Thursday, November 5, 2009

T.F.M. Interviews Jim Bartschi of Scott

With the introduction of the Scott Custom Shop and the Fiberhammer Two Hand Assist rod arriving in shops in early 2010, I thought it might be a good time to talk with Jim Bartschi of Scott Fly Rod Company to hear his about his history and what Scott has up their sleeves right now.

As President and rod designer of the Scott Fly Rod Company, can you walk us through your history with Scott and the fly fishing industry?

Sure. I’ve been involved with fly fishing all of my life, starting out in fly shops, guiding and eventually landing a job with Scott Fly Rods when they were still based in San Francisco. I was very fortunate to work with the founder, Harry Wilson.

For the past eight years, I’ve served as President in addition to my long running role as Rod Designer.

How have you seen the Scott Fly Rod Company evolve and change over the years?

We’ve certainly become better and more consistent rod builders over the past 35 years as our understanding of materials and process have evolved. We’ve also held on to many of the traditions that Harry started when he was at the forefront of rod design using a ‘new’ material in the seventies called graphite.

We’ve also grown the company into a globally recognized and distributed brand.

Have there been people that you’ve considered mentors both inside and out of Scott Fly Rod Company? How has this affected your approach to designing fly rods as well?

Harry Wilson certainly had a great impact on my ideas regarding rod design. It’s a very small community so over the years I’ve had dialogs with most of the other rod designers out there.

I’ve also carried on relationships with some friend in engineering and applied mathematics fields who have spent years working on the technical challenges of defining fly rod action that have been very meaningful.

The Scott pro staff is another group who have had a major impact on how I think about and approach design. Their empirical feedback on rod performance in actual on the water situations has been invaluable.

Being that you produce all of your fly rods in Montrose, Colorado, how do you remain competitive with the larger fly rod companies and the companies that build their product elsewhere?

As I stated above, we’ve really refined our rod building practices over the past 35 years and have become pretty good at it. I think there is always a place for products that perform at the highest levels and consequently deliver a lot of value.

Tell me a little bit about the development of the Fiberhammer Two Hand Assist rod. Where did this idea come from, with what type of fishing will this fly rod excel, and what differences and advantages does this switch rod have over others being that it has been built with fiberglass instead of graphite?

Each year we introduce limited edition Concept Rods. They are a platform for trying new ideas that come to us from our community or from an idea we’ve been interested in. They don’t really fit into any rod series or category.

With the growth in interest in two handed and switch rods, and the rapid development in lines to better match them, we felt that we were in a unique position to introduce a rod that applied some of the advantages of fiberglass and gave anglers access to a more traditional or historical feeling rod for swinging flies.

The rod is really intended for swing fishing inside 80 feet, but you know what they say about intentions. We’re already hearing of people using it for indicator high sticking, pocket water fishing and a number of techniques that weren’t on our list originally.

Using glass allows the rod to load deep into the cork while casting a playing fish. It’s a very different experience than fishing a graphite rod of similar length and line weight.

Can you provide any information about future projects and address a few rumors as well? Is there an eight foot five weight Fibertouch in the works and is there any truth to the rumors of fiberglass fly rods being rolled in brown or yellow glass again? Anything else you’d like to dispel or pass along to T.F.M. readers?

You’ve got some good sources. The best I can do is to let you and T.F.M readers know we’ll be expanding our fiberglass line up significantly.
It’s a material we really believe in and we’re proud to be the only fly rod company that builds high performance rods from graphite, fiberglass and bamboo.

The Scott Custom Shop was unveiled at the Fly Fishing Retail show a couple of weeks ago in Denver. Can you explain how the Scott Custom Shop will work and what this will mean for customers? How will orders be placed, what options are available, and what will the average build times be when a rod is ordered?

The Scott Custom Shop highlights some of our unique abilities as premium rod builders and offers our customers, who tend to be dedicated fly anglers, the opportunity to fish rods that are unique and personalized. It’s about having something different from off-the-shelf rods whether for specialized fishing applications or bragging rights.

Orders will be placed online at either at an authorized dealer’s shop or at home through the authorized dealer’s link.

We’re currently offering all our single handed fresh and saltwater blanks. We’re focusing heavily on custom traditional hardware like blued nickel silver seats with rope knurls and Snake Brand extra select agate stripping guides. We’re offering many unique grip shapes all turned from the highest quality cork harvested.

We’re also offering some unique saltwater and big game components like machined all titanium seats. It’s really comprehensive.

That being said, we’ve already received a lot of requests we didn’t anticipate (like building a rod from a G Series blank) so the Custom Shop will definitely evolve over the years to accommodate new ideas and requests we receive.

(The "F" 703/3 that is always behind Jim Bartschi's truck seat.)

Finally, you’ve certainly tested and fished many of the fiberglass fly rods that Scott has produced over the years so in your opinion which is your favorite glass rod and can you recall an experience where you’ve fished that rod and where?

My two favorite Scott glass rods are the current F703/3 (7’ 3 weight three piece) and one of my vintage yellow glass rods that Harry built, a F75 (7.5’ 4-5 weight two piece).

One of the rods that all of us at Scott own and fish in common is the F703/3. It’s ideally suited to the high country creeks here in Colorado so it gets a lot of time in the summer when I’m fishing for native cutthroat. There have been so many great experiences with this rod, I couldn’t pick one. I suppose it’s enough to say that it stays in the truck all summer, every summer.

Look for more information on the Fiberhammer in future posts on T.F.M. along with with any news coming out of Montrose, Colorado that I catch wind of.

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