There's a large, shallow, rectangular casting pond at the International Fly Tackle Dealer's show in Florida. I stare at it more than I use it. It's the show-off spot. That's where you go when your arm's on fire and you have a double haul you think deserves to be on display.
My arm rarely heats up in man-made conditions. I need fresh air to get the most out of my casting. There's no fresh air in a convention center no matter how high the a/c is cranked so I don't cast much at the show.
But the Waterworks-Lamson Center Axis made me toe the fake waterline this year. I like to call the Center Axis the reel-rod because the reel and rod are one in this new piece of equipment. There's no reel hanging on the lower underbelly of the rod. The reel is part of the rod. That's a weight changer and, by ripple effect, a cast changer.
"Fundamentally, the better your casting technique, the more this is going to reward you," Mark Farris, Waterworks-Lamson founding partner says in the Center Axis how-to video. "It's going to speak to you very clearly."
I step up to the show's casting pond to hear what this reel-rod has to say to me. Farris is at my back. A nine-year-old boy is next to me. The kid throws more line than I daydream about. He smiles. I shake. I'm not going to look good in the show-off spot and this nine-year-old is going to know it.
Farris warns me the Center Axis feels different and he's right. The rod tip bounces on my first try. I'm not known for muscling shots when I fish so that's an unexpected response. I strip in, loosen my grip and start over. Less bounce, but my aim is off because the weight distribution is different.
Most of us are used to compensating for a rod with a heavier back end due to dangling reel, but the weight distribution is even with Center Axis, which makes it incredibly light needing no muscle to manage. That's a plus and means ease of arm, but it's an adjustment that may take some time to get used to.
Try three, no bounce in the rod tip and my fly is closer to the mark, but still not dead on. Farris suggests I ease off on arm effort and politely starts tweaking my form. I end up white knuckling and red facing. The nine-year-old double hauling next to me knows he's out done me. I need more time with this rod than the casting pond offers. I hand the Center Axis back to Farris and stomp off like a three-year-old.
This rod-and-reel combo idea from Lamson isn't an industry first, though it's been many years since the fly fishing world has seen a similar product. And, of this incarnation, Lamson says that "casting is believing." According to Lamson, the 'Center Axis' offers a unique combo of a medium action rod with a reel that Lamson says it has made as light as possible. Lamson says the result is a "de-levered" setup that will amaze you.