Cameron Mortenson is the founder of The Fiberglass Manifesto website, which champions the use of fiberglass rods in this age of graphite. He agreed to submit to a few questions about his own fascination with this material, as well as where he thinks the current resurgence in glass rods is heading.
1. When, where, and how did you start fly fishing?
I started fly fishing twenty years ago, when I walked into a sport shop in Grayling, Michigan, to check out their small display of fly fishing gear. The owner was very gracious with a poor high-school student and sold me an Eagle Claw Featherlight with a Martin clicker reel and fly line for $60, and he allowed me to make several payments over the course of the season.
By the next summer, I was splitting my time between the Au Sable River, the South Branch of the Au Sable, and the Upper Manistee River any time I could get away from work. I caught my first trout downstream from Burton’s Landing on the Holy Waters on a small Royal Coachman Parachute fished tight to an undercut bank, and I’ll never forget how that eight-inch brown trout jumped full out of the water to take the fly.
2. How did you first become interested in fiberglass rods?
Although my first fly rod was made of fiberglass, I all but forgot about it as I put it aside for the next dozen years to fish graphite fly rods. Then one day, I reached into the gear closet and pulled out that old Featherlight, figuring that I could at least have a good time with it on our family pond for bluegills and bass. I was so surprised with how fun this gaudy little yellow fly rod was to cast that I poked around the Internet and found the Fiberglass Flyrodders forum. Within a few weeks, I had purchased a brown-glass 7-foot 5-weight Heddon Pal from a forum member for $45. That vintage Heddon completely changed how I thought about fly rods, and I was beginning to understand that there was so much to learn about glass from both the vintage and contemporary sides of it.
The looks and comments that I get about fly fishing with fiberglass fly rods have been quite interesting. A good friend of mine jokingly refers to my collection as “junky old rods,” but overall I really think that the perceptions of glass are changing. More times than not, when someone sees that I am fishing glass they will comment that their first fly rod was a Fenwick or Shakespeare Wonderod, and they are usually surprised to find out that fiberglass fly rods are still being made. I try to put whatever fly rod I’m using in their hands to cast as it’s always exciting to open someone’s eyes to the experience of fishing glass. Their first comments are usually that the fly rod isn’t heavy like they expected it to be or exclaim, “WHOA…I can feel my backcast.”
3. Why do you think we are seeing a resurgence of fiberglass? We are now seeing major manufacturers getting in on the game.
Over the past couple decades, there have been a few fly-rod companies and small-shop rod builders who never gave up on the idea of fiberglass fly rods. These rod builders have continued to innovate, and their offerings today are an example of how fine craftsmanship and function work together to make fly rods that are just amazing—from the tapers offered to the aesthetics of how the fly rod is finished.
Fiberglass has a real sweet spot in the 2 through 5 weights, and I believe more anglers are understanding the enjoyment of light-line glass rods over fast-action graphite in the same line weights. The ability to feel a fly rod load when casting, protect delicate tippets, make short accurate casts with overhand or roll casting, and then feel the weight of a fish along the entire working length of a fly rod gives glass a huge advantage over graphite, in my mind. The idea that a glass fly rod is heavy, wimpy, or dead is just not true. It’s quite the contrary.
Today the envelope is certainly being pushed in fiberglass fly rods in many respects, with some very fine light line glass being made in longer lengths and tapers ranging from parabolics to what is considered “fast action” for glass. Other rod shops are spending time looking into heavier weight glass, in 6- weight and above, along with switch and even two-hand models, as well. Blank makers are figuring out ways to make longer and lighter glass fly rods and that heavier line weight fly rods have advantages in blank strength with the ability to leverage and control large fish.