Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Glass Fly Rods and The Fiberglass Manifesto

Why Not Give Glass a Go? 

This little Twizel River rainbow might have been more fun on glass

Over the last few years , I have become fascinated with fiberglass as a material for fly rods. Sure, fast rods that are described as cannons have their uses - sometimes even in fishing - but there is something about slower rods. The key to appreciating glass after fishing faster and stiffer graphite is in the feel. "But graphite is more sensitive" I hear you say, well maybe you are right technically, but the feel of good glass is something different. I remember putting a fly reel onto an old broken Sabre 1-2kg (2-4lb) spin rod years ago. From memory I cut the bottom grip off and using the only fly line I then owned, a cheap double taper 7 weight, took it down to a local stream. Despite the heavy line, it laid that fly down in the most delicate manner. And the feel, I can't begin to describe the smoothness in which this rod loaded and unloaded. It was like magic. I just wish I had kept it, or at least was able to get another of these blanks. 

I forgot about this for a while, but at some point remembered how casting that rod made me feel. I never caught a fish on fly with it, but prior to my fly fishing days it took hundreds of fish (dozens of fresh and salt water species) on baits and lures. It felt great even with tiny fish hooked up. Most ultralight graphite rods need a decent fish before it feels like you have hooked something worthwhile. Despite the big bend a little fish would put in that little rod, it still managed to take larger fish up to maybe 8lbs or so.

This McFarlands life came to an early end. It did catch one little brown first though

I decided it was time to look into trying glass again while working with David Anderson in Sydney after chatting to him about the glass rods he owned. Some internet research turned up this article on the Trout Underground, as well as the useful and very informative Fiberglass Fly Rodders forum. I decided a McFarland 3wt Spruce Creek in the high end Presentation Grade would be my first proper glass rod - but it wasn't to be. I won't go into detail here, but to cut a long story short, I ended up with an 8' 5wt McFarland for a trip to New Zealand. It seemed nice, but before I had the opportunity to really get a feel for it I slipped over and the butt section hit a rock. The impact snapped the rod above the grip (picture above). I still need to send that rod back to Mike McFarland, and eventually get that 3wt from him that I originally wanted. 

The other resource that I look to on this topic is The Fiberglass Manifesto or TFM for short. It's a great blog which I read regularly and is worth checking out if you have a spare minute. It keeps anyone interested up to date with what is happening in the world of glass fly rods, and its author Cameron Mortenson is always willing to talk to those with an interested in glass rods. It turns out that TFM has just celebrated its 3rd birthday and now contains over 1000 posts! 

Thanks to a little experience with glass, and a lot of reading about it, I now have a number of glass blanks that I intend building in the near future, as well as some other beautiful finished modern glass rods that I have my eye on. One thing I will say is that this glass thing is addictive, so beware!


  1. I'd love to go glass exclusively but even the blanks are out of my budget.

  2. Which blanks are you looking at? There are some cheap ones around, and there is always the option of used modern glass rods or even vintage rods which are often very reasonably priced. There are always a few rods for sale on The Fiberglass Flyrodders Forum too.