Friday, July 20, 2012

Duff's Thomas & Thomas Factory Tour

(Tom Anderson, a.k.a. "Duff", posted a few photos and thoughts after a tour at the Thomas & Thomas factory on the Fiberglass Flyrodders forum a couple weeks back and I thought it would be neat to share his trip here as well.   I always appreciate Duff's angle on things and it's also pretty neat to hear how complimentary the fellows were about the rod work of Matt Leiderman as well.  Enjoy.)

Since I was going to be in New England, I e-mailed Trevor Bross, sales and production manager for Thomas & Thomas, to see if I might stop in to have them fix the butt cap on an old T&T rod.  Very quickly I received a reply from Trevor saying that it would be fine and that he would give me a tour while they repaired my rod.  With my appointment set up, I began thinking that it might be a neat idea to show them Matt Leiderman's homage to Doc's Kaneglass rod.  I thought I might make a pitch for them to possibly make a Kaneglass II based on their Heirloom blanks.

Long story reasonably short, a gentleman in the bamboo shop quickly attended to my 70's Special Dry Fly and Trevor gave a memorable tour of the entire plant which turned out to be a much larger facility than I had imagined.  They have a great facility with tons of space in a beautiful rural setting outside the town of Greenfield, Massachusetts.  At one end of the building is a large casting pool complete with several casting platforms.

I was truly impressed with their complete focus on quality and pride in keeping everything "Made in the U.S.A." and in the end began thinking that the price they charge for their rods is a deal.  Trevor showed me some blanks that were to be destroyed that looked darn near perfect.  "Darn near" just doesn't cut it at T&T.  Trevor showed me examples of almost every rod that they have ever offered which allows them to perfectly replicate a certain model in a repair situations.  They treat every returned rod needing repair as an opportunity to learn.  By tracing the "Born On Date" they can even determine the source of the graphite for a particular rod as well as the builder.  Pretty impressive.  To be honest, my brain began to overload and I cannot remember half of the information Trevor generously shared with me.

Back to Matt's rod.  I showed Trevor Matt's Kaneglass/Heirloom replica and to say he was impressed is an understatement.  He thought it was perhaps the most impressive build on one of their blanks that he had ever seen.  He asked if he could show it to Troy Jacques their master rod builder in the bamboo shop.  Well, Troy agreed with Trevor's assessment and said that he would be proud to have whoever built it work with him.  He simply could not get over it and in particular was so complimentary of the wraps which he said were so beautifully "flat" which is rarely seen.  He hated wraps with bulbous epoxy wraps and was pleased to see varnish being used.  They both agreed that there was no way that they could even begin to produce a rod like it and make a profit.  I remember him saying that some builders think they are a 10 when they are more like a 4.  "This guy is a 10 without question."  Then Troy said, "I think Tom would like to see this rod."

And now here is the point when I began to reach fly rod Nirvana.  Yes, it turned out that Mr. Tom Dorsey was there.  Tom turned the rod over and over in his hands and said something to the effect that it was perfect.  He said what he particularlly liked is that no one part took away from the whole. He said that highly figured inserts and agate strippers for example tend to be a focal point and sometimes can overshadow other parts of a rod.  He loved the straight grain walnut insert and mildrum stripper as well as the color of the wraps.  Tom spent some time talking with me about what he liked in fly rods and dry fly rods in particular.  He said he really didn't care what a rod was made from but just that it was a good rod.  He told me he likes a faster dry fly rod that can dry off a fly and with enough power to put some waves in the line at the end of a cast.  He felt that some dry fly rods being built today were a little too slow.

Tom was also pleased to see my old special Dry Fly with the nickle silver ferrules.  He loved how it had changed over the thirty-five years to a greenish blank with gold tipping and writing.  He told me that the tipping and writing were originally white.  When he looked at the writing he said, "That's my wife's writing."  I had always mistakenly thought that Tom Maxwell had done it.

Trevor graciously permitted me to take photographs wherever I wanted but the lighting conditions were challenging and I didn't want to use flash so only a few are worth posting. 

Trevor did share that they are rolling more Heirloom glass and that there will be another glass line in addition to the Heirloom series.

One last comment I would like to make is that it is obvious that Thomas & Thomas is doing well.  I was glad to see that Mr. Dorsey continues to be involved with every aspect of production and design. Trevor told me that almost all T&T rods were designed by Mr. Dorsey including the Heirloom series.

1 comment:


This is so awesome!! Thanks for posting this Cameron !! Great article, duff