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Pick your guides!

I've really tried to narrow this down and make it easy on folks. It's really easy on Drift/Float Rods, these use model M guides - Pac Bay is the manufacturerer, Black, Gold and Titanium (TiCH) are the colors.

Fly Rods you have more choices.

Single Foot , Traditional Double Foot, or Ceramic Guides?

Chrome Single Foot Guide
Black Double Foot Guide

Single Foot Guides have many advantages. First, the disadvantage; they're not what you think of when you think of Fly Rod Guides. Single foot guides have less of an impact on the blank's original performance. Additionally they require only one wrap per guide, not two, so the overall rod is lighter and less costly to wrap. Think of single foots as redesigned, high performance guides.

Double Foot Guides are what most people think of as fly guides. When I talk about guides having an impact on the blank's performance, each double foot guide accounts for a larger "stiff spot" than a single foot guide. I have heard disagreeing comments on this - some say that these stiff spots cause the blank to flex less, overall making it's action faster. Conversely, if anything, it's my experience that the stiff spots cause the blank to flex father down, overall slowing it down a bit. Regardless, the effect is, in my opinion, minimal, as the guides themselves are somewhat flexible, to a point.

Ceramic Guides are kind of unusual. They are usually single footed for the majority of the rod. The primary reason to use ceramic guides is on heavy rods or dual purpose rods; ceramic guides disapate heat better, resist friction and other damage better, last longer, and will all the use of monofiliment line on the rod if you were so inclined. Ceramic Fly Guides also have a big range of colors available. However, their applications are limited; primarily I would put these on a rod that may be used as both a fly rod and drift rod. They have also been indicated as another good alternate choice for the guides on a spey rod. From my experience with them, they actually tend to get damaged a bit easier.

Guide Finishes - so many choices?!

Well actually you really have 4 choices in guide finishes. Traditional Chrome, Black, Gold or Titanium Carbide Coated. Black and Chrome are on the same level. Gold costs more simply due to the adonizing costs. The only real difference are the Titanium Carbide coated, or TiCH guides. These have the gunsmoke finish, shiny grey. TiCH guides withstand friction better as well as corrision; for any rod that may see saltwater use they are the ONLY guides to consider. These tend to be the "pricey" set, costing as much as 5 times what a chrome set would cost. The benefits, though, are substatial in my opinion. Most commercial manfucterer's agree - look at many rod companies and you'll see that they're top of the line gear often incorporates Titanium guides.

Additionally, Pacific Bay has a new line of guides out in 4 new finishes - Cobalt Blue, Illusion, English Bronze and Bombay Gold. Unfortunately I have not seen these available through suppliers yet, and additionally it does not appear that Pacific Bay is offering matching hardware for their reel seats.

Stripping Guides

TiCH finished Pacific Bay Stripping Guide

The stripping guide (or guides) sit closest to the grip, and are usually double foot guides with a ceramic ring. Titanium strippers usually include the high quality SIC ceramic rings. However, there are MANY available variations on a theme here, including carryover from casting and spinning guides that are equally at home as fly rod stripping guides.

Of note, one technique that can be added during construction is to offset the first stripping guide by roughly 20 degrees to the left or the right of the rod (whichever hand is your "line" hand). Doing this allows for your line to enter the guide system with less initial resistance. On the downside, doing this makes your rod exclusively left or right handed!

Tip Tops

The loop at the end of your rod isn't even something you need to worry about - I simply get the appropriate sized tip top to match your guide selection.

Guide Sizes

Again, nothing you'll ever have to worry about. Heavier Rods (7wt. and above) are typically set up with an "oversized" configuration and two (sometimes 3) stripping guides. The "oversized" configuration simply allows for easier passage of knots through the guides, as well as slowing the "ice up" process when winter fishing.

Guide Brands

There are several manufacturers of guides, some with really unique offerings:

Pacific Bay - pretty much all the rods I've built to date utilize Pacific Bay Guides.
REC Components - includes the REC RECOIL guides, guides that are made out of "Shape Memory" alloy....think indestructable glasses and you'll get why I've listed them here!
American Tackle - all the unique ceramic fly guides you could ever hope for!

Additionally, if you're a real rod-snob, we could look at Fuji, Hopkins and Holloway, and Snake Brand guides.

Next - Pick your Guide Wraps
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