At our first meeting on a day out at the invitation of guide Cameron McGregor, rod-maker Nick Taylor tells me he hates “broomsticks with overweight lines that any fool can chuck out there” when I ask him why he got into building his own glass fly rods. Even though he’s just perfectly described me and how I fish big water, it’s hard not to agree when he hands me a sweet little 7’3 3-weight he’s recently built on a bright white Kabuto blank.
I know the Kabuto well from a previous review of a Valecreek Rodworks build on the same blank that I fished with for a few days last year and I remain impressed with the silky-smooth, slow action that simply begs for a small stream, a dry fly and some fat little trout to bend it in half.
Nick’s masters degree in technology in design from Harvard appears not to have been time wasted when looking at the exceptional build quality and details in his work. Starting from the back, there’s a fairly straightforward up-locking nickel-silver reel seat with a two-tone timber spacer that leads to the unique and perfectly balanced and proportioned grip. It’s a mix of composite and normal cork rings that’s not new in custom rods, but divided by thin, dark blood-red spacers that Nick tells me are a type of native gumtree bark. The overall look is absolutely amazing, very unique and sits very well with the bright red wraps at the guides.
Detail in cork is obviously a thing with Nick if the two Epics he shows me next are anything to go by. Both these rods—an 8’ 580 S2 ‘Fastglass’ five-weight and a 376 7’6 three-weight—have the same mix of cork styles in their grips and the same attention to detail in the build.
Seeing he showed up with at least a half dozen custom rods I had to ask Nick what his top three favourite glass builds were:
“Tough question and very much depends on the water that’s going to be fished. Having said that, I would go with the Epic 580 S2 Fastglass from Swift. It is a very good allrounder that you would struggle to match in carbon. Matched with the right line, it is delicate enough to cast a small dry in close quarters but will also fling a dry out long to a distant riser. Not much good for high-sticking at eight feet long, but that never bothered me at all. Dry dropper and heavy nymph is no problem and I fished this rod on the Delaware River in the US from a drift boat for big browns with streamers; not ideal but manageable.
My number two rod would be the Epic 376 that I have fished on the Buckland and Ovens Rivers with a few times. At 7’6″, it is perfect for small streams with dries, very accurate casting, small to large dries and will even do dry dropper with a light nymph. This blank is no noodle as many glass three-weights can be. Line choice is important again, being glass, so you don’t want to overload the rod.
Number three, and perhaps equal to number two, is a recent build on a blank I purchased over a year ago. This is the Steffen Bros. three-four weight 7’6″ three-piece. Not quite as fast as the Epic 376 (it is medium-slow) but equally capable, amazing feel with small dries. I like it as a three-weight. Again, this is dependent on the line choice. Don’t overload the blank. The Steffen is very smooth and a perfect small stream close-quarters rod.
I have a forth choice and that is the Kabuto three-weight that you carried around. I refuse to call it a noodle as this diminishes its qualities as a small stream rod. It is a sublime slow-action rod that will outfish any three-weight on tight water. I love this rod because you have to slow right down and take your time and I find this just gets you in sync with water you are fishing.”
Though Nick has only been building custom rods for clients, he’s not new to rod making and tells me:
“I have always made my own rods. Before getting into fly fishing, I made many spin and beach rods over the past thirty years. My grandfather taught me. The rod lathe was a spool of thread on a pencil held between the toes with the rod blank spun on the top of your thighs. I often think I’ll make a fly rod this way one day to honour my granddad.”
Besides custom rods, Nick also makes stunning timber landing nets that have a solid handmade look that speaks a lifetime of pride in ownership while landing trout. Depending on size, types of wood and whether or not you want a fly set in resin in the handle, the nets cost between $160 and $250. They take around ten days from order.
Nick can build on a wide range of blanks including stuff from Epic, Kabuto, Stephen Bros and Blue Halo, and depending on the hardware selected and final spec, a finished rod costs between $600 and $800. Epics are his most common build.
Get in touch with Nick through Instagram or email direct at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Also, a huge thanks to Cameron McGregor of River Escapes for the introduction to Nick and a great day out on the river. I highly recommend him for anything cod or trout fishing, from tiny water to the epic rivers and lakes of Northeast Victoria and southern New South Wales.