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Post 18 Nov 2023, 15:30 • #1 
Master Guide
Joined: 06/07/12
Posts: 863
Location: US-CA
The Holy Grail thread here got me thinking bigger picture about the state of our chosen corner of the fly fishing world. Tom (jgestar)’s post on that thread called out Dennis Franke’s catalogs marking the start of the Fiberglass Revival. This caused me to fall down the FFR rabbit hole as I poked through the archives here (which go back to … June 2005?) and found some great content on the topic going back nearly 20 years. All of the the reading got me curious regarding your (collective) opinions on origins and current state of the glass revival. I think most us probably agree that there was a glass revival, so I’ll take that as given.

My first question: When do you think the revival started? Mid 1990’s? Seems like a number of highly regarded rods date from that period (Steffen Brothers, the black Scott F, Hardy Perfection Glass, et al.).

Second question: What do you think started the revival? Tom (jgestar) submitted that it was Dennis Franke’s catalogs. I might suggest that it was the rise of the internet, which enabled the creation of demand (e.g., through the rise of online communities like this one) and the supply (e.g., by enabling easy online person-to-person sales of vintage and new rods).

Final question: Is there a vintage/modern dividing line? I have a handful of rods that I think of as modern (black Hardy Perfection, black Scott F, and LLBean/Timberline), but may have become (like me) vintage when I wasn’t paying attention.

Interested in your thoughts…


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Post 18 Nov 2023, 17:19 • #2 
Guide
Joined: 03/02/14
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Location: US-peripatetic
I agree—I think the biggest factor was internet sites like this one and TFM. However imo, the presence of (at the time) up-&-coming boutique builders at fly fishing shows gave many folks the opportunity to test cast the newer glass. Buying up older classic glass came a little later, after there was a resurgence of interest in fiberglass. Like you, I may be a little old to know the demarcation line between new & (what’s now considered) vintage glass.


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Post 18 Nov 2023, 20:30 • #3 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 06/16/05
Posts: 2534
Location: Georgia
FWIW, I’ve always considered the exact, precise date of demarcation from vintage to modern rods to be “somewhere in the early or mid 1980s.” There’s probably some industry sales numbers, but sometime in there graphite slipped past glass in sales, units and/or $, although I suspect it was more of a leap past. At the end of the decade, when I got my first rod, it was glass, but only because that was what was in the budget Martin kit I bought. I don’t recall the market specifics, but my kit was $20 and was about the lowest cost out there, and I think graphite kits were already well represented. So somewhere in that “exact, precise date,” glass ceased to be the standard for supplying an additional rod to an established fisherman, wasn’t in any manufacturer’s plans for serious rods going forward, and was probably relegated to budget rods.

Things seem to have gotten better in the 1990s, when I think Scott introduced new glass models, Steffen got going, Glastech as mentioned , Diamondglass came out, etc., and even new Fenwick-branded rods came into the market about 1999. I think of all those as modern rods, and suspect they were partly in response to those who were looking for graphite alternatives, but didn’t necessarily want to spring for cane. In part though, I consider them modern because of a self-centered evaluation; I could have bought them up when they were new.

BTW, this board dates to earlier than 2005. I think I bought one of the new Fenwicks in1999, and it had some discussion on our precursor, which was actually just a separate glass forum on the (cane) Classic Fly Rod Forum. We split off as a separate board shortly after that, had a software change or two, and then a big one (in 2006?) that resulted in the loss of virtually everything that came before (Tom might have been able to salvage some of the prior content). But the 2005-2006 timeframe is interesting because it seems that’s about the beginning of the rise of “artisanal” makers who probably did as much as any to get interest in new glass offerings going, although that’s of course always a chicken/egg blended question. But it was that interest that probably fueled the entry of more corporate interests to get back, or into, glass (Orvis, Echo, etc.).

Someone with better memory than mine can fill in all the details I’ve missed or gotten wrong.


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Post 18 Nov 2023, 21:08 • #4 
Guide
Joined: 08/11/21
Posts: 205
Location: Tucson, AZ
From my limited experience running a fly shop in a far-flung southwestern corner of the flyfishing universe, late 90's to approx 2010..there was very little interest in the industry, with my customers at least, until after that time.

While the Steffen Bros are in Arizona and were making glass rods, only Scott had fiberglass models in the catalogues of the major manufacturers. Lamiglass had some glass rods.


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Post 19 Nov 2023, 00:50 • #5 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 09/18/09
Posts: 5551
Location: Relocated to the Drought Stricken West.
I think the Fiberglass revival has run it's course. The need to evangelize fiberglass has passed. People may not like it, but know its there.

I separate out the Fiberglass Era into: 1950-1980 where fiberglass was the material (ok, maybe until 1973, I don't want to try and find a real date) for performance fly rods. Fiberglass rods were available to the general public. Sometime in the 1980's, fiberglass switched from being the norm to being used only in the cheapest of rods or specialty rods.

1980-2010 Performance Glass existed in niche markets Winston Retro, Scott, lamiglass blanks
2005 on. The inernet and this forum created a market for like minded people and new blanks started coming out. Steffen may have been around before (like lamiglas) but started coming into its own. CTS allowed people to get into the market (McFarland and Epic) and then these groups moved glass forward. The Japanese market developed on its own as well.


The Glass revival was big enough to hit the main stream with rods from Scott coming back, as well as Butterstick, Orvis, ...
Any pent up demand and novelty is now over. Whether the mainstream makers continue with glass, I don't know, but as a revival, I feel it's over. What comes next, I'm not sure. Maybe a slow graphite revival?


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Post 19 Nov 2023, 05:04 • #6 
Administrator
Joined: 01/10/06
Posts: 7799
Location: Holly Springs, NC
motosacto wrote:
My first question: When do you think the revival started? Mid 1990’s? Seems like a number of highly regarded rods date from that period (Steffen Brothers, the black Scott F, Hardy Perfection Glass, et al.).

The 80s were the dark days for glass. The only major companies still making glass fly rods were Lamiglas, Shakespeare (Ugly Stix), and Wright & McGill (my first glass fly rod was a yellow Eagle Claw bought for $10 in the late 80s). Graphite dominated the US market. For a short time, even Scott stopped making glass.

In the early 90s Dennis Franke learned about glass from the best mentor possible - Russ Peak. But Franke did not have the equipment to make his own blanks. One blank maker he worked with was Mark Steffen. Steffen had made and sold his own graphite rods for a decade, but Franke got him to roll S-glass fly rod blanks (which eventually became Steffen's material of choice). Franke's Glastech company was short lived, but his rods (and catalogs) brought excitement back to fiberglass.

motosacto wrote:
Second question: What do you think started the revival? Tom (jgestar) submitted that it was Dennis Franke’s catalogs. I might suggest that it was the rise of the internet, which enabled the creation of demand (e.g., through the rise of online communities like this one) and the supply (e.g., by enabling easy online person-to-person sales of vintage and new rods).

Fly rods are tangible objects. Without a supply of fiberglass fly rods no revival could have occurred. In the late 90s/early 2000s the supply of glass increased due to three main sources:
  • First a few established rod companies still sold glass. Lamiglas factory rods and rod blanks were available at reasonable cost. New Eagle Claw yellow glass fly rods could be purchased for small money. In addition, Fenwick marketed a line of Feralite knock-offs in the late 90s and REC/Diamondback began selling DiamondGlass around 2000. The Fenwicks were less expensive than the classic Feralites, but they were mostly decent rods. The DiamondGlass rods were excellent. However, both Fenwick and DGlass overproduced, resulting in a flood of glass sold at deep discount in the early/mid 2000s.
  • Second, eBay became the 24-7-365 discount vintage fly rod shop. Sellers happily listed a wide range of collectibles at low prices, including fishing rods and reels. As luck would have it, in 1996 Vic Johnson Sr. & Vic Johnson Jr. published Fiberglass Fly Rods, which became the de facto vintage rod collector's bible. With readily available Fenwick/Dglass/vintage rods there were many options for a curious angler to try glass on the cheap.
  • Third, custom rod builders and small rod companies once again began designing glass rods because they felt fiberglass was the best material for the job. The leading names on that list would be Mark Steffen, Mike McFarland, Hardy, and Scott. For custom fly rods, Steffen and McFarland were available at a nice price. The Scott Fibertouch and Hardy Perfection were a bit more expensive, but still sold for less than high end graphite or cane. Fly fishermen with a longing for the best gear now had viable fiberglass options.

motosacto wrote:
Final question: Is there a vintage/modern dividing line? I have a handful of rods that I think of as modern (black Hardy Perfection, black Scott F, and LLBean/Timberline), but may have become (like me) vintage when I wasn’t paying attention.

I draw the vintage/modern line in the mid 80s. Going into the 80s, all fishing rod production was based on technology perfected for fiberglass materials in the 60s/70s. Since the 80s, the widespread adoption of graphite continues to push composite material manufacturing in new directions. The new technology developed for graphite production became the new technology for fiberglass too.


Tom


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Post 19 Nov 2023, 06:18 • #7 
Piscator
Joined: 08/10/05
Posts: 19032
Location: downtown Bulverde, Texas
Fisher offered glass through the 80s, also Sage and Winston.
The darkest days for glass was when it was most needed - Graphite IV - to about the time this forum began - we went to Japan for new glass rods, and Steffen was the US boutique maker. Ask Andy - Diamondglass shut down US production.

Can't ask for a better dividing line than the millennium.
In fact, 2000 was the year Winston stopped offering glass on the last page of their catalog (Sage stopped a decade earlier).

The revival began in 2007 when TFO offered their first glass rod - not because it was a great rod - it wasn't - but a landmark event that opened the eyes of USM rod purveyors and buyers.
viewtopic.php?f=2&t=3722

In 2023, you still have to go to Japan to get a glass casting rod. (long-term exception is salt e-glass, e.g., Crowder in FL).
What's called glass in USM is at best a graphite blend.


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Post 19 Nov 2023, 09:19 • #8 
Guide
Joined: 08/11/20
Posts: 221
Location: Ontario, Canada
carlz wrote:
I think the Fiberglass revival has run it's course. The need to evangelize fiberglass has passed. People may not like it, but know its there.


I would agree with this, the hype seems to have waned. When I speak with folks not tuned into internet forums such as this one, graphite still seems to be the top choice of material. However, I recently built a rod for a friend and he was shocked to find out it was glass (one of Shane's Rodmaker S-glass, which is fairly stout and quick). It's now his favorite rod and he's diving down the glass rabbit hole.

carlz wrote:
What comes next, I'm not sure. Maybe a slow graphite revival?


Perhaps it's already started, with the return of Sage's Trout LL and now their R8, as well as the continued popularity of Scott's G series and Winston's Pure lineup. Boutique makers such as McFarland, Steffen, Greywolf, and the Montana Bros. focus on fuller-flexing graphite as well.


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Post 19 Nov 2023, 09:23 • #9 
Guide
Joined: 08/11/21
Posts: 205
Location: Tucson, AZ
The first time I heard customers excited about a new glass rod was the Diamondglass, then Butterstick from Redington, whenever they came out.

i did not even stock the Scott glass rod, as it was about $400, which did not make sense to me at the time. And the black finish, which was ugly.

Some of us saw it coming...but am now gratified to say, like Rock&Roll, it's here to stay


Last edited by Phil-a-Flex on 19 Nov 2023, 18:30, edited 1 time in total.

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Post 19 Nov 2023, 09:52 • #10 
Master Guide
Joined: 06/07/12
Posts: 863
Location: US-CA
Great read on a Sunday morning with a cup of coffee.

Tom, you make a compelling case. If you had to pick a first “Revival Rod”, would it be a Dennis Franke S-glass model rolled by Mark Steffen?


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Post 19 Nov 2023, 13:08 • #11 
Guide
Joined: 06/08/16
Posts: 327
Location: US-MI
Interest in collecting early examples of fiberglass fly rods and chronicling their development started for me in early 1991 when Henry Shakespeare shared his stories of working with Dr. Howald to me. This really captured my fascination, and I quickly learned to identify the earliest 1946 Wonderods and could pick up mint condition examples for $15 (or less!) on ebay because no one wanted fiberglass. I sensed that vintage bamboo was quickly getting beyond the reach of many collectors, and that soon fiberglass rods, out of nostalgia, would become the next collectible rods. I see the same thing with graphite, and have been quietly collecting early examples of those.
I’m guessing that the fiberglass bubble has peaked, but excellent examples will hold their value over time.


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Post 19 Nov 2023, 16:59 • #12 
Administrator
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Posts: 7799
Location: Holly Springs, NC
motosacto wrote:
Tom, ...If you had to pick a first “Revival Rod”, would it be a Dennis Franke S-glass model rolled by Mark Steffen?

No. There were maybe 400-ish Glastech rods made. The original owners rarely let them go. People heard about them, but there were few people that owned them. A limited number of new glass rods were privately imported from Japan, but again few people got to personally handle them (the Tiemco labeled yellow blank Fenwicks, the Studio Thinline, Norie, Axisco Airrite, and Quiet Loop, to name a few). Still, just hearing and reading about them generated interest better than a bunch of dusty old Conolon and Shakespeare rods ever could.

I would say the glut of Feralite and DGlass rods in the early 2000s gave fly fishers a chance to try out 'new' glass without breaking the bank. The glut of vintage rods floating up from the past on eBay gave retro fans a chance to fish classic glass. These were rods that almost anyone could get their hands on if they wanted (except the DGlass 8'6" four weight - the early owners won't let them go either).

Bulldog1935 mentioned the TFO uniglass rods (a really fast 6'9" two piece for a 5 to 8 weight line). TFO made 2-300 blanks as an experiment. They built factory rods and sold blanks too. The important part is TFO dabbled in glass and didn't take a hit to their wallet. I agree with Ron. That fact was noticed by the other companies.

Then the revival got into full swing with new factory rods from Hardy (the Korean made green 2-piece rods), then Orvis, and Redington (Butterstick), and Echo, and better rods from TFO. Once several larger companies were selling glass at a profit, glass was back. I think it quite likely there will be some market presence for the foreseeable future.


Tom


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Post 19 Nov 2023, 17:28 • #13 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 02/12/16
Posts: 4091
Location: USA-CO
For me it was definitely the Franke catalog, or rather the classified ad for Glastech in the fly fishing mags that led me to order the catalog. Seeing and reading that catalog (I still have it) got me excited about rods like the one I so enjoyed fishing as a boy. Then I discovered Phillipson rods at Rick's Rods in Denver, and by the time I decided to learn how to build rods, I knew that I would build on glass.

I agree with those who think the revival is past its peak, and that we may well see reductions in glass options. Nevertheless, the revival has served a great purpose in expanding our fly-fishing niche.


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Post 19 Nov 2023, 22:49 • #14 
Guide
Joined: 04/26/19
Posts: 179
Location: L'Étoile du Nord
I think in my neck of the woods, and south across the Minnesota and Wisconsin driftless, people are still discovering that fiberglass is a different and many times a better option for small river and small spring creek trout fishing. For those of us like myself that grew up with glass rods, the new options were pretty great. Really though how many 3 -4 and 5wt small stream rods to I need? Well, maybe just one more, a perfect 4wt.

Many times guys are stringer sorting, trying rods that better suit them and selling off what doesn't. I think that graphite rod manufacturers have taken notice now developing rods that bend after speed has been the goal for so many years, and that does work for large rivers maybe not so much on small. I see it at times fast 6wt rods on a 15 foot wide creek for 12'-14" trout and a chance for a big one as always on the driftless but it's just way over kill and usually they are new to fly fishing.

I honestly don't know if there is a better option on small spring creeks, than smaller shorter slow fiberglass rods, they are not usually the first thing suggested at a fly shop although the owner fishes them.


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Post 20 Nov 2023, 22:11 • #15 
Guide
Joined: 02/22/16
Posts: 304
Location: Livingston MT
From my own point of view I believe the Fiberglass Revival is alive and well and actually growing in popularity. There is a new crop of really talented glass rod builders, many of which follow and post on this Forum. With the introduction of new tapers and types of glass there many more rod options available than in years past. You can get fast glass, Epic for instance, or slow glass, like Kabutos or Ijuins which give the buyer many more rod and casting styles to choice from.

I am pleasantly surprised by the number of calls I get that start out with "I just got my first fiberglass rod - what line should I use on it?". After a discussion about casting style, type of fishing they do, etc. we usually come up with a good fit for them. People are discovering glass rods at a nice pace and starting to realize fishing is not about how far you can cast but how much fun you can have if you slow down a bit.

Tom


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Post 21 Nov 2023, 04:24 • #16 
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Joined: 06/24/11
Posts: 1140
Location: Belgium
I personally think it's easiest for the beginning flyfisherman who wants to cast to use a medium action graphite rod (not that I necessarily recommend that). Again it may be easiest to actually catch trout euronymphing with a long, light graphite rod that requires practically no casting.

Fishing glass rods is in my opinion slightly more challenging and a whole lot more rewarding if you value the aesthetic process of fishing. As such I think it's always going to be attractive only to the lucky subset of flyfishermen who are introduced to glass one way or another and have the perseverance to learn to appreciate its qualities.

Some of us started fishing with glass and came back to glass but for many glass isn't a revival, I think it's more of an evolution. I think that started in the early 2000's when the "faster is better" movement started to exhaust itself.

It's simpler to sell tech and to use "faster", "lighter" adjectives than to get into tapers, actions and how they relate to different fishing scenarios and techniques. Relying heavily on line weight designation as a rod descriptor has also been somewhat misleading - there can be massive differences between rods with the same line rating. I don't think that culture is going to change any time soon. Explaining glass is simply more work. Also, graphite is used as the "reference" against which other materials are evaluated/compared; before graphite, the reference was bamboo. Glass is probably destined to remain an enthusiastically followed fringe cult.


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Post 25 Nov 2023, 12:58 • #17 
Sport
Joined: 02/09/23
Posts: 62
I got into fiberglass very recently (a year ago) but have been a long time angler with graphite. For me it has been an evolution in a sense. I never had a circle of anglers to fish with until recently and always kept using my slower action carbon rods from the 90s. I kept to myself with regards to fishing and never discussed it much. I never bothered to understand the description of rods until recently, but I always sought after softer rods and really was dissatisfied with the newer stuff from the wiggle tests.

Enter me making an effort to open up my fishing circle and I am immediately introduced to fiberglass. For me it has been an answer to something I had always been searching for but could not describe it before… A softer rod. So now I’m officially hooked.

I say my experience with glass is an awakening in my fishing life. I compare it to going from “black and white” television to “color” (that’s what I think anyway). I just want to experience and cast all of the glass rods in existence. It is a pleasure to fish and cast with and every rod can be a little puzzle on how to unlock its full potential.

I hope the revival here to stay and I can help keep it alive. Thanks for all the history lessons above!


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Post 25 Nov 2023, 23:00 • #18 
Master Guide
Joined: 07/21/21
Posts: 446
Location: Florida
I think fiberglass rods are here to stay and are continuing to grow in popularity. My buddies are fishing glass and there are some great companies in Japan and the US that continue to develop superb rods that are becoming more and more versatile. North Country Angler, Tiemco, FAGUS and Campanella from Japan are making superb glass rods from sticky to fast. I had my FAGUS 8’2 Fast Flit out on big rivers in Montana and it was amazing, handled the wind, threw everything from dries to nymphs with indicators to streamers with aplomb. Just as versatile as the ********* Western Glass which blew me away. Lots of great US builders out there too but they’ve been mentioned on here. Few times already.


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Post 26 Nov 2023, 07:42 • #19 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 12/05/06
Posts: 2082
Location: US-PA
What would be interesting to me is to see if any negative opinions have changed since the revival...

Back in 2006, I mentioned on this FFR thread that I witnessed a shop removing glass rods from their inventory. I'll withhold my real opinion of the juvenile store employees and the merchant in general, but when I asked them why they replied glass was "old tech, obsolete and over priced."

I chuckled and walked out after buying nothing, but I wonder if those kids still feel the same way 17 years later...?


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Post 26 Nov 2023, 10:00 • #20 
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Joined: 08/10/05
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Location: downtown Bulverde, Texas
Every MOC has a sweet spot in rods of all types, that can't be duplicated in a different MOC.
Those high-mod graphites and helical nano-resin tapes have their places, and so does E-glass.
Light weight usually becomes an advantage as you push out the rod length, and high-mod usually can't hurt the taper.
The toughness of lower-mod gives both strength and taper advantage, usually in shorter rods.


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Post 26 Nov 2023, 22:27 • #21 
Guide
Joined: 03/02/14
Posts: 144
Location: US-peripatetic
I’m not convinced the glass revival has fully run its course-guess I have a more positive outlook that there’s more still to be discovered about it. I read a post (can’t remember where) about a guy that had an early 80’s 7 1/2 foot sage glass rod, then jumped on the graphite bandwagon, but his old sage would outcast graphite rods that were longer. Sounds unlikely, but that poster obviously preferred his old Sage glass. Those are almost impossible to find for a reason! At any rate, glass is superior in certain situations, particularly small creeks-as many here will testify. However, I still believe that there are more discoveries about building glass rods that will be unlocked in the future, imho.


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Post 27 Nov 2023, 21:22 • #22 
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Joined: 06/09/05
Posts: 2524
Location: US-CO
I am not sure when I would say the earth tilted with regard to glass but I am inclined to agree with the millenium estimate. For a primary indicator, I'd say to look at ebay prices.

In the days before glass rods were recognized as the great fishing tools that they are, one could buy virtually any vintage glass fly rod for about $60. Fortunately at that time when ebay was young, I looked there to replace my earliest flyrods...and then I decided to collect a bunch of others in trout lengths and weights. In a fairly brief window of time, the rod prices on ebay jumped to about $100+ depending on the individual rod length and weight. Not sure when that was but that was when I noticed it. As a side note, I consider my Lamiglas rods to be "modern" rods.

One of the biggest reasons I like fiberglass rods is that they are bulletproof. I have a few graphite rods Orvis (7'11", Far and Fine), Diamondback (Classic Trout and Western Series) that are a joy to fish but they are too fragile and I worry about breaking them.


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Post 04 Dec 2023, 17:48 • #23 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 07/11/14
Posts: 1782
Location: urban Colorado
One feature of the 2020s is the wide availability of cheap glass blanks, from China and Korea, that make good to very good fly rods. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery - when those blanks started appearing it was the culmination of the revival, to my mind.

early 1980s is when I switched to graphite for most fishing, all the new rods were graphite, so that is what I think of as the end of classic glass.

In the mid-90s we were busy immigrating and I wasn't paying much attention, after that we were raising children and again there was no time space or energy for thinking about fishing. I had no idea when the new age of glass began ;-) thanks all for the history, enjoyed reading.


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Post 05 Dec 2023, 12:38 • #24 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 10/09/09
Posts: 2794
Location: US-NM
The reason I went to glass is for small creeks to load quickly and started to use them on bigger streams.I feel glass is here to stay and the only threat might come from euro nymph fishermen which is gaining in popularity,just my 2 cents……Aurelio


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Post 05 Dec 2023, 13:09 • #25 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 02/10/07
Posts: 1629
Location: The Netherlands
Can't stand euro nymphing! :)


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