I would like to say that it’s because because I’ve fly fished more than anyone else! I don’t know if that’s true, because I don’t know how much others have fly fished. In fact I’m not even sure exactly how much I’ve fly fished! More than 10,000 days certainly and probably between 12 and 13,000. And while that obviously helps to bring something special to the table, it can only be part of the reason. Sure, I’ve also been teaching and demonstrating flycasting professionally for 27 years. But that doesn’t make me a rod designer either, although both have allowed me to know what I want. However knowing what you want and getting what you want is not always the same thing!
Alejandro, who I work with in Spain, I’ve known for over 20 years. I don’t know how it works with Alejandro and I, but I do know that the relationship works. We were certainly lucky at the beginning. I like to call this part “Divine Intervention”!! Because out of the Blue, appeared a HT6 that was fabulous – and while Stefan Siikavaara broke it about 8hrs later in a Scottish snowstorm, the strengthened replacement was even better and actually exceeded my expectations. One year and I don’t know how many hundreds of casters trialling it later, that became our flagship rod that we launched. And, importantly, it gave me a blueprint to work to.
That created a problem for me, everyone else involved and a challenge that I didn’t know how to fulfil, or even if we could. We had done it once, the question was could we repeat this throughout the range? And what a headache that has been!!
The answer is yes we can, but it takes a lot of work to get there. The HT5 took ten years – and ten prototypes. The HT8 took four years and eight prototypes. Some of the other rods have been quicker - thank goodness!!
So I think it’s a combination of knowing what you want, believing that you can get there, doing the work and not settling until you are satisfied that you have done your very best work.
When I thought about this article yesterday (while fishing for Snakehead) I thought of a third difference, which is Lee Martell. Lee is a rod building craftsman. We don’t mess around with shoddy workmanship but instead take our time and spend the money to produce beautifully finished rods. It takes Lee about a week to build a Hot Torpedo.
Not many people know this, but Lee is also known as “The Wizard of Hastings”. As part of the build, Lee puts a bit of magic into each and every rod, so that when you cast you don’t just cast loops but also fish catching spells. That’s right; we are making magic wands.
I don’t think anyone else is doing this. They wouldn’t know how.
The question really, is not how do we manage to make such great rods but why are many rods – not all of course, because there are other really great fishing rods out there – but why are so many others inferior and lifeless by comparison? After all, if a Yeti can organise it while living on a boat, then shouldn’t everyone else?
I have absolutely no idea and, hand on heart, it staggers me. Sure, the three aspects above, that make these rods special, is great synergy. But I don’t see how that can be the difference. So I really don’t know. But lifeless, feeling-less rods, rods that bounce after the stop, rods that feel tip heavy or rods that need heavier lines to feel half-way good, seems to be the current trend.
Maybe they have lost the inspiration to make the best rods they can? After all, many companies now shuffle their entire range of rods out the window after 5 years and bring in a completely new range. Which then has to be different. But if you have actually made your truly best work, then because rod advancement technology occurs at such a slow pace, you won’t be able to make a significantly better rod for at least another 25 years.
That’s the reality of the rod design and production world. The marketing world however spin a tale even less believable than Lee Martell being the Wizard of Hastings.
So if there is a difference, it is that we are trying to make our best work and produce the absolute best rod in its class anywhere. That’s our bottom line. I suspect everyone else in this game has a bottom line of maximising profits. Given that, of course we are going to make finer rods. Can you imagine any other company giving me ten years to make a 9’ 5WT?
We will get copied but I don’t believe we won’t get bettered for another 25 years. Hopefully when we do, it will be by ourselves! And if you think I’m looking like a caveman now, just wait till then!!
Ironman week this week. I have a Half Ironman in Langkawi to “race” and we drive over tomorrow. I’m pretty excited about this one. Three and a half months since my last race and I’m hoping I’m fitter than then. We shall know on Saturday!
Ashly and I will have a bit of a holiday too. I am packing the HT8 and a box full of flies. Wish me overcast skies. Running in tropical temperatures is never easy.