A Glass Fanatic's Guide to Buying a New, Fiberglass Fly Rod
Few fly shops stock fiberglass. Like it or not, glass fanatics must be skilled at internet shopping and phone/mail order. Thankfully, the majority of sales occur without a hitch. However, rods get lost/damaged in the mail, parts go out of stock, and builders have, er, um, cough..., issues. Unfortunately, the FFR admins can't ensure a problem transaction is made right. We recommend that you limit your risk before you buy. Because there is no Better Business Bureau for rod builders, we offer this buying guide.
Order a factory glass rod through your local fly shop.
- Advantages: This supports your local shop and allows convenient payment, including credit cards and checks. The shop handles returns if the rod is damaged in transit.
- Disadvantages: Limited selection, such as Scott, Hardy, and Cabelas (all good rods, by the way).
A Safe Bet
Buy an in-stock, finished rod from a custom shop/builder.
- Advantages: You will get a good rod quickly.
- Disadvantages: You don't get to choose the hardware or colors.
- How to do it: Ask questions and/or request photos to ensure the rod meets your needs and expectations. Expect to pay in full before the rod is shipped. Use PayPal and insist on delivery in two weeks. If the rod does not arrive by the promised date, notify the seller and initiate a PayPal dispute (don't wait DO IT!). If the seller does not respond in a timely manner, or indicates there will be additional delay, escalate the dispute to a claim and get a refund. Buying an in-stock rod should not be an adventure.
- Caveats: Be fair to the seller. If you buy an in-stock rod, don't return it because you don't like the thread color. Make sure the rod meets your needs before you buy.
A Custom Build
Commission a rod to be built on an in-stock blank with in-stock parts.
- Advantages: You get the exact rod you want.
- Disadvantages: Some builders have a waiting list to work through before they start your rod. Delays occur for factors outside the builder's control.
- How to do it: Be very clear - in writing - about your expectations. You may have to pay a deposit when the rod is started, with the balance due on completion. Use PayPal and insist on shipment within 3-4 weeks of the deposit payment. Confirm that your rod is complete before paying the balance. If the rod subsequently does not arrive by the promised date, initiate a PayPal dispute.
- Caveats: Don't expect the builder to remember all the details you outlined on the phone. Follow up with an e-mail or letter to the builder detailing the rod you want.
Gotta Have Some TrustPlace a deposit on a custom rod to be completed in the future (or ship a rod blank to a builder).
- Advantages: The buyer can request a truly custom rod.
- Disadvantages: The waiting is the hardest part.
- How to do it: Be very clear - in writing - about your expectations. Expect to pay a deposit to order/design the rod blank or other parts. Because of the wait between the deposit and final delivery, if a problem arises your deposit may be lost. Only risk a deposit (or rod blank) that you can afford to lose. Confirm the rod is complete before paying the balance. If the finished rod does not arrive by the promised date, initiate a PayPal dispute.
- Caveats: Extensive custom work takes time - don't be shocked if the originally promised delivery date slips. As stated earlier, the vast majority of rod makers keep reasonable schedules and deliver in a timely fashion without a problem. But if the worst happens, your deposit may be gone, but you can recover the balance payment.
Too Much TrustPayment in full for a rod to be completed sometime in the future.
- Advantages: Absolutely none (unless you enjoy the masochistic benefits of continuously delayed satisfaction).
- Disadvantages: If you go this route anyway, understand your payment could disappear without a trace. More than one apparently reliable builder has suddenly gone walkabout. While a fine fly rod isn't cheap, it isn't worth filing in Small Claims court either.
- How to do it: Just don't.
Don't be afraid to call/e-mail your builder. Discuss your expectations with regards to rod action, feel, fittings, colors, and delivery. Follow up with a letter or e-mail detailing your requests. Ask your builder for a clear, written communication describing the build schedule, the deposit and payment schedule, the return policy, shipping details, and warranty. For a commissioned, custom rod, a signed letter of agreement from the builder is wise.
If at all possible, use PayPal. PayPal is the standard for internet purchases. In addition, PayPal offers a superlative record keeping system for both buyers and sellers. Most importantly, PayPal offers buyer's protection. However, PayPal disputes must be initiated within 180 days of the payment date, not the delivery date. If your rod does not arrive by the promised date, initiate a PayPal dispute. After the dispute is filed, the buyer and seller have 20 days to settle or escalate the dispute to a claim. If the rod arrives before the dispute period ends, the dispute is closed without consequence to the buyer or seller. Don't accept e-mails, promises, or excuses in lieu of your fly rod. File the PayPal dispute if the promised delivery is missed. DO NOT WAIT! Escalate it to a claim if the builder still does not deliver. While credit cards offer similar protection, many small builders are not able to accept them.
Delivery and Returns
Insist on insured delivery with a tracking number. Before you buy, ask your builder about his return policy, including the length of inspection time, acceptable reasons for a return, and what portion of the price is refundable. If the rod is damaged in transit notify the builder and file an insurance claim immediately. Like PayPal, shippers impose time limits on insurance claims.