top of page

Cane and Greenheart V Carbon Fibreglass

Updated: Dec 17, 2019

A question in one of my recent blogs related to the qualities of a cane rod over that of a modern carbon one. Rather than answer this one specifically, I thought, that’s a nice wee topic for a blog. 

Without going into the history of each, in this short blog I’ll talk about what attributes, best in each. Each has different positive and negative qualities when it comes to fishing for, casting, hooking, playing and landing fish. 

Having fished with and caught salmon on rods made with all those materials, I have to say, the full action of the greenheart or cane rod, with a genuine #parabolic action, is superb. The reason for this is the rod has a much slower action the tip section is much stiffer and the middle and lower sections much softer than, certainly most of their carbon counterparts. I do have a carbon version, one of the first #Hardy #Sintrix prototypes that closely matches, but for reasons I’ll discuss later, doesn’t “match” this action. Although this is an amazing rod to use, unfortunately, most people would struggle to cast with it and simply wouldn’t get it. Which leads me to casting with those wooden and bamboo rods. 

Some people think those are nothing like as strong as the carbon rod, however, they are much stronger than people think. This is one of the reasons people don’t use the rod properly, they’re actually scared they break them so fail to apply the correct technique, particularly during the forward cast. If they did, then they would find an amazing casting tool. Is it possible to deliver a very tight loop with such rods? Of course, it is. Single or double-handed, if you’re technique is correct greenheart or cane is simply a pleasure to use and as I said, a lovely tool to fish with. Especially when married with modern lines.


The main difference with both Greenheart and Cane is in the loading/compressing, or, more particularly, “how long” this process takes, or the manner by which, the rod takes fully load or compress. We’ve all heard instructors or good casters telling us to “let the rod do the work”. Achieving this optimum load, before releasing this energy back to the flyline requires a technique very different to that used when casting with most carbon rods and mastering this, although difficult, like learning to play an instrument, can be so much fun. Not only this, but it also teaches us a great deal about the application of different techniques in different fishing situations. The Greenheart rod is even slower to load than the cane, in fact, some of the modern cane rods, built by master rod builders such as Robert Stroh, are much faster, carry the load, or store the energy in a very different way to the old ones. Those guys take all of the attributes of an old cane rod and modern carbon rod and with amazing understanding and attention to detail, marry them to those found in carbon rods. This marriage makes a rod very different to anything else found today and is a super fun tool to go fishing with. 

But not just fun. The real fun begins when you actually hook a fish with one of those. If you think playing a fish on a carbon rod is fun? Well, just hold on to your hat, because playing a fish on one of those is quite incredible and take fun to a different level. Because the wood is a living organism, it feels part of you, an extension of your arms and fingers, it’s alive and transfers more detail through the flyline, a sensitivity many times greater than can be experienced with a carbon rod.

The action meant that the fish is constantly pulling against the strongest part of the rod, thus, tiring it out much quicker too.

Then there is casting in a wind. Again, because the rod loads differently, holding the load a couple of tenths of a second longer and further into the loading cycle, Inertia created during this transfer of energy takes a little longer to achieve. With a wooden or cane rod the transfer of energy is smother, I like to call this “progressive inertia”. We have all seen and been in a situation where the line, particularly modern lines, crumple up and bounce back at us. For the most of the time, this is the effect of “rapid inertia” where energy is passed to a static object too quickly, in the case of a fly line, creating a shock wave that transcends the line.  In the case of tournament casting, without a doubt, this is often the difference between winning and losing. In a fishing scenario, it can be really frustrating when you see the line crumple up. The solution is found, not in the tackle, but technique. The old golfing adage “less is more”, is very relevant in such cases.  

Progressive inertia creates little shock because the line is already moving at a greater speed in the direction we want it to go, thus making it easier for the caster to “‘cut the line” through, or under the wind.

A long-winded description I know but when it comes to casting in wind or playing salmon, in my opinion, there is no better tool than cane. The actual mass/weight of the rod itself plays a big part in this too and brings me nicely to the negatives of Greenheart and #bamboorods

None of us are getting any younger and more and more we find ourselves having to spend longer hours in the water fishing. Wading is also an issue when holding a heavier rod. 

Lighter and faster has to be better!? 

There’s no doubt that the weight of the rod is most certainly an issue and a serious one. Why on earth would we go back to a rod weighing, in the case of a 15” Greenheart 4 times, or cane, 2.5 that of a modern carbon rod? Well, I’d say 100% true, personally, if I could have only one rod, it would not be a cane or greenheart rod. Carbon is so much more versatile and responsive. It requires less skill to cast. With regard to playing fish we can give the fish “butt’ by sticking into the fish, knowing the rod won’t/shouldn’t break. However, thankfully, I don’t have to make this choice! 

Carbon rods have the ability to transfer energy from tod to line much quicker than wooden rods. This, “rapid inertia”, or faster loading of the rod works well with the marriage of short head fly lines and a thing they call, “the underhand technique”, although most people advocating this cast much in the same way as everyone else. However, for a true, #Underhandcast, where the only movement of the upper is moving a very short distance up and down a generally vertical plane, the fast action carbon rod suits this technique very well as it doesn’t require as deep loading of the rod. That’s not to say that it cant be done on a progressive rod, it very much can, however, the head length of the line is extremely important. Very heavy, short Skagit lines work very well on ultra-slow Greenheart and Cane rods, as do lighter, short Scandi lines. Video Casting The Greenheart Rod with short Line.

More modern production methods also mean that Carbon rod can also be manufactured in many pieces, where #Greenheart and Cane tend to come in longer section. However, again, I was talking to a cane rod builder recently who told me there’s nothing really stopping him from making a #travelrod. I suppose to watch this space.!

I’ve not talked about my most used rod of the 1970s. At this time, the fibreglass rod was hailed as the lightest, strongest rod on the market. All the key manufacturers at the time made them in different lengths. 12 – 13 and 14 foot were the common sizes in the double-handed models, their actions, unsurprisingly, were similar to that of the cane rod, progressive and parabolic. I’ve seen those coming back in single-handed rods and it only a matter of time before we see a few double handers coming back too. Those are extremely strong, heavier than Carbon but like cane and Greenheart, are not too easy to cast, especially with the lines of the 1970s. However, add a shooting head or Skagit line and everything changes, hose become a fantastic tool. 

In summing up I’d say nothing beats carbon for an all-round rod, however, if I was fishing for grilse, I’d favour a much more parabolic, progressive rod, and for an hour over the best part of the pool with the best chance of a fish, the cane would be king. Talked about it earlier, fishing and casting with those is like playing an instrument. Cane rod is a Piano, but not a keyboard. The Carbon rod is an Electric Guitar where the Fibreglass is acoustic. The fun we can have learning to use each is great, and what it does to our understanding of #flycasting, well, it takes it to a completely different level. 

If you have any questions regarding this or any other subject please feel free to get in touch here or post in the comments.

1,123 views2 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Great post - thank you

Ian Gordon
Ian Gordon
Mar 04, 2021
Replying to

Thanks. The feedback is appreciated.

bottom of page