By Spencer Durrant | TMTB Managing Editor
February 19, 2018
A Tom Morgan Rodsmiths fly rod isn’t just a rod — it’s poetry in motion.
Discussing a Tom Morgan Rodsmiths rod is impossible without mentioning Tom and his lovely wife Gerri. The amount of teamwork it took for Tom and Gerri to build rods together is astounding — and I only witnessed it a bit over eight months ago.
Tom spent the last 20 years of his life battling MS. He was confined to his bed or wheelchair, in a home not more than ten minutes from the Lower Madison River. It was during these years, though, that he created the best graphite fly rods I’ve ever fished.
It took years for Tom to teach Gerri how to create rods that met his lofty expectations. Luckily for Tom, Gerri was a quick learner. While she’d sort cork based on color, or wrap guides, Tom kept dreaming up new tapers and innovative ways to make rods better. He was a wealth of knowledge which never ran dry.
Tom owned Winston in the late 70s through most of the 80s, responsible for the design of the glorious IM6 rods. If the Sage XP is the best all-around production rod (which it likely is) then the Winston IM6 is the best dry-fly production rod.
A Tom Morgan Rodsmiths rod today is what those old IM6 rods may have turned into had Tom not sold Winston and struck out on his own.
In other words, they’re simply incredible fly rods.
This won’t be a normal gear review, simply because I haven’t found one thing about my Tom Morgan Rodsmiths that I don’t like.
I’ve done gear reviews for the better part of a decade now, and I think I’ve cast something like five dozen fly rods. Some of them were the latest and greatest, and some were antiques.
None are as smooth and effortless to cast as my Tom Morgan.
Tom and Gerri built me an 8’6″ 5wt, with an extra tip section. It’s a two-piece rod, because those are the best casting rods ever built. Loaded up with a double-taper line, the Tom Morgan Rodsmiths rod taper goes to work and throws tight, quick loops in a relaxed, purposeful way that few other fly rods can match.
The sticker price on a Tom Morgan Rodsmiths is enough to make even the biggest gear nuts think twice.
The moment you hold one in your hands, though, all thoughts of $1,500 being too much for a graphite rod fly out the window. These are some of the prettiest rods I’ve ever seen.
What’s really interesting about a Tom Morgan Rodsmiths, though, is the fact that they don’t mass-produce rods. Instead, each rod is built to the specifications of an individual angler. When I ordered mine, I think it took Tom, Gerri, and I a half-hour to sort through all the different options I wanted with my rod.
The standards across all of their rods, though, include nickel-silver reel seat hardware, octagonal winding checks, and top-of-the-line chrome snake guides and tip-tops. They don’t use pre-shaped cork grips, either. Each grip is built from multiple cork rings, sorted for color and quality, and then shaped to an angler’s choice.
Unless you were to build your own fly rod, it’s impossible to get this level of customization from any other rod maker (except the bamboo and fiberglass artisans). The attention to detail alone is worth the price of admission.
Like I said earlier, I’ve fished a ton of fly rods. The new Hardy Zephrus Ultralite might be the best production dry-fly rod on the market right now, and the new Orvis H3 is uncannily accurate at distance.
A Tom Morgan Rodsmiths doesn’t really specialize in one aspect of fly fishing, nor does it try to be a jack-of-all-trades. It’s just simply phenomenal at all the things you’d expect from a 5wt. Dries on still water to cruising trout? No problem.
Streamers against a Wyoming wind? The Tom Morgan Rodsmiths has your back.
String this rod up with a double-taper line, slow down your casting stroke, and you’ll realize you have the most accurate, delicate presentation fly rod you can buy.
In the months I’ve owned this rod, I haven’t found a single complaint in how well it presents flies to fish. Tom designed these rods for one purpose, and that’s pretty clear when you start fishing one.
The Best Fishing Rod I Own
A common theme that cropped up during my long talks with Tom was that he wanted his rods to be fished. I told him how I’d snagged an old pre-IM6 Winston (which he told me was built in 1977!) on eBay, and Tom’s first question was, “Have you fished it yet?”
As beautiful as these rods are, they’re meant to be fished. They’re like a great shotgun, honestly. You may not use it for every duck or chukar hunt, but it doesn’t sit in the closet and collect dust, either.
My Tom Morgan Rodsmiths is simply the best fishing rod I own. It’s so fun to cast, a joy to play fish on, and just plain gorgeous to look at. It’d be more of a crime to not fish one of these beauties.
When I went to pick my rod up from Tom’s home in Montana, he had one question for me before handing over the rod:
“Are you gonna fish that rod or hang it on a wall?” He asked.
I shrugged. “I’ll fish with it today, I know that much.”
“Fly rods are meant to be used,” Tom said. “And you better use that one.”
So, since May of 2017, I’ve followed Tom’s advice. The rod he built me is nothing short of magical. But what else can you expect from the father of the modern graphite fly rod?
A Tom Morgan Rodsmiths is something special, and if you’re ever in the position to buy one, do it. You’ll never regret it.
Spencer Durrant is a fly fishing writer, outdoors columnist, and novelist from Utah. His work has appeared in Field & Stream, Hatch Magazine, TROUT Magazine, Sporting Classics Daily, and other national publications. Connect with him on Twitter/Instagram, @Spencer_Durrant.