When I first heard about the resurgence of fibreglass rods I imagined floppy, noodly fly rods like older rods that I started fly fishing with a while back. But not that far back that I ever experienced the old fibreglass rods.
I was sceptical, then some of my fishing buddies bought Epic fibreglass rod kits, I’ve watched them build them, win them at auctions, pick them up on second hand websites, one of them is even an Epic Ambassador. They love them so I tried them out. Beautiful and light and they didn’t have that noodly wobble that I expected. Fast Glass, but they were definitely a lot slower than the fast action carbon rods I have been using more recently. I managed to slow down my cast and shoot out decent line with minimal effort. I found this easier than I expected as I have a bit of a power casting problem which sounds like I’m about whip the dust out of a carpet. What I found is that the actual rod was working for me more than with carbon fibre rods.
I like the retro aspect of glass rods and the way the light shines through them. I’m a big fan of old stuff, not antiques as such but just vintage stuff that looks cool and in a way unique. I like the history behind them and wonder who used them before or what their story is.
Digging around second hand and junk shops is something I really enjoy. A couple of years ago I was in Kalk Bay, a quaint coastal town just outside Cape Town. Belle, my beloved wife, kept popping into the many women’s clothing shops with cheesecloth garments blowing in the wind at the door inviting her in. She can take ages and on this occasion there was a second hand shop next door. “I’ll be in there when you’re done, take your time” I chimed. One of the first things I do whenever I walk into an old shop like this is to look in the corners where long things are always stacked, usually cheap old spinning rods or huge sea rods, I have never found anything worthy but I always check. My eyes lit up when I saw a couple of aluminium tubes leaning in amongst a few cheap, old rods. I swear I heard my heart speed up as I unscrewed the cap, tilting the tube, a tartan bag emerged and I could feel a rod inside. I slid the rod out to find an old two piece Fenwick Fibreglass Feralite rod in really good nick. I put it together but held back from wiggling it around like a twit, actually I did. “I’ll take it”, after all, it was more of a novelty for R1,000 that may end up on a wall. There was a second one there in similar condition but thought it over kill so left it.
That night I had a good look at the rod, it was beautifully made with good windings and really solid but light feel to it. I particularly liked the reel seat which is made of some kind of copper/aluminium alloy without a blemish on it and the Fenwick logo is embossed in the down lock reel seat. The rod tube has a sticker with the name D. M. Robertson who must have been the previous owner, I wonder what he caught on it and where, or if he’s still casting a line somewhere? I’m sure many of you know the rods from father’s who fly fished.
I was so pleased with it that I needed to get the other one before it was sold, so I called a friend of mine in Kalk Bay to go and buy it for me. Now I had two and they were actually slightly different, a cool thing to pass onto my two sons one day.
I started searching the internet for info and found there was quite a lot and e-bay sometimes has a few for sale. They aren’t expensive but there are Vintage Fibreglass Fenwick collectors, books have been written. Fenwick’s in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s were very good rods and the company was forward thinking and were at the forefront developing carbon fibre rods.
The site http://fiberglassflyrodders.com/wiki/Fenwick enlightened me a lot about the rods I had found. Every rod has a serial number which tells you when the rod was made. Mine are H 60906 and H 64394 which according to a chart, were produced in 1967-68, a first generation Feralite rod. Yikes that’s the year after I was born.
The model number tells you more about the rod design, and in the table notes were comments like, “great rod,” “best dry fly rod ever made” and “very accurate,” which definitely got me thinking about casting it. Wouldn’t it just shatter or something? Then I read a comment saying, “you can fish them without fear,” as they were really tough. Something I remember at a Tim Rajeff demo on casting and his Echo range of glass rods where he was saying how strong they were as he doubled over a section of a glass rod to a point where carbon would have shattered. He also mentioned how great they were for tiring out fish during the fight, something I have heard repeated elsewhere.
So the next morning I was stringing a 6wt line matching the rod to test it on the lawn. Noodle. So I dropped down a line weight, better, but the 4wt line seemed to work best for me. I slowed down my cast and the rod did the work to shoot out tight loops with little effort. Right then, I’d fallen in love with the rod.
I like the comment about accuracy so I took the rod down to my local river to chase the super tricky carp of the Berg River. The line loaded quickly and my accuracy was good, which was perfect for this type of fishing where you need short, delicate accurate casts. But would this little stick be able to handle the beefy river carp I wanted to use it on? It sure did and lived up to all it’s expectations. The first carp I caught put a super bend into the rod but it handled perfectly. To cut a long story short, the Fenwick has become my go to carp rod for the Berg River. I matched it with an old Hardy Marquis multiplier reel which is great for winding in all the backing that these fish take. It sits rigged above the book shelf in our living room ready to go at all times.
Even though it is working for me, maybe it’s time for the Fenwick to hang on the wall, after all, the fast glass out there sure is pretty.
Photo Credits: Andre Van Wyk, Platon Trakoshis and Berg River by stander.