“It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” So said Mark Twain, well before internet forums made it particularly sage advice.
A long while back, and not for the first time, I almost removed any lingering doubt during one of those arguments on the Flylife forum where reputations, even lives, where at stake, but pressed on regardless because if ignorance is bliss, winning an online argument in spite of it is blisser.
I was defending my opinion, at the first re-birth of glass, that a particular rod was little more than a flaccid noodle in pretty silk wraps and that it would struggle to place a fly much beyond the other side of a short legged step-across stream.
Then some boffin comes on and asks what sort of glass it was made of. “Fibre-bloody-glass, you dick” was on the tips of my fingers, ready to slam through the keyboard, down the wi-fi and into his very soul, but I didn’t get the comment up before my antagonist went on to kindly, and at length, explain the two most common types of glass used for fly rods and the differences they made to a fly rods action.
Well, there you go! It seems that just like country music, there are two kinds of fibreglass!
If I had known about and read Fibreglass Fly Rods by Victor R. Johnson Jr before the argument I might have answered ’S’ glass, ‘E’ glass and even thrown out ’T’ glass’ and looked like a complete smart-ass, possibly an expert or at the least, not a complete tool.
From its beginning, the book connects itself to the do-it-yourself glass rod revolution going on with a foreword by one of its most noted modern proponents: Cameron Mortenson from the Fibreglass Manifesto Blog. In the foreword, when speaking about his journey into fibreglass fly fishing, Cameron writes: “One of the early purchases I made was a copy of Fibreglass Fly Rods and many evenings were spent reading and referencing information from this book. The well-researched knowledge of these pages went a long way in bringing me up to speed on many of the heritage fly rod brands, taper designers and rod makers.”
The author, Victor R. Johnson Jr is a civil engineer and this shows through in the technical nature of the book. It dives into the detail of the materials and processes of rod building and leaves nothing out. From the first chapter I learned more than enough about the types of glass and resins used in fly rods to save myself in any future ‘discussions’ online and could have confidently put the book down as the perfect half-assed internet expert, but then I got sucked into the historical information and was lost for a couple days.
The book, in its hundred-plus black-and-white pages, covers everything about fibreglass fly rod manufacturing from its heyday, when glass was the latest and greatest, to its more recent rebirth about fifteen years ago.
There are chapters on how glass rod blanks are made, the history of the material, current major rod manufacturers, providers of rod components and some excellent historical information including some of the original advertisements for glass rods when they were cutting-edge technology.
The book is also great resource for someone looking to get into custom glass rod building with a very comprehensive section, including contact details, on rod blank builders including our own CTS and EPIC from New Zealand and many more from the US and Japan whose blanks are now being used worldwide and are the cornerstone of so many great custom-made rods.
Got an old glass rod lying around from back in the day? There’s a price guide listing for some of the better known and more common secondhand rods.
Fibreglass Fly Rods is a wealth of information and a must-have for anyone interested in fibreglass rods, either custom-built, secondhand or off the shelf.
In small stream fly fishing—my favourite kind—fibreglass rods are an absolute joy to fish with and understanding them at depth—thanks to this book—has only increased my love of them.
A big thanks to Callum Ross at Indi River Rods for connecting me with Victor and making this review possible. See my Indi River 7’ #3 Ijuin Yomogi rod review here.
The book is available directly from Victor at direct here and costs $30 (us) not including postage.
The Fibreglass Manifesto is an excellent blog, one of the best in fly fishing, and a great place to keep up with everything to do with glass rods.