In my last installment, I covered the independent fly rod builders who are probably providing the lion's share of modern fiberglass rods to this small-but-interesting market.
(You can read Part I here
, and Part II here
Today I take a look at a few of the larger companies building glass, though I use the term "larger" in a relative sense. Thomas and Thomas are hardly rod building's equivalent of a multinational, and the other companies mentioned won't dent the list of the biggest fly rod manufacturers.
So be it; smaller companies are supposed to serve niches better than bigger ones, and in this case, it appears to be true. Off we go.Thomas & Thomas Heirloom
Designed by rod-building legend Tom Dorsey to replicate some of his favorite bamboo actions, the T&T Heirlooms
are wonderfully progressive fiberglass fly rods.(photo courtesy T&T)
I've cast a pair of T&T Heirlooms, and found the 7.5' 3wt and the 8' 5wt to be absolutely smooth casters – free of hinges and other odd behaviors. The 8' 5wt is stronger, but still not clubby. No less a glass rod expert than Rich Margiotta thinks the T&T rods might be the best glass rods ever produced, and it's hard to argue. (Update: He recently told me he likes the 8' 4wt best of all, and who am I to argue?)
Rich builds, fishes and sells glass and bamboo fly rods more frequently than Paris Hilton makes headlines, so when he says he's "found my 7.5' 3wt," you sit up and take notice.
The Heirlooms embody the concept of a "progressive" rod – they get stronger as more line flows past the tip, but fish at short ranges without any qualms.
In addition to being nice casters, they're also pretty: the elegant green/olive blanks are finished like you'd expect a T&T would be – with pricey reel seats and elegantly colored wraps. Their prices match their appearance "” at $662, they're among the most expensive fiberglass rods produced.
Those who can live without the high-end hardware can always buy a $310 Heirloom blank and build their own, and they'll still enjoy the rod's greatest strength -- its smooth, wholly-fishable action.
In the Heirlooms, rod-designing legend Dorsey has created an enviably fishable line of fly rods, though they're currently only available in 7.5' and 8' lengths, and from 3wts to 5wts.
Frankly, I've been eying the 8' 4wt, and wish they'd get around to building an 8.5' 5wt, which I probably wouldn't be able to resist. In truth, the price of the Heirloom rods remains the biggest barrier to acceptance in the fiberglass rod world, which is really too bad.
Most of the cost of a modern fly rod isn't materials, it's labor, and one look at the Heirlooms makes it clear a lot labor went into their construction.
I spoke to Dorsey about the Heirlooms while at the retailer trade show in Denver
; he's a remarkably knowledgeable individual – one far more interested in a taper's fishability than its commercial viability.
Even though the Heirlooms aren't destined for wild commercial success, it's nice to know that Tom Dorsey is willing to sell a rod line just because he likes the way they cast.Link to Thomas and Thomas Heirloom fly rodsDiamondback Diamondglass Fly Rods
Diamondgalss fly rods made a splash on the market when they were introduced several years ago, though Diamondback's purchase by Cortland and subsequent closing of the Vermont factory has stamped the rod line's future as uncertain.My own oft-fished 8.5' 4wt Diamondglass: it's already been discontinued.
As of now, Cortland still carries the rods, but has discontinued two of the line's best tapers: the very bamboo-ish 8' 5wt 3-pc, and the absolutely superb 8.5' 4wt 3-pc – which might be one of the best technical/spring creek rods available.
I also own the 7' 3wt 3-pc rod, and this despite the fact I almost never fish rods shorter than 8'.
I'm glad I already own all three of the 3-piece Diamondglass fly rods; I won't have to scour the Internet for them after they're gone and desperate fly fishers have driven the prices up. I like the 8.5' 4wt enough that I have a blank tucked away in case the future isn't bright for my factory rod.
If the three-piece Diamondglass rods replicate a certain bamboo-ish action, the 2-pc Diamondglass rods feel faster and stiffer. I've cast the 8' 4wt and it's a nice rod, but the 7.5' 3wt is widely regarded as a 4wt, and the 7' 4wt seems oddly fast for a small stream.
Or course, some people prefer
fast rods for small streams (something about shooting tight loops under bankside cover), and who am I to say they're wrong?
The Diamondglass rods are affordable by today's standards; list prices hover around the $300 mark for a factory rod, and the the blanks are a little more than half that. The factory rods aren't particularly gorgeous; the blanks are a smooth, gloss black, and the wraps and reel seats are functional, but not stunning.
They're great for fishing, but won't win a lot of beauty contests. I think that's fine; I'm cheap, and trout aren't much impressed by engraving or three-color tipping.
It's possible certain Diamondglass models will someday become the Sage Lightlines of the fiberglass world – a discontinued line of rods that command high prices on the secondhand market because nothing better's come along.
I believe the Diamondglass rods aren't being produced any more, so if you want, better to get it sooner rather than later.Scott Fiberglass fly rods
Scott's fiberglass rods
(note -- they're the F2 series now, so what follows may not be current) are available in four shorter tapers; they range from a 6' 1wt to a 7.6' 4wt (the linear progression in length and line weight suggest they're using a single taper to cover all the models).
Like all Scott rods, they're cleanly and sleekly finished, and the retail price of $525 falls nearer the upper end of the fiberglass fly rod spectrum than the lower end.
In truth, I don't know a lot about the Scott fiberglass fly rods; I rarely fish rods below 8' and the longest F series rod tops out at 7'6". I cast one several years ago and it clearly fell on the faster end of the fiberglass fly rod spectrum.
Scott's fiberglass fly rods are not stiff or dead, and they're a great fit for faster-rod fans and graphite rod users looking for a small stream rod.Link to the Scott Fiberglass Fly RodsLamiglas
The Lamiglas "honey" rods are available only as blanks, and I'm my own prejudice is rearing its ugly head; while some think the 7.5' 4wt "honey" Lamiglas achieves absolute perfection in a fly rod, the Lami's I've cast have felt a bit on the clunky, slow-tipped side.
Manic rod builder Rich Margiotta tends to agree with me, though he draws the "clunky" line somewhere above the 7' 3wt rod, which he thinks is pretty nice.
He makes a good point about the Lamiglas rods; they're available in six-piece (and higher) formats, but the more ferrules they get, the clunkier they cast.
In other words – unlike the more expensive glass rods – extra ferrules seem to have a big impact on the Lamiglas fiberglass rods.
Still, they're attractively pricely, nicely colored, and fun to build, and available in everything from a 6.5' 3wt to an 8' 5wt.
They've provided an affordable entry point into modern fiberglass rods for more than one angler. If you're a real slow rod fan, then the Lamiglas honey blanks might be your idea of fly fishing heaven. If so, you can save a lot of money.The One Resource You Need To Start Spending Money
Yes, there are a few other glass rods out there – including several highly rated fiberglass fly rods available only in Japan (but which can be shipped to the USA relatively quickly).
Rather than belabor the details here, I'm going to give you the link to the single best source of information about fiberglass fly rods on the Internet: The Fiberglass Fly Rod Board
Like any message board, you learn to take some of the opinions with a grain of salt, but it's one of the most civil boards out there, and nothing else like it exists in the fiberglass fly rod universe.The Future
There have been a spate of new fiberglass fly rods available the last few years -- and the growth in the independent builders like McFarland
Still, the almost-sure-to-occur demise of the Diamondglass line forces me to wonder if we're seeing a small-but-healthy niche establishing itself, or if we haven't simply witnessed a temporary revival of the modern fiberglass rod. Read More The Underground Picks the Dozen Best Fly Rods of All Time Period
Still, my take is that the modern glass fly rod is here to stay; the independents always do better in niches than the bigger companies, who presumably have bigger fish to fry and more impressive bottom lines to pursue.
See you on the river (glass fly rod in hand), Tom Chandler.
(If you missed them, you can read the rest of our Wholly Biased Look a Fiberglass Fly Rods: Part I here
, and Part II here
)A Diamondglass sitting on a Big Wood River ice shelf during an Idaho winter
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