Handmade Graphite Rods Inspired by Maine’s Waterways
Photos by Polly Saltonstall
My wife and I have owned a seasonal camp in the Rangeley Lakes Region of western Maine for the better part of our adult lives. During that time, I’ve written a number of books set in this part of northern New England, a place where native brook trout remain eager to snap a fly from your tippet and landlocked salmon continue to dance across the surface of pool or run. Although we were drawn to western Maine by its fish, it was the region’s rich sporting tradition that captured our imagination.
Fred Barker, John Danforth, Cornelia Crosby, and Herbert Welch, as well as Wallace and Carrie Stevens, Colonel Joseph Bates, and Ralph and Louise Rich, are but a few of the colorful personalities who’ve contributed to the region’s justly deserved nickname as the “Land of Fishing Legends.”
There is something unique about treading the same trails, wading the same rivers and streams, paddling across the same ponds and lakes as these intrepid souls. It’s the reason, I suppose, I’ve chosen this part of the country as the literary canvas against which to set my novels and short stories.
Maine’s fly-fishing fraternity is as closely knit as an Aran sweater. Guides, wardens, shop and lodge owners, sports and yes, even writers, will find themselves on the same pools and runs if they cast their flies for enough years under the shadows cast by balsam and spruce.
So, it was only a matter time before I ran into Jeff Davis, owner of Maine Fly Company. The company specializes in hand-crafted “small batch” graphite fly rods. I first met the young entrepreneur during The Fly Fishing Show’s annual three-day extravaganza held each year in Marlborough, Massachusetts. I was there to sell my newest book when a friend asked if I’d been to the Maine Fly Company’s booth. I’d previously checked out their website, nearly pulling the trigger on one of their fly rods, a model named after the Magalloway, a river that I consider my home water. The price was quite reasonable, but then the Covid virus threatened the economy, putting my purchase on hold.
On the show’s final day, I ambled over to Jeff’s booth and introduced myself. It turned out my friend had told him about my books, and we spent a pleasant time discussing the joys and hardships of our respective endeavors.
Located in Yarmouth, Maine, the Maine Fly Company opened its doors in 2018. Since then, sales have nearly doubled each year. Davis started the business to celebrate his father, who had been an avid angler. After leaving the corporate world at age 44, the young entrepreneur established a business model dedicated to the heritage of Maine fly fishing that he hopes to pass down to his three sons.
Davis compares his rod making to the many home-grown craft beer breweries that have sprung up across the Pine Tree State. Not satisfied with a mass-produced product, he’s recruited a small, but dedicated, group of rod builders to handcraft the company’s fly rods, each named after a river or region in Maine.
While keeping a balanced inventory, the Maine Fly team builds “batches” in small quantities from a few dozen to more than 100 fly rods. They begin with an initial design inspired by a trip to a favorite river or stream, or one of the many regions of the state that captures their fancy. They use grips and designs that reflect the experience on the particular water where they have fished.
Although the team will make a rod to a customer’s unique specifications, their present inventory includes a 6'6" two-weight and a 7'9" three-weight. Both lengths of these small-stream delights are aptly named Little River. Then there is the brawny Casco Bay, a 9' ten-weight rod able to handle anything found along Maine’s coastline. In between, are a number of rods in differing lengths and weights, with my favorite being the 8', five-weight, limited edition, Magalloway.
Davis describes a rod built after his time on the Roach River. There was a stretch of stream where an additional six inches of length would have enhanced his ability to cast to that sweet spot, he explained; hence a rod constructed with a length of 9'6". A rust-colored blank was chosen to mirror parts of the old bridge outside the tiny hamlet of Kokadjo located in the Moosehead Region, where the Roach flows. Wraps were inspired by the fall leaves, autumn being Davis’s favorite time to be on the Roach. It is the only rod on which he uses nickel silver for seat hardware—as a tribute to the Moosehead Region’s long-standing reputation as an angling paradise. As time goes on, the team at Maine Fly Company has become more specific with carbon compositions and the materials they choose.
“Each of our rods tells a story that is near and dear to us in some way,” Davis said.
Whether you prefer dead-drifting a nymph down a dark seam or swinging a wet fly through a set of rough-and-tumble riffles, or maybe you enjoy casting tiny dry flies to hard-headed brown trout or perhaps a big bushy Hornberg to unsuspecting brook trout, you’ll enjoy a rod inspired by the rivers of Maine.
Robert J. Romano Jr.’s most recent book is River Flowers, a collection of short stories and fishing tales set in the North Woods of Maine. Visit his website forgotentrout.com for more information.
For More Information:
Maine Fly Company
81 Bridge St., Yarmouth, ME