While it is true that fiberglass fly rods hit their peak between 1950 and 1970, they are making a comeback and they could just become your best fly rod for spring creeks and small streams.
A Short History of Fiberglass Fly Rods
Fiberglass was developed during World War Two to be used in aircraft applications.
Fiberglass fly rods were first made by wrapping impregnated fiberglass cloth over a wooden core then wrapping the rod in cellophane. It was then backed to bond the layers. Later in the development of the process a steel mandrel was used because it was reusable.
Steel mandrels are still used today to make both fiberglass and graphite fly rods.
In the '50s, fiberglass fly rods still did not compare well to bamboo when it came to performance and action. If they could afford them serious fly fishers still went with bamboo.
In the '60s, a few companies such as Winston, Orvis and Hardy started amking fiberglass fly rods that could compete with bamboo. As a result fiberglass rods soon started to take market share away from bamboo. Fiberglass rods could be mass produced using less skilled workers. Fiberglass was also lower in cost and required less maintenance.
In the '70s, graphite was introduced (stemming from the aerospace industry) and it soon started to replace fiberglass in fly rods.
Graphite fly rods were lighter in overall weight than fiberglass. The drop in demand for fiberglass rods soon led to large companies dropping production.
New rod designs made in the last few decades are now being used to make improvement to the fiberglass rod. There is a growing interest in the fiberglass rod and even the large manufacturers are beginning to pay attention.
Quality fiberglass rods are attracting more attention today for the same reasons they have in the past.
Read on to learn about the advantages and disadvantages as well as some of our fiberglass fly rod recommendations.
Advantages of Fiberglass Fly Rods
There are lots of reasons why fiberglass fly rods are making a comeback among fly fishers today.
•More durable than bamboo and graphite, making them a great travel rod. If you are walking rough ground and bushwacking along a stream bank, you can relax more than if you were carrying a delicate and expensive bamboo or graphite rod. It would certainly ruin my day to break a $1600 bamboo fly rod.
•Like bamboo, fiberglass rods are best used in the shorter lengths (under 8-feet). That is not to say you can’t find a nice fiberglass rod over eight feet, but the shorter lengths is where they really shine.
•2- to 4-weight fiberglass rods are a great choice for small spring creek and stream fly fishing where a stealthy approach and presentation is a must. The short to medium casting range used on these waters is where you will catch most trout, anyways.
•Most of the lighter weight fiberglass rods have a slow action. See fly rod action for more information. The slower action rods let you feel the rod load. This is especially helpful for beginning casters.
•They are more affordable. You can purchase a good fiberglass fly rod for under $250.
Disadvantages of Fiberglass Rods
Of course, there are some disadvantages to fiberglass fly rods to consider before purchasing one.
•Overall weight is heavier than graphite fly rods.
•Graphite is a better choice for longer rods used for lakes and larger streams where you may encounter wind. A 5-weight graphite fly rod may be a better choice for these situations.
•Fiberglass is a slower material by its very nature. If you are looking for a fast-acting fly rod, graphite may be a better choice for you.
Modern Fiberglass Fly Rods Around $300
• Diamondback Meeker Glass Fly Rods $253- This rod comes in weights 2 to 6. Burled hardwood rod seat, and diamond alignment markers make this rod appealing and functional. Durable, with solid design features and good action make this rod a good choice for chasing trout in small mountain streams, while still offering the ability to cover ground with your cast and holding on to fighting fish.
•Redington Butter Stick $250 - Made from high modulus T-Glass, this rod has enough flex and slow-action to provide delicate presentations. This rod is available in 1- to 8-weights, but really you should be looking at these for 5-weight and below.$250 may be a bit steep, so keep an eye out for it on sale.
• Echo Glass $249 - This hand-made(and painted) rod is available in weights 2 to 5. They have a medium-fast action that can help create some distance on larger streams, after you have dialed in your casting.
Modern Fiberglass Fly Rods Over $300
If you think fiberglass rods are something you only find in a cheap sporting goods store for $39.95, check out these makers.
•Steffen Bros $470 - Steffen's rods are made from high module S-glass, which gives you a light, strong and durable fly rod. Each is individually made and finished. These glass rods have a medium to slow action and are great for roll casting, close-in fishing, and tippet protection. They come in line weights 2 to 7, and have numerous grip and hardware customizations.
•Orvis SuperFine Glass $429 - Orvis is back in the fiberglass market with these Made in Vermont rods. This rod has a smooth and slow action. It is made from S2 fiberglass, and has hard chrome stripping guides and a silver reel seat. It is available from 2- to 8-weight.
•Scott F Series $695 - Available in 2- to 4- weights, the Scott F Series has been an incredible fly rod for adventurous fly fishers. Hand-made, with a full flex, slow-action and medium recovery you can present a variety of flies perfectly in your small streams.
Vintage Fiberglass Fly Rods
Good quality fiberglass fly rods that have been made in the past can still be found. These can be a very nice find, especially if they are still in their sock and tube.
The more mass-produced models can often be had for a song. These are common at garage sales and flea markets. Be sure to check out our page on buying used fly rods.
Some names to watch for include Phillipson, Garcia, Browning, Fenwick, Conolon, Shakespeare, Wright & McGill, and Hottocks-Ibbotson (H&I).
If you like spring creeks, and small streams then fiberglass fly rods are worth looking into. Some claim that a good fiberglass rod is better than a mediocre bamboo rod, making them a lot of fun. You will not be disappointed.
For further research into fiberglass flyrods I recommend the Fiberglass Flyrodders web forum.