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Post 07 Jun 2011, 13:08 • #1 
Master Guide
Joined: 11/17/10
Posts: 726
Location: Riversdale Southland New Zealand
It had long been my belief that the local Kilwell factory here in NZ was set up by Garcia Conolon in the late 1960's. Some of you may have visited here and seen or tried a Kilwell rod yourselves or even taken one home, they were a long time guide favourite here in graphite ... but out of the price range of us mere mortals!

But it wasnt until I stumbled across an old catalogue from Kilwell (1977-78) that I saw Conolon rods being advertised as being made here in NZ. Up till now all the rods I have seen were Kilwell branded only.
So I thought perhaps the rods were assembled here from imported blanks, but the blanks are advertised in the catalogue as NZ made ... everything from boat masts to squash rackets.

My quest to find one of these Kiwi Conolon rods led me to this ...

ImageImageImageImageImageImage

The Kiwi in the circle was a well known symbol of "New Zealand Made" and would not be seen on an assembled from imported blank rod.
Kilwell- Abu places it early in the local glass rod manufacture here, (the factory was set up in 1968).
The Custom Line name went on through a few generations of Kilwell rods and was the name of a grade or line of rods which could include bait casting to big game as well as fly rods, the numbering changed from model to model of each line ... the next Custom Line fly rods would have been 53-*** and so on.

The word above Power Glass is "Spiraflex"

So how does it compare with an American built rod of the late 60's to early 70's? I have never seen one of those.


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Post 17 Nov 2020, 11:31 • #2 
New Member
Joined: 08/23/16
Posts: 7
Location: UK

Just joined the spiraflex club.
How does it fish? 1 line weight above better or is the suggested rating the way to go?

All the best, Steve


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Post 19 Nov 2020, 02:30 • #3 
Sport
Joined: 10/14/19
Posts: 25
Location: Tauranga, New Zealand
Just a bit of Conolon history from New Zealand. Kilwell established a factory at Rotorua New Zealand around 1966 to produce under licence from the US, Conolon blanks to the stringent standards of their counterparts. Kilwell claimed that because their production was on a smaller scale, quality control was higher than in the US. Generally the rods were made between #6 and #10, but for a period they made their 52-90, in my opinion the most desirable model, a two piece 7'6" #5. Steve's rod above, is the Kilwell Customline 54-93, a four piece 7'9" "backpacker model" manufactured around 1975/76, rated a #6, which in those days retailed for NZ$32-60. In the early days Kilwell were involved with Abu and Garcia. I own more than a dozen Kilwell branded glass rods, and I consider them to be of a very high standard, especially the Customline Spiraflex series. They also marketed a Blueline series which were budget rods and featured fewer guides, but they were built on the same high quality blanks. Kilwell later concentrated their efforts on carbon and the their beautiful glass rod production faded into history. Incidentally, Kilwell was also licenced to build Fenwick rods on the US blanks, initially Feralites and later HMG carbons. So if you are lucky enough to come across a Kilwell glass rod in the US, in my opinion, you have yourself a treasure. Cheers


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Post 02 Dec 2020, 01:25 • #4 
New Member
Joined: 01/02/17
Posts: 3
Location: New Zealand, Waikato
Just as a matter of interest...the majority of glass rods here in NZ are obviously longer/heavier traditional line weights. But were there any in the sub 8'6" 6wt category? I actually have an Kilwell Safari (fly/spin) 7'6" which throws a WF6 with absolute authority...but I just can't seem to find true fly rods in the mentioned category. (I do have a Scott 7'6" 4wt which I built on a blank left behind by Harry Wilson when he visited here back in the early 80's)


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Post 02 Dec 2020, 03:40 • #5 
Sport
Joined: 10/14/19
Posts: 25
Location: Tauranga, New Zealand
Greetings from the other side of the Kaimai Range Troutrecce. To the best of my knowledge, the only Kilwell manufactured glass fly rod under #6 is the forementioned Kilwell 52-90. The description from the 1973/1974 and 1975/1976 Kilwell Catalogues describe it as follows - "2 piece 7ft 6in. Dry fly action. Lightweight blank construction gives this model the delicate but positive feel most needed on small water dry fly fishing. Effortless accurate casts do get results and this model is highly recommended for the small stream angler. Agate tip and butt rings plus deep chromed stainless steel snake guides. Recommended AFTMA line weight is 5." This model is perhaps the rarest Kilwell Customline fly rod, I was lucky to find one on our NZ auction site and my friend who is also registered on this forum found another on the same site a couple of weeks ago. Prices are generally realistic at around NZ$25-00 to $30-00. The 52-90 is a delightful casting rod but in the period it was made, heavier glass rods were preferred by NZ anglers. Soon after, the carbon era arrived and glass rods slipped into oblivion. I will purchase every 52-90 I can, to make sure they are passed onto those of us who appreciate and prefer glass. Interesting that the lightest rod that appeared in the 1977/1978 Kilwell catalogue was the 52-100, a 2 piece 8ft 4in #6. It would be good to catch up Troutrecce. Cheers


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