There are a number of ways to make rods, 1) buy a batch of rods from a manufacturer and pick your range, as very many companies do 2) employ a rod designer and 3) be that rod designer. And by rod designer, in this case, I don't mean the talented engineers who cut the cloth, but rather be the guy at the front (or employed somewhere in the sidelines) who decides how the rod should perform with a given line. The finished action is decided by this man, which in this case is me.
Given that I want a rod to do A, B and C, do you really think that in two or even five years the materials or technology will have advanced such that it will do A, B and C significantly better than now? In my opinion certainly not. Yes, if you look back over the past 10 or 20 years the materials are better, the carbon sheets are of higher quality, the resins are better, the available fittings are most certainly better (even the cork, surprisingly?), but the essence that makes up the action of the rod, is fundamentally the same now as it was then.
Consequently I'm not spending my time making rods for a short throwaway life span of half a decade or less. Instead we are designing rods that may very well last you a lifetime and should certainly serve you (and me) very well for the next 10 or 20 years. The design has changed very much in this time, with rods being made faster and stiffer, but they had stiff rods 20 years ago too, they were just rated for a higher line number!
I design our rods from the casting/fishing perspective; I have the "Hot Torpedo" design in my head, the action I want each rod to have and that all-important feedback feel it should give. It takes around 8 prototypes for each, some are fewer, occasionally - as in the case of the 5-Weight model it is more - how many more I can't say yet because we haven't finished that one yet. However one thing I strive for is the same relative action in each rod. That is a fast rod, with feel, a stable tip and comfortable performance throughout the range. It should feel light in the hand, but not too light, because one function of a fly rod is that it flexes well under its own mass, such as when casting a short line or leader only. (Try it: for example, flick a rod around without any line and you will see it flexes, a completely mass-less rod wouldn't flex and that would make for very poor performance when casting the leader only).
This is not to say that HT blanks can be made anywhere, this I don't believe. It's quite possible, and I'm willing to believe it, that Hot Torpedo blanks can only be made in conjunction with Alejandro and Maxia in Spain. Just as they can't make HT blanks without me, I can't make them without them. I tried elsewhere once, a decade before and it didn't work. If I made them elsewhere there would be performance differences that's for sure, just as there are performance differences within a factory, there are performance differences between factories.
Having finished the Hot Torpedo blank, which in each case is engineered all the way, partly through trial and error (I took one HT10 fishing for a year - it had to be done), to end up with a similar action and feel throughout the range, the blanks are then shipped to our in-house Sexyloops rod builder, Lee Martell, who is an perfectionist (and I mean this in a good way!). Lee is almost a work of art in himself; each whipping gets three micro-thin layers of epoxy for the perfect finish - the logo gets three, or more often four coats. When you know that each coat takes 3 days to dry you can see how much time is taken in the building of each rod.
In the case of the HT10 we are using Titanium Torzite rings. This set of rings is getting upwards of costing 100 Euros per set at trade prices. Particularly after you take import duties and shipping into account. I didn't even look at the last bill - it was too frightening. However they are very special indeed. I fitted them to the first finalised HT10 blank in preparation for the World Championships in Estonia last year - the HT10 is also our COMP5 V2 blank, which will sound complicated unless you're also into competition casting! - and I was so impressed with them that I decided to fit them as standard, and have regretted it ever since! They are currently the most difficult rings in the world to obtain as well as costing a small fortune. We buy from two wholesalers and I can't tell you who they both are, because when one is out of stock we buy from the other. However they are the very best available; they are extremely light, they are bombproof, saltwater proof and the Torzite material is slicker than anything else you will buy.
I know for a fact that even prior to this, the HT rods were the most expensive to build; we've been using Titanium frames on our stripping guides for several years now - in fact when I first launched out on this adventure I told everyone involved that our mission was to use the very finest materials whatever the cost. Ultimately we will increase our prices but at the moment I'm trying to make headway into the US market and, holding back our retail prices, so that we are effectively providing an all-around superior product, but at their cost, is our current angle of attack. The downside of this decision means that we really need to sell direct because we don't have a retailer margin. If we were working on the same margin as the top of the market I think you'd be a shocked, because in the case of the HT10 it would more than double its price. The margins at the lower end of the market are even greater but that's another story and not very interesting for us, because we truly want to design the rod, and not only pick a selection from a common range that is available to all (which just about everyone else does).
That's only actually about half of what I'm trying to get into the video, so as you can imagine it's becoming a challenge. I've yet to talk about the rod's performance, the importance of flyline selection, the stealth matt fishing finish, the variety of build options from different grips, to different colour rod socks (pants), to a complete custom build with your name on it, and all for no extra charge, the fact that our price includes free world-wide shipping, that we have a lifetime guarantee that goes beyond the original owner and effectively forever, or at the very least until the Big Mermaid Monster eats me, or in fact that its just the sexiest damn rod you'll ever own. So instead, today's video is just some crap I did last year!
Have a great week - Tim's coming. We'll be living in jungle hammocks, installing a top of the range FishFinder to the Flying Condom Titanic (Tim is swapping a sounder for an HT10 - the sexiest rod in the world) and we're going to catch a shitload of fish...