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When Tom Dorsey Talks Rod Design, The Underground Listens

By Tom Chandler 8/3/2012

Stumbled on an interesting essay (interview?) with Tom Dorsey on the Thomas && Thomas blog, which has quickly become one of the more interesting manufacturer's blogs.

Tom Dorsey Tom Dorsey on fly rod design


I met Dorsey at one of the Fly Fishing Retailer shows, and his obvious enthusiasm for rod designs -- and reasonable rod tapers -- shines through.

You'll want to read the whole thing, but this is one of the more interesting excerpts:

So we begin with function. In this case, rod tapers and rod dynamics. Each time that customers come tour the T&&T shop and see what we do, I’m always surprised about how little they know or realize about the complexity of rod building, and moreover of the tasks and complexity of rod designing. A regular misunderstanding is that a rod taper, action and so on are calculated with a computer and some engineering software, which then spits out a formula. Not even close to the reality. Rod design is a tedious, but rewarding task, which I view as an empirical process, more akin to the culinary arts than to science.

Try and then tweak, change, try again and change some more; add some material, remove some and sometimes discard the intended direction entirely, then after a good night’s sleep, start anew. It is really no different than the constant taste-driven give-and-take, exploration and experimentation that a chef goes through in creating a new recipe. Of course, in the case of fly rods, we substitute taste with cast. And of course, just as the tasting ability of the chef is paramount in creating great cuisine, the casting ability of the designer is key in crafting great rods. This not only requires good casting skills and technique, but diagnostic insight and an ability to evaluate results – what to change, where to change, to what degree and what those changes should accomplish.

I mentioned before that it was nice to see T&&T on the road back from dissolution; they've made remarkable progress, due in some part to their willingness to do interesting things online.

See you online, Tom Chandler.


Tom Chandler

As the author of the decade leading fly fishing blog Trout Underground, Tom believes that fishing is not about measuring the experience but instead of about having fun. As a staunch environmentalist, he brings to the Yobi Community thought leadership on environmental and access issues facing us today.

Software development is the same way: a painful, expensive, and _rewarding_ empirical process.
Spot on Tom I've handled a few clubs that came straight out of hexagraph... I'm not a builder but suspect like most things its a useful tool and can help but you'll never know till its made and cast (and then likely tweaked) How much (if any) of the old guard comeback (and more moderate action rods) is due to people finally understanding that ultra fast so it casts nice in a parking lot has nothing ... more to do with real fishing? Or the broomstick action fast rods have simple gone as far as they can and the marketing sharks think its time to swim in the other direction?
We're seeing a lot of comebacks from the "old guard" companies. It's interesting that Dorsey rejects the "design by computer" philosophy. I know a lot of novice bamboo rod builders who thought they could run a taper through the computer and get the same thing (but longer, shorter, lighter, etc). Turns out it doesn't work that way.
An interesting read.... I like T & T and their rods a lot.... I used to love their catalog... hopefully another great comeback story in the works... I love the analogy of tasting and casting....

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