AD: I was wondering if you could tell me a little about your background as a fisherman and how you got started building fishing rods? DC: Well, I started fishing at an early age, with fly rods. In fact, I fished fly rods before I fished flies. We stood in the middle of a stream and steered a worm downstream. So my early familiarity was with fly rods. Later, I think in high school, I became very interested in spinning rods when they became available in this country. It was a very exciting way to fish, and most of the rods and reels came from France and Europe.
On the building end, I first tied my own flies. Rod building came along a bit later. I thought, “Gee, wouldn’t it be fun to build your own rod,” but I was put off, actual- ly intimidated by it. At that time, Reed Tackle and Hille’s, two of the fly tying material supply houses, also sold a very limited line of rod building supplies. They sold kits where the handle assembly was already fitted and I
thought it must be a horrendous task to grip to a tapered blank. That delayed
fit a shaped cork me because I’m finally took the
plunge and love with it
found that it wasn’t the very first time I
very difficult tried it.
AD: About how old were you when you built your first rod? DC: Oh goodness, I don’t know, probably early college. Up to that time I thought catching a fish on a fly you tied yourself was pretty terrific. But I found, as many have since, that catching a fish on a rod that you built was by far the greatest thrill. To me, it was heaven and I was hooked!
It was kind of crazy how years later I found myself writing a book and then subsequently selling the compo- nents. At that time I was buying supplies from Finney Sports and a new company that was coming along called Cabela’s. I would call them often to order components because I was building rods for myself and for other peo- ple. One day when I called, one of the brothers that owned the company talked to me. He said they were getting fre- quent requests for information on rod building, but that they didn’t know much about it. They just sold the parts. He asked me if I could put together a pamphlet that they could send to people. I said, “Well, let me think about it”. I was very flattered. I did think about it. Being very task oriented, I carried a little notebook in my pocket and jotted down ideas whenever they came to me. When I organized
my thoughts a couple of weeks book, not a pamphlet. So I Making.” That title was selected
later, I saw that it was a wrote “Fiberglass Rod by the publisher to distin-
AD: So this was around the early 1970s? DC: I wrote it in ‘73 and it came out in ‘74.
AD: There wasn’t the variety of components or technology with things like guides and finishes like there is today.
DC: NO! That is a whole separate topic, actually, which is very interesting. After my book came out I was very for- tunate; it was picked by Field and Stream for their Book of the Month Club, and it sold like crazy. We got into selling parts and supplies about the same time and the business prospered. During those initial couple of years, the com-
market it was
The manufacturers wrongly
considered very much an aftermarket. got whatever was left over from what
In other words, we was sold to the rod
companies. No one ever conceived the idea of ing some components of a higher quality for builders.
manufactur- custom rod-
AD: Specifically for that market. DC: No! We were fighting a real uphill battle and it was an education battle, but it didn’t take long, surprisingly. I remember one of the first companies I pointed it out to was Varmac. They were then the preeminent reel seat manu- facturer in the country, and one of the top guide makers along with Mildrum and a few others. I had reached the point in my business where I was buying more of their product to resell to custom rodbuilders than they were selling to many small rod companies! I finally pointed this out to them at dinner at an AFTMA show. I laid out some of these figures of which they weren’t aware up to this point. To say they were surprised was putting it mildly. They went “Holy Cow!” I said, you guys have a real mar- ket here, and it’s time you started paying some attention to it. You need to examine what you make for this market
and what you line, and for a
charge. Things, while custom rod
then, started to fall into building was the fastest
growing segment of the fishing cialty manufacturers appeared. consulting work with the
tackle industry. New spe- Fortunately, I did a lot of various manufacturers.
Fenwick, under one of the top
the direction of Phil Clock, President, was rod manufacturers in the world. I served
small booklet for them, “How To Build
Your Own Fishing first printing was
The other prominent
From their education
blank manufacturer was I wrote a 20 page explana-
“Graphite” that they distributed to cus- I did some consulting for Gudebrod,
Varmac, Loomis and this to point out how ly blossomed.
various other companies. I mention the custom rod building market real-
Of all the companies I was privileged to work with, Fuji was by far the most responsive. It was never neces- sary to convince them of the market. They considered cus- tom rod building the cutting edge of fishing rod develop- ment. They believed their success was due to making a bet- ter product and that philosophy dovetailed beautifully with what custom rod builders were seeking. After I got to