Utah-based fly rod company looking for innovation

Utah-based Blue Halo is trying to innovate for the future of fly rods. (Cortney Boice) Photo credit: Cortney Boice

The 2004 film “Napoleon Dynamite” featured a scene with a drawing of a hybrid beast that the main character called a “Liger,” a cross between a lion and a tiger. Utah-based Blue Halo’s Courtney Boice has decided that this would be an apt name for the new series of hybrid-build fly rods that will be releasing in the coming weeks.

Boice has developed a new manufacturing process using carbon fiber and fiberglass to produce the blanks – the core of the rod where the material is attached. The recipe is one of a kind and Boice is not keen on sharing it with the public. Eight different models will be offered under the Liger name.

Carbon fiber has been the predominant material of choice in the construction of modern fly rods. However, recent years have seen a resurgence in the growth of fiberglass fly rods. Several mainstream fly fishing companies have embraced the slower action of fiberglass and expanded their product lines to include fiberglass offerings.

Carbon fiber, or graphite as it is often called, is a unique material for fly rods because the material has a higher modulus of elasticity. Specifically, Young’s modulus measures a relationship between tensile stress and tensile strain to determine strain along the axis of the material with the application of opposing forces along that axis.

To the layman, this means that a higher modulus equals a more rigid material. Carbon fiber rods have a higher modulus than fiberglass rods. The stiffer flex requires more energy to throw and doesn’t often bend below the top half of the shaft. The casting stroke should also be faster than with a lower modulus rod.

The lower modulus of the fiberglass “loads” more easily, which means it bends lower towards the handle. The casting stroke action is much slower than with a carbon fiber rod due to the slower line speed.

Utah-based Blue Halo is trying to innovate for the future of fly rods. (Cortney Boice) Photo credit: Cortney Boice

Both materials excel in some aspects but fall short in other areas. Carbon fiber rods reach higher line speeds and are good for big flies and long casts, generally difficult with slower rods. This quick action makes a sacrifice in presenting the fly on the water, however, and generally doesn’t do tricky casts as well as fiberglass rods.

Fiberglass is better for the health of the fish’s jaw structure due to the rod’s cushioning action. “Glass is a big shock absorber. It’s best for fighting and landing fish, ”said Boice, describing the effect of the fish’s head shaking, running and jumping when a fisherman is hanging on.

Finding a “right” rod is a bit of a Goldilocks principle. Boice attempted to achieve this elusive condition with the Liger rod series.

“Nobody is doing what we’re doing now,” Boice said. “We will consider this as our contribution to the fly fishing market.” The development of Liger rods lasted more than two years.

Boice describes Blue Halo’s place in the outdoor industry as a niche within a niche. Blue Halo previously sold reels and nets in addition to their fiberglass rods and blanks. Boice felt the company was too dispersed. “We did too much, so we stepped back and did what we do best: the canes,” said Boice.

Blue Halo released two generations of rod models before the Liger. These first two generations were three-part fiberglass blanks. Ahead of the Liger’s release, the third iteration of colored fiberglass blanks and rods will be in a four-piece configuration. An addition of two new models expands the series to five different yarn thicknesses.

Utah-based Blue Halo is trying to innovate for the future of fly rods. (Cortney Boice) Photo credit: Cortney Boice

The fiberglass rods are translucent and allow the angler to see imperfections in the material and when held up to the light they appear to glow.

Next year, Boice plans to release a series of “Big Game” rods. These rods will be constructed with structural fiberglass, commonly known as S-glass. This fiberglass is unidirectional and has a slightly higher modulus than electric glass, or E-glass which is a directional cross weave. The S glass will make longer casts easier, especially in the wind, and provide more lifting power for larger fish.

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