On Vintage Fenwick HMG Fly Rods

Lewis Chessman

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Isle of Lewis, UK.
Hi, GoWest, thanks for clarifying about the grip and whippings. Compared to today's rods there's a helluvalot of thread and varnish on many older rods, possibly a hang over from cane rod building. This adds unnecessary weight to a rod and can impact on how it bends, deadening it.

Sure you can just replace the guides and keep the grip & seat, no problem.
The NAFFF's Rod Building Sub-Forum can be found here.
There is also the UKFFF Rod Building Sub-Forum here if you want to widen the net and see more of members' work. Your log in here works on this 'sister site' if you wish to comment/post there.

Changing the guides on a rod isn't that tricky at all. If you can tie a fly you can build a rod! There are dozens of vids on YouTube which will walk you through the whipping process. All you'll need is a steady hand with a razor to remove the old eyes and varnish, some Wet&Dry sandpaper (800 & 1200 will be fine) to clean the area of detritus, some masking tape, thread and guides of your choosing and, in this case, some rod varnish. Total cost around $20. Modern rods tend to use epoxy resin but with this 'antique' I'd stick with rod varnish, like the originals have.

Don't worry too much about ruining it - you won't. These old custom blanks carry little value today despite still being perfectly good tools for the task in hand - I personally prefer the medium action of these early rods for the kind of fishing I do. You may too. Reworking an old rod like this is a great entry point for the whole building game, especially as you don't want/need to change the seat and grip.

My internet is tortuously slow today so I can't find examples of originals to share - but if you pop ''Fenwick HMG'' into Google Images you'll soon find examples of original factory models to inspire you. If you can find a pic of your model then you'll know how many guides and what kind originals should have.
Personally, I would remove all the old whippings/guides and that peculiar winding check (at the top of the cork). I'm UK-based so not best placed to advise on component suppliers in the States but I know Mudhole are pretty reliable as a starting point. To replace the w/c with one which fits properly you'll need a pair of calipers to measure the outside diameter of the blank where the cork ends and the rod starts. Digital calipers cost a few dollars on eBay these days.

I have a digital copy of Fenwick's builders' catalogue from 1981 which includes guide sizes and spacings for the FL 102-7. Not exactly the same rod as yours but it may be a starting point. If you get serious pm me and I'll send you the relevant page and explain how to find the best position for each guide on your rod - it isn't rocket science, honest!

Hope that's some help and encourages you to give it a go. All the best.