Our Wholly Biased Look at Fiberglass Fly Rods: Part III -- The Bigger Builders

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Added Date:
Friday, 8 Feb, 2008
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.
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 rods

Diamondback 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.

The Diamondglass 8.5' 4wt
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 Rods

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 and Steffen is gratifying.

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 8.5' 4wt fiberglass fly rod
A Diamondglass sitting on a Big Wood River ice shelf during an Idaho winter

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Red Bluff is a city in and the county seat of Tehama County, California, United States. The population was 14,076 at the 2010 census, up from 13,147 at the 2000 census. Red Bluff is ... moreon the northern edge of the Sacramento Valley, and is the third largest city in the Shasta Cascade region. It is about 30 mi south of Redding, 40 mi northwest of Chico, and 125 mi north of Sacramento.
Fishing Waters
The Sacramento River is the principal river of Northern California in the United States, and is the largest river in California. Rising in the Klamath Mountains, near Mount Shasta ... more(in Siskiyou county), the river flows south for 445 miles, through the northern section (Sacramento Valley) of the Central Valley, before reaching the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta and San Francisco Bay. It forms a common delta with the San Joaquin River before entering Suisun Bay, the northern arm of San Francisco Bay. The river drains about 27,500 square miles, with an average annual runoff of 22 million acre-feet, in 19 California counties, mostly within a region bounded by the Coast Ranges and Sierra Nevada known as the Sacramento Valley, but also extending as far as the volcanic plateaus of Northeastern California.
More than a river, the Klamath is part of a regional watershed that includes three of its principal tributaries – Wooley Creek, Scott River and the Salmon River. It is one of only ... morethree rivers that bisect the Cascade Mountain Range, traversing a wide range of topography from high desert to coastal rain forest. Beginning approximately three-quarters of a mile below the Iron Gate Dam, the river runs through until it reaches the Pacific Ocean. Administration of the river is split. The upper, 127 miles are managed by the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. The State of California, in concert with the National Park Service and various Native American tribes, manage the remainder. All of its tributaries, except a small portion of the Scott are under the purview of the US Forest Service.

The most notable characteristic of the Klamath is its variety of androgynous fish, supported by the river throughout most of their in-river life stages. These species include Chinook salmon (spring and fall runs) coho salmon, steelhead trout (summer and winter runs) coastal cutthroat trout, green and white sturgeon and Pacific lamprey. The river is also home to a genetically unique population of rainbow trout that have adapted to river’s high temperatures and acidity.

Considered by ecologists to be important to the area’s bio-diversity, the Southern Oregon and Northern California Coast coho are federally listed as endangered species and the Klamath River is a designated, critical habitat. This habitat also provides a home for other endangered fish including Lost River and short-nose suckers. Despite this designation, the river supports a thriving sports fishing industry as well as myriad other uses including white water rafting, birding, hiking and camping. 
The McCloud River and its tributaries offer excellent fishing opportunities. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife regularly stocks the Upper McCloud River at Lower Falls ... morewith Rainbow trout. Anglers also occasionally catch German brown trout from earlier stockings or those that traveled up from the McCloud Reservoir, and Brook trout. Remember that the Bull Trout or Dolly Varden is an endangered species and should be released if caught.

The Lower McCloud River, from McCloud Reservoir to Shasta Lake, has been designated a Wild Trout Stream by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. This portion of the river is not artificially stocked and has special fishing regulations. Only artificial flies and lures with barbless hooks can be used. At the McCloud River Preserve, located one mile below Ah-Di- Na Campground, fishing is limited to catch and release only. Consult the map on the back, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Regulations for further details and restrictions.

Endangered species - The McCloud River is the only fishery in California which supports the now rare Bull Trout, also known as the Dolly Varden Trout. Actually a member of the Char family, it is found between Lower Falls and Shasta Lake. Because it is considered an endangered species by the State of California, it must be released if caught.
Game Fish Opportunities:
/ Boat
1 - 2 anglers
2 days
The Klamath River is in prime shape for fly fishing in September and October. We fish the Klamath from a jet boat, which allows us to sample many productive runs in a single day. We ... morecan also ferry our guests in to Rivers West Lodge and use that as a home base. The Klamath River is a classic swing fishery and is best fished with a spey rod. We typically catch a mix of adult fish and half-pounders.
/ Boat
1 - 2 anglers
4 hours - 8 hours
If you have ever driven over the Lower Sacramento River or even fished it, you know that due to its shear size and abundance of water, this makes it extremely intimidating. That's ... morewhy having a knowledgable Lower Sacramento River Fly Fishing Guide is so important. A great guide will not only put you on the fish, but will also show you the fishy spots accessable by land, the put ins and pull outs for boats, as well as the bug life, the flies to use and when you go on your own, how to put all that t ogether to be successful. The Lower Sacramento River is a big tailwater fishery and California's biggest trout river, and its rainbows are just as big and powerful as the river they live in. If you want big fish and year-round fishing, this is the river for you. With more food than your local all you can eat buffets (2,500 insects per square foot of river), the average fish grows to a healthy and hard-fighting 16-18", and pigs pushing two feet are not out of the question, so bring some big guns. The fishing season is year-round, and water temperatures remain fairly constant too, as the river comes out of the bottom of Shasta Lake.

This river consists of long, indescribable, spring creek like stretches that are broken up by islands, deep pools, long riffles, gravel bars and undulating shelf’s, many of which are more pronounced during lower flows.

If having one of the best trout fisheries in the state isn’t enough, the Lower Sac also hosts some great runs of Steelhead and Chinook salmon too. It also hosts a variety of other fish, such as, shad, squawfish, stripers, largemouth and smallmouth bass, these populations of fish become higher the farther you get away from Shasta Lake. The highest flows are during the summer months, when snow melt is at its greatest, so a drift boat is highly recommended.

You can walk and wade during the higher flows if you so desire, but staying near the bank will be your safest bet. The best time to walk and wade the Lower Sac is going to be during fall, winter and early spring, there is very little snow melt, and the rain that falls goes to filling up the lake, so the river is low and great for walk and wading. This is the time to get out there and really learn the river's bottom and fish those slots that only come out in lower flows, either way “PLEASE WADE WITH CAUTION”. But due to the river’s size and the amount of private property along its banks, those that prefer to wade have two options. One is to fish from public parks and access points along the 16 miles or river between Redding and Anderson, or, from your boat, getting out at the riffles and fishy slots to make some casts.

Public access is fairly easy though on the Lower Sac, there are 6 boat launches, and many public parks and access points along the river that flows almost parallel with interstate 5.

/ Angler
1 - 2 anglers
5 days
Fishing Waters:
Fishing the Smith River in Montana can be one of the most amazing experiences. The breathtaking scenery in this mini "Grand Canyon" will make it hard for you to keep your eye on the ... morefish. Yet, the prolific hatches lead to riotous fishing frenzies that are sure to keep anglers of all experience levels entertained. Our float trips take place over 5 days and 60 miles of some of the most scenic stretches of the Smith River.
We are a team of friendly and knowledgeable fly fishing guides, with a combined 40 years of fly fishing experience, dedicated to making your adventure on the water with us as enjoyable ... moreand informative as possible. We want you to succeed in all of your fishy endeavors, and we will take the time with you to make sure that you have all the techniques and skills necessary to catch fish wherever you go. Float or Walk and wade with us on one of Northern California's finest rivers and streams and we will accommodate our guiding style to meet your needs and abilities. With our extensive fly fishing knowledge and experience on waters all over Northern California, we will guide you on a fly fishing trip you will not soon forget.

NCFG practices catch and release on all boats. We respect the sport of fishing and wish to give all anglers the opportunity to experience the gratification we strive to give each of our clients.
[...] In what amounts to yet another shocking indicator of the Fly Fishing Industry#8217;s Growing Drug Problem, the Thomas amp; Thomas fly rod catalog apparently reprinted a quote from some dumb blogger#8217;s post about fiberglass fly rods: [...]
I have a pretty good collection of rods now and it might make you cringe to hear this, but an old 7'9" Shakespeare Wonderod that I have is one of the smoothest casting tools I own. I got into a great green drake (coffin fly) spinner fall on the Nantahala a couple years ago and took two large browns on the old Wonderod. It throws a pretty loop and cushions the tippet on bigger fish about as good as ... more any I've seen!
Austin: The 2-pc Diamondglass rods were faster than the 3-pc tapers, and I think some folks actually fished a 4wt on the 7.5' 3wt. Plus, Diamondglass rods aren't that easy to find any more - they were discontinued some time ago. If it were me, I'd go with something from one of the contemporary makers (like the Steffen, McFarland, etc). Good luck. I haven't fished the Smokies the last two springs, ... more but used to show up every year for a week or so. Hope to do so again.
Tom, Thank you for such an informative—and persuasive—series of posts. I'm new to the world of fiberglass fly rods. I live in Knoxville, Tennessee, near the Great Smoky Mountains, and have been meaning for some time now to buy a 2 or 3 weight that would be better suited for the smaller fish, tighter quarters, and precise feeding channels in the Park. I asked a friend how he liked some of his rods, ... more and that was when he confessed his love affair with fiberglass. Who knew?!! Judging by what you've written, I gather that either a Steffen Brothers 7'6" 3wt 3pc or a Diamondback Diamondglass 7'6" 3wt 2pc is a good place for me to start. Thoughts? Best, Austin
I bet it's worth a build - the Lami s-glass stuff was interesting.
I have an old lamiglas blank that I got from my grandfather. I'm guessing it's a 'honey' blank but I'm not sure... - it's labeled 'lamiglas S-glass 8ft, 6wt, 2-1/4 0z, SFL 966s' Anyone know if this blank is worth building? The action seems to be okay, and I really like the look of the glass. But it's hard to tell if I'll like it with out a line on it! Great articles by the way! I think I'll join the ... more forum.... thanks, pat.
Sully brings it with equipment taunts. Never cast one of the original Scott rods, but perhaps this summer, eh? Hawg: Sorta forgot the Spring Creeks, but I don't feel that bad because they're only available in a couple sizes. Don: Yeah, they would make great gifts for your favorite fly fishing blogger (hint, hint).
Tom, Great job on this series, I thoroughly enjoyed reading. You know, that green Tamp;T wrapped in red reminds one of Christmas (hint). An 8' 4 or 5 weight would make a darn nice gift(hint).
I just ordered a Lami Spring Creek fiberglass blank. The Spring Creeks are supposed to be a little faster than the Honey blanks. We'll see. I really wanted a Tamp;T or one of the smaller makers but couldn't justify the price right now. I'm fixing my Lami up with a Pflueger 1594 and Cortland peach line. Definitely be stylin' with that rig. Thanks for this series of articles. They've been really helpful, ... more hawgdaddy
[...] bookmarks tagged world without end Our Wholly Biased Look at Fiberglass Fly Rods: Par...nbsp;saved by 2 others nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;Kaorusmine bookmarked on 02/10/08 | [...]
Guess who has old Scott glass rods in 4 and 5-weights? (Also a 10-weight- don't ask.) Used to have the 3-weight from the same family and could probably buy that one back from the guy who bought it. Fling 'em sometime along with the revamped Phillipson you have already seen. Truly wish I still had the little 5-weight epoxite with the double-turn snakes for which I paid the princely sum of $35. Striding ... more out with the Phillipson, my Pfluger 1492 and an AirCel Supreme (white, of course) I was piscatorally stylin' back in the day.

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