But what were fly rods made of before then? Well the answer, as we all know, is that rods were made of wood. Of course the types of woods & the methods of manufacturing changed as technology developed. Through the generations many different woods were tried in fishing rods, from domestic woods to those from exotic places. Many times, different woods were combined in the same rod. It wouldn't be odd to see a rod who's sections were all made from different woods. Plus remember, because the average fly rod was longer in the past (to accommodate the methods used & the material) & were made of many sections, often more than one type of wood was needed in a rod to give it flexibility & strength. The multi-piece rod is older than you might have thought!
Now, you might think wood rods are a thing of the past & you'd be pretty much correct, but there are still a few folks who collect them. Some of these folks even fish with them, believe it or not. I have a good friend who fishes with wooden fly rods & while you might think he's insane when I tell you that, I assure you he is one of the nicest, mentally stable guys you could ever meet.
I don't know of anybody making fly rods from wood these days besides maybe Ken Reinard (aka, "Ye Olde Colonial Angler"), but I wouldn't be surprised if somebody is somewhere. The folks who are into these things are mainly after the original antique rods anyway - collectors & historians mostly. You can still find old wood rods on the vintage market & they do show up at auctions from time to time so it's never too late to be bitten by the wood rod collecting bug.
I like antique wood rods because of how they look. Each one I've seen or held was unique. They seem to have had a sense of style & class about them that just gives them dignity (if that makes sense). Some of those old rods have been an inspiration to me on more than one of the mortised rods I've made. No matter what you think of them, there's no denying that they are an interesting part of angling history.
Note: in part II we'll discuss some of the different woods that were used to make these rods. Look for part II in the near future.