The other day a friend & rod client sent me some photos of a rod I had made him. The photos showed the rod out in Yosemite - a beautiful place, indeed. Now, I love to get photos like that. It just makes me smile & really lifts my spirits.
After spending many hours making a rod for someone, I sometimes wonder how they & their rod are getting along. Most of us rod makers agree that we make these rods to fish, not just to be showpieces. So when I see them doing what I made them to do, it really makes me happy!!!
You could easily argue that rods made by the Garcia Conolon company were among some of the best fiberglass rods ever mass-produced. They still have their place in many angler's rod collections today. I have one of their fly rods myself & love it.
They made a rod for just about every fishing situation you can imagine, from fly rods to spin & casting rods, they covered it all. All their rods were known for their quality.
Here's a video showing the Garcia Conolon factory, behind the scenes from 1962 - the heyday of the company. While they don't feature fly rods in the video it does give you a pretty good idea of how all their rods were made back then. I hope all you Garcia Conolon fans enjoy this short video.
Whenever a new graphite fishing rod is in development from one of the big manufacturers, they put the blanks through a lot. They want & need to know how the rod will hold up when in use.
One of the coolest (& scariest) tests they perform is a tensile strength test, sometimes called tension testing. Basically what they do is put stress on a rod (in this case they bend it) in a controlled manner. They keep adding stress to the rod until it breaks. As they go along, they keep measuring both the flex of the rod - how much it bends, & the stress, or pull, on the blank. When the tests are all done, they know exactly how much the rod should bend with a certain amount of weight pulling on it. ("With the rod pulling 4 lbs, it will flex this much & will act this way.....").
Normally this isn't just a test to see if their designs came out correctly. Sometime it is, but they learn a lot from these tests & use what they learn in future rod designs & tapers. By keeping track of everything, like how much & the specific type of graphite fibers used in certain spots of the rod, they can see exactly how it will work in a finished rod. They then use this information to design rods for specific types of fishing.
They used to run these tests on rods back in the bamboo days, too. Though if they ever tested one of my bamboo blanks like this until it broke, I'd have to be out of the room I think. After all my hand splitting, sanding, & planing I don't think I could stand to watch it.
So here's a very short video of the Hardy company doing one of these tests to a rod at their facility in England. I must warn you that if you're jumpy, put the coffee down right now. The end will catch you by surprise. Also, notice where the rod breaks in the video - about one third of the way up from the contraption that's holding it & not at the tip where you might think that it would. Very interesting.
I do occasionally, though very rarely, keep a trout or two for eating. While I almost always practice catch & release, I don't think it hurts any to keep a couple fish every few years or so (remember, people used to fish for the food). For those of you who plan to keep a trout for your plate, or maybe you've seen some nice ones down at your local market, here's a perfect trout recipe for the season. It features trout prepared with chopped pumpkin seeds. It goes like this:
4 -6 ripe tomatoes, cut in half
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chopped shallot
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary
1/2 cup olive oil
salt & pepper
2 cups zinfandel, reduced to 1/4 cup
2 trout fillets, per person boneless and skinless
1 egg, beaten with milk (a little)
chopped pepitas (roasted pumpkin seeds chopped in a food processor)
1.) Toss all sauce ingredients (except Zinfandel) into bowl and mix with tomatoes. Spread on sheet pan and bake in hot oven (450°F) 10-15 minutes until the tomatoes start to burn around the edges. Remove and carefully puree in blender. Mix in Zinfandel. Set aside.
2.) Dip trout in flour and brush with egg wash. Place into pepitas, coating thoroughly each time.
3.) Preheat a saute pan with a little olive oil. Place each trout filet into saute pan. Cook 2-3 minutes on medium heat. Turn over and finish cooking another minute or two. Place hot sauce on plate and lay trout filets on plate.
Sounds good to me!! This would be a very nice meal after the sun has set & your inside by the fire on a cold, rainy October night....after a nice day of fly fishing, of course!!
I've been getting a lot of questions the last couple of weeks asking if I can make a fly rod on a specific make of blank. So, I thought it might be a good idea to mention here just how I go about deciding which blank to use for your custom rod.
First of all, if you have a specific rod blank that you want your rod to be made from all you have to do is to let me know. For example, you might love the action & feel of a certain rod that's currently available in every catalog & fly shop. You'd like to have one of these rods, but with a different shaped grip, an agate stripping guide, & different color of wraps. We can do that. I can get most of the rod blanks available on the market today.
Another, but rarer avenue, is that maybe you have a rod blank in your possession but you aren't a rod maker. Well, I can finish it out into a fly rod to your specifications for you. We would need to go over all the particulars of the rod you want first & be decided about all aspects of the rod before we do that, but it is a service I offer. Please - just don't send me a rod blank unannounced. I need to know for sure all the specifics of your rod before I take on the responsibilities of having your blank in the shop.
But how do I choose which synthetic rod blank to use for your rod? Well, after you & I talk, & I know what action & feel you're after, I literally look over every rod blank that's available on the market to see which one will best suit your needs. Maybe you have a color preference for your blank? If so I then try to confine my searches to blanks of that color to see if it's possible to accommodate your color choice. There's a lot more to it, but you can see how it works. It can take a lot of time to find the best blank for you.
So no matter if you have a specific rod blank in mind, or just a specific rod action, or maybe even a rod blank gathering dust, I can help you get the rod you want. After all, that's my job as a custom rod maker. I want to help & accommodate you as best as I can. Please contact me to discuss your custom fly rod.
In continuing on in our look at Hardy Brothers, today we're looking back at some archival footage from the very late 1960's or early 70's.
Hardy Brothers was once a company where you could get absolutely everything you needed (& a bunch of what you didn't necessarily need) for fly fishing. This video below shows all the areas they covered. You could, in theory, walk into their store with absolutely no clue about fly fishing & walk out fully equipped from head to toe, including having been taught how to use all the stuff you bought. It was, without doubt, a full-service fly fishing company.
Times have changed & Hardy is not what it used to be. That is evident in the remarks the video makes about a true Hardy customer doesn't ask about prices. That implies that they (their customers) didn't need to worry about the cost of equipment. While that probably was just a bit of imaging & marketing back then - it's maybe not the best approach these days. My, how times have changed!!
Another striking difference between then (at the time of this video) & now, is how they made fly reels. In the last post about Hardy reels, we looked at a video showing how they make their reels nowadays. Take a quick look in this video below at about 4:25. There you will see a skilled machinist making reel parts on a lathe. Again I declare: how times have changed!!
I also enjoyed the brief interview with the man working on salmon flies. Back then all of Hardy's flies were tied by hand. All the tiers were apprenticed for two years - that's how long it took to learn the hundreds of patterns they offered & to gain the skills needed to work quickly & efficiently. In those days women tied the smaller flies & men tied the larger sizes. Only men tied salmon flies. How's that for being ridiculous?!!?
Hardy was a little late to get into the fiberglass rod market. As such they had to send technicians over here to America to learn the ropes of making the glass blanks. They quickly made up for lost time, though, & this video shows how they really geared up to mass-produce glass rods.
I hope you enjoy this look back at what Hardy Brothers used to be.
Note: spread out over the next few weeks of posts, we'll be discussing Hardy Brothers. If you are new to collecting vintage tackle, or want to learn a little more about this company, please stay tuned!!
With the cooler weather coming on, some folks are already thinking about the Holidays. When it comes to having a custom fly rod made for that perfect gift it's good to be thinking about it well in advance. I have been asked by many folks lately if it's still possible to get a custom fly rod in time for the end of the year Holidays.
The answer is yes & no, depending on the rod you want. We still have time to get a custom graphite rod made in either the Classical or Custom Series. You would need to act quickly though, as my current work load of rod orders will allow me only a few more rod orders to be completed in time for the Holidays. So, if you're wanting to have a custom rod all wrapped up with a bow for Santa to deliver, contact me now.
As far as bamboo rods go, I'm afraid it's too late to have one made from scratch in time for Christmas. However, I will be adding at least one of my demo rods to the Available Rods page. So please look there & keep checking back - & feel free to shoot me off an email if you think you'd be interested in one of these lawn-cast only demo rods. We might even be able to put the recipient's name on the rod, too!!
We also have another option, too: you can order & pay for a custom fly rod for someone & I'll provide you with a nice certificate to present to them at the Holidays. They can then contact me & we can work out the details & I can make the rod exactly how they want it right after the Holidays.
We still have time for any special order Accessories you might want to have made up for Holiday gifts. The accessories make great gifts for any angler & can serve as major gifts or stocking-stuffers. From fishing bags, fly or leader wallets, reel cases, rod tubes, & rod bags I have a large catalog of accessories you can order for your gift giving needs. I have a stock of these currently available, but if you don't see what you want than just let me know.
The sooner you can put your custom orders in the better. It will give us both time to plan out as we need.
Remember, I'm here to help anyway I can. So if any of you have questions about anything fly fishing related to give as a gift, feel free to ask me your questions. If you're not sure what you should get someone (even if it's something I don't offer), ask me & I'll give you the best advice I can. I want to make sure that your Holidays are great & that you can give that really special angler in your life a unique &/or perfect gift that they'll love.
Automatic fly reels have been mass-produced by many manufacturers throughout the twentieth century. As a result, there are many of these reels floating around out there in all the places that one will find vintage fly tackle. To me it's very interesting how some anglers dislike these reels while some others swear by them. Either way, nobody can deny they were, at one point in time, very popular.
The first automatic fly reels were side-mounted affairs. The first patent for these reels came back in 1880 by Francis A. Loomis from Onondaga, NY. The next year Loomis got help with his designs & credited James S. Plumb from Syracuse with half of his second patent in 1881. These two formed a firm called Loomis, Plumb, & Co which started manufacturing the first automatic reels. These new reels caught on quickly among anglers & soon they were making them in nickle-brass, three finishes in bronze, & other metals.
In the mid-1880's they sold their company to another called Yawman & Erbe who continued to make the reels exactly the same. Of course they did make changes in later years, one of which included a key-winding method for the tension of the spring. These were called "Improved Automatic Reels". They were available in only two sizes.
Soon after 1910 Yawman & Erbe sold their company to Horrocks-Ibbotson who took the patterns & machinery to their factory in Utica, NY. The first reels that H&I made were called "The Y&E Automatic Reel". H&I made them with that name on them until sometime after 1923.
Because these reels were so popular from the very beginning, many companies got on board with making their own automatics. Many tried to find success, but the man that would be the most successful making automatic reels was Herman W. Martin, a jeweler from Ilion, starting in the 1890's.
Martin made these reels in four sizes - already offering anglers more options than previous makers. These reels were produced by a company called "The Martin Novelty Works". They were very well decorated with etched filigree on the face plate. Sometime after 1907 or 1908 the company changed it's name to "Martin Automatic Fish Reel Company". In 1921 the company moved to Mohawk. The reels made there were plainer than the previous ones with simple trim bands on the face. Over the years the reels went through further changes, but the newer reels are less sought after by collectors. You can still buy reels by this company today - we now know it as "The Martin Reel Company".
Throughout the twentieth century many companies put their names on auto reels including South Bend, Shakespear, Pflueger, Meisselbach, & others. The most collectible of all these reels are the earliest ones by Loomis & Plumb, Yawman & Erbe, & Martin Novelty (with the filigree).
Ever since they came on the market automatic fly reels have been a source of debate among fly anglers. Some anglers who advocate the use of single-action reels feel that the autos are unsportsmanlike to use. The push of a lever immediately re-spools the line & quickly puts a tight line on the fish, giving the anglers a fast advantage. Of course these reels are heavier than a normal single-action reel, which is another aspect that some anglers disapprove of.
However these reels won the respect of many fly anglers. One of the more famous advocates for automatics was E.C. Powell, the well respected angler & rod maker. In his "A Discourse on Trout Angling & Tackle" he states:
"The old school of expert anglers use a single action reel & condemn an automatic as unsportsmanlike. I have always believed this opinion was formed without practical knowledge. This much I know, that if you learn to use an automatic you will find it hard to get along with an ordinary reel again as you will find it too slow."
It seems to me that anglers, whether they like automatic reels or not, seem to have their minds made up about them. To each their own. Some of you will find an advantage in using them & others will not like them at all.
You can, of course, still buy new automatic fly reels today, though they may not be of the quality that some of the vintage reels were made with. Regardless how you feel about them, they were very popular among fly anglers not so long ago. With so many of them made & available on the used tackle market, you should have no trouble finding a decent automatic reel to try them out on your rod - if you're so inclined.
More than just a novelty or a passing fad, automatic fly reels have developed & evolved through the years, just like all other types of reels & tackle. The history of how they came to be is, to me, fascinating.
In this post we're continuing on with our look into the Hardy Company. Having been around for so long, they've had to adapt & change - not just in the products they offer, but how those products are made.
Before I go any further, let me just say that reel making is an art unto itself. Much like making rods, there are many skill & a lot of knowledge used by the craftsmen & women who make reels. It can take a lifetime to learn the craft & maybe that isn't long enough to truly master it.
These days large firms can;t afford the time to make reels the way an independent custom reel maker does - by hand with machines that are guided by the maker's hands directly. Today larger firms like Hardy must employ some automation in how they make things. This is seen in the use of CNC controlled machines. While they still have to have knowledgeable folks there to make sure the machine is accurate & working properly, & know how the things should look & act when the machine is done with them, this still (in my humble opinion) cannot compare with a skilled machinist guiding their machines by hand & eye, which is how they used to have to do it.
But I digress. Below here is a video showing the modern methods (except the parts they don't want you to see) of how Hardy makes their fly reels today. It's an interesting look behind the scenes of their Alnwick, England factory.
The Pliant Rod
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