One of the strangest rod markings were those that were on bamboo fly rods made by the South Bend Company. They don't look like anything else on other rods, so it's a little confusing to even guess what those numbers mean.
There are sources available that you can find on the internet telling you what your rod might be, if you go looking for a specific rod model, but that doesn't help you if you happen upon a rod for sale at an outdoor show, a yard sale, or anywhere else you might happen to see one. Well, there is a code to these model number markings on South Bend rods & once you know it, it's not very complicated at all.
On just about every South Bend fly rod made throughout the 1940's & 50's (the heyday of the company) you'll find either a two or three digit code number, then a dash, followed by the rod's length. The two or three digit number indicates the rod's action. These rods all had actions designated as "Trout", "Bass", & "Dry Fly". Models that used a three digit number were all Dry Fly action. Those that used a two digit number were either "Bass" or "Trout" actions.
Below is a list of all the South Bend models with a description of their action, the number of pieces they were, etc. This list covers most, if not all, the rods from the companies busiest years & the rods you're most likely to come across. It is a handy reference to use when researching these rods.
Below is a photo of an old South Bend rod that I have laying around the rod shop:
So now you have some idea of what those strange numbers on the old South Bend bamboo fly rods mean. The next time you happen onto one you'll have a better idea of what rod you're looking at & what the rod was made to do.