In recent months, I had been hearing about a new
fly rod Tom Morgan was building that some were
calling the Ultimate. During the 18 years he was an
owner of the Winston Rod Company, Tom designed and
built some of the finest rods on the planet. So you
had to take the talk seriously.
Since I had also heard George Anderson had
consulted on the project, I decided to swing by his
shop in Livingston and find out about The
Mike Dry: So what's all the talk about?
This new rod of Tom Morgan's.
George Anderson: By the
time Tom came to me, he already had some design
ideas. He wanted to produce a series of perfectly
matched rods for the kind of fishing most anglers do,
especially on Western waters: casting light lines at
30- to 50-foot distances, yet still have the power to
make longer casts with bigger flies.
My job was to sort of be the "ultimate critic" of
his prototype rods. Give him a sense of what did and
didn't work until he got what he wanted.
MD: So how did the process work?
GA: Tom had a very good
idea on what had to be done with the use of new
graphite materials and with new mandrels (rod
designs) to produce a superior rod to what was
presently on the market. He had G. Loomis build some
blanks on these first mandrels and brought them all
over to Livingston where we cast a variety of
different tip and butt designs to come up with the
finest combination in each line size.
We then cast a variety of other manufacturers'
rods, including Tom's own Winston designs, in each
line size from 2-6 to determine who had the "best"
rods in each line category. At that point, we
compared Tom's new designs to what we felt were the
best casting rods on the market and determined where
we needed to make some minor changes to improve these
initial prototypes for Tom's new rods.
Tom would analyze our testing results and order
more mandrels or make some changes to the pattern on
the existing mandrels. We would then repeat the
testing process and fine tuning until we came up with
a rod that would perform better than our "benchmark"
rods in each line size. This process went on for
about 9 months.
MD: So what did you guys come up with
that makes these rods so special?
GA: These are
exceptionally soft-actioned, smooth casting rods. To
get this, Tom did a couple of things different.
By using four individual mandrel tapers -- one for
2, 3, 4 and 5/6 weights -- each of his rods has close
to an even number of wraps when the graphite's rolled
on the mandrel. This eliminates the effect of the
spine and torque twist when casting, so you get a
more even flex and more accurate cast.
The other thing he did that's so important is make
the tip of the butt section and the butt of the tip
the same diameter. This is why his rods have such a
smooth transfer of power that's very distinctive.
A lot of today's rods use a slip over tip design
which increases tip diameter and stiffness. You also
have to add material in the butt section to balance
the rod. So you end up with a heavier rod than these
new Morgan rods.
Most of today's rods are also a lot stiffer than
Tom's and require a lot of line to load the rod
properly. Often, way more than you need when you're
fishing. So, as you know, the caster ends up doing a
lot of the work instead of the rod.
MD: I know lots of anglers today like
these faster action rods because they can cast them
so easily. How are they going to like the action on
GA: Tom's new rods still
retain a fairly fast action with a softer tip and
strong butt section. They are just softer across the
board, allowing the new rods to load with a minimal
amount of line in the air and to cast very accurately
at the short to medium distances...distances where
good anglers are doing 90% of their fishing.
People are going to pick up these new rods and say
that this rod loads beautifully with the recommended
line size. They won't feel that they need to go up
one line size to get the rod to load at shorter
distances, which is often the case with many of the
rods now on the market.
MD: Speaking of Winston rods, an obvious
question is "How different are these rods than the
ones Tom designed at Winston?" Many people I know
think they're just about the greatest thing
GA: That's true. We sell a
huge number of Winstons in the shop and people really
like them. They cast great and they're beautiful. But
there are some important improvements in Tom's new
rods. They're subtle differences. Not "night and
day." But most anglers will find these rods perform
noticeably better than the best rods on the market
MD: I've had a chance to see some of the
materials that will be used in finishing and
packaging these rods. Pretty amazing?
GA: I don't think there's
any question about it: they're the best crafted rods
you can find. The detailing is unique. There's just
nothing like it around at any price.
MD: Give me some specifics.
GA: Well, the rods are
just beautiful. They've got Number 1 grade cork
handles (you really have to look hard to find any
filler). The reel seats -- they're hexagonal shaped
to match the rod tube and cap -- are all exotic woods
Tom has been collecting for 20 years. You just pick
which one you like when you order and it's made up
for your rod. There's an agate stripping guide and
garnet red wraps that are a pretty touch. It's a true
MD: You mentioned the rod tube. That
sounds pretty unusual.
GA: Yeah. They're
custom-made, too. Extruded aluminum finished
with an electrostatic process. It expands the
pores of the metal so a translucent garnet paint is
absorbed into them. Then it's baked on.
You can't knock or chip the paint off. The rod
cap is black anodized aluminum and topped off with a
pure silver minted medallion with Tom's logo on
The rod bag is even unique. It's made of ultra
suede which cushions and polishes the rod when it's
in the tube.
MD: You're starting to get a little
worked up here. I take it you kind of like the
GA: (laughter) Who
wouldn't. The whole package is a level of design and
attention to detail no one has ever done before.
There's just nothing like it.
MD: So who's going to buy these
GA: They're definitely
going to be for the angler who wants to enjoy the
highest levels of fly fishing experience--performance
and craftsmanship--and is willing to pay a premium to