Until one of my good friends became a custom rod builder, I was squarely under the assumption that having a custom fly rod built was a luxury intended specifically for grey-haired men who spent their evenings sitting in multi-million dollar fishing lodges drinking $200 bottles of scotch. In other words, guys who have money to burn on having a fly rod built to their exacting preferences. While this can certainly be the case, I've since learned that having a rod built to your custom specifications is not only for blue bloods with swollen bank accounts. In fact, having the rod of your dreams built by a custom rod maker can not only yield a rod that you've helped design every aspect of, but can also save you a considerable amount of money in the process.
To be clear, I'm not talking about custom bamboo rods built on rod-maker designed and crafted blanks. That's something I know nothing about and still, probably ignorantly, think of as a luxury confined to the aforementioned grey-haired blue blood crowd. I'm talking about that Sage One, Orvis Helios or R.L. Winston Boron IIx you've been eying up, but have been reluctant to drop $700-900 on. What if you could have that One or Helios, with custom designed aesthetics and hand-selected components and backed by the same warranty as you'd get buying from your local fly shop or online, all while saving as much as a hundred dollars or more in the process? This might not happen with every rod, but it is often the case.
The reality is that many custom rod builders deliver an extremely high quality rod, built on blanks from some of the best rod companies in the business, that are not only designed to the customer's specifications, but that actually end up being adorned with higher quality components (reel seats, cork handles, guides, etc) than the rods that ship directly from the manufacturer.
Mixed throughout this article are photos of a Sage TXL 7'6" 3-weight rod that I had built for this year's small stream fishing. I've been wanting a 3-weight for years, since my 5 weight is far to big for most of the small spring creeks and mountain freestone streams I fish, but have been unwilling to invest the money in a quality rod. Enter our own George Costa, who took up rod building many years ago. Working with George, I helped design the appearance of the cork handle, chose the color of the thread wraps and accents, picked the guides and reel seat etc. A few weeks later, George delivered my shiny new TXL 3-weight, and at a considerable savings compared to what I would have spent going non-custom.
So what's the point? Partially, the point is that I love my new rod. I love the way it casts. I love the way it makes a 6" fish play like a 15" stocker on my 5-weight. I love the way it looks because I'm a sucker for pretty fly rods. I love the fact that it's one of a kind and I was intimately involved in its creation. While this may sound like a load of crap to some of you, to many others, it won't. The rest of the point is that if this sort of thing appeals to you, have a look into custom rod builders in your area. Ask your local fly shop or on online forums for personal recommendations. You could end up with that fly rod you've been lusting over for a steal.
Oh, if you want George to build you a fly rod, you can reach him via our contact form.