One of the neat things about writing The Fiberglass Manifesto is that I get to talk to a lot builders that are listed on the Fiberglass Fly Rod Makers page and over the summer, Shane Gray of Graywolf Rods mentioned that he was approaching 1,000 numbered fiberglass rod builds that have come out of his shop over the years.
He went on to talk about trying to make this build even more special by handpicking three favorite Steffen Brothers blanks and creating a set with builds which would be numbered #900, #950, and #1,000 that would be offered as a trio. We talked about chronicling these builds with a T.F.M. post and maybe rolling it out on both of our websites on the same morning.
Fast forward to 7:30 a.m. (I worked until 3:00 a.m. and was already up) this morning and this post was supposed to be synced with Shane since I was going to offer an added incentive of a T.F.M. swag package if these fly rods were purchased together by the same person.
For those who know Shane won’t be surprised but he’s impatient and published his post before I could get mine up. Eight minutes later he texted, “Sold already. The whole damn set.”
So, even though the fanfare is somewhat lost (but really does illustrate perfectly the watchful customer base that he has) I’m running this post as planned with a series of photographs of these builds coming together and a short interview as well. Oh, and I’m still planning on sending something special to the buyer of these fly rods.
I sent Shane an email yesterday with a few quickie questions and then gave him a call to make sure he was looking them over. He responded, “Yeah, I saw them but what I really like to do is build rods…”
He’s a man of few words who let’s his work speak for him which I guess I would too if I had his talent.
I know you’ve blown past 1,000 builds already (he was working on build 1,015 today) but what does it feel like to reach this milestone as a small shop fly rod builder?
It’s a great feeling. At times it’s hard to believe that I’ve built so many fiberglass rods…yet other times it feel like I’ve built many more!
What have you learned over the years and how have you seen the landscape change, specifically about fiberglass fly rods?
I’ve learned a lot by trial and error. I think that’s the best way for me to learn. Sourcing components is what I find to be my biggest challenge at times. Well, besides the mailing/shipping issues right now.
What still drives you as a small shop fly rod builder and what does a typical day look like?
Simply put, to survive. I build rods not only because I love it, but because it supports my family. This is my income. I feel blessed to be able to build fly rods for a living. They say if you do something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. That’s the way I feel and I look forward to my work every day.
A typical day is getting up between 5:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m., walking into the shop to prioritize what needs to be done, and then start to build. Oh yeah, lots and lots of coffee is involved too. There are several times throughout the day that I stop to answer phone calls, emails, and DM’s on Instagram.
I try to end my work day by 6:00 p.m. but that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes there are jobs that you start in the morning and can’t go back to until later in the evening. Being self employed, I hardly ever get time off. I work every day, Monday through Sunday. I try to take a few days off once or twice a year to take a road trip with my wife and I try to fit a little fishing in when I can.
What’s special about these three fly rod builds with #900, #950, and #1000, why these Steffen Brothers blanks, and who do you hope ends up with them?
First, these are special blanks and the 6′ two-weight (two-piece) and 7’3″ 2/3 (three-piece) are not as common as the 8′ 3/4 weight. I was able to build on several of the lighter Steffen Brothers blanks this year and I really think they are special.
Speaking of Steffen blanks, all that I’ve ever built on are superb. Straight as an arrow. Wonderful tapers and the amount of time and work in making these is impressive. If you saw the amount of labor Mark and Tim put into these blanks, it is outstanding.
What does today through “Build #2000” look like? Are there things you’ve wanted to do as a builder that you haven’t done yet?
Wow, that’s a tough one. The journey to Build 2,000 looks like a lot of work and also a lot of fun. I have several plans in the works, I would like to continue to offer my Trout Smiths branded rods which I am expanding the line up for this coming season. I have hope to complete the eight year project of building my new 1,000 square foot workshop and fingers crossed, we have it done by spring.
I would like to begin making my own blanks and that probably will happen in the near future. I’m glad to have friends that already have the knowledge and are willing to let me shadow and learn from. Then, of course, once I’m on my own, there will be lots more trial and error!
Any words of wisdom to share?
In short, go fishing. Oh, and buy yourself a rod that you’ll be proud of and then you’ll enjoy the experience that much more. Life is all about balance. We all have to work but you should like what you do. No many are able to say that they love their job but you should at least like it.
Rod building is not for someone who’s looking to get rich quick. It takes patience, a steady hand, persistence, and the willingness to put a lot of hours in. Will you ever build the perfect rod? Probably not…but you just have to keep trying. For me, maybe that happens on Build 2,000…