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September 25, 2008

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Wanna Test Fly Rods?

Made in America. Love it? Live it? Or leave it alone?

I want you got give me your best case for--or against--buying a "Made in America" fly rod. Do you spend the bucks and feel the difference? Or do you say all fly rods are equal?

I'm going to take the most "pro USA" comment, and then I'll take the most "pro import" comment and the three of us will then do a little blinded comparison testing, a la the Pepsi Challenge.

You game?



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Always buy American. Even if import is better quality I am betting it is not that much better to justify sending our $'s somewhere else. Energy is already doing us in. The transfer of wealth is obsene. The global economy is a bad idea for consumers and small business.Sorry but that's just the way it is.

Joe G

I own some Asian rods and they cast great. I own an American rod and it cast great. If given the chance and I have the money I will buy American. I like the idea my rod was made in a fishing region by people who know the sport (thats my impression anyway). I havent owned eneough rods to say wether foreign or domestic are superior. As for me I am an old school guy who likes to buy domestic stuff made by domestic folks, just my prefference. It is ironic though, I know most popular rods have Fuji guides and foreign grown cork. I also wonder how many of the other raw materials are made overseas and assembled here. I just feel a connection to using a rod that was at least assemled here, hopefully by a fisherman. Kind of like riding a Harley or a Honda. Both good machines, just a differant energy to each.


i i own one fly rod and i was broke so bought it at dicks a nd it was made in china but if i could i would by from a local hand made rod

Alex Pernice the fly rod winner

Deeter my G loomis casts like a beauty while my old fly rod (my first) casts like a beast...

jerry k

I own a G Loomis stream dance meteoluis and i think it casts better than my orvis tls of the same length weight and flex. I would say that it doesnt really matter were its made but how it casts and my 4 weight Loomis throws drys like a bamboo and has enough back bone to chuck double nymph with gusto.

jerry k

I do prefer a good american made reel though.

Evan V

Country of origin barely matters to me. Just because its made in america, doesn't mean it was made by an american worker that cares. Though it should.


with companies like loop putting out great rods overseas, i find it hard to pay 3 or 4 times the price just to shave a fraction of an ounce off of the rod weight, or get an action that is slightly faster.

Teak Phillips

I wrap my own rods.
I use St. Croix blanks, which I think are made in the USA (we still have Wisconsin, right?) but the final product is assembled by an American who flies the flag at home.

Jon Shope

Teak - I agree with your assessment. I like to blanks from St Croix as they are less money and seem to be very consistant from end to end and peice to peice. I have enjoyed the warranty department as needed as well. Even when I rebuilt a section for my dad the replacement blank cast well and fit to the section built a few years earlier. It also is not only a matter of materials going into the rod. Slowing the process down costs more but can produce incredible results. Finding the spine by hand and setting it how you like it will also alter the casting. A company with consistant employees caring about the end result will produce a better product. USA or anywhere else.

Deeter - My concern is that children (who will never cast a rod) should be in school, not building fly rods or IPODS for elite around the world. If a great rod can be produced without great sacrifice to the labor force and still be affordable, a rewarding experience can be expected by the angler. Even the IPOD factory was guilty of child labor law violations a few years back. Rod shops need high standards of excellence.

I will grant that the most current design/innovation is available, year to year, in America. However, I argue that assembly has more impact on rod enjoyment than design does and that assembly can be done equally well anywhere in the world - with the exception of Dad's basement. American rod prices include costs of marketing that I don't particularly want to pay for and costs of design that I doubt are perceptible to the average fisherman.


Buy the best product for the money and let the markets sort out what companies survive. Just about everything is made by a mulit-national corporation anyway. I think fishing rods may be an area where we still very competitive- like my St Croix better than my Sage.


Kinda reminds me of that pro union worker who has the flag on his hard hat and the "BUY AMERICAN" bumper sticker on his truck..Yet he and his wife shop at Walmart every weekend. As I get older I have pretty much come to terms that you get what you pay for and people would not buy a product if it did not satisfy. Wether China vs. USA $300 vs.$600 The added benefits come into play.. warr,customer service ect.
I feel I own the best of both or I would not have bought them to begin with.


I cannot tell a lie - other than Sage and custom rod makers, I cannot name a single American rod maker. This is, I think, because I have never paid attention. I mostly fish Temple Fork Rods, though I own one Sage and I just gave a Fenwick to my dad. I have no idea where TFO or Fenwick rods come from. All of the rods I own are from the same general price point - $150 - $250. I've found that the TFO rods at that price point are superior to similar rods from other companies.

Is this because they are manufactured abroad? If I knew where they were made, I could answer that question.

For this reason I am a good candidate for your test because I have no idea where my favorite fly rods are manufactured. How much more blind can a blind tester get??



Can you define "American Made?" Because Loomis is owned by Shimano, while TFO is owned by guys in Texas. (Not advocating one over the other,I own rods from both.)

I try to buy American made but it's hard to tell what that even means any more.

I drive an American car in support of family in the Michigan auto industry, but know that it was just "assembled" in America; a lot of the individual parts came from overseas. Don't know how this translates into fly rods as far as raw materials go.

Chad Love

Interesting topic. I'm not qualfied to say one way or the other in regard to fly rods.
I only own three: an old made-in-USA Fenwick HMG five-weight, another five-weight All Star and a custom-made three-weight Bardole I picked up for a song in a pawn shop in Libby, Montana.
The Fenwick is a USA rod, the All Star I have no idea. Before they were bought by Shakespeare I believe all their casting rods were made in Texas, and I suspect this is an older rod so it may be USA.
The Bardole I have no idea what blank was used but it was obviously built here.

I simply have no experience with current high-end fly rods from any geographic location. But if any parallels can be drawn between fly and bass rods I'd have to say I can't tell a damn bit of difference between a well-made Asian rod and a well-made American rod. I'm partial to American-made Falcons and Japanese-made Crucials, but I also own rods from Loomis, Fenwick, Phenix, Kistler and a bunch others, some expensive, many cheap. rod. Each has its pros and cons.
But being the populist, progressive rednecky sort of guy I am, I will say that all other things being equal I'd take an American-made rod over an equivalent import any day.

Of course, when it comes to reels I understand only Japanese, but that's another subject.



I own a couple of TFO rods (Made in Asia). My Favorite is the 9' 5 wt Professional. In the interest of scientifically proving out your question, I would be more than happy to test drive a fine American made rod of your choosing in the same length and wt. It can be as high end as you like, I promise to give it the same un-biased trial regardless of label. Just drop me an e-mail and we can get started!!! If you like, I will gladly come out to Colorado to fish with you a couple of days so you can "observe". Anything I can do to help with the blog, I am there!!


Oh, I'm already seeing the contenders here...

American: Sage, Loomis, St. Croix, Orvis, Thomas & Thomas, Scott, Winston, and the hand-mades, on the high end.

Imports: Temple Fork (likely the leading worldwide rodmaker), Hardy & Grey's, Redington, Cortland, big box labels (e.g. Cabela's)...

Others? Who am I missing?


I'm an old dog--- long in the tooth. I started fly fishing at age 12 with a nine and half foot Wards Bamboo, level line on a single click Wards reel. Two of my mentors cast Shakespeare fiberglass Wonder Rods and made casting look like a wonderful art form. I bought one a few weeks ago at a yard sale for 5 bucks including a working automatic reel. Couldn't wait to try it out! Armed with a fresh line, and a hopper droper I was soon making some pretty good presentations and catching some fat "Cuts" So what's the point? I have to wonder if a lot of folks new to the sport would be better off spending less money on equipment and more money on gas getting to the water? knowing the river, and a good 30 foot cast will generally catch a lot of fish.


I would really like to get in touch with the guy who owns the BARDOLE rod. I have some interesting history about the rod. And Yes, It is Made in Montana!!! Thanks

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