Vintage Orvis fly rod info.

loughlad

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Hi all from the U.K. I have an Orvis 10’6” 3 piece rod labelled “Orvis Graphite”.It is an unsanded version with brown whipping,snake rings except the stripper,bulbous overfit joints and no other detail on the rod or buttcap.I would love to know the age,line weight,model and anything else pertinent.It looks of similar age to my Limestone 8’6” rod but I may be wrong.Any knowledge would be greatly appreciated,thank you.2FF3912A-BD2F-46DE-B6B9-413D377ED1F3.jpeg
 

moucheur2003

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Orvis rods of that era usually had model information and the month of manufacture engraved on the butt cap. If yours doesn't, or if it does but you can't decipher it, send a message to the Orvis customer service desk. They keep extensive records and are very good about answering questions concerning old, discontinued rods. I gave them the serial number of my bamboo Battenkill rod and they told me not only when it was made, but by which craftsman in their shop, and where it was first sold!
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sweetandsalt

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I'm going to venture an opinion that I cannot substantiate. Orvis customer service may not know this either as I believe your rod was a very limited edition in response to a fly shop owner in, perhaps, Michigan, for his idea of a Great Lakes Steelhead special. It may never even have been in the Orvis catalog. This would have been around 1987 and, again going on faint memory, the 10'6" rod was, I think, rated for a #6 line.
 

markmark444

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I have a 7ft Orvis Otter graphite from 1978. If you cannot read butt cap information that is there, you may want to try going over the inscription with a felt marker or pencil and then wiping it off, though my cap is silver it makes the year easier to read. Also, a couple of years ago the Orvis Museum had a vintage rod expert provide a free phone consultation and maybe they do that annually or can provide other information.
 

GManBart

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I have around a dozen of the unsanded graphite Orvis rods and a handful of catalogs from when they were available, so I might be able to help narrow things down somewhat. Not all unsanded Orvis rods had the month and year on the butt cap...that stopped in the 93-95 time frame. I know that because I bought a couple of new Orvis rods back then that I still have, and they don't have dates on them. At some point they also stopped putting the rod specifics on the butt cap as well. The wrap color changed over time as well. I know I have a rod or two with the similar color reddish brown wraps that might help narrow the range.

Can you post a picture of the tube and cap? They changed over time as well, and that can help sort out the era.

I don't think Orvis will be able to give you much information...certainly nothing like they can with bamboo rods that have actual serial numbers, but it won't hurt to ask. Not many of the folks who answer the phone are going to know about rods from 20-40 years ago.
 

loughlad

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I have a 7ft Orvis Otter graphite from 1978. If you cannot read butt cap information that is there, you may want to try going over the inscription with a felt marker or pencil and then wiping it off, though my cap is silver it makes the year easier to read. Also, a couple of years ago the Orvis Museum had a vintage rod expert provide a free phone consultation and maybe they do that annually or can provide other information.
I have around a dozen of the unsanded graphite Orvis rods and a handful of catalogs from when they were available, so I might be able to help narrow things down somewhat. Not all unsanded Orvis rods had the month and year on the butt cap...that stopped in the 93-95 time frame. I know that because I bought a couple of new Orvis rods back then that I still have, and they don't have dates on them. At some point they also stopped putting the rod specifics on the butt cap as well. The wrap color changed over time as well. I know I have a rod or two with the similar color reddish brown wraps that might help narrow the range.

Can you post a picture of the tube and cap? They changed over time as well, and that can help sort out the era.

I don't think Orvis will be able to give you much information...certainly nothing like they can with bamboo rods that have actual serial numbers, but it won't hurt to ask. Not many of the folks who answer the phone are going to know about rods from 20-40 years ago.
Hi,thanks for the quick response,the tube no longer exists and the butt cap has been changed to a rubber one.The rod has not been used for many years and is in very nice condition so I may use it next year or sell it IF it has any value at all.I could not even guess at a value as it seems very rare here at least.thanks again.
 

GManBart

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Hi,thanks for the quick response,the tube no longer exists and the butt cap has been changed to a rubber one.The rod has not been used for many years and is in very nice condition so I may use it next year or sell it IF it has any value at all.I could not even guess at a value as it seems very rare here at least.thanks again.
Okay...we can still compare wraps and I'll take look at the catalogs I have. The eBay listings Trev posted are likely older than yours because they've got lighter color walnut spacers in the reel seats and darker wraps (more like burgundy red). Yours has a dark cocobolo spacer which came along later and the lighter brown/red (almost an orange). I don't know when they dropped the walnut spacer, but I think it was pretty early on in the graphite era. I'll have to look at the catalogs I've got and maybe come up with an idea. My initial guess is early 1980s.

As far as value goes here in the U.S., a similar rod would be worth at least $200-250 in good condition. Not having the tube hurts, but condition of the rod is always primary.
 

GManBart

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Okay, so this is what I've been able to dig up....I'm not an expert, so if somebody has better info I'm happy to be corrected!

I have a 1977 catalog with the 10' 6" Ultimate 3 7/8oz 6wt rod listed, but it has the down locking reel seat with a walnut spacer and a different grip profile. It matches the eBay listings above.

I have three Superfine rods with wraps that are the same color as your 10' 6" rod and all three have 1985 dates on the butt cap (I didn't know that prior!).

I have a 1988 catalog and the Ultimate 10' 6" 6wt rod is no longer offered.

I think it's safe to say your rod was made after 1977 and before 1988. Since the cocobolo spacers are more often found on rods with no date on the butt cap I tend to think it's probably on the later side of that window. If anything, it's probably very close to my 1985 rods because the brown/orange wraps aren't nearly as common as the darker burgundy that was before and after that time period.

I think the only way to know for sure is to dig up some more old catalogs, but even those sometimes have errors. I found one not long ago...they had the catalog weight of a bamboo rod wrong for probably five years. They had switched from a cork to cocobolo spacer and changed the markings on the rod for the heavier total weight, but didn't update the catalog. Still, I think we've got it narrowed down to a pretty small window of production.
 

loughlad

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Okay, so this is what I've been able to dig up....I'm not an expert, so if somebody has better info I'm happy to be corrected!

I have a 1977 catalog with the 10' 6" Ultimate 3 7/8oz 6wt rod listed, but it has the down locking reel seat with a walnut spacer and a different grip profile. It matches the eBay listings above.

I have three Superfine rods with wraps that are the same color as your 10' 6" rod and all three have 1985 dates on the butt cap (I didn't know that prior!).

I have a 1988 catalog and the Ultimate 10' 6" 6wt rod is no longer offered.

I think it's safe to say your rod was made after 1977 and before 1988. Since the cocobolo spacers are more often found on rods with no date on the butt cap I tend to think it's probably on the later side of that window. If anything, it's probably very close to my 1985 rods because the brown/orange wraps aren't nearly as common as the darker burgundy that was before and after that time period.

I think the only way to know for sure is to dig up some more old catalogs, but even those sometimes have errors. I found one not long ago...they had the catalog weight of a bamboo rod wrong for probably five years. They had switched from a cork to cocobolo spacer and changed the markings on the rod for the heavier total weight, but didn't update the catalog. Still, I think we've got it narrowed down to a pretty small window of production.
 

loughlad

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Hi ,thank you very much you have given me way more detail than I could have hoped for,that I can put a model name ,date and line rating is tremendous,you are most certainly a great font of knowledge and I am in your debt.I hope you don’t mind another question,does this mean that my Limestone 8’6” with a cork reel seat is even earlier as I cannot read the serial number on the butt as it is scuffed.thank you,you have made my day.
 
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Ard

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I have a Limestone 8 1/2 foot #6 rod made in 1978. The rod has the cork reel seat, I don't know how early they began making the model but most pre 1981 rods had the cork seat insert rather than the wood.
 

GManBart

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Hi ,thank you very much you have given me way more detail than I could have hoped for,that I can put a model name ,date and line rating is tremendous,you are most certainly a great font of knowledge and I am in your debt.I hope you don’t mind another question,does this mean that my Limestone 8’6” with a cork reel seat is even earlier as I cannot read the serial number on the butt as it is scuffed.thank you,you have made my day.
You're more than welcome! If your Limestone has a down locking reel seat that's silver, with a cork insert, it's likely a few years older. The earliest catalog I have showing graphite is 1977 and the Limestone 8' 6" is listed, and the picture shows a DL silver reel seat with cork insert. My 1974 catalog doesn't have any graphite rods listed. I believe 1974 was when they were in prototype phase and they were first cataloged in the Spring 1975 edition. I have seen a 1975 catalog and they have an 8' 6" 6wt rod listed, but no name (none of the others have names either). I'm looking to see if I can find a 1976 catalog out of curiosity...be interesting to see.

I don't know how the math worked out as far as whether cork inserts were more common or not per Ard's post, but I looked at all the rods listed in the 1977 catalog and there were 24 models with inserts. 9 of those had cork inserts. The rest were mixed between metal and walnut. I suspect the more common models, that would have sold in higher numbers, were those with cork inserts.
 
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