Not long ago I posted a trailer for a film called “Reverb” that follows the die-hard flyfishermen members of legendary Chicago punk band Pegboy from the dirty clubs of the city to the majestic Driftless area of Wisconsin. Well, not only can Pegboy’s lead singer, Larry Damore, work a crowd into a frenzy by night and make a perfect cast to a sipping brown by day, he also builds his own rods under the brand name Flying Pig. I recently got the chance to take one of his sticks for a test drive, and I must say it impressed me more than some rods from companies that have been in the game a long time.
Important to note is that Flying Pig isn’t another upstart putting guides on catalog blanks; Larry spent substantial time developing his own blanks, which are now being produced to his specifications just for Flying Pig. His debut line, the Liquid Series, features five high-modulus, fast-tapering models, of which I tested the 9-foot 4-weight. At 2.9 ounces, it’s a super light rod, and as I was fishing a little piece of private water with bigger trout, I worried it wouldn’t have the power to turn and winch them upcurrent. I was wrong. Larry’s intention was to build some of the “smoothest and lightest rods in the business” with plenty of reserve power when you need it. I spent the morning delicately casting scuds to tight spots, and the fast tip really helped relay subtle takes in the cold water. When it was time to lean into a fish, I leaned hard and the Flying Pig stopped the rainbow above from running into a log jam once and down a shallow shoot twice. Of the five big fish I hooked, I only lost one to a broken tippet.
The same backbone that helps during the fight also allowed this 4-weight to handle some flies I’d normally reserve for a 6-weight. While it’s a bit light for sending larger conehead streamers 70 feet over and over, it will turn and send them 30 feet perfectly every time, which is about all you need on smaller streams. I caught up with Larry to get more of the Flying Pig story.
JC: What prompted you to begin making your own rods?
LD: I am the type of person who tends to get completely sucked into every hobby that captures my interest. As I began to get more obsessed with fly fishing, it was only a matter of time before I became obsessed with casting and what makes a rod cast well. The first part of that equation was to understand how rods were made, and naturally building rods was a great way to learn the process. Once I got started, it became obvious that if I really wanted to create unique rods, I would have to take the next step, which was playing with the actions, tapers, and the powers of my own blanks from scratch.
JC:** _What went into developing your blanks?
_LD: What we didn’t want to do was take a mandrel and make something that was already out there. Let’s face it, we are not reinventing the wheel, but at the same time it was important that we had something we could call our own. I am a huge believer that “swing weight,” or how a rod feels in moments of inertia, is one of the most important parts of how a fly rod feels and performs. Ultimately, we figured that the lighter a rod feels in hand the better off we would be. We went on a crusade to find the highest quality and lightest materials to accomplish this goal. The process for our fast-action Liquid Series has taken approximately a year and a half to get right. We are now very close to having our second line of medium action rods, which will also have incredible swing weight. We get many questions about how well they will stand up under pressure given their light weight. Rest assured that as light as they are, they are still very strong and powerful.
JC: _At $180-$200, your prices are reasonable. How did you set them?
_LD: __Our main goal was to offer high-performance rods at prices better than anything else available. We have made an effort to keep our overhead as low as possible so as we could pass the savings on to the consumer. We’re like a Ma and Pa operation. I currently fill all roles of the company from design, sales, advertising and mail order. All other members of our company at this point are uncles and cousins. This gives us a definite advantage. You will not see any extravagant ad campaigns. We believe if we put a great product out there at a great price that word of mouth will bring us a long way.
JC: _What’s with the name Flying Pig?
_LD: As we were in the process of coming up with the name for the company it became evident that every time we thought we had a unique name it turned out the name had pretty much been taken. So in frustration I stated to a friend over the phone that “I’ll simply call the %$(@! company Flying Pig” He paused and said, “You know what…that’s not actually a bad idea.”
Larry is hoping to have a Flying Pig booth at some of the fly shows around the country this winter, though he’s not sure which ones just yet.