By Todd Tanner
I don’t imagine that the angling public will ever realize this, but most of us who have been part of the professional fly fishing community for a while — I started guiding on the Henry’s Fork and the Madison back in ’92 — eventually realize that it’s hard to get excited about gear.
The old days, where the prospect of a new rod or reel would have me waiting for the UPS truck to arrive, are long past. Now a package shows up — perhaps it’s a reel I ordered for the School of Trout, or a rod that someone wants me to review — and it’s liable to sit in the corner for a few weeks before I get around to opening it.
I suspect that’s not a surprise to anyone reading this. Gear is just gear. While we enjoy the nicer stuff, and appreciate high-end engineering and quality craftsmanship, most of us figured out a long time ago that we can fish reasonably well with damn near anything we pick up. Which, I have to admit, is why this story is so strange. I’ve run across a tiny rod company that actually has me excited about the rods they’re building.
A year or so ago, I wrote up a fly rod piece for MidCurrent where I asked some really talented professional anglers for their favorite trout rods. One of those folks — John Juracek, who is a truly exceptional caster — mentioned a company I’d never heard of before. Long story short, I got in touch with Dan Daufel, who runs Montana Brothers Rodworks with his twin brother Doug, and asked if he could send me a rod to play around with. He actually sent two, which is where I’m going to lose most of you.
Dan and Doug are building two different 9’ 4 weight models. If you’re not a trout fisherman, or a dry fly aficionado, or if you don’t like 4-weights, or if you don’t want a 9-footer, you’re out of luck. (They’re working on 3-weights and 5-weights, but since it took them 10 years to bring the 4-weights to market, I wouldn’t hold your breath.) On the other hand, if you are a dry fly angler who enjoys 9’ 4-weights, and if you’ve been content but underwhelmed by the various & sundry offerings from all the major and minor rod manufacturers, then I’ll tell you what I’ve told some other folks recently:
I’ve cast a lot of fly rods, from a lot of manufacturers, in my life. I don’t claim to have cast them all, or even anything approximating all, but since I’ve been reviewing gear off and on for more than 20 years now, I have a reasonably good feel for the state of fly rods in the year 2022. Dan and Doug are building the finest fly rods I’ve ever cast. Now I want to be clear. I don’t mean the prettiest, or the lightest, or the most technologically-advanced. I simply mean that they’re incredible rods to cast, and to fish.
I’m not the only one to feel that way. I know for a fact that a couple of the finest fly casters on the planet — folks who breathe the rarified air that most of us mere mortals will never even sniff — are absolutely blown away by these rods. Here’s the thing. You can’t put these rods in your fly shop. You can’t sell them online. You’d be insane to turn one over to a client in your drift boat. As things stand right now, there’s no way that they will contribute to your bottom line or help put your kids through college. Which means that there’s absolutely no reason for you to even think about these particular 4-weights. Unless, of course, you’re one of those rare individuals who has somehow held on to your passion for fly fishing, and who would absolutely love to cast a rod that is the fly fishing equivalent of a Stradivarius, or a Westley Richards 20 gauge sidelock, or a 23-year-old Pappy Van Winkle. If that’s you … well, now you know. mbrflyrods.com My work here is done.