Mr. Grevior’s Fly Rod

Posted on July 15, 2015


Teach a Man to Fish

When I first started fly fishing my sister introduced me to a local family who own the town’s furniture store and who fly fish.  They, especially Bob, the patriarch, were happy to give me basic bits of information. “Fish a wooly bugger under the bridge.” Which I dutifully applied and reported back. Once it became clear that I was venturing further afield and returning with my own discoveries, the level of information shared became more detailed. As it ever is with fishing friendships. First, you teach a man to fish…

Over time I first repaired and then built a rod for the oldest son.  Bob winters in Florida and likes to fish the beach. In the summers the whole family are part of an association which leases a beat on the Miramichi. Both are applications for a 9wt rod, some blanks of which I happened to have in my pile, thanks to the local Allen rep, Evan Burke. So, this winter I put my own projects aside and decided to build a rod for Bob. Each rod I try to incorporate some new little customization into it. While I’ve been making my own handles for a while, this time I decided to incorporate some nice checkerboard patterns into it. I also put a little fighting butt on it and learned a new weave, the “Olive Branch” weave.

When I brought the rod in to the store, I could tell Bob was touched.  I pointed out the large tip top, the fighting but, the olive wrap (which I cannot even see with my glasses on), the bright red wrap at 42″ – the length of his largest salmon, the second “Lefty Krey” shooting guide, the 7 colors of cork in the handle, the bands and inlays in the wraps, the single footed guides, the grip shaped precisely to his hand. All of the things that make the rod custom. However he has 3 buildings with craftsmanship surpassing my best efforts and a business to run. He promised to cast it that night off of the dock at his new home and get back to me. The next day I walked in and he said “I could kiss you.” Now that is the response I would looking for. Apparently, he was able to cast this rod to the backing, making longer casts than any ever before, which is important for the fishing he does. I knew the thing was a cannon because I had bought a line and reel just to test cast it, one reason he got it in NH and not FL. His son said the same thing, having loaded it with a 10wt line and casting the whole thing (with a dry fly, no less). It’s nice to customize a rod with pretty doodads, but it’s important to make a rod that works for the man who is casting it, the conditions he fishes, and the tactics he uses for them.

I figured I was paying him back for all of the great things he’s done for me, but it looks like I might get to go fishing with the family. Teaching a man to fish is one thing, telling a man where the fish are and how to catch them is completely different. He, or she, has to earn that. I guess I should get to work on my own 9wt for the Mirimichi next spring.

Handle and fighting butt

(each gallery is a slide show)

I dry fit the cork, put it on a threaded mandrel using bushings made from wine corks. Pinned them in with washers and nuts, and then chucked it into a drill press repurposed as a vertical lathe. I shaped it using a sandpaper-wrapped beer bottle, comparing it to handles I had on hand and my memory of his hand from a handshake. There were a few false starts.

Olive wraps

I actually wrapped it 2x before I got the idea to add the olive wraps. It’s a 2-layer wrap and first I changed the under wrap color, then I discovered the olive wrap. First time took 3 hours, by the end, I did the whole thing in about 20 min.

Final rod

The blank is a dark blue, almost black. I tried to match the guide wraps with the handle doing them in chocolate brown with burnt umber bands and bright yellow inlays. Guess I should’ve gotten some pictures of them. I had a little trouble with the color preserver and took each wrap out a number of times, but eventually you have to finish.  The bright red under the shooting guide is exactly at the 42″ mark, the size of his largest fish. I figured I could make it smaller, but then people wouldn’t ask him about it, and he might not get a chance to tell the story!


Wrap details with orange band and yellow 3-thread inlay.

Wrap details with orange band and yellow 3-thread inlay.

Wrap details with orange band and yellow 3-thread inlay.

Wrap details with orange band and yellow 3-thread inlay.