Fiberglass Fly Rods are Making a Comeback

While it is true that fiberglass fly rods hit their peak between 1950 and 1970, they are making a comeback and they could just become your best fly rod for spring creeks and small streams. Quality fiberglass rods are attracting more attention today for the same reasons they have in the past.

I would like to thank Ken Evoy and the staff at SBI for giving me the tools to build this site. 

A Short History of Fiberglass Fly Rods

Fiberglass was developed during World War Two to be used in aircraft applications. 

Fiberglass fly rods were first made by wrapping the impregnated fiberglass cloth over a wooden core then wrapping the rod in cellophane. It was then baked to bond the layers. Later in the development of the process a steel mandrel was used because it was reusable. A steel mandrel is still used today to make both fiberglass and graphite fly rods.

In the '50s, fiberglass fly rods still did not compare well to bamboo when it came to performance and action. If they could afford them serious fly fishers still went with bamboo.

In the '60s, a few companies such as Winston, Orvis and Hardy started making fiberglass fly rods that could compete with bamboo. As a result fiberglass rods soon started to take market share away from bamboo. Fiberglass rods could be mass produced using less skilled workers. Fiberglass was also lower in cost and required less maintenance. 

In the 1970s, graphite was introduced (from the aerospace industry) and it soon started to replace fiberglass in fly rods. Graphite fly rods were lighter in overall weight than fiberglass. The drop in demand for fiberglass rods soon caused the large companies to drop production. 

New rod designs made in the last few decades are now being used to make improvements to the fiberglass rod. There is a growing interest in the fiberglass rod and even the large manufacturers are beginning to pay attention.

The Advantages of Fiberglass Fly Rods

  •  They are more durable than bamboo and graphite, which make them a great travel rod. If you are walking rough ground or bushwhacking along the stream bank you can be a little more relaxed than if you were carrying the delicate and expensive bamboo or graphite rod. I know it would ruin my day to break a $1600 bamboo fly rod. More than once my fishing pal John was only able to see my hat slowly floating to the ground after hearing a crash. Can you say clumsy?   
  • Like bamboo, fiberglass rods are best used in the shorter lengths (under 8-feet). That is not to say you can’t find a nice fiberglass rod over eight feet, but the shorter lengths is where they really shine. 
  • 2- to 4-weight fiberglass rods are a great choice for small spring creeks and stream fly fishing where a stealthy approach and presentation is a must. The short to medium casting range used on these waters is where most trout are caught anyway. 
  • Most of the lighter weight fiberglass rods have a slow action. See fly rod action for more information. The slower action rods let you feel the rod load. This is especially helpful for beginning casters. 
  • They are more affordable. You can purchase a good fiberglass fly rod for under $250.

The Disadvantages of Fiberglass Rods

  • Their overall weight is heavier than graphite fly rods. 
  • Graphite is a better choice for longer rods used for lakes and larger streams where you may encounter a wind. A 5-weight graphite fly rod may be a better choice here. 
  • Fiberglass is a slower material by its very nature. If you are looking for a fast-acting fly rod, graphite may be a better choice for you. 

Modern Fiberglass Fly Rods Under $300

  • Diamondback Glass Fly Rods  $299 This rod is made from Diamondback's S2 fiberglass blend, and has a dark blue gloss blank with silver wraps. Its stainless snake guides and burled maple reel seat make this a "reel" beauty. Available in line weights 2 to 4. 
  • Redington Butter Stick $250  Made from high modulus T-Glass, this rod has enough flex to deliver delicate presentations. This fly rod is available in 2 to 5 line weights. This rod seems a little over-priced. If you see it on sale for under $200 jump on it.
  • Echo Fiberglass $200  This new rod is available in five sizes from a 6'-3" two weight to a 7'-10" five weight. A very nice small trout rod. 
  • Cabela’s CGT  Under $100  Cabela's makes this nice entry-level fiberglass rod. It is listed for $150 but I always see it on sale for under $100. It is available in weights 2 through 5. This rod is faster than most other traditional fiberglass rods on the market today. It is best to cast this rod to see if you like it.

Modern Fiberglass Fly Rods Over $300

If you think fiberglass rods are something you only find in a cheap sporting goods store for $39.95, check out these makers. 

  • Steffen Bros  $370  Steffen's rods are made from high module S-glass, which gives you a light, strong and durable fly rod. Each is individually made and finished. These glass rods have a medium to slow action and are great for roll casting, close-in fishing, and tippet protection. They come in line weights 1 through 10. 
  • Orvis Super Glass  $400  Orvis has come back into the fiberglass market after being out of it for two decades. This rod has a smooth and slow action. It is made from S2 fiberglass, and has hard chrome stripping guides and a silver reel seat. 
  • Scott Fly Rods $600  Scott's Fibertouch series feels lighter in the hand than other fiberglass rods. The recent advancements in fiberglass materials allow Scott's designers to use less of it and still give more strength, stability and recovery than previous fly rods. 
  • Thomas & Thomas Heirloom  $700  This rod uses high-tech fiberglass fibers to replicate the sweet action of bamboo. Some claim it could be the best fly rod ever produced. It is available in line weights 3 through 5.

Vintage Fiberglass Fly Rods

Some good-quality fiberglass fly rods that have been made in the past can still be found. These can be a very nice find, especially if they are still in their sock and tube.

The more mass-produced models can often be had for a song. These are more common at garage sales and flea markets. Be sure to see our page on buying used fly rods.

Some names to watch for include Phillipson, Garcia, Browning, Fenwick, Conolon, Shakespeare, Wright & McGill, and Horrocks-Ibbotson (H&I).

For more reading about the history of these fly rods check out the following book by Victor R. Johnson and Victor R. Johnson Jr. 

In Summary

If you like spring creeks and small streams then fiberglass fly rods are worth looking into. Some fly fishers claim that a good fiberglass rod is better than a mediocre bamboo fly rod, making them a lot of fun.  You will not be disappointed. 

If you want to research fiberglass fly rods further I recommend the Fiberglass Flyrodders web forum.

Save 50% on Fly Assortment Boxes for Trout