Fly Anglers and their Fighting Butts

A fly rod fighting butt is that inch and half of cork and EVA foam installed below the reel seat and is found on ALL factory fly rods in the single-handed 7-12 weight category.  You’ll almost never find one on a “trout weight rod”, rarely a 6 weight and certainly never on a 3 weight.  What’s the real purpose of one anyway?  Is it really just for fighting fish?  Well, first, there are several advantages to the fighting butt, and one is actually fighting fish.  Hobby and pro rod builders put them on light rods too.  Here’s why?

Fighting Fish (the obvious – the convention)

On rods intended for saltwater and anadromous species, they always have one.  The angler braces the fighting butt against the belly area so the rod can be used as a fulcrum, giving the angler more leverage over the fighting fish.  Fly rods are designed with the reel mounted close to the butt end, below the grip, so assuming the butt-to-gut position without a fighting butt can hinder your reel work. The basic task of winding the reel, and letting line peel off the reel when a fish want to run, can be frantic as it is, the stand-off of a fighting butt mitigates some of issues. Obviously, a cork or EVA foam fighting butt digging into your belly or chest is more comfortable in a fish fight than an aluminum reel seat butt cap.

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A simple 1/2 inch butt on a 8.5′ 5 wt helps keep the reel seat threads clean and the reel suspended out of the dirt and sand. I prefer this butt style on kayak rods as well.

The Other Pros to a Fighting Butt

It’s challenging enough keeping loose line from hanging up on, well, EVERYTHING around you, like clothing. Not only does a short extension of cork below the reel seat help with this, it helps keeps your reel and reel seat out of the dirt and sand when you’re not fishing.  I especially like them on my kayak rods, regardless of the weight class of the rod.   In the tight quarters of a kayak or canoe, I find that a rod with a fighting butt, even just a small “bumper” gives me more options for stowage too. The rod slides around less in the cockpit of the kayak. I can lay the tip across the bow and hang the butt section off the seat or my leg.  On shore, I appreciate that it helps keep the reel seat and reel out of the dirt when it’s leaning against a branch, or when I’m rigging it up.

Aesthetics and Balance

Fighting butts give a rod builder another canvas for their art. Just Google images for “custom rods fighting butts”  and you’ll  get an idea of how creative builders are with their fighting butts that is.  As for balance, with a fighting butt the reel seat and grip area are mounted further up the blank. and this could shift the balance a bit towards the tip.  This might be a preferred on some rods, especially if you’re using a heavy reel.

In conclusion, if you are building a rod, or having one built for you. consider one.  You are not bound by the convention set by manufacturers who don’t fish with you.