By JerryK on Saturday, 02 April 2016
Category: On the Road Blog

TEN YEARS OF SWEETGRASS

    

It is hard to believe that ten years have passed since Sweetgrass Rods was officially set up for business in April 2006. The company’s formation was more an unintended consequence of the untimely departure from our previous employer, however, than it was a well thought out plan. From the moment Glenn announced that he was moving on from the company he once owned, sold, and then helped nurture for a total of three decades, there was a groundswell of support for this quiet man who dedicated his lifetime to the integrity of fly fishing, and, ultimately, the crafting of fine bamboo rods. Additionally, when it was realized than one of several reasons he and the rest of us called it quits was to protest the shipping of jobs off to China, the word got out. Subsequently, one by one, unsolicited orders of support streamed in as if having a rod built in America by Glenn would somehow take the sting out of the disturbing trend in the country responsible for losing more and more jobs offshore.

     For Glenn, a decision had to be made about how to deal with the volume of orders; and so, within a few months Sweetgrass Rods was born. The “list,” as it was reverently called, grew to an incomprehensible number of orders that at one time numbered between three and four hundred. Originally there were four of us, including Glenn, who

moved into the renovated garage on the banks of the Beaverhead River in 2006. That number, though, dwindled to just Glenn and me within a year and a half. At that point it became our sole mission to work seven days a week to make this phenomenon successful, if only to honor those who expressed a belief in our principles as well as our dedication to American craftsmanship.

     Initially, it took several months to have a milling machine built, and then many more to get the custom-made mill up and running sufficiently enough to produce a few rough blanks to put together prototypes built on tapers of Glenn’s design. Our task was to make four-sided, five-sided, and six-sided rods in all lengths and line sizes. It took an incredible amount of effort to piece together rods that satisfied our expectations, and during that time we added an employee, and then another, and then another, while our devoted supporters stuck by our side waiting for the first completed work to be delivered.

     Eventually, after two years it happened. Through many sleepless nights, endless weeks, and many hardships in both our personal lives, we began to deliver rods that not only were true reflections of our dedication to trout waters, but also devout manifestations of our souls as well. To those who waited, we will always be deeply indebted for your patience during that prolonged period. In the end, slowly but surely, all rods were delivered.

    

When we were evicted from our shop in February, 2009, a month before my wife succumbed to her four year bout with ALS, it looked like fate had finally dealt us a blow too difficult to overcome. But then, friend Bill White came up with a plan to build a permanent home for Sweetgrass. Consequently, by the end of the year, the company had transformed itself from a ragtag band of gypsies scattered about in temporary quarters throughout Twin Bridges to a legitimately defined business located in a beautiful new shop on a perfect corner at the edge of a town known for its world-renowned trout fishing. Thanks to Bill’s vision and commitment to keeping Sweetgrass alive and well, the company weathered the economic downturn of 2008 to live on for its first ten years.

     Around the country there are many wonderfully talented artisans working in basement and garage shops preserving the craft of the individual maker one rod at a time. By replicating the tapers of masters like Garrison, Payne, Young and several others from the past, they keep tradition robust, and some of their completed creations are truly works of art. On the other hand, Sweetgrass directly links back to the small production shops of old when varying numbers of rods were produced to satisfy the demands of the day. Taking its place in history, Sweetgrass is the last of this style shop in the world.

   Maintaining a high standard of quality while producing a modest quota of rods for a broader base of clientele requires a production pace that is a challenge for many craftsmen. But for a decade now, our boo crew has been up to the task. With continued support from those throughout the fly-fishing world who believe in the value of an American made product that matches the beauty of the outdoors to one’s inner passions for the sport, the tradition will continue on for years to come. It is our belief that every serious angler should own a bamboo, and we hope that one day it will be a Sweetgrass Rod.


To honor our ten-year anniversary we are offering a 15% discount on any order placed in April.

Also, we are proud to offer our first limited commemorative collector’s series edition to celebrate the occasion as well. This will be a unique three-piece 7’9” 4/5-weight seven-strip rod in an Arne Mason leather case. Only twenty will be made and they will be numbered accordingly. The price is $2895.

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