On Vintage Fenwick HMG Fly Rods

Lewis Chessman

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Thanks for the memories, mtbusman, I enjoyed that. Maybe you could post some pics of them for us?
They certainly sound like the 2nd Gen HMG brown blanks I've read of, even softer than the first but not as soft as the Trad. series. Given that that's only a 5 oz deadweight on my 9 ft #5 1st Gen above I dread to think of the hoop your rod must have made that day!

Interesting that not all blanks were marked GFL as yours are GFF. I've more to learn on that designation, I think.
 

mtbusman

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The blanks I used to build the two rods had the Fenwick logo and HMG in gold paint 18.5 inches up from the butt end of the blank. When I built the rods I removed the blank model number and hand inscribed the corresponding rod number and other information about each rod.

I dug through my old rod building stuff today and found a 1981 Fenwick "Rod Builder's Handbook & Blank Catalog." It includes information on blanks for fly rods, spinning rods, spin casting rods, casting rods, steelhead rods, saltwater spinning, surf rods, and trolling rods made from "New Boron-X," HMG graphite and Fenglass. Under the new Boron-X, only two blanks were listed, a 8 1/2 foot fly rod for 6 or 7 lines, and a casting rod. I guess Boron-X really was new in 1981. Under HMG graphite there was the regular HMG and the HMG graphite Traditional blanks. In the middle of the catalog there is a Rod to Blank Conversion Chart -- so the GFF906 rod I built was made with a GFL-108-6-F blank. The catalog also has rod building instructions, guide spacing charts, and instructions on how to make a diamond wrap.

I still have not figured out how to post pictures in a post without using a subscription based photo site -- so, no pictures for now.

PS -- had trouble with the site reloading and losing my post before I finished it. Had to write the above post three times. I've been away from the forum a awhile, but I guess it is still experiencing some difficulties.
 

Lewis Chessman

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Wow! Thanks!! What a treasure.
There's a wealth of information there for me to ponder over and digest, cheers. Is 'Woodstream' mentioned anywhere? By '81 I would expect so ....

Sorry you had so much trouble posting, I honestly haven't had issues for two months or so myself. Hope it doesn't continue for you.
I'll drop you a p.m. re- hosting, if I may?
 

mtbusman

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Woodstream is mentioned. On the front cover, under the Fenwick logo, it reads "Part of Woodstream's World." The same thing is printed on the back cover. And the mailing address is to "Fenwick/Woodstream."
 

Lewis Chessman

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Thank you, mtbusman. That figures. I've read a few times that Don Green left Fenwick some time around the Woodstream buy-out. Given that he established (what became) Sage in 1979 if the former is true it places the buy-out on or before 1979.
Kind of you to check, cheers.
 

Lewis Chessman

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I'm indebted to mtbusman who has very kindly sent me a copy of the '1981 Rod Builder's Handbook and Blank Catalog' by 'Fenwick, part of Woodstream's World'.

It contains a wealth of information about their '81 range and models and helps to clarify certain dates. I'll post just the fly-related information below. Although still under copyright, Fenwick have previously been very generous when old material is posted for educational reasons and I'll gladly remove the images should they so request.

I should say; I have in no way discounted Rip Tide's comment (post 6, here) that Schwiebert says there were three generations of HMG by 1978. Given the reported break-rate of the first rods it may be that a reworking of the very first rods resulted in a '1.02' slate-grey HMG model c. '75/'76, and that the softer, brown HMG (my '2nd Gen') was introduced in '78. I simply don't yet know when the brown rods came to market. For my own ease alone, until it is clarified I'll continue to call brown rods 2nd Gen and edit to correct errors later.

Inside Front Cover:

1-2.jpg

The highlights for me here are the clear date of introduction for their Boron-X fly rod (see p.3 below) as 1981 and the description of the 2nd Gen HMG blank colour as, ''Chameleon Brown''.

Page 1 shows their rod action rating:

1-3.jpg

Given the curve a 5 oz weight gave my 905 above, either the HMG wasn't that fast after all - or my rod has gone soft with age. ;)
It mentions here that the HMG range, amongst other rods, are fitted with Feralite ferruling system.

Page 2:

1-4.jpg

Some helpful info on blank codes here, a little more on the ferrule and 'Fenwick's Lifetime Warranty'. I thought Orvis were first at that gambit but later than 1981?

Page 3:

1-5.jpg

Although Jim Green had been experimenting with boron for several years by 1981, here is Fenwick's first boron composite rod, the Boron-X, available in just one length & rating - 8 1/2 ft, #6/7. But that, I hope, is for another thread some day.

Under 'HMG Graphite Fly Rod Blanks' it states that ''the graphite sleeve, formerly used over the butt section, has been eliminated'' and the new ferruling system was introduced in the previous year - 1980. The 2, 3 & 4 piece HMG blanks are all listed here.
Great to get more information on the 'Traditional' range. While they may have a ''slimmer look'' and a smaller Butt Size they're the same weights as the standard HMGs and on a couple the Tip Size is half a size greater.

Page 5: The Fenwick Ferulite fiberglass range, for reference.

1-7.jpg
 

Lewis Chessman

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Page 9:

1-11.jpg

Page 10:

1-12.jpg

From p.12:

1-14.jpg

From p.16: Not HMG (GFL), but FL.

1-18.jpg

From the Back Cover:

1-20.jpg

Again, big thanks to mt for his time and generosity!
 
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Lewis Chessman

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Something is puzzling me ...
In the above, p. 3, it says that ''the graphite sleeve, formerly used over the butt section, has been eliminated'' and the new ferruling system was introduced in the previous year - 1980.
The graphite sleeve ferrule on my 1st Gen rod is on the top section, as it is on this 2nd Gen rod off eBay ....
Or am I misunderstanding the catalog?
 

Lewis Chessman

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Here is a lead for you to follow; back in the 70's Fenwick had a School just south of West Yellowstone, Montana on Rt. 20 with casting ponds and guest cabins. The likes of Jim Green, Bob Jacklin (a great caster/angler) and David "Dutch" Schultz were instructors.
I've just seen this listing on eBayUS for a ''Fenwick Fly Fishing School Notebook'', plus a Jim Green book, 'Fly Casting From the Beginning', two Gary Borger pamphlets and a 1978 School brochure. Presumably the notebook was given to students when they enrolled.
Hope they go to a good home! :)
 

mtbusman

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Lewis asked me to supply some photos of the 9' 6wt HMG that I built in 1982 from a Fenwick blank. The focus of these photos is to reveal the blank color, among other things. However I threw in one of the inexpensive cork grip I used and a 1980s vintage reel seat, just to depict the total build.








I built this rod for my father who never fished with it -- he went to a local park to practice casting it, but that was as far as he got. That's why the Hardy LHR Lightweight reel shown in one of the pictures is virtually new.
I made an 8' 6wt HMG for me that I fished a lot in the 1980s. It was a very full flexing rod.
 

Lewis Chessman

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Thanks, mtbusman, that's smashing.
The 'dot-matrix' effect from the cloth is rather nice and you did a sweet job on the whippings. Did you carry on building? You should! :)

Looking back at my Fenwick 1st Gen pics you can see the same dotting under the varnish so perhaps the cloth remained the same for the 2nd Gen and the resin changed - or it's the same blank but painted.
Shame I can't just jump on a plane and nip over for a side-by-side test cast with you. I'll blame the virus crisis, not my bank balance. ;)

Something I can't reconcile is the GFF annotation as I thought all blanks were GFL.

A by the by, but I've recently edited the op to correct the dates re the colour change and Woodstream's buy out. Looking back at mikew1959's post he's spot on with his dates - brown rods introduced in '77 and the buy out in '78. I've yet to establish exactly when the Traditionals were released but 1980 is a reasonable ballpark date.
 

Lewis Chessman

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Interesting Fenwick history. My first graphite fly rod was a Fenwick HMG in 1973.
That's interesting, Hellbender. I know it was a long time ago now and this will sound like quibbling but are you certain it was 1973?
I've read that HMG bait and spin rods were released first in that year and fly rods followed in '74.

I'm being pedantic, I know, but such details are important if only from a historical perspective. If you are sure it was 1973 then that's an important fact, given that these were (probably) the first graphite fly rods sold to the public.
Glad you've enjoyed the thread.
 

Hellbender

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I was basing it on my age, but it surely may have been 1974. I just remember that the rod was new to the market. Thanks for the correction; it’s a great trip down memory lane.
 

Lewis Chessman

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Thanks Hellbender. Honestly, not a 'correction', it's just what I've read but this is now 'ancient history' and it's remarkably hard to pin things down with precision these days so I had to ask. :)
Best regards, Lewis.
 

GoWest

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Thanks for the carefully researched history Lewis, I was so glad to have found it. I picked up a built hmg gfl 102-7 blank today. It's build is quite unique and in pretty good condition. I'd like to place the age of the blank based on your research. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it's the blank color that will tell me if it's a first or second generation hmg? It looks gray to me, so a first generation?

A62BF014-9F9D-462D-BC86-C4443D5E0BC9.jpeg

A616533C-719B-4F51-9F96-C0D7EBFEBA3E.jpeg
 

Lewis Chessman

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Hello, GoWest, and welcome to the forum!
Congratulations on your find. That is indeed a 1st Generation Fenwick HMG blank. You can identify it by the colour (black not brown) and by the reinforced female ferule on the top section. The 2nd Gen HMGs (well, my only example, anyway) were 'Chameleon Brown' in colour and have a spigot in each lower section, permitting a thinner, non-reinforced female ferule on each upper section (customised example below).

1-P1050239.JPG

1-P1050236.JPG
I presume that the earlier ferule config was thought to deaden the flex due to the extra reinforcement required and by 1977 the newer version was in the shops. We often grumble at how short-lived modern rod series can be - but apparently that's nothing new! I believe you can date your rod to somewhere between 1974 - 1977, though 1st Gen stocks may well have still been on sale for a year or so longer.

Your rod has the typical Fenwick cork grip shape so it may have been bought as a full kit. Having said that, I don't recall seeing one with the black rings. I can't tell from the pics if the black is integral to the grip (i.e. blackened cork or composite cork rings) or perhaps coloured on the surface only, perhaps with permanent ink? No matter either way, just my curious mind!
The whipping style is very much of the '70s. I can't tell for sure but has the builder whipped over a layer of off-white/cream masking tape, then varnished?
I can see only one guide in the photos, that on the lower part of the top section. This looks to me more like a spinning rod eye?
If it were mine I'd test-cast it, fish it, and consider re-working it if you think you could improve it. There's a lot of unnecessary thread and varnish and you might find the action more enjoyable if it lost a little weight and the guides were replaced by more trad fly eyes, snakes or single legs.
If you haven't tried rod building before this would be a great model to start with - but get to know it a little as-is first, you might just love it!
There's a rod building sub-forum here on the NAFFF and I'm sure others will be happy to advise if the hobby's new to you - it really isn't that tricky and is immensely rewarding.


Rip Tide, thanks for the shots of your Cofi, it's a rod I'm keeping an eye open for but I've never seen one on eBayUK yet. I'd love to compare it to my Iron Feather, one of the stiffest rods I own. I'm working away from home until October so can't post pics of it just now but will try to remember to do so when I finally return. Hope you're well, pal, and thinking of getting back to the water soon.
 

GoWest

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Hello, GoWest, and welcome to the forum!
Congratulations on your find. That is indeed a 1st Generation Fenwick HMG blank. You can identify it by the colour (black not brown) and by the reinforced female ferule on the top section. The 2nd Gen HMGs (well, my only example, anyway) were 'Chameleon Brown' in colour and have a spigot in each lower section, permitting a thinner, non-reinforced female ferule on each upper section (customised example below).

I presume that the earlier ferule config was thought to deaden the flex due to the extra reinforcement required and by 1977 the newer version was in the shops. We often grumble at how short-lived modern rod series can be - but apparently that's nothing new! I believe you can date your rod to somewhere between 1974 - 1977, though 1st Gen stocks may well have still been on sale for a year or so longer.

Your rod has the typical Fenwick cork grip shape so it may have been bought as a full kit. Having said that, I don't recall seeing one with the black rings. I can't tell from the pics if the black is integral to the grip (i.e. blackened cork or composite cork rings) or perhaps coloured on the surface only, perhaps with permanent ink? No matter either way, just my curious mind!
The whipping style is very much of the '70s. I can't tell for sure but has the builder whipped over a layer of off-white/cream masking tape, then varnished?
I can see only one guide in the photos, that on the lower part of the top section. This looks to me more like a spinning rod eye?
If it were mine I'd test-cast it, fish it, and consider re-working it if you think you could improve it. There's a lot of unnecessary thread and varnish and you might find the action more enjoyable if it lost a little weight and the guides were replaced by more trad fly eyes, snakes or single legs.
If you haven't tried rod building before this would be a great model to start with - but get to know it a little as-is first, you might just love it!
There's a rod building sub-forum here on the NAFFF and I'm sure others will be happy to advise if the hobby's new to you - it really isn't that tricky and is immensely rewarding.


Rip Tide, thanks for the shots of your Cofi, it's a rod I'm keeping an eye open for but I've never seen one on eBayUK yet. I'd love to compare it to my Iron Feather, one of the stiffest rods I own. I'm working away from home until October so can't post pics of it just now but will try to remember to do so when I finally return. Hope you're well, pal, and thinking of getting back to the water soon.
Thanks for the reply. The rings on the cork are blackened cork and integral to the handle. The wrapping is done on top of a cream colored layer of thread. You are right, there is a lot of thread! The guides do indeed look like spinning type guides, even the stripping guide. The guides are probably the thing that bothers me the most about the build.

I want to use the HMG as my "office rod" as there is a couple of ponds and a river I like to cast in on work breaks. I'd like to use it to chase bass in this water. I will try fishing it as it is, as I've never tried building myself. I'd appreciate being directed to the building info though as the guides will continue to bug me. I kind of like the reel seat and handle, can you rework a rod for just the guides?
 
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