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Behind The Scenes at a Fly Rod Component Factory

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October 15, 2012

Behind The Scenes at a Fly Rod Component Factory

By Kirk Deeter

This is Shawn Szczesiul, plant manager for REC Components in Stafford Springs, Connecticut. REC makes many of those "things" that go into fly rods, from reel seats to cork handles, to guides and rod tubes. Can you guess what that chunk in Shawn's hands will be made into? High-grade buckeye wood reel seats for fly rods.

Last week I had a unique opportunity to go behind the scenes at REC, and I have to tell you, it was one of the most fascinating plant tours I've ever taken. I've seen rods and reels made in several plants, but this was my first glimpse at components being produced. The level of detail and ingenuity that goes into making the simple screws or tubes and so forth that many anglers take for granted is impressive. REC also manufactures iconic Wheatley fly boxes by hand, using the same tools that look a mere generation removed from the Industrial Revolution.

While REC is careful not to disclose exactly which brands its products go into ("We prefer our presence to be behind the scenes," says company CEO Alan Gnann), you would be surprised to learn just how many major fly rod models are comprised, at least in part, with the "DNA" created by REC. And when new fly rods are introduced with the claims of being X percent lighter, who do you think shaves off the extra weight and where does it come from? In many cases, it's all about the components, and REC is the company that makes it happen.

Szczesiul, who like many at REC is an avid angler and outdoorsman, explained: "It's pretty cool to walk into a fly shop and look at the rack of different rods, and be able to point to different things and say, 'yeah, we made that... and that... and that..."

I'll be writing more on REC down the road, but the question on my mind now has to do with how much you value the components in your fishing rods. It's pretty clear to me that, while the graphite technologies might differ from one rod to another, the things that give each rod an identity are their components: reel seat, guides, etc. In fact, you can make a strong argument that those small details are what allow brands to be brands, rather than commodities. And yes, to me, the interesting accents on a rod are worth paying for, but I value a rod like I value a fine shotgun: yes, performance is foremost, but looks matter. What say you?

Comments (15)

Top Rated
All Comments
from Koldkut wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

Looks matter lots, and any company that uses run of the mill or low grade parts in their lineup show their true colors with those. I recently fished with a rather high end switch rod that I think illustrates your point nicely, and I will never look at them as a high end rod manufacture again.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

Add up the cost of good parts...reel seats, the better guides, and how many of them are on a longer fly rod, good cork, and you see why good rods cost a good price.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

Let me clarify myself, looks don't matter as much as quality components matter. The corn needs to be clean and look like cork, not like filler, the guides need to be uniform, the seat should function well and look good. It should not look cheap.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

But then what about the flip side to that? Is the consumer willing to pay the extra dollars being sold on the fact our rods are that much more expensive because..the grade of cork is the best grade. Our guides are very good, even the check at the end of the cork is not plastic, but a more expensive silver, I think they might be made of (?) If you can consider the posters on these F & S site threads as the ave. consumer, I'd say they would accept the cheapest components, and please hold down the price.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

Clinch, take into account that those Scientific Angler rods sitting at wal-mart for small beans were the newest and best thing going a few years back, but the best got better and the cheaper adopted the old. If you look at the Orvis or sage lineup, the higher the price the most costly the components, and you can see this as you go along the brands line of price pointed rods.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

I know all about that. You missed my point. And posters on this thread validate my point constantly. They expect somehting on the cheap be it a gun, or a fishing rod. They can not accept any rod being a few hundred dollars in price, or a gun. The operative word is, "I don't want to break the bank, where can I get a good one for less than $100 dollars." They sure don't wnat to have good components used in making a rod, or a gun that is made well. Makes me sick, but tells you the state of this country, or maybe just the state of this website...I dunno.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

I love the little things that make rods different. Part of the reason I love custom rods.

How exciting to have a job that you can be proud of and brag about?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from ejpaul1 wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

Pedigree is important to me with the things I can afford to choose on. I use exclusivley SAGE rods and reels, I aint as picky. Why? I dont know really, I liek the way they feel, look and the name can mean something if th company wants it to.

Rifles? I aint as picky, Scopes, I am REALLY picky (zeiss) Bows, I am new ot it so I aint picky.
WHo knows what makes us tick.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

Tell you what makes us tick to some degree. Some of us like proud ownership, and it greatly adds to the enjoyment of the sport to own quality equipment/gear. Others? They could care less...just a tool, and they will buy another cheap one when that one doesn't work.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

Clinch, Economics 101, offer different price ranges.

I, for one, have a uncharacteristically weird fondness for black foam handles and spun fiberglass. Takes me back to the good ole days.

Does REC do custom work for individuals or just large manufacturers?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Charlie Nichols wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

I love burley maple reel seats and the looks of some guides are so superior you just know that this rod is special and can cast another 10 feet just for you. Components...exactly why so many fly anglers are now buying blanks and creating their own flyrods!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Charlie Nichols wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

I have some rods I will not take to native brook trout streams because I know I am going to fall sometime during this excursion and I don't want to risk breaking the rod or banging up the reel. Arm or leg...that is another matter!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 25 weeks ago

Buckhunter...agh, glad to see you focusing on Economics! There are price ranges for sure, and if you are a mfger, you had better know your target market. Lots of businesses have gone under because their market shifts, and they make a mistake by not meeting the changing market. When I was a rod mfger, my market was modest income steelheaders predominately. Just a few even accepted the new graphite preferring to stay with glass rods. So I met that market using decent components, but not expensive guides, cork etc. I couldn't sell them if I did. But I did get a local finished carpenter to make me wood reel seats for steelhead driftrods that went over well. None were on the market at the time.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Brad Hanson wrote 1 year 24 weeks ago

I love to fly fish, I try to once or twice per day. Other days I fish most of the day, when that happens 1-1.5 oz. of weight can be the difference between a sore arm and just a great day. As Shawn Szczesiul stated Rec. make many of the modern rods more fishable by being lighter. In the process they also make many more expensive. I find that to be very valuable.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Nyflyangler wrote 1 year 22 weeks ago

I have one fly rod with a EVA grip. I absolutely HATE the look of it but the grip is actually very comfortable to fish. Great for winter fishing as it's a bit warmer to hold when it's cold out.

I bought it as a back-up rod. It's an old South Bend rod probably from the 80s or 90s when our cheap consumer goods were still made in South Korea.

Cosmetics is one issue. Quality or use-ability are another.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from buckhunter wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

Clinch, Economics 101, offer different price ranges.

I, for one, have a uncharacteristically weird fondness for black foam handles and spun fiberglass. Takes me back to the good ole days.

Does REC do custom work for individuals or just large manufacturers?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

Looks matter lots, and any company that uses run of the mill or low grade parts in their lineup show their true colors with those. I recently fished with a rather high end switch rod that I think illustrates your point nicely, and I will never look at them as a high end rod manufacture again.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

Add up the cost of good parts...reel seats, the better guides, and how many of them are on a longer fly rod, good cork, and you see why good rods cost a good price.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

Let me clarify myself, looks don't matter as much as quality components matter. The corn needs to be clean and look like cork, not like filler, the guides need to be uniform, the seat should function well and look good. It should not look cheap.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

But then what about the flip side to that? Is the consumer willing to pay the extra dollars being sold on the fact our rods are that much more expensive because..the grade of cork is the best grade. Our guides are very good, even the check at the end of the cork is not plastic, but a more expensive silver, I think they might be made of (?) If you can consider the posters on these F & S site threads as the ave. consumer, I'd say they would accept the cheapest components, and please hold down the price.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

Clinch, take into account that those Scientific Angler rods sitting at wal-mart for small beans were the newest and best thing going a few years back, but the best got better and the cheaper adopted the old. If you look at the Orvis or sage lineup, the higher the price the most costly the components, and you can see this as you go along the brands line of price pointed rods.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

I love the little things that make rods different. Part of the reason I love custom rods.

How exciting to have a job that you can be proud of and brag about?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from ejpaul1 wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

Pedigree is important to me with the things I can afford to choose on. I use exclusivley SAGE rods and reels, I aint as picky. Why? I dont know really, I liek the way they feel, look and the name can mean something if th company wants it to.

Rifles? I aint as picky, Scopes, I am REALLY picky (zeiss) Bows, I am new ot it so I aint picky.
WHo knows what makes us tick.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

Tell you what makes us tick to some degree. Some of us like proud ownership, and it greatly adds to the enjoyment of the sport to own quality equipment/gear. Others? They could care less...just a tool, and they will buy another cheap one when that one doesn't work.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Charlie Nichols wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

I love burley maple reel seats and the looks of some guides are so superior you just know that this rod is special and can cast another 10 feet just for you. Components...exactly why so many fly anglers are now buying blanks and creating their own flyrods!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Charlie Nichols wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

I have some rods I will not take to native brook trout streams because I know I am going to fall sometime during this excursion and I don't want to risk breaking the rod or banging up the reel. Arm or leg...that is another matter!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 25 weeks ago

Buckhunter...agh, glad to see you focusing on Economics! There are price ranges for sure, and if you are a mfger, you had better know your target market. Lots of businesses have gone under because their market shifts, and they make a mistake by not meeting the changing market. When I was a rod mfger, my market was modest income steelheaders predominately. Just a few even accepted the new graphite preferring to stay with glass rods. So I met that market using decent components, but not expensive guides, cork etc. I couldn't sell them if I did. But I did get a local finished carpenter to make me wood reel seats for steelhead driftrods that went over well. None were on the market at the time.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Brad Hanson wrote 1 year 24 weeks ago

I love to fly fish, I try to once or twice per day. Other days I fish most of the day, when that happens 1-1.5 oz. of weight can be the difference between a sore arm and just a great day. As Shawn Szczesiul stated Rec. make many of the modern rods more fishable by being lighter. In the process they also make many more expensive. I find that to be very valuable.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Nyflyangler wrote 1 year 22 weeks ago

I have one fly rod with a EVA grip. I absolutely HATE the look of it but the grip is actually very comfortable to fish. Great for winter fishing as it's a bit warmer to hold when it's cold out.

I bought it as a back-up rod. It's an old South Bend rod probably from the 80s or 90s when our cheap consumer goods were still made in South Korea.

Cosmetics is one issue. Quality or use-ability are another.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

I know all about that. You missed my point. And posters on this thread validate my point constantly. They expect somehting on the cheap be it a gun, or a fishing rod. They can not accept any rod being a few hundred dollars in price, or a gun. The operative word is, "I don't want to break the bank, where can I get a good one for less than $100 dollars." They sure don't wnat to have good components used in making a rod, or a gun that is made well. Makes me sick, but tells you the state of this country, or maybe just the state of this website...I dunno.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment