Thursday, December 27, 2018

10

I should have written this sometime in September but life went a little sideways along with me being gone for ten days to Italy with my wife (I know, humble brag...).  I figured that I'd get it done in October but work went into overdrive and we were gone almost every weekend camping with family and friends.  Good excuses, right?  November and December have been kinda a blur at work and home.  I've been off for Christmas and will be until New Years and I'm finally getting a chance to knock out a few paragraphs to say that someway and somehow, The Fiberglass Manifesto has turned ten years old. 

Ten years.  Over 4,400 published posts.  A handful of them my mom and I thought were pretty good.  Most of them have likely just been so so.  If you look close I'm sure there are grammar mistakes more times than I've found and fixed.  Unbelievably, there's been a few million page views over the years.  I've had countless late nights and early mornings spent typing away always hoping that T.F.M. is a good diversion for you from work or life or whatever.  Hopefully the website has been a solid resource in finding that special fiberglass fly rod or other piece of gear that you've come to enjoy.  There have been a few thousand emails answered, even if it took a few days to get to them.  T.F.M. decals and swag sent all over the world.  And lastly, I've had ten years of unbelievable experiences on the water while hanging out on the outer edges of the fly fishing industry that I would have never figured on otherwise.  It's been quite a ride.


I've been thinking that the ten year marker would be a good time to circle back, tell a few stories and give some background on how The Fiberglass Manifesto came to be.     

BEFORE THE BEGINNING
Twenty-five years ago I was a broke college student working at a summer camp in northern Michigan and through the graciousness of a sport shop owner who saw me eyeing a fly rod outfit on several visits where I did nothing but stare and fondle.  He allowed me to make payments (if I remember correctly it took three visits dropping off a twenty each time to pay it off) on a 7' five weight Eagle Claw Featherlight that was matched with a Martin tuna can fly reel and a really low end blue plastic level line that was kind of sticky but worked good enough.

I spent the rest of that summer learning how to fly cast with foam spiders tossed near the lily pads waiting for the distinctive slurp of a bluegill.  This quickly taught me not only the mechanics of fly casting but how to play a fish to hand and bluegills are typically ever plentiful which helped quite a bit with the learning curve.  I learned some possibly bad habits too, like I cast and reel with my right hand.  I can't say I've ever lost a fish from doing it this way but some think it's wrong. 

This was pre-internet and everything that I was reading at that time, from the magazine stand to the local library, talked up graphite fly rods so much that it wasn't too long before I felt kind of embarrassed to be fly fishing with a bright yellow fiberglass fly rod.  I ended up putting it down in favor of a few fancy black fly rods and I went almost ten years with moves from Michigan to Colorado and then to South Carolina before I reached in the back of the gear closet to find my first fly rod.  I was kind of a fly fishing only trout snob then but figured I could slum it on the family pond with some of the same foam spiders that got me into fly fishing with that gaudy stick.  Instead what I quickly realized was how much I enjoyed casting and fishing that fly rod again and it immediately put me on a path in wanting to learn more fiberglass fly rods.           

FIBERGLASS FLYRODDERS, A BIRTHDAY PRESENT & A $45 FLY ROD
As much nostalgia that I have for the Featherlight, it wasn't until I started poking around the internet finding the Fiberglass Flyrodders forum that things really got interesting.  I joined the forum in July of 2006 and I was somewhere around the 300th member.  To put that into perspective, the membership now exceeds 6,300 members.  The forum was, and still is, the source for all things glass, especially if you're into fly rods, makers and rod companies from yesteryear.  In fact, some members on the forum grew up with these builders or worked in the shops or companies that made these fly rods and there are some amazing threads with detailing a lot of history.

When I joined the forum, two things were happening about the same time.  My 30th birthday was approaching and I had asked my wife for a graphite four weight complete with fly reel and fly line.   This was to be a premium outfit in every way and when my birthday rolled around in September, this gift was placed in my hands.  Wow.  This was perfection in every way, or so I thought.

Just a couple weeks before, one of the forum members had sold me a vintage brown glass 7' five weight Heddon #8381 for $45 shipped and I was pretty excited about that fly rod.  Little did I know how much that fly rod would shape where my angling would go from that point on.

Around this time I was spending many days in western North Carolina in the Pisgah National Forest and for comparison would carry along both of these outfits to fish side by side.  What I quickly found out made me kind of sick to my stomach.  How was I going to tell my wife that this $1,000 graphite fly rod outfit, which she saved (likely worked quite a bit of overtime for) for wasn't even half as fun at the $45 fly rod and clicker fly reel which were both over 50 years old.  Let's just say it was awkward and move on.

WHY GLASS?
I've written a few articles on T.F.M., along with several for print and online, on the virtues of fiberglass fly rods.  My experience has been that glass fly rods really excel in teaching new anglers the mechanics of fly casting, experienced anglers find them incredible casting tools, they protect light tippets, are great for fighting and turning strong fish, they are far less apt to break and there is just pure joy in the feel of a fiberglass fly rod.  Most importantly, you can feel everything.

Over a dozen years into this journey into fiberglass fly rods, I've replaced anything that was graphite is now fiberglass with everything from a 5'6" 1/2 weight to tens and twelve weights to two handers.  Fiberglass really can do it all and in my mind, do it quite well.

Something that was weird for me to get my head around was that fiberglass fly rods were typically a lot shorter than their graphite counterparts.  Suddenly I was fishing fly rods which were 6' to 8' in length where before I wasn't fishing anything less than 8'6".  After the initial weirdness, I've never looked back and now really prefer shorter fly rods.  

And even though I've railed against worrying about what color your fly rod is (read this article HERE), fiberglass fly rods are certainly aesthetically pleasing and are offered in just about any color you could imagine.  I'm guilty like many in mapping out ultimate outfits of fly rod perfectly matching out a fly reel and even color matching fly lines and backing.  OCD much?

LATE NIGHTS IN THE CHAT ROOM
So where did T.F.M. start?  It sounds kinda weird (my wife didn't get it either) but the Fiberglass Flyrodders forum used to have a chat room feature that a group of us would all show up on Sunday night to talk fiberglass.  You could say we were total nerds for it.  This was ongoing for several years and one night Mike Carlson (owner of Pioneer Anglers in Alpine, Wyoming) and I were the last two in the room.  We started talking back and forth about the resurgence in fiberglass fly rods, the  many new builders and the fact that more and more companies were offering glass.  This turned the conversation on how it would be neat if there was something out there on the internet that had all of this in one place since the forum at that time was typically focused at looking back at the history and fly rods that had gotten us to 2008.  Online fly fishing magazines were just started to pop up and Mike and my conversation continued.  I still remember typing "What would we call it?", to which Mike immediately responded back, "The Fiberglass Manifesto".  Damn.  I really liked the sound of that.  I'd click on that if I saw it on the computer screen somewhere.  It was near midnight by now and we ended up logging off the chat room soon after.  Over the next few weeks we continued talking about idea of The Fiberglass Manifesto but neither Mike or I had any experience in creating a flip style magazine or even knew what it would take to actually get it started.   The idea just sat there for awhile.

I DIDN'T KNOW WHAT I WAS DOING, I STILL DON'T KNOW WHAT I AM DOING
Fast forward a few months and I still couldn't stop thinking about The Fiberglass Manifesto.  I gave Mike a call to see if he'd mind if I did something with the name and fortunately he give the blessing.  Next up was a Google search for "How to start a blog" and Blogger popped up.  A profile was created, I picked the most simple layout theme (which I am still more or less using) and started posting.

Scrolling through the T.F.M. archive is a weird walk down memory lane.  I started this website really not having a clue on how it was supposed to be done.  Fortunately there were some stellar blogs and websites from the O.G.'s in the game like Moldy Chum, Chi Wulff, Orvis News and Midcurrent (who are all still grinding it out daily) and then too many other online voices who've sadly hung it up over the years for whatever reason.

Fast forward ten years and I still don't feel like I know what I am doing but it's been a really fun ride.  In the beginning the content was very niche and almost entirely about fiberglass fly rods but the spectrum has grown quite a bit wider over the years which has given me the opportunity to talk about everything that I think is cool about the fly fishing and outdoor industries.  As I get older and find other activities appealing, I would expect the content to continue to evolve and to become more varied.

GETTING SERIOUS ABOUT T.F.M. & HOW IT WENT FULL CIRCLE
I had only been writing T.F.M. for about a year when at the 2009 I.F.T.D. show the Scott Fly Rod Company announced the Fiberhammer, which was a limited edition 10'6" seven weight fiberglass switch rod.  The day it was announced, my inbox began filling up with email after email asking me about it and T.F.M. readers were looking for details.  The sad thing was, I didn't know a damn thing about it.  Reality check.

That day sparked a fire that if I was going to consider T.F.M. a resource on all things glass then I needed to do the work to be in the know.  Over the next few months I put my "detective skills" to work and introduced myself to every fly rod builder and fly rod company offering fiberglass fly rods.  I ran down leads and rumors, made phone calls, sent emails and along the way started getting an early heads up about certain projects, prototype fly rods arrived on the doorstep every now and then and my personal collection of fiberglass fly rods was growing.  Things were moving in the right direction.

Fast forward a year and I was contacted by Jim Barschi of the Scott Fly Rod Company and asked if I would formally announce the F2 series of fly rods on The Fiberglass Manifesto.  It certainly was an honor that Jim likely doesn't realize to what extent it meant to me.  That announcement ask gave me a lot of confidence in what I was doing with this website.

A BAKER'S DOZEN NO MORE
When I started The Fiberglass Manifesto there were less than a dozen custom fly rod builders and fly rod companies that were known to me who were offering fiberglass fly rods.  The Fiberglass Fly Rod Makers page was looking pretty sparse back then but it didn't take too long before I was adding new builders and rod companies to the list on quite a regular basis.  Fast forward ten years and that list is approaching one hundred builders and rod companies and I'm likely missing a few that should be on the list who I may not be aware of just yet (send an email if you see one that I am missing).

Over the years I've had the incredible opportunity to be apart of conversations with a lot of different rod builders and taper designers to discuss different ideas in glass.  It's still weird to get an email or phone call from Tim Rajeff of ECHO Fly Fishing or an invite from Shawn Combs of Orvis to come up to Vermont to discuss what's in the works in the rod shop. (See posts HERE, HERE and HERE) To spend a weekend with Tom Dorsey of Thomas & Thomas to pick each other's brains (his wins for sure) or to trade frequent emails with Carl McNeil of Swift Fly Fishing to hear about what's next coming from New Zealand.

Another plus are the many cardboard rod tubes that I've found at the doorstep after a long day at work with the latest prototype or final version to mess around with to review on T.F.M. or carry along on an upcoming trip.  This was certainly an unexpected benefit from writing this website over the years.

These conversations have been really neat since, depending on the rod maker or company, the focus could be so much different than who I talked with the week or month before.  The past ten years have moved the focus from the usual 7' three weight, 7'6" four weight and 8' five weight to tiny parabolic small stream wands to shortie six, eight and ten weights and two handers that really perform.  A focus on design and the ability to source high end materials have helped create so many unbelievable fiberglass fly rods.

The Fiberglass Manifesto also gave me the opportunity to highlight small shop rod builders and to having one of them send me a text that a fly rod profiled was sold in minutes after the post was published or the builder who had several rod builds commissioned from the exposure.  Sometimes while highlighting one builder another builder ends up with positive exposure as well which is some sort of interesting synergy at play but it's been great to give back to an industry and to makers that have always given me so much.

A departure from rod builders but still very important to me, The Fiberglass Manifesto has also been a springboard where I've been able to introduce guides and outfitters, small shop gear and fly reel makers, artisans, photographers, videographers, podcasters, fellow bloggers and writers, fly tiers and others to this audience, many times with very positive and lasting effects.  

THE SOCIAL MEDIA EFFECT & #glassisnotdead
I was not an early adoptee to Facebook with a personal page but when the option came to create a business page for The Fiberglass Manifesto, I jumped on it pretty quick.  That was followed by Twitter and then Instagram.  Over the years I've kind of felt my way through "best practices" by following companies that I admire.  The T.F.M. social media pages have been a good way to share content, rod builder news and promote contests and giveaways.

Each platform has grown an audience which totals over 45,000 and counting and it's been really interesting to see how much influence social media continues to have in everything relating to the website.  While Facebook has become harder to reach it's audience with whatever algorithm is in play this week, Instagram continues to grow and I kind of feel like an old dog learning new tricks with things like the Stories feature and figuring out video over photography.

Long before hashtags were even a thing, I put together a simple phrase of "GLASS IS NOT DEAD" which was printed on a black square decal.  I sold and gave away a few but it never really took off.  As hashtags started to become a thing, I started using #glassisnotdead on everything fiberglass related on social media and a few others did as well.  Over the years those hashtags have amassed to nearly 50,000 images on Instagram and more are added every day.  From this side of the screen, it's been a really neat way to see other anglers experiences with fiberglass fly rods, the places and fish they catch and a way to see the work of so many different rod builders, both hobbyist and pro.

HOW I'VE CHANGED & WHERE IS THIS ALL GOING?
The past ten years have spanned my early 30's and into my early 40's and it's been interesting in a multitude of ways beyond the website.  Our daughter went from three to teen.  Our son from pregnancy to almost double digits.  Our jobs, work assignments and responsibilities changed for my wife and I.  We've seen a lot over the years and through it all, we are still married.  18 years and counting.

I used to purposely not mention it (my assignment back then more or less dictated that) but in the past several years I've been more open about my career in law enforcement.  Watch the news and you'll realize that this is a weird time to be a police officer and I am really fortunate to work for an agency that is progressive, community oriented and on the forefront of policing in a long list of ways.  All of that doesn't take the place of needing an escape and some time for self care.  Having a strong family to come home to along with the outdoors and fly fishing have meant a lot to me.  Ten years ago I had no idea what "self-care" was without knowing it, T.F.M. was just that for me.  The friends made while writing the Fiberglass Manifesto have given me an ever widening network all over the world along with so many opportunities to travel and carry a fly rod to places I would have never been able to visit otherwise.

Ten years ago my fly fishing focus was almost entirely on trout.  Fast forward to now and I'd much rather pursue warmwater and saltwater species, especially anything cruising the flats or shallow water like carp and smallmouth on Lake Michigan, redfish in the marsh, bonefish and (the still yet to touch) permit in Belize and Mexico.  I am much more aware of native species, what's proper when it comes to fish handling, barbless hooks and being mindful for redds and spawning fish.  I also don't think it's heresy to bust a spinning rod out every now and again as well.  Teaching Hadley and Finn how to cast a cricket under a bobber or to work a worm has rekindled an interest that I had long before fly fishing.

I like fly fishing when it's hard and requires some work (along with good fortune) to get it done.  I like opportunities that are different like casting mice in the middle of the night to browns on the hunt or hucking foot long feathered flies into dark water for something with teeth and slowly stalking on a hard flat to a fish with it's tail half out of the water and trying to land a crab fly right where it should have landed.  If it eats, it's entirely on the fish to make that decision and I can feel good that I've done my part.

Having little ego when it comes to the fly fishing that I do now is helpful.  There's nothing like coming home from a flats trip to Mexico or Belize pursuing permit with not much to share other than explaining to someone that asks what it's like to make long casts to the front end of black forked tails sticking out of the shallow water only to be asked, "So...you didn't catch anything all week?"

Getting back on track, where's T.F.M. going?  Honestly, I really don't know.  If someone would have asked if I'd be writing T.F.M. for ten years, I would have laughed.  20 years?  I'm laughing again.  Will blogs still be a thing then?  Are they still a thing now?  I sure hope so.

LASTLY, THANK YOU
Well, this post is certainly getting long enough but I do want to extend a sincere thank you to everyone who takes some time to stop in, sends an email, orders some T.F.M. swag or has invested in this website in so many different ways over the years like fueling contests, giveaways and advertising.  It has always been appreciated and the past ten years would not have been possible without every bit of that support.

Thank you to the anglers who are fishing more and more glass and to the rod builders and rod companies that have taken a fresh look at this medium for building fly rods and made them unbelievably exceptional fly fishing tools.

Cheers and here's to the next milestone.  We are (hopefully) no where near the end.

15 comments:

Bryan Kata said...

Cameron,

Thank you for your hard work, dedication, and passion for sharing your experiences and love of fiberglass rods. Having been a reader for the past 2 years, The Fiberglass Manifesto has been a terrific resource for me and the additional encouragement I needed to put down the fast action graphite and jump on the glass bandwagon, and I am so glad I did. Congratulations on the 10 year anniversary, and I look forward to what the next 10 years bring!

Bigdryfly said...

Great post and great website! You have spent countless hours following your passion in providing great content, and helping others learn about flyfishing in general, and fiberglass rods in specific.

Well done, and I can't wait to see what you do in the next 10 years!

youahh13 said...

Thanks for all your hard work and great posts, look forward to what the future holds on the site, keep up the great work!

Michissippi said...

Congrats on 10 years, Cameron! Thanks for all of the hard work!

SmallStreamShepherd said...

What a great post, Cameron! Seriously, there are. very few sites that I have enjoyed coming back to daily for as many years as I have here. Thanks for all your hard work, especially the "protecting and serving" work you do daily!

JohnH said...

Nice post, enjoyed it. I check your site almost every day, and look forward to your pieces. Thanks for doing it.

Jonathan Stone said...

Cameron; Thanks for all your hard work, intel into the fly fishing community. For the last 6 years + I have looked forward to grabbing a morning coffee and reading the latest and greatest things you have posted. I have enjoyed purchasing the TFM Swag, and look forward to what is next. Good Luck, and Happy New Year to you and your family.
Jonathan Stone - St. Paul, MN

Bobby Davis said...

Please keep writing. It pains me to no end that blogs seem to die off daily. The written word is valuable. I check your site every day. Thank you.

jim cosgrove said...

THANKS Cameron,TFM and FFF are my refuge from the daily grind.Not many fly anglers where i'm at so you guys are my fly fishing community.

Jun Zhang said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steven Zhang said...

Wow, that's awesome! Over 4,400 published posts for 10 years. Thanks for sharing all this, I've been following the Fiberglass for a few months. I just started a fishing blog for myself. I hope I can stick to it like you. Thanks again.

Steven Zhang

Unknown said...

Hi Cameron,

Your passion about fly fishing, fiberglass and the way you want to share them is simply perfect.
You're doing a great job, keep going.
Always nice to read you here in Switzerland!
Thanks a lot.
Tight lines.

Valentin

DaveBlair said...


Hey Cameron-


Wow, Great recap and thoughts. Thanks so much for what you've done, and what you continue to do. In relation to your profession, thank you so much for that as well. The world needs good cops. The line you wrote about having time to take for "self care" is really what all this fishing related stuff is all about. Sometimes we all just need to get away for a min, make a few casts and breathe. Glad you've shared your experiences with us for so many years. Here's to many more. Thanks again.

Dave

Cameron Mortenson said...

Thanks all for taking a minute to leave a comment. I really appreciate it.

desmobob said...

Congratulations. Ya done good! :-)
May 2019 be your best year yet.

Tight lines,
Bob