ll get on an actual fishing rod. Which is good, but you can also regret the slow motion. The line is longuer too, which is cool when you’ve got plenty of room, and haul is no problem so you can practice that. All in all, the system is nice to use, except for a nasty hissing sound from the line, but maybe there’s always a sound like that, only you hear it now you’re casting in a silent house…

Conclusions ? The MPR’s feeling is really nice, I recommend it for working your close range game. As I said, it’s just a bliss while you’re on the phone. As soon as you’ve got more space, the Form has its say. And you can also take it to fish

There’s a bunch of videos about practice rods on the tube. Most of them are good. Lefty Kreh will show you again how to wipe the shelves. Tim Rajeff insists on being the really nice guy he is, even if the phone is annoying. There’s an excellent demo by Pete ‘Morsie’ Morse, an australian line sorcerer, showing what you can do with a Form (and a good dose of magic). But the one who really takes the cake comes undoubdtedly from Pete Kutzer at Orvis, the only one to have the cojones to show you what a practice rod is really for. Namely: becoming a major public nuisance. So. Much. Fun.[youtube=]