Saturday, August 13, 2011

Deconstructing Old Ads: A Forgotten Beauty (1942)

A Forgotten Beauty

From the pages of the May 1942 issue of Field & Stream comes this ad for an all but forgotten beauty, the True Temper Professional Fly Rod. When one mentions a steel fly rod today, the usual reaction is rolling eyes and heads shaking along with a lot of statements about how tired one's arm would get using such a heavy beast. The fact is that just prior to the introduction of glass, True Temper had taken the development of the steel fly rod to a point not appreciated by those unfamiliar with it, and I think that includes the majority of living fly fisherman.

About a year ago my neighbor at the lake had as his house guest, a nationally famous fly fisherman and tackle producer. Though I will not name him, his exploits have made the Monday news round up on the Fishing History Blog. He is approaching 70 years of age, and I was surprised that the first time I mentioned bamboo to him as a fly rod material, he dismissed it as much inferior to graphite. Somewhat taken aback, I waited for his next yearly visit and as he was coming in off the lake, laid out my circa 1950, 7ft True Temper Professional Fly Rod and invited him over to take a look at it. I did not tell him what the rod was made of and with its beautiful baked enamel finish (described by True Temper as “Pearlesent Goosebone White”), his first guess was glass as the rod weighs only a tiny fraction over four ounces. He finally gave up and was astounded when I told him it was steel. The rod was outfitted with a 5 weight line and Pflueger Medalist reel. He picked it up and put on one of the most amazing demonstrations of fly casting I've ever witnessed. With seemingly little effort, 60 feet of line was flying back and forth with nary a dip at either end. After this he handed me the rod and talked on for some time about how great a feel it had and how light the rod was.

This rod was one of the most expensive rods that True Temper produced selling for $27.50 in the 1940's. Its guides, as the ad states, are tungsten and in the 1950 catalog it was stated that “One hundred and fifty four tube drawing operations are required to produce the sections of this rod”. The only qualms I have ever had with this grade of True Temper rod is that well into the 1950 era the guides were still wrapped with silk rather than Nylon. By 1954 the True Temper catalog no longer contained the Professional or any other grade of steel fly rod. Glass had taken over. It was not that glass made fly rods of far superior action and lighter weight, but glass was proving to be far easier and cheaper to manufacture than high quality, seamless tubular steel had ever been.

-- Bill Sonnett

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