This chapter on collecting initially appeared in the American Sporting Collectors Handbook, edited by Allan J. Liu, 1976 and revised 1981.
In attempting to treat the subject of collecting split cane fly rods, I have | qualified my approach and emphasized those rodmakers whose work is most highly regarded. Integrity of workmanship, rod design, pride of craft, quality of component materials, these are but some of the factors that set off the group of skilled artisans discussed in this chapter. These qualities are not limited to the craftsmen of old, but apply equally to some of the contemporary builders.
I have chosen not to treat the splitbamboo rods of makers such as Shakespeare, South Bend, Montague, Dunton, Bristol, Land man, Devine, and Horrocks-Ibbotson. Although these makers did build an occasional fine fly rod, the bulk of their work falls into the class of production rods. The techniques of mass production do not lend themselves to building quality equipment, and for the serious collector these rods are not as strong a consideration. It must be pointed out, however, that these rods are a part of the overall history of split bamboo rods and do offer the collector an opportunity to assemble an interesting yet relatively inexpensive rod collection. *
All that is needed to get started in collecting rods is interest. From there, your pocketbook and degree of interest will determine the direction your collecting will take. There are as many different approaches to collecting as there are rods to collect. For instance, some people collect only production rods because of their relatively low cost and easy availability. These rods can be fun to collect. Another type of collector seeks at least one rod of every maker to fill out his collection. Another might concentrate on a single maker and attempt to build an extensive collection of that maker's rods. It is a democratic process and you are left to your own devices as to how to proceed.
In a word-appreciation. Bamboo rods are much like antique furniture or fine guns. In addition to pride of ownership and the possession of an exceptional rod, one can admire and appreciate the quality of workmanship and materials
in the rod, the attention to detail, the taper designs employed to make the rod a fine fishing tool, or perhaps the special cosmetic treatments given each rod as a signature of its maker. There is another kind of appreciation associated with collecting bamboo rods-the inherent appreciation of dollar value. Many of these rods are irreplaceable, and as the demand for them grows, as it has over the past ten years, we find their cash value growing in even greater proportion.
Many bamboo rods are simply an excellent investment. Inflation has caused the cost of many products to double in price over the last ten years. During this same period we have watched the market value of classic rods increase by five to as much as ten times their cost of a decade ago, with no indications that this trend will lessen.
Finally, over and above the investment value, there is a certain reward for the fisherman in the use of truly firstrate tackle. While it is impossible to measure satisfaction in terms of dollars, it is indeed a pleasant side benefit available to the collector of fine fishing rods.
WHERE TO FIND RODS
Finding rods is probably half the fun of collecting. Local garage or tag sales, rummage sales, country auctions, antique shops, country sport shops, and your local sport shop are just some of the places to look for rods. The most reliable sources have proved to be reputable dealers in antique and classic fly tackle. Some rod manufacturers like Thomas & Thomas and Leonard actually publish periodic listings of used equipment for the collector and fisherman.
Len Codella of Thomas & Thomas Rodmakers, Turners Falls, Massachusetts, and Martin Keane of Bridgewater, Connecticut, were two of the first national dealers in classic tackle, and both are well known for reputable dealings. Rod and tackle lists are available from both for the asking.
Another reputable source for classic tackle is Allan J. Liu of the American Sporting Collector in New York. He, too, makes available a rod and tackle list.
On occasion rods turn up through ads in local newspapers, through friends and acquaintances, and at fishing clubs. Sometimes they become available under the most unlikely circumstances. Just recently, I acquired the remaining inventory of bamboo rods from a longestablished local sport shop. These were a good number of Shakespeare production rods made in the early 1950s that had been put aside when glass "took over," and they had remained on the back shelves for more than 25 years, waiting for someone to seek them out. All were brand new, had been stored well, and were in prime condition. Finding them was a real treat . In short, if you are looking for them, you will find them.
Selling or trading rods can be done through some of the same sources as are used to acquire them. Most dealers are interested in acquiring quality rods for resale and will buy them outright, or they may be willing to sell your rods on a consignment basis, charging a nominal percentage of the sales price for this service. When dealing with another collector, you may find a reluctance on his part to pay the current market value for your rod, as all of us have a tendency to buy at bargain prices whenever possible. Often it is better to sell through a dealer because he usually has a market for what you are selling and, if he is honest, will work your deal out based on proper market prices so that you may actually realize more for your equipment than you would have on your own. There are no hard and fast rules for buying or selling used equipment, but in general it pays to know with whom you are doing business.
Consignment sales through dealers, if you are not in a rush for cash, are always a good bet, since you will realize a greater return on your equipment than by selling to the dealer outright. From his standpoint, he will be willing to accept a smaller profit on such sales since he is not required to invest his money in the rod. You get paid when the rd is sold.
The past five years have witnessed an unprecedented growth in rod and tackle collecting activity. This increased interest in a fascinating hobby has generated a rash of "dealers" in classic tackle whose credentials can be questioned. While it appears that most of these people, albeit inexperienced, are honest, it is abundantly clear that some are not. We must again caution you to be convinced of the honesty and integrity of those with whom you choose to do business. Be aware that misrepresentation of rods (their condition, parentage, originality, and the like) is indeed a current fact of life. Counterfeit rods do exist and have been sold at handsome prices to the unsuspecting. Refunds for misrepresented or bogus rods have taken months to be paid or have not been paid at all. This has also occurred with payments of proceeds due rod owners as a result of consignment sales. Some of these abuses have occurred in private deals as well. It is important that the collector be aware that they do occur, to avoid the unpleasant (and sometimes costly) experience of falling victim to them.
On the bright side, the incidence rate of these abuses is relatively low in proportion to the actual rodcollecting activity in this country. Nevertheless, some measure of caution is appropriate on your part. Know with whom you are dealing.
As your collection grows, you will be faced with the question of insurance against fire, theft, and the like. It is wise to speak with your insurance agent about a rider on your present policies to cover the value of your collection. The cost of such insurance is quite nominal in comparison to insuring coin or gun collections. A professional appraisal of your collection will be necessary for insurance purposes. Such appraisals should be performed periodically, since your collection will grow and the items in it will appreciate in value. Collection appraisals should be performed by recognized authorities on classic rods and submitted to you in writing. Such documentation, which should be kept in a safe place, is relatively inexpensive and can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in the event of loss.
Cane fly rods should be kept in an area where they will not be subject to extremes in temperature or to excessive moisture. A cool, dry place is best. Unless you are planning to display the rods, they should be kept in their cloth bags and aluminum tubes for best protection. The rods in their cases should not be stored horizontally, such as on the top of a closet, as gravitational force can cause them to take a permanent set. The best method I've found for storage is in an absolutely vertical position. In just a few hours, the home handyman can construct a simple storage rack of pine shelving with 2/4inch holes bored through and spaced as desired. This permits the rod cases to be inserted vertically, and new holes can be added as the collection grows.
The best protection for the rods themselves is paste wax. Your rods should be waxed periodically, using a highgrade paste wax. It is important that there be no abrasives or solvents in the wax; I have found the Butcher brand of furniture wax to be one of the best. Waxing of both impregnated and varnished rods periodically is suggested, as this will not only enhance the appearance of the rods, but help to keep the finish from drying and checking in storage.
If you desire to display the rods out of their cases, this is best done in a display cabinet such as is used for gun display. If it has locking doors, so much the better, to avoid damage from careless handling. Again the rods should be set up in a vertical position to avoid the possibility of sets or warping of the sections.
Probably the most significant factor in determining the worth of any cane fly rod is its condition. Rods that are in mint (almostnew) condition are the most desirable and command the highest prices on the classic rod market. For example, there can be as much as $500 difference in the price of two identicalmodel Payne fly rods, if one is in almostnew condition and the other is in excellent average condition. These mint rods are unbelievably scarce; most rods encountered will have been fished and will show varying degrees of wear. This wear factor, along with a number of other criteria, is what determines any cane rod's value. Rods that have tips missing, joints broken short, joints repaired, joints replaced by other than the original maker, checking varnish, chips or digs into the finish or, worse, into the cane itself, scoring or scratching of the metal parts, guides broken or missing, loose ferrules, and so forth, are not as desirable, and in some cases may be of no value whatever, depending on their degree of disrepair.
Among collectors, a cane rod that is completely original, with all original wood, wraps, fittings, and finish, is eagerly sought after. Rods that have been altered can sometimes be valueless. Restoration and repair work that does not cosmetically change the appearance of the original rod and that has been done by a recognized rodmaker is quite acceptable. After all, it is unreasonable to expect a fine fly rod not to be used for its intended purpose, and of course, through fishing, guides do wear out and varnish and metalwork do get scratched.
If care is taken to preserve the integrity of the original rod, such refinish work should not alter a quality rod's value in any way. In fact, if the quality of workmanship of the shop doing this work is high enough, this may in some cases add to the value of the rod rather than detract from it.
As interest in flyfishing has grown, the demand by collectors and fishermen for quality fly rods has increased. As a result, availability of topquality sticks has dwindled, driving rod prices steadily upward. While no one can predict future values, it seems likely that prices will continue to appreciate. If past increases are any indication of future value, it is interesting to note that in 1971, a sound, used Payne fly rod sold for about $225. That same rod now brings up to $1,000 on today's rod market. There is no question that quality fly rods are a sound investment, in addition to being fun to fish with.
The most significant factor controlling the value of bamboo rods is their desirability as fishing instruments. In rod collecting today, there are very few purist collectors-that is, people who will simply acquire a rod to add to their collection and then never use that rod as a fishing tool. This phenomenon is more common to those who collect fishing reels, but almost nonexistent in the rodcollecting fraternity. Most rod collectors are fishermen (which is what may have piqued their interest in collecting rods in the first place), and as a result, they place nearly as much emphasis (and sometimes even more emphasis} on the fishability of a given rod as on its condition.
Since rod use is such an important factor to most collectors, it is not uncommon to see the lightactioned trout rods of a quality maker selling for sometimes more than twice the price of a heavieraetioned bass or salmon rod from the same maker. For example a 7foot through an 8 l/2foot Jim Payne rod in superb condition, made for a #4, #5, or #6 weight line size, would command $900 to $1,100 in today's market, while an 8/2foot or longer Jim Payne, for #7 through #10 weight lines in exactly the same condition, will sell for perhaps $400 to $600. Same maker, same quality, same cosmetics- but less demand for the heavier rods.
This desirability factor, which has always been part of the scheme of things, is even more dramatic today as graphite rods, with their very light weight, and excellent powertoweight ratios in the heavier rods, continue to eclipse the demand for the long, heavier lineweight bamboo rods. While graphite has not affected the demand for troutmodel bamboo rods at all, it has overshadowed to a great extent what small demand there might have been for heavy cane rods.
Surprisingly, for the collector, this may bode well! Consider these facts: (1) The interest in bamboo rods has increased immeasurably in recent years in spite of the new wonder material, graphite. (2) Currently, contemporary bamboo rod makers are spending only a small fraction of their rodbuilding time making larger cane rods. (3) The heavy cane rods that were made by earlier makers are now a glut on the market in the face of today's graphite rod competition, and their current market prices reflect this fact. How can this be good for today's rod collector? Consider further: (1) The rods of earlier makers are no longer made. Their numbers are fixed and their supply is not inexhaustible. (2) There are very few contemporary, long bamboo rods coming out of the quality rod shops to add to this supply. (3) The interest in collecting bamboo rods continues to increase, creating what might be a true "sleeper" situation in long cane rods.
Until and unless something comes along to change things, the long cane rods should prove to be an excellent investment. They are now readily available, and they are now marketpriced far below their true value. At some point in the future, the available market supplies of these rods will be as exhausted as the supply of quality trout models has already become. As this occurs, you can expect a rapid increase in the market value of the long cane rods as a result of the supplydemand effect. This has already occurred with trout rods and must occur with the heavier rods as well, although more time may have to pass than was necessary for the trout rods.
In any case, it is a safe bet that today's near giveaway prices on long cane rods will prove to be a boon tomorrow to the collector interested enough to capitalize on it. It might be interesting to begin acquiring a collection of finely made rods of 9, 9 1/2, and 10 feet in length, and watch these rods appreciate in value.
THE GREAT AMERICAN MAKERS
Although the history of fly fishing records that Solon Phillippe, Ebeneezer Greene, Charles Murphy, and Hiram Lewis Leonard were this country's pioneers in split-cane rod construction, it is clearly Hiram Leonard who can be considered the father of the modern fly rod. This is demonstrated both in the remarkable skill and technical knowledge his work displayed and in the truly great rodmakers he trained in his shop in Bangor, Maine: men like the Hawes brothers, Edward Payne, Fred Thomas, Fred Devine, Eustis Edwards, Thomas Chubb, and George Varney.
Hiram Lewis Leonard moved his rod plant to Central Valley in 1881 to be nearer to the New York and Philadelphia rod markets and to the controlling interest of the Mills family in New York. By that time, he had already developed and patented the modern split-shoulder type of suction ferrule that featured serrations on the bamboo edges and employed a waterproofing disc, silversoldered in the ferrules to cap the cane and protect it from mold and deterioration.
By 1893 the famed Catskill Series of trout rods had evolved, firmly establishing the basic character of the modern Leonard rod. Skeletal-type reel seats with hardwood fillers, separate German silver butt caps and slide bands, cigar-shaped grips, and full-reel seats of ornamentally machined German silver tubing were characteristic of the early Leonard rods, and have carried down to the more modern Leonards.
The Catskill Fairy was already on the scene in a 7 Bigfoot rod of three-piece design weighing about two ounces. Catskill rods were made in lengths from 71/2 to 10 feet in three-piece design with light trout actions.
Under Reuben Leonard, the major transition from the earlier Leonard rod to the more modern version took place. Reuben Leonard pioneered and developed the entire Tournament Series of rods. Initially, these Tournament rods were built as 9 footers weighing between 5 1/4 and 6 ounces. Later the series included 8 to 10 1/2 foot rods, all of three piece design and ranging in weight from 3 1/4 to 7 1/2 ounces.
Some of the best-loved Leonard fly rods are classics that were developed under the direction of Reuben Leonard, a noted champion caster. The most popular of these was the Model 50 DF, first introduced in 1915. The rod is an 8 footer of three-piece design weighing about four ounces. Many of these rods were fitted with the now classic, and very graceful, reverse-cigar grips that tapered directly to the hooded nickel-silver butt cap with a sliding ring on the continuous cork handle.
The Leonard shop produced many truly fine classic rods from 1915 to the disastrous fire in the mid-1960s. During the period from pre-World War II to his retirement in 1965, George Reynolds was instrumental in refining and further honing the already sophisticated Leonard tapers into such classics as the Model 38 ACM (a delicate 7 foot, two-piece rod of 21/4 ounces), the 36L at 6 feet and 1 ounce, the modern 38H at 7 feet and 23/4 ounces, and the 37 ACM at 6 feet and l l/2 ounces for #3 line. The 50 DF was well established and was joined by the famous Hunt Pattern, an 8 foot, three piece counterpart of the 50 DF. The Hunt Pattern was designed by the late Richard Hunt, author of the classic Salmon in Low Water. His specifications included a slightly faster action, and weight of 4 5/8 ounces, and the rod was fitted with oxidized fittings and ferrules against a browntoned cane, much darker than the traditional Leonard straw color. The wraps were dark brown to offset the mediumbrown cane color.
Before the fire, Leonard also made a series of three-piece rods with particularly delicate actions suited to traditional wet-fly work. These ranged from the Model 35 at 7 feet and 23/4 ounces to the Model 46 at 91/2 feet and 51/2 ounces.
Some of the Leonard rods of two-piece design that became classics after midcentury included the very popular Model 65 at 7 1/2 feet and 31/2 ounces, the 8 foot Model 66, and the powerful 67H at 9 feet and 6 ounces. Most of these rods were fitted with the standard screw lock seat and are cherished by their owners as fine fishing tools.
You might add to these some of the special tapers designed over the years- like the Knight 99, a powerful 93/4 foot rod for #9 line at 71/4 ounces, designed by the late John Alden Knight for bass bugging; the Model 38 Y2, a 71/2 foot, three piece rod at 35/8 ounces, considered by some owners to be one of Leonard's best; and the countless specialbuilt and custom rods made for exacting customers. The array of fine fishing tools to come out of the Leonard shop is mighty impressive.
For the serious rod collector or collector fisherman, this is a blessing, since the large number of Leonard rods built over a 60 year period puts most of the better models out of the "rare" category and into the realm of reality in market value . The current price level on today's market for used Leonard rods ranges from $200 to $400, with an occasional model worth up to $450 for such reasons as relative scarcity, fishing worthiness, exceptional condition, or a combination of these factors.
It is important to note that Leonard was one of the few shops to manufacture some fine one piece rods over the years. Other builders made an occasional onepiece 6 foot rod, but not like the Leonard rods of 7, 8, and 8 1/2 feet. These rods are rare and range in market value to $750 for a mint-condition specimen.
Many Leonard rod collectors define their interest in these rods by breaking the history of Leonard into four distinct periods. The first interval is from the earliest days to the preWorld War I period, which represents the oldest of the
Leonard rods. Most of these are classed as antique rods and exhibit the earmarks of the development of the Leonard rod through the work of men like Hiram Leonard, Ed Payne, Fred Thomas, and Eustis Edwards.
The period from 1915 through 1965, beginning with the developmental work of Reuben Leonard and culminating with the work of George Reynolds, produced the Tournament Leonard Tapers and many of the now classic Leonard actions, and brought the Leonard product to the modern rod level. Rods of this period are often called "Pre-Fire Leonards" and are among the most eagerly sought of the Leonard rods. For many knowledgeable collectors, this period is considered the Golden Era at the Leonard factory. To aid the collector in identifying rods of this period, it is important to note that none of these rods carries a factory serial number. The rods of this period often command the highest usedrod prices, ranging in value to $500 on the market.
After the disastrous fire in 1965, which completely consumed the Leonard shop and destroyed many of the original templates used to cut the Leonard rod tapers, the chore of rebuilding and regenerating was given to Hap Mills and Ted Simroe. These two men produced some exceptionally fine cane rods, utilizing both old and newly developed rod tapers created by master rod builder Simroe. These rods are characterized by the traditional red wraps, butternut reel seats, and strawcolored cane. They are always factory serial numbered, and many of these rods are highly prized by their owners. They range in value to $400 on today's market.
In 1978, the Leonard shop was purchased by the Johnson Wax Company. Current rod production is under the management of Thomas Maxwell. Recently produced rods have sold for $250 to $375 on the used rod market.
Some men have spent a lifetime collecting only Leonard rods. I know of one such collection that numbers in excess of 60 rods and represents one of the finest samplings in the country of over 50 years of the Leonard tradition. While most collectors turn their efforts into acquiring representative samplings of each of the great rod makers, it is a very easy matter to become enamored of the rods of one maker and concentrate most of one's efforts on collecting his rods.
Edward Payne and his legacy are a curious note in the history of the splitbamboo rod. Payne's beginning, as only the ferrule machinist in the original Leonard shop in Bangor, points up the remarkable realization that it was his E. F. Payne Rod Company that ultimately equaled and, according to many disciples, surpassed the work of his original master. There are many who believe that the Payne flyfishing rods are the ultimate in the rodbuilder's art.
The rods designed and built by Edward Payne at the turn of the century were little different from the rods his son was making 60 years later. There were some minor cosmetic differences, but there were surprisingly few changes in the appearance of the Payne rod in the 80-year history of the company. When Edward Payne died during World War I, his interest in the company passed to his son, James Payne, who had worked in the shop since boyhood.
The design and workmanship of these rods were so good that the demand for them was never equaled by the supply of finished rods. In fact, when Jim Payne passed away in 1970 there was a run on the remaining Payne rods in stock at Abercrombie & Fitch, which drove their prices up so dramatically that two weeks after Jim's death, the last rod sold for almost $200 higher than the going market price of $225.
Edward Payne built rods of three-piece design in a limited choice of models, ranging from an 8footer at 3 l/4 ounces for #4 line to a 10 footer at 6 ounces for #9 line. The series included another 8 footer for #5 line at 33/4 ounces and a light 8 1/2 footer at 4 1/4 ounces for # 6 silk. There were two 9foot rods-a lightweight 41/4 ounce stick for #6 line and a 43/4 ounce rod for #7 line. Two 9 l/2 foot rods weighing 5 1/4 and 5 3/4
Edward Payne and his legacy are a curious note in the history of the splitbamboo rod. Payne's beginning, as only the ferrule machinist in the original Leonard shop in Bangor, points up the remarkable realization that it was his E. F. Payne Rod Company that ultimately equaled and, according to many disciples, surpassed the work of his ounces, taking #7 and #8 lines, rounded out the selection. Ed Payne worked with equal relish on rods constructed of either strawcolored cane with naturalfinish Germansilver ferrules and fittings or the darker browntoned cane with oxidized ferrules and fittings.
In the early 1930s, Jim Payne dropped the lightercolored rods in favor of the browntoned sticks, which have become the Payne hallmark. Jim also added smaller rods and offered two 7 footers at 2 1/2 and 31/5 ounces in threepiece design, and a pair of 7 1/2 foot rods at 3 and 31/4 ounces. The 10f oot rod had disappeared and was succeeded by a series of rods of twopiece design. These included the rare 6foot wand of l Liz ounces, a 7footer of 21/4 ounces, a 7 l/2 footer at 25/8 ounces, and an 8 footer of 3 Us ounces. This two piece line was topped off by an 8 l/2 footer of 4 Y4 ounces and a 9footer at 5 Y4 ounces. By 1939, Payne had stopped building threepiece rods under 71/2 feet and was concentrating on rods of twopiece design. The famous Payne screwlocking seat, and the four Parabolic designs, had now been introduced. There were now 15 threepiece models from 71/2 to 9 Y2 feet. The twopiece line had expanded to include a 6foot rod of l 5/8 ounces, a 7foot taper of 23/4 ounces, two 7 Y foot designs of 3and3l/4 ounces, three8 footers ranging from3 to4l/8 ounces, an8 l/2foot design that evolved from the butt and tip sections of a 12 foot two handed Payne salmon rod owned by A. E. Hendrickson, and finally a 9 footer at 5 1/2 ounces.
The Parabolic Payne rods evolved from designs developed in France by Charles Ritz, but it was actually John Alden Knight who worked with Jim Payne to develop the American versions.
These rods were of twopiece design and were fitted with graceful fullcork reel seats to reduce weight. The smallest of the four rods was 7 feet 1 inch in length, weighed 2 As ounces, and handled a #3 or #4 silk with equal ease. The 7 1/2footer weighed 33/8 ounces and used a #5 line. The 73/4foot taper was built in two models at 33/4 and 41/8 ounces, which handled #5 and #6 weight lines, respectively.
The final Payne catalog, itself a collector's item, lists 14 fly rods of threepiece design from 7 Y2 to 9 Y2 feet and 14 tapers of twopiece design from 6 to 9 feet. It shows a 6 l/2 foot rod at 2 Y4 ounces not found in earlier catalogs, and reduces the Parabolics to only two models at 7 feet 1 inch and 73/4 feet. There are seven dryfly salmon rods with detachable extension butt. Five of these rods are of threepiece design from 9 to 10Y2 feet and 65/8 to 9 ounces, and two are twopiece designs at 9 feet and 6 ounces and 9 Y2 feet and 7 ounces. Also listed are four threepiece dryfly salmon rods with a permanent 2inch extension butt giving the rods odd finished lengths. There is a 9foot2inch rod at 71/5 ounces; a 9foot5inch stick at 71/2 ounces; a 9foot8inch and a 10foot2inch rod at 75/8 and 9 l/4 ounces, respectively. Payne salmon rods, those from 9/2 to 10/2 feet, were made with doublebuilt butt sections for increased strength. The series of twohanded salmon rods listed are of threepiece design, and ranged from 10Y2 to 14 feet in length and from 10 1/2 to 20 1/4 ounces in weight. These rods were doublebuilt in both the butt and midsections and demonstrated unbelievable power. The catalog shows three bonefish rods with special noncorrosive guides and fittings, as well as rods for spinning and bait casting, and four special fly rods. These last four were a 9foot bass bug rod at 6 1/2 ounces, two streamer rods at 8 1/2 and 9 feet and 55/8 and 6 ounces, and a Canadian canoe rod at 8 1/2 feet and 5 ounces.
No one knows for certain the total number of rods produced in the Payne shop over the 80 year history of the company, but the rods have proved to be relatively scarce in comparison with rods of other makers. I am not certain whether this is because a low number of rods were produced, or because they are such fine fishing tools that their owners are always reluctant to sell or trade them. Whatever the reason, the rods are not always easy to come by and they range to $1,500 on the collector's market for mint, neverfished specimens. Used rods in excellent or better condition range from $400 to $1,200, depending on their length, with the shorter rods, 8 feet and under, being the most desirable and therefore higher priced.
There are countless anecdotes about Payne, many touching on his search for perfection or his stubborn honesty and integrity. Even without these reminders of his uncompromising craftsmanship, his rods tell it all.
Eustis Edwards began his rod building career at the Leonard plant in Bangor. He was a cane workman of great skill and performed the bamboo functions in his brief partnership with Fred Thomas and Ed Payne, which produced the Kosmic rod, a rare antique rod of considerable value. Although Eustis Edwards built rods under his own name for a number of years, it was his sons, William and Eugene, who truly blossomed as rod makers.
Many early Edwards rods were made in volume lots for large companies or sportinggoods stores, like Von Lengerke & Detmoldt, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Abbey & Imbrie. Later in his career, he did produce some superb modern By rods that exerted considerable influence. He made a run of 7 Y2foot rods for the Winchester Repeating Arms Co., which were marketed as the Winchester rod, and which created quite a stir on the Catskill rivers because of their exceptional actions-the popularity of 7 Y2 footers on American rivers has been largely attributed to Eustis Edwards.
His best rods were a dark, deeply colored bamboo with purple wraps, tipped in yellow, and were built with a smooth medium action that worked almost to the grip.
I own an 8 foot, three piece rod that began life as a Eustis Edwards made of Calcutta cane. Over the years, the mid and tips were replaced as a result of breakage, but always with care to protect the integrity of the original action. After a recent refinish session at Thomas & Thomas, the only part of the rod that remains original is the Edwards Calcutta butt-the mid and tips are of Tonkin cane by Edwards, Heddon, and Thomas & Thomas. The grip and reel seat are Thomas & Thomas, as are the ferrules, but the rod retains its original, full working action and is one of my favorite fishing rods.
It was Billy Edwards who broke the mold and developed a unique line of fourstrip rods with accompanying special ferrules, grip checks, and reel seat fittings, and his tapers were superb. These rods were built in both twopiece and threepiece designs ranging from 6 to 9 Y2 feet. In twopiece, he produced the 6foot rod for #3 line at 1 1/4 ounces, a 6 /footer for #3 line at 2l/8 ounces, a 7 foot rod for #4 line at 25/8 ounces, the 7/2foot design for #4 line at 31/5 ounces, a 7 1/2 foot rod for #5 at 35/8 ounces, an 8 footer for #5 line at 41/8 ounces, and a powerful, faster action 8 foot taper for #6 line at 45/8 ounces. The three piece rods included an 8 Bigfoot rod for #4 line at 41/8 ounces, and a 9 footer at 51/4 ounces and a 9 1/2 footer at 53/4 ounces, both for #7 line. The biggest one he offered was a 9 1/2 foot rod at a full 7 ounces for a #9 line.
Gene Edwards stayed with the standard six strip rod construction and can be credited with the Special and Deluxe models. These were topquality sticks that displayed the family resemblance to the work of Edward Payne, Eustis Edwards' colleague. The Edwards Rod Company produced less expensive models such as the Mt. Carmel and the Bristol. These too were wellconstructed rods but were usually fitted with less ornate and less costly fittings.
Bill Edwards' quads range to $450 on the current market, with most selling between $250 and $350. The sixsided Deluxe and Special rods are comparably priced, while the originally less expensive rods, such as the Bristol and Mt. Carmel, bring $175 to $275, depending on size and condition.
Fred Thomas was the only one of the original group of Leonard to return to Bangor. He started making rods under his name and was unquestionably one of the best who ever split cane.
His rods retained a strong resemblance to the Leonards and were similarly softer action rods. He worked both in the strawcolor cane with bright fittings and in the browntone color of rich chocolate with oxidized fittings. The Thomas grip check and check windings are unique in that the nickelsilver check ring also incorporates the flykeeper ring. The check windings above the grip were a signature of delicate brown winds in a grouping series of three, seven, three. He used similar wraps at the top guide, which also had a unique Germansilver reinforcing tongue under the silk.
His rods fully equaled the work of Hiram and Reuben Leonard and are prized by their owners. Although many of the Maine customers demanded rods to handle huge streamers and heavy tippets, Thomas and his son, Leon, built some of the finest light action rods that money can buy.
His topoftheline rods were the Special and Special Browntone. The secondquality line was the Dirigo, and his least expensive model was the Bangor. The Special and Browntone rods are exquisite, with few rivals. These rods carried the best fittings and employed hardwood spacer reel seats of slideband and screwlock design. Some of these rods were mounted with allcork seats reminiscent of the Leonard 50 DF. The Dirigo and Bangor rods were not produced in the browntone color and employed less omate and expensive fittings.
The Thomas shop produced threepiece rods from 7 1/2 feet long to a 15 foot, two handed salmon rod. The two piece designs were 7 to 8 1/2 feet long. The 8 1/2 foot, three piece rod at 51/4 ounces is one of the finest tapers in its length. There was also an 8 foot, three piece at 41/8 ounces, which fishes a #5 line to perfection. One of the two best 7 foot Thomas rods I've ever seen was a two piece Special with intermediate winds at 25/8 ounces for a #4 line. This was a very early Thomas and is now in the collection of a doctor in Houston, Texas. The other was an exquisite two piece Browntone Special for a #3 line at 2 1/2 ounces, now owned by actor William Conrad.
Fred Thomas and his son Leon built rods under the Thomas hallmark for over 40 years, but after Fred died, the company foundered and passed into receivership. Its equipment and designs were subsequently divided between Walt Carpenter and Sam Carlson, who currently own the rights to the Thomas tapers and name.
The Thomas Bangor and Dirigo rods currently range to $300 on today's
market, with most selling between $ 175 and $250. The Special rods range
to $450, with most in the $300 to $375 range. The Browntone Specials command
a bit higher price, ranging to $500, with most in the $350 and $450 bracket,
depending on length and condition.
Thomas & Thomas, not to be confused with the F. E. Thomas Rod Co., is a contemporary rod shop located in Turners Falls, Massachusetts. The company is co-owned by Tom Dorsey and Len Codella.
From its beginning, Tom Dorsey has directed the rodbuilding work at T&T. In the past decade, the rods designed and built by Dorsey under the T&T marque have proved to have had the most significant impact on the bamboo rod world since Payne, Edwards, and Thomas left the Leonard Rod Company to set out on their own nearly 90 years ago. Tom Dorsey's work is compared today with that done by rodmaking's finest builders of decades past. To be recognized in just one short decade as a maker of contemporary classics that are worthy of comparison with the best work of a bygone era is fitting testimony to the genius and creativity of the very small group of craftsmen at the T&T shop.
Through Dorsey's efforts, Thomas & Thomas has pioneered quality standards, construction techniques, and cosmetic appointments that are now being copied by a number of other contemporary makers. This is reminiscent of the traditions and standards set by that earlier pioneer, Jim Payne, whose work is still emulated by contemporary builders more than 12 years after his death. It is interesting to note that Dorsey, who is totally selftaught, has been called the modernday Payne. The Thomas & Thomas rod lends credibility to that belief.
Thomas & Thomas was the first company to use modern thermosetting adhesives in rod construction. It is the first and only company to build both varnished and impregnated rods to the same exacting quality standards. The Thomas & Thomas morticed, walnut reel seats, special grip designs, and uniquely distinctive hardware are now world famous, and were the first of their type ever used on highgrade rods . The translucent look of the T&T wraps has been brought to a "state of the art" level at Thomas & Thomas and is now copied by many builders.
In short, the impact of T&T's rod work in taper designs, construction, and cosmetics has changed the quality standards by which today's rod makers are guided, and have set a merry pace for all to follow.
The Thomas & Thomas cane, a large store of 40 yearold bamboo, was purchased from Sewell N. Dunton in the early 1970s, along with rodmaking equipment, by Dorsey and then co-owner, Thomas Maxwell. The name of the firm derives from the first names of these two men. Maxwell left the firm in its earlier years and has recently joined the Leonard Rod Company as a rodmaker.
The handcrafted rods of Thomas & Thomas are offered in two ranges. The Classic Series defines eight models ranging in length from 6 l/2 feet to 81/2 feet, with line weights from #3 to #7. The Classic rods are made with either a varnished finish or an impregnated finish as desired, and offer a host of reel seat and grip options available to suit the buyer's taste. Sophisticated compound tapers and 40yearold cane combine to produce a lively, mediumfast rod action, which is the measure of any highquality rod built today.
The Individualist Series of rods includes five trout model categories-the Caenis Series for #3 line; the Midge Series for #4 line; the Hendrickson Series for #5 line; the Montana Series for #6, #7, and #8 lines; and the Paradigm Series, built on special parabolic tapers, for #4, #5, and #6 lines. Rod lengths range from 6 feet to 9 feet and are available in two or threepiece design. There are over 40 Individualist Trout models from which to select. The Individualist Salmon Series offers rods of two and threepiece design from 8 feet to 10 feet for line weights from #6 through #10.
The Sans Pareil Series of rods is a category reserved for T&T's finest custommade rods. This series offers onepiece rods from 6 feet to 10 feet, in line sizes from #3 to #10, as well as two or threepiece rods in the same lengths and line weights. Sans Pareil actions are always unique, as are many of the custom cosmetic options available to the buyer. All T&T Individualist rods are available in either a varnished or impregnated finish.
The list of back orders at T&T is fairly extensive, and the current wait for a new rod from this firm is 14 to 18 months.
On the used rod market, the T&T rod retains much of its new price level, with the Classic Series ranging to $425. Rods in the Trout and Salmon Individualist Series range between $550 and $650, while Sans Pareil rods generally resell for $600 to $800, depending on the model.
Lyle Dickerson was born and raised in Bellaire, Michigan. During his highschool years he built a few bait rods from such materials as ironwood and white cedar. He completed his degree from Hillsdale College on the eve of World War I, and both his fishing and rodmaking were interrupted by service with the fledgling Air Corps in France.
Upon his return to Detroit, he found work in truck and realestate sales. He fished streams like the Mantisee, Au Sable, and Pere Marquette. The Great Depression forced him into handcrafting furniture, where he associated with highly skilled artisans with fierce pride in their work. This contact developed in him a passion for quality that undoubtedly carried over to, and influenced, his later work.
When he finally decided to build bamboo rods, he found no help either from books or from the craftsmen at Heddon, since their shop was closed to outsiders and the secrets of splitbamboo craftsmanship were closely guarded. He managed to purchase a few culms of cane from Heddon and by dismantling unserviceable rods was able to unravel some of the mysteries of the art. Dickerson then borrowed some fine splitcane rods and calibrated them, attempting to duplicate their tapers with homemade planing blocks and tools. Subsequent fishing on his home rivers resulted in extensive modifications of his designs and ultimately led to the unique performance associated with his rods.
Dickerson's move back to Detroit initiated his professional rodmaking career in the early 1930s. Although the quality of his work rapidly became known on Michigan's rivers, there were few buyers of rods even at the modest price of $35 because few anglers could afford that price.
It was the late Ray Bergman who really launched Dickerson and his reputation for quality. On a fishing trip to Michigan, Bergman met Dickerson in Detroit. Bergman's favorite rod was a steeptaper tournamenttype 7/2foot Leonard, which Dickerson calibrated and then offered to match action for action. Bergman was immensely pleased with the new Dickerson and recounted that pleasure in print, giving Dickerson his first taste of national recognition.
I recently acquired a 7 l/2foot threepiece Dickerson built on the Bergman tapers. The rod is initialed R.B. after the model number above the grip and is in nearmint condition. It weighs 33/4 ounces and handles a #5 line with flawless precision. The rod's action is moderately fast, working fully toward the grip. It is the epitome of the classic dry fly rod, and the craftsmanship is exquisite. The rod displays a mediumbrown color, is wrapped with chocolate winds tipped black, and is fitted with precision oxidized ferrules and a walnutfilled reversescrew lock seat. Dickerson used extremely large culms of thickwalled cane and transmitted the density of the cane through his steep tapers into remarkably fast actions.
The Dickerson line included seven three piece rods: a 7/2 footer at 33/4 ounces, an 8 foot design at 41/4 ounces, an 81/2 foot rod of 43/4 ounces, a pair of 9footers at 51/2 and 6 ounces, and two 91/2 footers at 6 and 61/2 ounces. Twopiece Dickersons included a 71/2 footer at 31/2 ounces, two 8foot rods at 4 and 41/4 ounces, an 8 l/2footer at 41/2 ounces, and a 9foot design at 51/2 ounces.
I recently acquired one of Ray Bergman's personal Dickersons that had been custombuilt for him. It is a 10 foot, detachable butt, salmon rod at 61/ 4 ounces for a #7 line. It is fast and powerful, but extremely light in the hand, and a valuable collector's rod.
Dickerson's rods are rare and on a par in both performance and craftsmanship with any of the finest. In the supplydemand rod market, it is amazing that his rods do not command a higher price, since his total lifetime production was only slightly more than 2,000 rods. In comparison with other rodmakers, Dickerson was not as well known and I am certain that this has had much to do with the relatively low prices for his rods. This has already begun to change as more people have become aware of his work. The prices paid just recently for Dickerson rods are considerably higher than those paid as little as two years ago. The rods range currently to $800, with most bringing $500 to $600. A rod of special significance, such as the Bergman rod mentioned earlier, would command perhaps $100 over top price. The scarcity of Dickerson's rods makes them an excellent investment if you are fortunate enough to find one.
The R. L. Winston Rod Company was formed in 1927 by Robert Winther and Lewis Stoner. The name was a contraction of their initials and last names. Although Winther liquidated his interest in 1933, Stoner decided to leave the company name unchanged. W. W. Loskot became a partner at the Winston shop the following year and continued for nearly 20 years until leaving in 1953. Douglas Merrick had come into the Winston Shop in 1945 to buy a new rod and never left. In 1953 Loskot sold his interest to Merrick, and the unique collaboration between Stoner and Merrick was probably the Golden Age at Winston.
Stoner died suddenly in 1957, and Gary Howells, who had been Stoner's protege for almost 10 years, came to work in the shop fulltime shortly thereafter. Howells and Merrick made fine fly rods together until the early 1970s, when Gary decided to build his own rods. Merrick recently sold his controlling interest in the Winston shop to Sidney Eliason and Thomas Morgan. Tom Morgan has continued the Winston tradition, producing fine bamboo rods with a quality of workmanship that remains unchanged.
The quality of the Winston product is a reflection of the genius of Stoner, and the patents for the fluted hollowbuilt construction he made famous. Even the ferrules on the Winston rods are uniquely Stoner, being made from an alloy of silicone, copper, and aluminum called duronze. They are lighter and stronger than steel, corrosionresistant, and more costly than nickelsilver. Winston ferrules are cut from barstock duronze and individually centered, bored, drilled, reamed, and handlapped for a perfect fit. They are tapered to ricepaper thinness at the transition point to the cane, and the cant itself is turned to match the exact internal dimension of the ferrules. They are then driven home over a coat of cement and pinned for permanent security.
The Winston reel seats are unique, too. The fillers are turned from a costly high strength Bakelite, which is almost totally free of expansion and corrosion. The fittings are jewel polished aluminum. The smaller Winston rods are fitted with a slotted cork filler, and the grips are the traditional halfWells style.
The most popular Winston rods in the East are the Leetle Feller Series. The tapers, which are designed for relatively short, delicate casts where accuracy is critical, carry #3 and #4 lines. There are four rods for #3 line: a 5 l/2 footer at 13/4 ounces, a 6 footer at 2 ounces, a 6 l/2 footer at 2 l/8 ounces, and a delightful 7 footer at 2/2 ounces. The 7 footer at 25/8 ounces and 7/footer at 31/8 ounces, both for a DT4 line, round out the series.
The Light Trout Series handle #4 and #5 lines. These rods, too, are delicate but demonstrate more muscle than the Leetle Fellers. There is a 5 Y2footer at 2 ounces and a 6footer at 21/4 ounces, both for DT4 lines. The #5 rods include the 6footer at 2% ounces, two 6/2footers at 2Y2 and 23/4 ounces, two 7foot rods at 2 As and 3 ounces, and a pair of 7 1/2 foot tapers of 3 1/4 and 31/2 ounces.
The Standard Trout rods include an 8foot design for a #4 line at 35/8 ounces, and two 8footers at 33/4 and 4 ounces, and an 8/2foot rod at 4Ys ounces, all for a DT5 line . There are two 8 Y2 foot rods at 41/4 and 4 Y2 ounces for #6 lines, and an 8 Y2foot stick of 43/4 ounces for a #7 line. The two 83/4 foot rods are 45/8 and 43/4 ounces and take #7 and #8 lines. Classed as steelhead rods, the three 9foot Winstons of 5, 51/4, and 5 Y2 ounces take #8 and #9 lines. These rods are magnificent performers on our Western steelhead rivers as well as on salmon rivers all over the world.
Winston rods are of twopiece design and range to a high of $375 on the usedrod market for twotip specimens. The onetip rods range to $250. Condition is the determining factor, and average or better rods sell for $175 to $300 used, with the higher price for rods in mint condition.
Some collectors believe that rods built by Stoner in the 1930s and early 1940s are worth a bit more in price than current rods, but I think that a good Winston is a good Winston and the nostalgia bug should not be taken too seriously.
Edwin C. Powell built his first cane rod in California about 1912. By 1922, his shop in Marysville was famous. The rods he constructed prior to 1933 were all of sixstrip solid construction. That year he was granted his patent for semihollow construction, which launched his construction technique in a new direction. Even before embarking on a fullscale program of semihollow construction, the technique Powell used in building standard sixstrip rods was rather unusual. Showing signs of Hardy influence, Powell would mill the inner pith from the inside of the roughcut cane strips until there remained about 1/8 inch of dense outer power fibers. To this inner face he would glue a strip of Port Orford cedar and, when the laminated strip was cured, would complete the final milling cuts on a machine that he also designed and built. It was quite remarkable work and employed the interesting concept of replacing quite useless pith material with a stronger, although not heavier, material. Powell developed the semihollow concept to further reduce the weight of the finished rod. This was accomplished by scalloping 6inch hollows out of the cedar, thus leaving small solid sections for gluing strength. The result was an extremely lightweight rod of significant power with yet a delicate action for its length. Indeed many of the vintage Powell hollowbuilt steelhead rods areeagerly sought by knowledgeable fishermencollectors for their fine performance on big waters.
Powell rods were glued with animal glues, which made them a bit fragile, and the finely done, intermediate winding, spaced about two inches apart, was more than ornamentation. His rods were wrapped in either brown or antique gold, and the signature wrap above the grip-which also held the fly keeper- was all black on his solid built rods or black edged in white on his semihollow designs. He used a reversescrew lock seat of jewelpolished aluminum with a distinctive Bakelite filler, again a result of Hardy's influence. His grips were of fullWells design and never varied for 30odd years.
Most vintage threepiece Powell rods are solidbuilt, while his twopiece sticks are for the most part semihollow. Powell worked mainly in longer rods suited to the northern California rivers. His 9Y2foot steel head models weighed 5 Y2 to 6 ounces; the 9foot rods, 4 3/4 to 5 1/2 ounces; the 8 Y2foot trout rods, 4 Y2 to 5 ounces. He built a few 8 footers at 4 to 41h ounces and even fewer 7 l/2footers at 3 Y2 ounces. These last designs are very rare.
Powell rods in mint condition range to $500 on the classic rod market, with most rods in average condition selling in the $250 to $400 range. The rare 7/2footer would command about $750 in mint condition and about $400 to $500 in average shape.
With Tonkin cane again available, Edwin's son Walton Powell is again
building the Powell rod, using his father's patents and tapers. He began
as an apprentice in the Marysville shop in 1922 at age seven and, discounting
one or two departures from rodbuilding over the years, has almost a halfcentury
of rodbuilding experience.
Gary Howells left after 22 years in the Winston shop in 1970 to build rods under his own signature. He "wanted to build rods with the lightness and power of a Winston or Powell-yet with the elegance and grace of a Payne." He has certainly reached his objective. While the Winston influence shows in his work, he has made subtle modifications in the tapers, which are uniquely his. The tempering process he uses produces a richly toned brown cane color, and his butts are hollowbuilt, giving lightness to his rods. Howell machines his own ferrules from solid bar stock duronze and hand laps each for final fit.
In all, Howells builds 40 standard rod tapers, ranging from 6 feet to 9 feet 3 inches and works in twopiece designs only. Gary Howells is a master craftsman who insists on performing every operation himself and is capable of producing about 100 rods a year. As his circle of devotees continues to grow, so does the wait for one of his rods, but it is well worth it.
His rods are priced new in the $450 to $500 range depending on size, style, and so forth. They are, without question, modern classics.
Paul Young was a paradox among rodbuilders. Born in 1890 in Arkansas, his background included accomplishments as a commercial fisherman, a taxidermist, tackle salesman, flytier, tacklestore owner and finally master rodbuilder. He possessed an intuitive knowledge of actions and rod tapers and began his rodbuilding career by modifying the wetfly actions then in fashion. By 1927, his first experimental compound tapers had appeared, which 12 years later were labeled "parabolics" when John Alden Knight wrote about these unique actions. Paradoxically, we see Paul Young, with beginnings as a setline catfisherman on the Mississippi, becoming the selftaught Stradivari of the semiparabolic taper-a remarkable accomplishment considering the rodbuilding vacuum, (with the exception of Lyle Dickerson) in the Midwest.
Young's first rods were the Special Series, which included a 7 l/2foot taper at 33/8 ounces, two 8footers at 4 and 41/2 ounces, an 8 l/2 footer at 43/4 ounces, and a 9foot Special 17 at 51/4 ounces, all of twopiece design. There was also the Special 18, a threepiece rod of 6/2 ounces for a #9 line.
Young was an innovator-a creator. He cared little for how his rods looked and was constantly experimenting with new techniques, glues, and finishes. His early rods were worked in naturalcolor cane, and some show experiments with dark synthetic glues and resins. It was not until near midcentury that Paul more or less standardized the appearance of his rods, using a flametempering technique to achieve a darkened, halfcarbonized finish. Even then, he never stopped trying new things and sought to reduce the powertoweight ratios in his rods. He went as far as developing black, anodized aluminum ferrules, which proved surprisingly good, and employing a unique method of laminating and waterproofing the rod joints.
By midcentury, the now famous Midge rod-a 61/4 foot rod for a #4 line at 13/4 ounces-was on the market. This rod is one of the most soughtafter of the Youngs, running second only to the 7 l/2foot Perfectionist. The Midge has the capability of protecting 5X and 6X tippets and yet delivering the fly at 50 feet with precision.
The Driggs River Special at 2 1/2 ounces is a 7 foot 2 inch taper for #5 line with a fast, powerful action.
The Perfectionist is the Young rod and the most difficult to obtain of all the Youngs . It is a 71/2 foot rod for a #4 line at 25/8 ounces . It has the ability to cast 80 feet of line and protect 7X tippets-indeed a rare combination in any rod.
The Martha Marie was designed and named for Paul's wife, who maintains a cottage on, and still fishes, the Au Sable in Michigan. It is a strong 7 l/2foot dryfly rod at 3 ounces, designed for use on larger rivers. It handles a #6 line.
The Parabolic 15 is an 8foot rod made with separate dryfly and distance tips. The rod weighs 33/4 ounces with the dryfly top and handles a #6 line. With the distance tips, it weighs 4 ounces and takes a #7 line and larger flies.
There was also the K. T. Keller version of the Para 15 with a slowaction butt and a bit more delicacy.
The Parabolic 17 is an 8 l/2footer at 5 Us ounces for hair bugs and poppers. The Bobby Doerr was a 9foot 6ounce rod for #9 line. The Parabolic 18 at 61/2 ounces and 9 feet carries a #9 line, and the Para 19 at 61/2 ounces and 9 feet takes a #10. The Powerhouse rounds out the line at 9l/2 feet for a #11 line.
During his career Young also made a number of special rods and experimental tapers such as the Parabolic 16-a lovely 81/2 footer for #7 line.
Of most interest to the collector is a series of six rods Paul built in 1958, two years before his death. He called them the Princess model, at 7 feet and 23/4 ounces for a #4 line. These six experimental rods were fitted with a skeletal seat and were wrapped in black silk. They are an example of the restless nature of their maker. During the same production run, Young built one 71/2foot Princess for his personal use. It was assembled with a light and heavy top characteristic of the Para 15 rods. Fitted with the light top, it does well with 8X tippets and tiny flies. The heavier tip will deliver a streamer with authority at 80 feet. This very special rod is now in the collection of Ernest Schwiebert and is one of his most cherished fly rods.
Young's son Jack has been carrying on the family business since his father's death in 1960 and continues to manufacture the most popular of the Young rod models with the same eye for quality and workmanship demonstrated by his father.
Although new Young rods are available today at about $500, the rods built by Paul can and do command higher prices in mint condition. The Midge through the Para 15 models range to $900 among collectors, with rods that are in average condition selling at $350 to $600.
The larger models range to $400 in mint condition and about $50 less in average shape.
A mint condition rod from current production is worth about $400 and will sell for about $325 in average or better condition.
The total lifetime production of rods by Paul Young is relatively small, and this makes the more popular models extremely difficult to acquire.
Because of their rarity, the unique Princess rods are worth about $1,000 in any reasonable condition and perhaps as much as double that figure in mint condition.
Harold Steele Gillum began his rodmaking career as an apprentice in the Payne rod shop, having earlier learned how to build splitbamboo rods through his friendship with Eustis Edwards. Gillum's rods bear a strong resemblance to the designs of Jim Payne. His rods have characteristically fast tapers and are basically fastaction fly rods influenced by Edward R. Hewitt's early theories concerning rod actions. Gillum was a moody individual, and his character had a cantankerous side, often triggering quarrels with everyone, even his friends and customers. He was a friend and almost partner of George Halstead, another craftsman of split cane. Gillum's and Halstead's careers were curiously intertwined over the years and business often brought the two together. Their partnership started and failed over ferrules. Halstead had been a machinist at the Leonard shop, where he made reel seats and ferrules. The partnership centered on Halstead making the metal fittings while Gillum made the rod sections. All was go until Halstead was late in delivering the promised metalwork, and the icing on the cake for Gillum was that when they finally arrived they were not even completed. The welts, water stops, plugs, and nickelsilver tubing for the male and female ferrules were all shipped loose and mixed up in the box. Gillum was furious and ended the partnership on the spot.
"Pinky" Gillum never quite standardized his tapers or fittings, building with whatever suited his mood at the moment. His early rods were fitted with ferrules by George Halstead, and after Halstead's death he used the SuperZ ferrule and even some Payne ferrules, finally turning to making his own later on. His cane color varied from medium to dark brown, and after a bad experience with hideglue adhesives, he turned to using a black epoxy adhesive suggested by Everett Garrison. As on the Garrison rods, the black glue lines are prominent on Gillum's later work.
Gillum's total lifetime rod production never exceeded 2,000 rods, making any Gillum a scarce collector's rod. He worked mostly in twopiece design and rods from 71/2 to 81/2 feet surface occasionally. One of the nicest Gillums I've had in hand was a twopiece 8 l/4foot rod at 41/4 ounces for a DT5 line. This rod was fast in action but extraordinarily sensitive, as fine a fishing tool as I've ever seen. Gillum also made a few threepiece rods in the 8foot length with most in lengths from 8 Y2 to 9 Y2 feet. Short Gillum rods in lengths to 7 feet are exceedingly rare. I have seen rods at 6 feet, 63/4 feet, and 7 feet, but only a very, very few.
Gillum rods currently range to a high of $2,000 for the shorter lengths in mint condition. Rods that are in average condition range from $850 to $1,500 on today's market.
George Halstead had a relatively short rodbuilding career. He lived at Brewster, New York, and built a few rods of surprisingly good parabolic action with his own ferrules and fittings. The bamboo workmanship was good; however, Halstead failed to assemble some of his rods with firstrate adhesives. Many of his rods separated along their glue facets, and very few survive today.
Halstead died at a relatively young age, and his skills as a rodbuilder never reached their full potential.
Obviously Halstead's rods are very rare, since few were built and not
many have lasted over the years. These rods can be reglued, if they delaminate,
and can be restored by competent rod shops, but be prepared- this sort of
rebuilding work is very costly, sometimes running to $400 to $500 for extensive
reconstruction. Halstead rods that undergo such treatment, provided it is
professionally done to only the highest standards, should carry a market
value equivalent to any original condition rod, as such work removes all
doubt concerning the rod's integrity. Halstead's rods range in price to
$1,500 for a mintcondition specimen, with rods in average condition ranging
from $900 to $1,200.
Everett Garrison was born in Yonkers, New York, in 1893. In 1922, he met Dr. George Parker Holden, the famous amateur rodmaker and author of Idyll of the Split Bamboo. It was through Holden's influence that Garrison began his long rod building career and launched the most disciplined, painstaking approach to rodmaking in the history of split bamboo. Garrison's background and education in engineering led to his scientific approach to the development of his now famous rod tapers. He also developed his own tools, precision planing forms, and other equipment. His forms used differential setscrews to control the tapers; one full turn opens or closes the forms .008 inch for absolute control.
Garrison built almost every part of each rod himself, including his fittings, rod cases, and even the poplin bags to hold the finished rod safe in the case. His attention to detail even carries over to the assembly of the planed sections.
Two tips from the same rod show that the same nodes in each section were adjacent splines in the original culm, a Garrison technique to make both rod tips as identical as possible. His node placement ensures that each node is isolated, with no other nodes in the same area on the rod section. His guides are wound in opposite directions to equalize the twisting forces in the ,ection. The finished Garrison rod has a scarlet tipping on one of the tips, green on the other, to mark it so that the angler can alternate his tips from trip to trip.
Typical Garrisons include a 7 footer at 2 3/4 ounces for #4 line, a 7 1/4 footer at 31/4 ounces for #4 line, a 7 1/2 and 7 3/4footer at 3 1/2 and 3 3/4 ounces for #5 line, and an 8footer at 4 ounces, the last an exceptional allaround rod that helped Garrison make his reputation during the 1930s.
Everett Garrison was a genius at building splitcane rods, and his insistence on building every part himself allowed a lifetime production of only 900 or so rods. His rods were always prized as collectorfishing rods, and since his death in 1975, their price on the collector's market has continued to climb.
Currently Garrison rods are bringing $1,500 to $2,000 for rods in average condition. I know of one mintcondition rod selling recently for $2,500, probably some kind of record price for a single cane rod, but a fitting tribute to one of the art's better builders.
Goodwin Granger developed his talents in isolation in Denver, where he began making fine handcrafted cane rods after World War I. The Leonard influence is unmistakable in his very first rods. These were of threepiece design, done in strawcolor cane with red silk winds and the unmistakable swelled butt. His early handles were copies of the Leonard cigar shape, with a nickelsilver reel seat with fixed reel hood and a sliding band. The quality of workmanship in these few early Grangers is on a par with the work of the master he copied, and they are highly prized by collectors.
Early on, Granger changed the cosmetic appearance to the more familiar browntoned cane, fitted with a fullWellsstyle handle with different colored wraps for each of the grades or models he made.
The Granger Champion was one of his first, with red wraps tipped in black, and was built in lengths from 8 to 9 l/2 feet at weights of 41/4, 43/4, 51/2, and 6 l/2 ounces. Of the same design and length was the Goodwin model, with jasper winds tipped in yellow. The Special had yellow silk winds and introduced the unique Germansilver reversescrewlock seat, which remained a standard of the Granger line. The Special model was the first built in the 7 l/2foot length at 33/4 ounces, and later the Aristocrat model brought in the 7foot twopiece at 31/2 ounces. Early Aristocrat models were wrapped in tan silk, tipped dark brown. Later rods in this model were simply wrapped in a mediumbrown color, but the rod tapers were redesigned and the 7foot model was changed to a delightful 23/4 ounces for a #4 line.
The Granger Deluxe was a top of the line rod featuring jasper winds, tipped yellow, and included the full series of designs from 7 feet to 9/2 feet.
The Deluxe Registered rods were Goodwin Granger's best and were built only to order. I recently saw one of the Registered models with two different sets of two tips. This 8 l/2foot classic used a #6 line with the lighter tips and a #7 with the heavier set, and showed absolutely no difference in action or casting cycle when switching from one to the other.
The Granger feel is a smooth, fullworking mediumfast action that seems to change very little from model to model.
The Goodwin Granger Company was acquired by Wright & McGill after World War II. The rods built under their ownership are among the finest factoryproduction rods ever built. At midcentury, their shop foreman was Bill Phillipson, who would later build fine fly rods under his own name.
The six models in production then were the Victory, with orange/black variegated winds, tipped in black; the Special, with limegreen wraps; the Aristocrat, with tantipped chocolate wraps; the Favorite, with jasper winds, tipped pale yellow; the Deluxe with black/silver variegated winds, tipped yellow; and the Premier model, with intricate yellow wrappings.
A small number of Granger Deluxe rods were built after Wright & McGill had abandoned cane for fiberglass. These rods were of twopiece design, at 7 and 71/2 feet and 3 and 31/4 ounces, and used a reverse slideband seat over a cork filler. The threepiece 8, 81/2, and 9footers weighed 33/4, 41/2, and 51/2 ounces and were fitted with walnut seats with the fixedbuttcap slideband arrangement. The handles on these rods were the elliptical fullWells type, later the trademark of Phillipson, and were wrapped with deep scarlet winds. In spite of their Granger markings, they are unmistakably early Phillipson products.
The Goodwin Granger rods are rarer than the Wright & McGill Grangers and are considered by many nostalgia bugs to be the better rods. They range from $100 to $350 on the usedrod market. The Wright & McGill Grangers range from $100 to $275 currently.
Bill Phillipson rods included the Peerless series made with walnut screwlocking seats. There was a 7 l/2foot 4ounce rod, an 8foot design at 4 ounces, the 8 l/2footer at 51/4 ounces, and the 9foot rod at a full 6 ounces. Later, these rods were made with full metal reel seats. The Peerless Specials paralleled these rods and were made to accommodate a full line size heavier in each corresponding design.
The Phillipson Pacemakers were moderately priced rods from 71/2 feet and 4 ounces, to 9 feet and 6 ounces, and were fitted with anodized aluminum seats. The rods were wrapped with lime green winds, tipped yellow.
Some of Phillipson's finest work came through the Paramount 51 series, which were made with both walnut and metal reel seats. The tapers were more delicate with the 7/footer at 31/2 ounces, the 8foot rod at 4 ounces, the 8 l/2 footer at 43/4 ounces, and the 9foot rod at 51/2 ounces . These rods were wrapped with jasper winds, tipped with yellow and black.
The Preferred rods were of twopiece design, made in 7 and 7 l/2foot lengths at 31/ 4 ounces and 33/4 ounces. Both rods handled a DT4 line.
Current market value of a sound, used Phillipson runs from $100 to $225.
James Heddon & Sons in Dowagiac, Michigan, produced over the years some of the finest production made fly rods this country has seen. Their only rival in terms of quality and workmanship were the factory rods of the Goodwin Granger Company.
There were a number of models produced in a surprising range of prices. The Model 10 was the least expensive, with oxidized ferrules, scarlet wraps, and a corkfilled reel seat. Of this model, made in a number of lengths and weights, the 7 l/2footer at 31/2 ounces was the most popular size. As with all Heddon rods, the cane was a rich brown color, and the rod displayed the customary swelledbutt construction, perhaps a throwback to the influence of earlier rodbuilders like Leonard and Murphy.
The Heddon Folsom model was a well done two piece rod in 7 through 8 foot lengths. It was fitted with oxidized ferrules and a walnut filled screwlock seat. Wrapped in chocolate brown, tipped yellow, it looks very similar to the Payne rod. The 71/2foot model weighs 31/8 ounces, with a medium action, and takes a #4 line.
The Model 17, Black Beauty, was the most popular of all the Heddon rods, since it was a moderately priced rod of superb quality. Offered in lengths from 71/2 to 9 feet, this threepiece design was wrapped originally in black silk with a Bakelite screwlock seat, oxidized ferrules, and a halfWells cork grip. Later the black wraps were tipped in orange, which changed the rod's appearance somewhat. The 8footer in this model weighs 4 ounces and takes a light DT4 line.
There were several other factory models, culminating in the Model 35 Deluxe and the Model 50 DeluxePresident. These two rods were built in lengths from 8 to 9 feet, ranging from 31/2 to 51/2 ounces. They were fitted with black ferrules, a graceful halfWells grip, and screwlock seat with burled walnut filler and were wrapped with brown winds, tipped black. They represent some of the finest factory rods ever made.
One of the finest casting Heddons I've ever seen was a Drueding Special- an 81/2 footer at 45/8 ounces for a #5 line. It was built to tapers designed by Harold Drueding, one of the guiding lights in the rod shop at Dowagiac, and is a superb fly rod.
From the skilled hands of Sam Anson, master rodbuilder at Heddon, came a very few Model 100 rods. These were called the "Rod of Rods" and were handworked throughout. They were fitted with goldlacquered seats with walnut fillers, black precision ferrules, and goldtoned guides and tiptops. They were the best Heddon had to offer. They sold in the late 1940s for almost four times the price of the Black Beauty at $35 and were made only to special order. They are rare and are exquisite casting instruments.
A mintcondition Heddon of moderate quality is worth about $250 on today's market, with rods in average condition selling for $125 to $175. The Deluxe and DeluxePresident in mint condition sell for up to $400, with most ranging to $300. The Model 100 ranges from $350 to $500 depending on condition.
The South Bend Bait Company acquired the Cross Rod Company after World War I and for over a decade produced some excellent production rods.
The Cross rods were both single and doublebuilt in construction; most were doublebuilt. The Cross action was a smooth semiparabolic, working well down into the grip. The cane color was honey, and the winds were a medium tan. The reel seats were full Germansilver and engraved with a Cross medallion. They were built from 7 to 9 feet in length, and the 8 l/2foot, threepiece model at 51/4 ounces took a surprisingly light #5 line. The famous 7foot Cross Sylph was a twopiece rod of mediumfast action, weighing 3 ounces-a surprisingly light rod, considering its doublebuilt construction.
The most unusual Cross rod I've ever seen was a onepiece 9footer for a #7 line at 51/4 ounces. It was a rod of unbelievable power with its doublebuilt construction and had the capability of extending a cast beyond the backing knot.
Wes Jordan, Orvis's master rodmaker, was a Cross protege until Cross died in the 1930s.
After World War II, South Bend continued to make production rods under its own name and also for Shakespeare. Cross rods on the current market will bring about $175 in mint condition, with rods in average condition ranging between $100 and $125.
Wes Jordan has been synonymous with Orvis bamboo work for almost 33 years. Jordan was born in 1894 and joined the Cross Rod Company in 1919, forging a considerable reputation as a rodmaker. When Cross died and South Bend absorbed the Cross Company, Jordan went along to supervise the work.
In 1940, he joined the Orvis Company to supervise rodbuilding, where he remained until his retirement several years ago. In 1941, Wes Jordan designed the screwlocking reel seat with its rich walnut filler, which has distinguished the Orvis rods ever since. He and D. C. Cork ran, then owner of Orvis, pioneered the techniques of impregnating the bamboo fibers with a resin compound to provide almost maintenancefree blanks. Jordan developed the entire Battenkill series of rods, as well as most of Orvis's present battery of rods, including the Midge, Flea, and Nymph rods. The Orvis Deluxe and Superfine rods were built under Jordan's influence, and the Wes Jordan series of Battenkill rods are tapers personally preferred by this master craftsman.
In addition to the Battenkillgrade rods, Orvis also manufactures a lessexpensive line called the Madison. Most of these rods are built with one tip section instead of the customary two tips, and are advertised as Battenkillquality rods except for their coloration.
Used Battenkill rods sell for $175 to $250 on the current market, and used Madisons range to $125.
Copyright©1981 Winchester Press
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