There has been a fiberglass fly rod revolution of late, driven by people such as Cameron Mortenson from The Fiberglass Manifesto and Carl McNeil from Swift Fly Fishing. Social media has been buzzing with #glassisnotdead and thousands of glass wielding rebels have been posting and sharing pics, supporting their passion for fiberglass fly rods.
The advantages that fiberglass fly rods have over graphite fly rods plus its retro/cool factor are some of the reasons behind many fly fishermen going over to the dark side, to where the glass is always greener. The other attraction is that it is now easy to build your own fiberglass glass rod, with Swift Fly Fishing now offering complete DIY Epic fly rod kits which you can order online and then build yourself at home.
Swift Fly Fishing in Wanaka, New Zealand has taken the fiberglass fly rod industry by storm with their Epic fiberglass fly rods by offering some of the best fiberglass fly rods available today. The owner, Carl McNeil is also a certified master caster and the owner of On the Fly productions which has been responsible for fly fishing films such as Once in a Blue Moon, Casts that catch fish and ITU’s Bones to name a few.
Swift’s Epic S2 Fast Glass blanks are made using a proprietary S2 Glass Composite, which makes it near indestructible. There is nothing else available that can offer you the same combination of strength and finesse. The unidirectional fiber layup, which aligns the fibers longitudinally along the blank, ensures that you have the lifting power of a rod in a heavier line class yet it is easy loading and very smooth to cast.
We decided that we had to explore this exciting revolution in fiberglass fly rods, so we settled on a Swift Epic 580 ready to wrap fiberglass fly rod kit from Swift to tackle our first rod building project. The reason we chose the 580 is that we had a feeling that it would be the perfect fly rod for some local destinations such as Lesotho and Sterkfontein for Trout and Yellowfish. The 580 Epic was developed and tested in the land of the Kiwi, specifically for New Zealand conditions (where the big fish are) which also makes it the perfect rod to take along when travelling to the North or South Island in pursuit of those legendary big bad browns (we are eagerly waiting for an invitation).
So we logged onto www.swiftflyfishing.com and ordered our Epic 580 ready to wrap kit, and a week later it arrived on our doorstep. In the kit you will find all the hardware that you would need in order to build your new Epic fly rod. The kit consists of the best of fly rod components available today, which has been specifically designed to work together in Epic harmony. Also included in the kit is an easy to understand and comprehensive Epic custom fly rod build book which takes you through the rod building process, step by step. The build book will also tell you which household items you might need before you can start your build. Some of these items include masking tape, a craft knife/razor blade, a measuring tape and denatured alcohol.
This comprehensive kit is shipped in a durable cardboard box which has two support wedges inside which you can fold in half and then prop up to support your blank whilst wrapping the silk and applying the epoxy. This is a very nice feature and it eliminates the need for a fancy rod building jig. It is advised (but not necessary) that you buy or build a rod drying motor which makes life easier to cure the epoxy after applying it to the wrapped silk. You can use a BBQ rotisserie motor which is inexpensive and available to purchase at most hardware stores. We opted for this option and it worked like a charm.
The chances are good that you have considered building your own fly rod at some stage, but most people are put off by the idea that it is both difficult and very time consuming to build your own fly rod. That is what we previously thought as well, but we were proven wrong.
The most important things are to read the instructions carefully and to be patient. Also you will need some beer/single malt/ good coffee and your favourite tunes playing in the background. If you aren’t sure about something rather read the manual again until you have eliminated any doubt in your mind. It also doesn’t hurt to practice a bit before taking on the real deal. You can practice your silk wraps and applying the epoxy on the rear of the rod’s butt section, where you will later fix the reel seat to the blank with epoxy.
Your initial impressions might be that you will mess it up horribly, but if you follow the step by step instructions in the Epic build book, you can’t go wrong. Plus there are many fly rod building tutorials available on YouTube for any additional help.
The rod building process can be broken down into 7 steps:
1. Find the fiberglass blank’s natural spine (optional).
2. Measure and mark out your guide’s positions on the blank.
3. Epoxy the reel seat and cork grip to the butt section of the blank.
4. Wrap the guides onto the blank, making sure to align them as you do.
5. Glue the tip top to the blank and then do the final alignments of the guides.
6. Epoxy your wraps and let them dry.
7. Go fish and #doepicshit.
So you see; it’s not that difficult to build your own fly rod. The satisfaction you will get from fly fishing with your own hand built fly rod will make the time and effort spent, seem like a breeze. It will probably not be the last fly rod that you will build yourself, as it can become quite addictive once you get comfortable with it.
So which Epic build is next for us? Well, hopefully we can get our hands on a 888 ready to wrap kit for some Tigers and estuary fly fishing later in the year. But then again, a 476 would also be awesome for some back country Trout in the Drakensberg and smallstream Yellowfish. So you’ll just have to wait and see!
To conclude, fiberglass fly rods are a lot like beards. They have always been there and they have always been cool (just like craft beer, ground coffee and rock and roll music). Not everyone likes them sure, but then again not everyone likes fly fishing either… Just keep in mind that you get fiberglass fly rods and then you get Epic fiberglass fly rods; we strongly suggest you try the latter.
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