The Vintage Orvis Rod User / Collectors Thread;

Ard

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I don't expect to be over run with posters on this topic although I know there are a few of us in the membership who own the old rods and still use them regularly. With that I mind I posted hoping that maybe we could have a little chat about the many models and where we use them.

I guess that when I say 'vintage' I'm thinking at least dating back into the 1990's and backward from there. While the Trident series may seem old to us I don't believe they had the same following as the early graphite rods. If you are fishing the old cane rods feel free to post about your thoughts and experiences with them as well.

At last count I'm at 7 rods made back in the 20th century, there were eight but I recently sold my 6'6" Full Flex fiberglass rod to a member here. so....who has what?
 

jayr

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I have several of the older Orvis rods.

Henry’s Fork 8 1/2’ 5 weight
Green Mountain (Far and Fine blank)
Western 8’ 3” 3 weight
Silver Label 8’ 6” 4 weight

I don’t fish them as much as I should but they fit in the areas I primarily fish.
 

tcorfey

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Hey Ard,

I have 3 vintage Orvis Bamboo rods still in use:

A Model "99" 8' 2 piece, made 8/26/59 by Calvin Skinner & George Reid. Orvis tells me it was first sold to Abercrombie & Fitch New York on 3/2/60. Love this rods for swinging wet flies especially. I normally fish it with a Hardy Princess reel and a Mastery series Trout line in 5WFF.

A Battenkill 8', 2 piece made 2/24/70 by Ron White. I use this with a couple of different reel/line combos one is a Martin MG-7LS reel with a Cortland 444 Peach 6DT line and the other is a Pflueger Medalist 1495 with a Cortland Sylk 6DT line. This is a nice rod similar in function to the Model 99 but it handles a heavier line better so I tend to use it for bigger flies and streamers.

Last but not least is a Midge 7 1/2', 2 piece made on 4/12/67 by Bill Young & George Reid. I use this with the same Hardy Princess I use on the model 99 and also with a Orvis CFO III reel with a Cortland 444 peach line in 4DT. It is a nice dry fly and wet fly small stream rod.

It was just this past year or so that I weighted up some of these reels by adding lead tape to the spools. So they now balance better than they did when used with some of my lighter reels.

Regards,

Tim C.
 

Ard

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I'll start littering the pages with pictures now but I'm way short on snap shots of the bamboo rods...….

Three early graphite's;



Left to right are 79' Far & Fine with Marquis #5 on it - 78' Limestone with CFO IV reel - 83' Light Salmon with Hardy Ultralite Disc 8/9 reel.

The Far & Fine has more use than any other rod I own, the Light Salmon is next and the Limestone I bought from a forum member because I always wanted one but never could afford it in the 70's. When I finally sprang for the Far & Fine in 1979 the shop had no Limestone in stock or I probably would have taken that instead. The F&F made a fine rod for me all these years though. Funny thing though, now I have the Limestone rod but my favorite spring creeks like Penns' Creek are many thousands of miles away......
 

Ard

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My PM-10 (never knew what that meant) in 2005, still use that one a bit.



The forum's been sorta slow lately so I'm trying to start some action :)
 

jwbowen

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I have and use a couple of Vintage Orvis bamboo rods that I still use.
Orvis Seven-four and a Battenkill 2 piece 8'. I had a two piece
Madison I used on a local river but left it by the river and someone
picked it up:((. I have a beautiful little CFO II on the 7-4 and a Sage
505L on the 8' Battenkill. I forgot to mention a 1968 Orvis Flea.

I picked up my second non bamboo last week a Scott 774. I initially was
not impressed because it didn't magically make me cast better than my Orvis
7-4. I wasn't any more accurate and I didn't catch more fish. The next day
I fished it again and realized I didn't have to work as hard with the Scott.
I like the Scott but if I could only fish with one it would be the "Grass rod".
Something magical about a fish on bamboo.
 
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Ard

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I think this picture has been posted more times than any other I ever put here, it's old.



8 foot six weight

Out of focus but it's a flea rod

 

tcorfey

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Picture of the three with different reels than I use now...
Battenkill - has one of the two reels I use
Model 99 - Now use a Hardy Princess - this is a Battenkill Barstock
Midge - Now use the Hardy or a CFO III - this is a Battenkill Barstock

IMG_1231.jpg

Regards,

Tim C.
 

Ard

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We touched on the subject of the 99 while you were here Tim, always liked that rod. It may be the only one they made with the red silks I'm not sure but I think so. Here's another worn out picture :)



Light Salmon 8 weight made in 64' that's an old picture, I use a St. Aidan reel on it now. Unless the water comes way up that's one of my fall rods now, I use a light Spey line on it and it actually casts real good as a short spey caster.
 

Lewis Chessman

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Good call on a thread subject, Ard. :)
I've yet to snap up my own early Orvis but it's high on my Most Wanted list. At present I'm looking for an Orvis 'Graphite' where the tube doesn't carry the '25 Year Guarantee' as that's the best indication I know of which points to an earlier model.
However, I've yet to establish exactly (even approximately!) when Orvis introduced their guarantee. Does anyone here know?
Also, I've noticed a difference in the font on early 'Graphites' with one being blocky, the other thinner and more italic. Again, I'm uncertain which was first if, indeed, it is a date indicator at all?

A little curiosity for ardent collectors is that after Orvis opened a shop in the UK (1980s, I think?) they brought out a British range of the 'Western' series. I'll see what I can dig up about them but I'm aware of a 9 ft #6 and 10 ft #7 model, both of which carry the '25 Years' sticker on the tube.
I've a bit of time on my hands this week so will do some research on the above and Ard's 'PM' model, too.

The only older Orvis I've cast was a hire rod on my last estate, a 15 ft #10 Graphite. It was the least favourite of all our rods amongst the gillies. We all found it soft, lacking backbone and with a very slow recovery. It's a rod I'd like to try again now I have a greater fondness for a slower rod but not one I'd rush out to buy.

If anyone has the time and inclination it would be interesting to see a timeline of Orvis's carbon rod models and, of course, to hear your views on their differences.

James.
 

k_e_v

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Great idea Ard
I have a beloved Henry's Fork. BTW, I really liked the rod names in that series. I bought this rod when I had absolutely no business shelling out that kind of cash and it has been a workhorse for many years. Lately with travel and the new 4 piece rods being so much easier to transport it has taken a backseat to newer, faster rods. Although I did bring it on my last Green river trip and it was like having a reunion with an old friend. I really had to adjust my casting tempo but after a few casts I remember how much I like that particular rod action. I am leaving the end of the month for Colo/Utah and the Henry's will be going with me and used often.

thanks for the memories, kev
 

Ard

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Well there are more of us than I had anticipated, as for researching a timeline James you'll have to google all that yourself but...........

What I can tell you based from memory is that they began to sell Graphite rods somewhere around 1974 - 75 and some early rods didn't have a model name. That was dealt with quickly and names like 'Trout' - All Rounder - Limestone and Far and Fine bubbled up by 1977 / 78. From there the models using the same 1st generation graphite material expanded. By 1980 I was seeing 'Spring Creek' and 'Light Salmon' model rods, then came 'Powerhouse and Shooting Star models. All were made from the same bulk supply of graphite material that was used in the very early rods. According to Jim West who used to run the Orvis Rod Shop up until early this century the first generation rods ran up to and included the 1984 production. After 1984 they were produced using a second run of blanks which resulted in a slightly different "feel" in the rods but they remained basically the same medium action throughout their production.

The plain aluminum tube with burgundy label is the visual trigger if you are looking at rods on auction. No plain tube means it probably isn't 1st generation graphite. The rods all had the month and year of final build stamped on the but caps in the format of (9-79) which would mean September of 1979 for instance.
 

tcorfey

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Lewis,

"In 1982 Orvis established its mail-order and retail business in southern England near the legendary trout rivers."
"In 1992 Leigh H. Perkins named his son "Perk" Perkins as president and CEO of Orvis. A year later Orvis purchased British Fly Reel, the largest single producer of fly reels in the world, securing its international leadership."

From
History of The Orvis Company, Inc. – FundingUniverse
 

Ard

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I thought I'd break this up into 2 posts so you guys wouldn't look at the reply and think "Oh God here we go, he's written a 1000 word essay :)

The reason I always point to the early rods if someone is looking for a fly fishing time machine is that...……… When the guys who were designing Orvis fly rods got into graphite as a new material for rod making they were coming from a long history of bamboo and fiberglass rod production. Yes I know that it may seem shocking to some but Orvis and Hardy Bros. LTD are among the oldest surviving fly rod producers we have today and it appears that Hardy is on life support at this time.

Orvis set out if I understand what I've been told, to make rods that were lighter than bamboo or fiberglass and stronger than both also. In doing this they were looking for tapers and material that would be capable of holding more potential energy thus producing higher line speeds and greater strength when fishing with them. They also tried hard to come up with rods that retained the same feel of the rods they had been making for a very long time because they were conscious of the fact that if the new rods felt way too different they may not sell with a generation of anglers who knew only bamboo or glass rods. That (I was told) is why those old Orvis graphite rods have the full flexing medium action. Back in 1976 - 79 that action was recognized as medium. As an owner user for 40 years I can tell you that the rods are very capable of making tight loops - high line speeds or are easily adopted to more relaxed open loop casting with delicate presentations as well.

Sure I have a Sage X and other modern rods also but if speaking in a general way I can say that these old Orvis rods are in my experience among the best fishing rods I've ever had the pleasure to use. That's based on experience and is not just opinion. Opinions can be drawn from reading, viewing, or hearing things. I've been fortunate to be able to have a long relationship with fly fishing and so can draw my own conclusions :)

And Kev, when I bought my Far & Fine it was $385.00 I think and until that day I had never paid more than $125.00 for a fly rod...……..
 

Lewis Chessman

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Thanks for the personal notes, folks!
@tcorfey: That's great. I recently posted about a Dermot Wilson rod I've bought (dedicated thread here still pending) which I'm sure is a 1st Gen Fenwick HMG blank. I knew he also imported Lamiglas and Orvis blanks and that he eventually sold his mail order & custom rod building premises in the deliciously named Nether Wallop to Orvis - just not when!. That's a great help in my dating this rod, the 'Ishbel Sheppard', a 12' 6'' #8/10 double-hander.
Big thanks for the link, too. I'll enjoy digesting that later.

Btw, Nether Wallop (Old English = Kick Up The Backside! ;) ) is on the banks of the most illustrious English chalkstream, the River Test, and in the county of Hampshire. The ideal place for their UK business and, of course, the source of the name of their UK-focused rod range.

@Ard: Many thanks, old chum. I was aware of the helpful dating on the butt cap but I'm not well and had forgotten! Sadly not all sellers on eBay include that vital photo. I sometimes contact them and ask them to look for me but too few respond, hence my including the tube decals in my search parameters. The Burgundy labels are my notifier when the cap isn't shown but I'm sure I've seen even them with the additional '25 Year Guarantee' sticker.
I'm afraid I have also seen some 'Orvis Graphite' rods which have no date on the butt cap. Whether these are all UK models, maybe custom-built blanks, I do not yet know.

My (limited) understanding is that the 1st 'carbon' rods were simply denoted with 'Orvis Graphite' and, yes as you say, the specific names came later. I read the derivation of the 'Fine and Far' only last week but in my current weakened state (tonsillitis!) I can't quite recall right now. I'll look later but it was a quote from somewhere which they adopted.
As I mentioned above, I've noticed a font change in the 'Orvis Graphite' rod decal and perhaps this denotes the two generations you speak of?
I'm reminded, too, that the very first Orvis Graphite blanks were made by Shakespeare, an assertion confirmed last year by sweetandsalt's Orvis contacts, but surely those weren't the 1st Gen rods which finished in 1980 but a '1st Gen/1st Gen' rod, if that isn't a contradiction in terms (which I think it is! :p )

That's enough from me. Nursey says it's time for bed and the whisky glass is dry. Night-night America, drink deep of your day, dear friends.
 

photoguy

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My Far and Fine from the late 70's still sees plenty of use and is my favorite rod to fish with. I've often thought that were something to happen with it I'd be searching the next day for another to replace it.

And as an aside, I built mine from a blank. The Orvis Graphite sticker is long gone and I used a metal engraver to write on the butt cap the model and date. I think the sticker was a simple metal foil peel and stick type and I likely never put anything over it. Once every few years I call the rod shop to see if anyone has come across a replacement sticker hiding in a desk drawer somewhere, but so far no luck.
 

spm

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Late to the party, as usual. Good subject, Ard.

Pictured left to right:
7'9" 5wt Green Mountain that has only been fished a couple times, with a period Orvis Madison 4/5 reel.
7' 5wt Small Stream Special, with a period Orvis Battenkill 4/5 reel made in England.
8'3" 3wt Western Series, with a period Orvis Battenkill 3/4 disc reel made in England.

I apologize for the sideways picture. I can't figure out how to rotate it once it's on here and I've tried rotating it in my files before uploading it.
Vintage Orvis rods.jpg

Had, but gone.
8' 5wt Clearwater - Broke through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.
8' 3wt PM-10 (Power Matrix) - Bought it, hated it, sold it.

Full disclosure. I didn't start out planning to fish vintage Orvis rods. They just sort of became vintage along with me.

Thanks,
steve
 
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