Fiberglass Rod Review: Thomas & Thomas Heirloom 5-Weight
After what looked like a bullwhip routine, I took a breather, tied on a new fly and told myself: “You’re not in the land of Z-axis anymore.” Switching from arguably one of the fastest-action rods out there to the slow, deliberate action of fiberglass probably was not smart in retrospect, but worth the trouble.
Like many who scour the Internet for fly-fishing-related material, I have always been intrigued by a corner of the web manned by fiberglass guru Cameron Mortenson. “Glass is Not Dead” stickers appear in fly shops across the country, so he must be doing something right on his ubiquitous blog “The Fiberglass Manifesto.” Of course my intrigue led to a desire to fish fiberglass, a rod material that produces a bamboo-like action “for the masses.”
Lucky for me, Mortenson puts his money where his mouth is, so to speak. To further spread the gospel of glass, he has instituted a fiberglass rod loan program. He is more trusting with precious fly fishing equipment than most, and all the participant has to do is pay for insured shipping to have the opportunity to fish a range of glass rods. Of course Mortenson insisted I take the Cadillac of fiberglass rods—the Thomas & Thomas Heirloom series, specifically the 7’6” 5-weight.
Right out of the case this rod is treat for the eyes. Treading into green blank territory is a risky move, but the burgundy wraps complement the olive rod nicely, as does the elegant up-locking reel seat (with a stylish Thomas & Thomas engraving on the reel seat lock). The rod also sports sleeve-over ferrules and a western grip.
I had the pleasure of taking this 5-weight to fish on numerous western trout streams in the great state of Wyoming. Along with the tailwaters that the West is known for, there are numerous opportunities to get off the beaten path to more skinny water. I tried to use the glass in every situation I fished, but due to some extreme wind, I was only able to fish it in some of the more protected environs (although after familiarizing myself with the rod I do think it has enough punch to cut through moderate wind coming at a drift boat).
In some ways switching from the Z-axis to glass was not the best decision but it certainly highlighted the features many have grown to love about glass. Once dialed in one could feel the rod flex all the way to the butt, and it had more punch than my fiberglass preconceptions had allowed. The rod has a great feel and was able to deliver tight loops into moderate wind as well as delicately deliver a fly to soft pockets. (It also has the ability to slap the water and scatter every fish in sight but blame that on operator error, not Thomas & Thomas.) And of course the full flex of the rod made fighting spunky 12- to 18-inch wild cutties an absolute pleasure.
My chief complaint is the price. At $675 suggested retail, it flies in the face of the affordability that has drawn so many anglers to glass. Not to mention that there are other custom glass rods offering more personalization for about the same price. Although one of my fishing companions complained that the rod lacked “feel,” I found using a weight-forward line was a big help. The rod is a beauty in the cosmetics department and performed as well as it should have in the hands of a fiberglass amateur. In all, it was a pleasure to fish and worth a second look for anyone considering a move to glass.