Get A Grip – Fly Rod Cork Grips Explained

Half wells, full wells, and cigar grips are terms one might think would come from a conversation at your local tavern. However, these are also important ways to describe the different cork handles on a fly rod.

Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned angler, it’s important to know the different fly rod grips – both in styles and the materials used. Nick Conklin gives us a breakdown of the variety that TFO offers.

What are the differences between the different grips that TFO offers?

TFO utilizes three different styles, or cork compositions with our fly rod handles: the standard or traditional style cork ring, a composite ring and a reconstituted cork handle. See below for a breakdown on each.

1.) Standard/Traditional Cork Grip

The first is your standard or traditional cork ring grip. These are premium quality cork rings, which are common across the industry. The overall quality does vary brand by brand due to the nature and costs associated with purchasing and selecting the available cork rings. You’ll see this on many models, including the LK Legacy, Blue Ribbon, and Axiom II-X families. Rods with this style of handle are finished with hard burl accents.

Two rod series even feature our Line-ID system. Both the Mangrove Coast and Blue Ribbon series feature hard burl cork rings at the top of the handle. Each ring represents a rod weight and the thicker rings equal a “five.” So, rod Mangrove Coast rod with one thick ring, and three thinner rings would be your eight-weight. This allows an angler to quickly pick up the right rod when a fish is cruising by.2.) Composite Cork Handle

The second handle is what we refer to as a “composite,” cork handle. This is comprised of cork and rubber chunks, pressed into rings. These handle configurations offer a lot of advantages over the traditional solid cork ring style. This type of ring does not endure the normal “wear and tear,” pitting or split rings like traditional handles can encounter. They grip much better when in wet or grimy conditions.

Another benefit is continuing to move away from the reliance upon cork, (a non-renewable resource, that is expensive and takes many years to grow). These composite style handles will continue to become more mainstream in the industry. You’ll notice this style or cork on our LK Legacy TH, Axiom II Switch and Pro II TH rods. It is also present in our BC Big Fly and Bluewater SG style fly rods.

While a slightly more involved construction process, these handles can be a bit more expensive to finish a rod with. These rods are often finished with EVA foam accents for increased durability and appearance.3.) Reconstituted Cork Handle

The third handle style we incorporate on the fly fishing side, is what we refer to as reconstituted cork. This takes various refurbished cork rings, ground down, glued into rings and applied to rod handles.

These are the most durable handles we make, and you will see them on a lot of our kit and entry level rods. These handles withstand a lot of use, abuse and can be very durable in a variety of conditions. These are very cost effective and allow us to utilize a wider range of cork and limit our waste and stress on the resource. We utilize this style handle on our NXT Black Label rods, The Bug Launcher series and our TFR rods.Why do some fly rods have one type of grip versus another (Ex: half vs full wells grip)?

TFO utilizes a variety of handle styles to make the entire process more efficient for the angler. You’ll notice the half-wells style grips on most of our lighter, single handle fly rods. While this is a more traditional style, it offers appropriate handle placement and grip on rods from 2-weight to 6-weight. These rods are often 7’6″ to 9-feet in length and meant for small to medium size flies.

Photo: Tom Wetherington

When you reach the 6-weight fly rods, (we offer both handle styles half and full-wells in the LK Legacy and Blue Ribbon below), you’ll notice the full wells grips. These can be a more ergonomic, easier feel when fishing heavier fly lines and flies. This is a style that is common, and well proved from six-weights through 12-weight fly rods.

Photo: Nick Conklin

In longer rods in the Pro II and Blue Ribbon series (10’+), we finished the rods with the full-wells styles grips. With the longer lever, the full style grip can aid in comfortable casting and fishing.

Photo: Tom Wetherington

Some models are built with extended or longer fore and aft grip. Models like the BC Big Fly and Bluewater SG series have very specialized grips for the intended application of the family. These were done not only for the casting portion, but more for the fish fighting portion of the process. These longer, thicker diameter grips are meant to aid the angler in the fight of big fish that can sound, (more vertical fight, rather than horizontal).

Photo: Jay McLaurin

For example, in the BC Big Fly series, features a modified, composite cork full-wells grip and an extended, IGFA-compliant fighting butt for picking up and casting large, Game Changer style flies and heavy lines. This extended grip also helps anglers better execute the circular or figure-eight style of moving a fly near the surface.

Photo: Oliver Sutro

In the Bluewater SG family, some models feature both two, extended style handles. The Baby and Light Duty remain finished out with composite cork split grips, traditional snake and stripper guides and are 9’ 4 piece. The 8 ½’ 4 piece Mid Duty and Heavy Duty rods are finished with a single lengthened, (or snouted) composite cork fore-grip that allows one to adjust top hand placement when the angler needs to apply more pressure.

Have more questions about fly rod grips? Feel free to shoot us an email at [email protected], and we’d be happy to help answer your questions as best as possible.

Fly

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