For that purpose fiberglass rods are a great way to begin. After WWII, fiberglass became the dominate material for fishing rods, just as demand for rods was growing like crazy. As a result, there are tons of them out there in all different qualities. If you’re looking for them, they aren’t hard to find.
There are different levels of rod collecting. Like anything else, your collection will be dictated by your budget. The least expensive fiberglass fly rods are mass-produced “production” rods by companies like Horrocks-Ibbotson (H&I), Wright & McGill, & Shakespeare. You can find these rods in mint condition for less than $100 in places like hunting & fishing shows, yard sales, flea markets, auctions, etc.
You’ve got to consider condition when buying any vintage rod. While rods in mint, unused, condition from the 50’s through the 80’s will bring the highest prices, rods of the same age that show use will obviously cost less. These would be rods that are in useable condition as is & might only need a good cleaning. They might have spent the last few decades in the corner of a garage & might be missing their bag & tube. The other rods you could find might be in poor condition. These rods are missing guides or have guides that are bent or broken, wraps missing, damage to the cork in the grip, a broken reel seat, etc. These rods can (& should) be had for a song & might be a great way to add a needed rod to your collection for less. But don’t get ‘suckered’ by not considering the amount of money you’ll need to put into the rod to get it in working order.
Some fiberglass rods (along with modern custom made fiberglass fly rods) do command higher prices. That’s because they were made with high quality components & properly designed. Some rods made by Fenwick, Conolon, Phillipson, Browning, Garcia & others are held in high regard among fiberglass aficionados. One look at these rods & you can see why they cost more – hundreds of dollars more – than most production rods.
No matter what rod you’re considering to add to your collection, you should look it over carefully, if you can, before you buy it. Aside from any obvious major damage to the rod, the first (& most important) thing to do is to put the rod together & wiggle the thing. You want to make sure the rod has the kind of action you’re after. One of the greatest myths put out there is that all fiberglass rods are slow in action. This is NOT true at all!!!! The real truth is that fiberglass rods came in all actions, from very fast to very slow. It’s foolish & unfair to not consider a rod because of the material it’s made from.
Next look at the line guides. Even if they’re not bent or broken, look for wear on the guides. This will show itself in small grooves in the body of the guide where friction from the line has worn down the metal of the guides. You should really consider replacing guides in this condition. Pay special attention to the tip top, as this is the guide that will show wear before the others & naturally, will have the most wear of all the guides.
Other things to consider would be if the rod comes with a bag & tube. You’re going to want these items to keep the rod protected. For some reason, many used production rods have been separated from their tubes throughout the years…..I’d like to know where all those tubes went. Anyway, be sure to consider the cost of these items in the price of the rod.
If the rod you’ve bought needs any repairs, consult a rod maker for help & guidance. A reputable rod maker can either make the repairs for you, or help guide you through the process if you want to tackle the repairs yourself. If you’re going to be replacing all the guides, you might want to consider giving the rod a complete upgrade by putting the correct number of guides on the rod in the proper locations. Many large tackle manufacturers, in order to keep costs down, would uses less guides than was ideal on a rod & would often use incorrect sizes of guides. By overhauling an older production rod with the correct amount of guides in the right places along its length, you’ll end up with a rod that fishes like a much more expensive rod.
I hope this helps guide you into the world of older fiberglass fly rods. Older production rods can be a great way to add to your arsenal of fly rods without breaking the bank.