An Early Thomas & Thomas Graphite, 9' 6" #7, 2 pc., No. 966.

Lewis Chessman

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I've just bought an early T&T graphite fly rod via eBayUK which has one issue if not more ..... But nevertheless, I couldn't resist. ;)

It's hard to be sure from the photos whether the serial number is #996 or #966 - it kinda depends which way you look at it! This, I think, places it around 1978, perhaps a bit earlier. It has nickel-silver ferrules which is correct for the period. I understand that the earliest T&T graphites had carbon ferrules which were prone to breakage so they reverted to metal for a wee while.

The obvious problem is that it is missing the lowest snake on the tip section. That doesn't concern me much as I'm happy to replace it myself.
The seller states that the ferrules are a little loose through wear. At best the male may just need a touch of candle wax, at worst the female may be split. We'll see when it arrives.

The seller also states that the rod has lost 4"-6" from the tip, but I'm not so sure .....
The ring spacings look good from the pics and it may simply be 'staggered' by the addition of the female ferrule to the butt section. Again, I'll learn more when it arrives in a week or so. I have been unable to find any photos of similar T&Ts on line to compare to and would be interested to know the opinions of my fellow members here.

I note that the butt section has series of length measurements either painted or decal'd above the grip - not something I've seen on any other T&T. They may or may not be original. Also, the seller has not shown a serial number nor a 'Thomas & Thomas' signature on the butt but the reel seat does carry their trademark engraving. To the best of my knowledge, these early models simply carried a model number, not a name like 'Special Dry Fly'. However, the seller has only shown the length and line weight markings in the photos they provided.

I haven't found any reference to a 9' 6" #7, 2 pc. from this period, only rods in the 8'- 8'6" range, but perhaps someone here has an old catalogue they might refer to for me?
Those other early T&T graphites each have a wooden reel seat insert but I have seen a few bamboo T&Ts with an all-aluminium seat like this ones so I'm satisfied that is authentic in and of itself.

I shall contact Thomas and Thomas directly, with my own photos, once I have received the rod to ask their opinion on its refurbishment and for any history they may be able to provide. I understand they are often very helpful with such requests. I don't expect them to honour the warranty after 40-odd years, though!

I'd very much like to read any members' thoughts about the rod - positive or negative - or their knowledge of similar models from this period.
With thanks,
James.
 

Lewis Chessman

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Thanks, Denny, very kind of you to say so! I'm keeping all my fingers crossed with this one after being let down with a Winston WT a month or so ago.
Smaller models are said to be a tad faster than the early Winston IM6s but still 'medium' in action which will suit me to a T.
Here's hoping it is what it purports to be. :)
 

original cormorant

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Wasn't a bad price was it?

Serial number conundrrum - with the reel mounted (and below the rod) the serial number should appear upside down on the left hand side of the rod. At least thats how my T&T rods (2000 to 2010) are marked. You may find there's useful info on the tube cap.

I note it has a hook keeper - couldn't be certain but I think T&T have more rods without a hook keeper tham most rod makers. There's probaly an interesting story how a 1970's rod reached the uk. Don't know when Tony Fordham became UK agent but almost certainly after this.
 

Lewis Chessman

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Thanks, original cormorant. I've seen a few early T&Ts with the ring-style keeper which, while by no means definitive, was something which encouraged me. I'll look again at the few examples on line and see if the serial number is similarly situated. Some posts have mentioned an engraving on the ferrules but the pics for this one aren't very good. I'll check that on arrival.
I did wonder, given the apparent lack of a T&T script on the blank, whether it was a custom job or a hybrid rebuild but as you say, not a bad price so little lost if it turns out to be a dud or early rebuild. I've already had my money's worth with the countdown, research and expectation. :)

I think Tony Fordham was importing early Lamiglas blanks around 1976 but didn't know he sold T&T too, so thanks for that.
Oh! Mortimer & Whitehouse has started .....!
 

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Just for you, James, I snapped an image of an antiquated T&T graphite in my collection. Its serial # which appears in the signature, on the tube and at each spigot ferrule is 3739. It is an 8'/#4/5 (4), has the ring style hook keeper and, indeed, has that Tom Dorsey moderate flex profile.

T20 013 T&T 8'.jpg
 

Lewis Chessman

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Many thanks, Richard, that was most kind of you to take the time to dig it out for a photo session.
The rod hasn't yet arrived and is due tomorrow at the earliest so right now I'm none the wiser as to its condition and authenticity.

However, the first thing which strikes me is the similarity of the whippings. The seller's photos show the same chromed rings and the length of whippings, black with a narrow lighter coloured trim, looks like yours. Whilst yours have white trim his look yellow - but that may be poor colour balance on his part, aged varnish or perhaps actually a yellow thread. Impossible to say right now but the parallel styling is reassuring, nevertheless.

Also reassuring is the position of the length/weight script on mine versus the 'Traveller' script on yours. Both are just above the keeper ring and written in the same plane. However, yours has a second whipping to 'bracket' the script, mine does not. A small and probably insignificant difference though yours does look tidier for it.

The spirals of the sanded blank are very visible on yours, less so on mine. Again, possibly poor lighting/photography on mine.
And your grip is very, very clean by comparison. I'll have to decide how much grime I want to remove when I get it. Shame about the nibbles around the base of the cork on mine but all part of its story, I guess.

Yours has a winding check, mine doesn't. The rod number looks to be correctly placed on my top section.
I don't know if the black metal tube shown with mine is original. Time will tell. I do hope so.

Finally, I note that your tip ring whipping has the white trim to it and, though hard to be certain, I believe mine has, too. If this rod has lost 4''-6'' off the top then someone went to a fair bit of bother with a repair. It may be wishful thinking on my part but that reinforces my suspicion that the rod is in fact whole.

So, all in all, rather encouraging re: its provenance! I don't want to bother you as I'm sure you've put it away but did you notice if 'Thomas & Thomas' was written on the butt section as it often is on later models?
It strikes me that the measuring marks might be a service T&T offered on bespoke rods? Just a wild guess there, though.

You will, I'm sure, understand how excited I am about this one. If true it will leave me wanting an original Orvis Graphite, a G. Loomis IM6 and a Winston/Loomis IM6 before I complete my collection of classic early carbon specimens - though my only Sage GFL is a d-h, not a single-hander so not ideal to compare.
Sure, there are others I'd cherish, like a Winston/Fisher or a Simroe boron specimen or two but I can wait. I can wait. Actually, there is a Leonard Graftek on eBayUK right now but £100 is more than I'd like to pay for a rod I'd be afraid to cast! ;)

Thanks again,
James.
 

sweetandsalt

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When you are ready for your early Orvis, just tell me which one you would like. Original tube and sock of course.

This T&T does have inscription on the hood but not on its end.
 

Lewis Chessman

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Cheers, LOC. Not wishing to self-promote but I wonder if this article on the origins of graphite rods might interest you?
I'd be interested to learn what you have and what you especially like - and why.
Personally, I'm still finding my way to my ideal single-hander but I've yet to find a fast rod I enjoy working with, much preferring a medium-medium-fast. Part of that is because the type of fishing I do (loch + boat/float tube or smallish rivers for brownies, sea trout and Atlantic salmon) doesn't demand distance but also because a slower rod seems to suit my Zen and a deeper flex makes even smallish trout more exciting due to the extra sensitivity. Do feel free to elaborate here on your own favourites, please.

Thanks, Richard! That's worth knowing but a tad surprising that they didn't feel the need to plaster their name on the butt section. They must have felt that the engraved reel seat was sufficient in the early years. Understated class, I guess.
I'm hoping our mutual friend will be able to join me next season and bring the Simroes then, as C19 kinda ruined our plans this year. Would a third rod be too much to ask? We'll see! :)

A by-the-by but, I'm delighted and relieved to see that you and cooutlaw especially are doing fine during the pandemic. We're having a peculiar season here in N.E. Scotland - more salmon in the river than the old boys have ever seen but after two months without rain the river is a mere trickle and the fish seldom want to play. Last Thursday my guest fished Beat 9 on a windless day and didn't get a touch. On Friday the wind hit 30 mph+ and the angler on that beat landed a 30 lber! Such is life and the vagaries of our sport, huh?
Btw, that fish was black and, as another gillie said, ''had a head the size of a sheep!" Must have been 35 lbs+ when it entered the system, probably back in May. We live in hope and dream on.
J.
 

Lewis Chessman

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The rod arrived later than anticipated but very much as the seller described. The ferule was loose but a little candle wax to the male seems to have sorted that, There is a snake eye missing from the bottom of the top section, as he had stated.
It has been broken in the past, losing 4" off the tip. The repair is poor but quite cleverly (I think) they kept the yellow decorative wrap from where the last snake would have sat. I believe one can just see where the lower leg was tied in here (whitish mark on the left).

1-P1030598.JPG

Not so cleverly, they've varnished the tip ring. I'll remove that later when I re-do the black whipping which is a bit shoddy.

I expected to see a 'T&T' engraving on the female ferule but instead find this: 'LB'?

1-P1030587.JPG

I'd be very interested to know if that means anything to anyone.

Here are the only hand written markings on the rod - '9 1/2' / #966' and '966':

1-P1030593.JPG

The male ferule is quite scored and someone has added a ruler decal to the butt section. The missing snake should be just above the '966' on the top section. The drop-ring keeper is correct for the period.
It's a bit odd that the yellows are stronger on the top section than on the butt - both whippings and ink.

The cork was pretty filthy but has cleaned up OK with soap and water.
Before:

1-P1030600.JPG

After:

1-P1030601.JPG

Finally, the reel seat ring with T&T logo:

1-P1030590.JPG

So, that's it. A slightly shortened, very early T&T carbon rod. I'll contact the company about what thread and varnish/epoxy to use to make the repair to the missing snake and re-do the tip.

The female ferule perplexes me a bit. Was it once nickel-silver? There are some signs of a black paint or varnish having been on it - or that could be tarnishing/corrosion. Any suggestions on improving it - and the whole thing - welcomed.
I doubt I'll have a chance to cast it this season but will try a #7 on it once refurbished. Given the missing 4" it may now be a #8 though!
 

Lewis Chessman

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I emailed T&T with a few questions about this rod yesterday. Mr. John Carpenter replied to my request within two hours. There's service!

Here is what he has informed me:

This rod was made in July, 1980. The blank was rolled by T&T themselves from 36M modulus, IM6 graphite cloth, possibly sourced from Hexcel.
He tells me that to the best of his knowledge all early T&T graphite fly rods had these nickel-silver ferules and that he has never seen one with composite ferules.

This goes a long way to dispel the idea I had read (somewhere on line!) that the very first T&T graphites had carbon/glass ferules which were prone to breakage and soon replaced with metal. I have read elsewhere that the early Leonard Graftek rods ('73/'74) were subject to snapping at the joint, perhaps that is the source of any confusion?

He also informed me that the wraps are black primaries with white secondaries, covered with a urethane varnish which has yellowed with age. This accounts for the irregular discolouration on my rod, perhaps due to the varnish's thickness on each wrap.

My thanks to Mr. Carpenter who also answered a repair question I had about a modern T&T almost immediately. Fine service, indeed.

It's interesting to me that IM6 cloth was available in July 1980. In an interview Gary Loomis refers, in rather vague terms, to first obtaining IM6 cloth which suggested to me a date circa 1982 (see here under 'Loomis Composites') but this information pushes that date back somewhat. That Mr. Carpenter doesn't mention an earlier composite used in T&T rods may even suggest that IM6 cloth was always used on T&T rods. This would then push the date back to circa 1978.

It's long been puzzling to me why it took Loomis so long to produce his first IM6 rods, introduced by G. Loomis in 1985. I'm even more curious now!
 
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dennyk

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Hi James, I think it's cool and interesting the way you delve into the history of vintage fly rods.

I don't know if this would work because I've never tried it, but maybe you could give new white thread that yellowed aged look by trying a diluted solution of yellow Rit dye? There may be other ways of doing it that I'm not familiar with. but anyhow congratulations on your new old rod!

Denny
 

Lewis Chessman

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Hi, Denny, thanks very much! I'm glad I'm not alone in my interest! ;)
I haven't thought deeply into it yet but had immediately considered adding a yellow pigment to the varnish. This would have the advantage of discolouring the black wraps to the same degree - but I hadn't got so far as to consider what dye or perhaps ink to add to the mix. I'll check out Rit and see if it's available over here, cheers.
 

Lewis Chessman

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I thought I'd give an update on this rod refurbishment as I've now done as much as I intend.
It still has a few issues which I am unable to resolve:
It's 4" short at the tip! Nothing I can do about that but it'll still cast, I'm sure.
The ferrules remain a tad loose. Candle wax on the male does help but I'll need to keep an eye on it when fishing.
The butt cap is worn and scratched but I can't identify the maker to replace it, nor find anything similar. Not too concerned about it though.

Having replaced the corroded stripping ring with something very similar to the original (just slightly shorter legs and a rounder ring), the missing snake on the tip and rewhipped the female ferrule I'm now happy to take it to the river.

The female ferrule (post 11 above) polished up nicely. Possibly too nicely for stealthy fishing!

1-P1030618.JPG

I then learned that T&T whipped these ferrules with black thread. It's a shame to cover the T&T monogram but that's exactly what they did:

P1040095.JPG

One non-original aspect is that I've used a modern epoxy resin while T&T used a urethane finish. They told me that the 'yellow' secondary threads are in fact white, the appearance changed by the urethane discolouring with age.

1-P1030687.JPG

To accommodate this I've coloured my white thread with ink - though I admit it's a bit more yellow than the originals and my thread is a tad too thick in diameter. Could have been packed a little tighter too, as a macro shot shows:

P1040109.JPG

P1030685.JPG

The yellow on the left is damned close to the originals, the right is a bit bright. Never mind! In 'reality' you've got to really look to notice and it's been a fun project to dip in and out of over winter. I'll definitely give it a cast this season.


I've recently bought a Partridge 'Black Shadow' 9 1/2 ft 2 piece, #8/9 which is built on a T&T blank from precisely the same period. However, the Partridge has a Swiss-made reinforced carbon/glass composite female ferrule with a reinforcing nickel-silver ring on the butt and a graphite male ferrule (not metal as above) so, although the blank is probably made from the same IM6 composite from Hexcel circa 1978 there's a difference/development in choice of joint.

A Partridge 'Black Shadow' Swiss female butt ferrule:
P1040133.JPG

I'll be interested to compare the rods side by side later in the season. I already own a 9 ft #6 'Black Shadow' which is a surprisingly sweet, smooth, forgiving rod so I hope these exhibit similar qualities. The Partridge's both have these Fuji ceramic single leg guides with I really don't like. It's in my mind to re-ring them with snakes next winter once I've given the original guides a chance to impress. The 40-year-old varnish is rather distressed, the whippings are nothing special and on the new rod the top three guides are misaligned! So, the single legs will have to be mighty impressive to survive the dark months next November!
 
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