How to own a piece of fly fishing history

“Ever since I started making fly rods, I wanted to make the finest rods available – not just good rods, but the absolute finest rods available. I truly believe that these are the finest graphite and fiberglass fly rods currently in production, and others are starting to agree. I have put all of my creative talents into designing and building these rods, and I think that my efforts are apparent not just in how they perform, but in how they make you feel. Much like holding a rare cane rod or a fine side by side shotgun, a McFarland fly rod possesses that same magic and resulting feel of wonder and amazement. It is just one of those things that you can’t quite explain; that unmistakable ambiance that surrounds only the very finest objects. When you have one in your hands there is no doubt that you are holding something special.”

Mike McFarland – Owner and Rod Designer, McFarland Rods

Fly fishers looking to own a bit of history, beauty, and excellence need not look any further for the opportunity than an upcoming auction to be held by the BC Flyfishers chapter of IFFF. On the auction block is a custom fly rod specifically built to honor Cortland Line Company’s 100th anniversary in business. The BC Flyfishers chapter of IFFF was fortunate to receive fly rod #5 of 100 from the Cortland Line Company and will auction it off to some very lucky angler. The auction starts with the chapter’s September 22 general meeting


BC Flyfishers IFFF chapter President, Nick DiNunzio, receives the 100th Anniversary fly rod from Brooks Robinson of the Cortland Line Company.

The 100th Anniversary rod is the quintessential trout rod as you’d expect any fly rod representing a company that’s an innovator in fly lines to be. It measures out at the standard 9 foot in a 4 piece configuration and it’s rated for a 5 weight line – standard trout fare. Best of all, it’s completely handmade, including the graphite blank, by the McFarland Rod Company located in Bellwood, Pennsylvania.

Mike McFarland, McFarland Rod Company’s founder, likes to feature premium components on his handmade fly rods. The handles on all of his rods are turned from the finest quality cork and the guides are hand wrapped and expertly finished. In the case of the Cortland 100th Anniversary rod, the reel seat is a true nickel silver seat by REC. The wood is California buckeye burl with the Cortland logo engraved in it. While Cortland picked the reel seat, McFarland picked the rod wrap color, using gold to give the rod a bit of a nostalgic look…


The finishes on the 100th Anniversary Cortland Line Company fly rod really stand out…


Every rod is hand signed with the marking of the 100th anniversary and serialized…


Note the nickel silver winding check and hook keeper…


There are only 100 of these very special rods in the whole wide world…

McFarland designed the Cortland 100th Anniversary Fly Rod to embrace the old and new in fly fishing. While it’s built with modern-day graphite, it has a traditional fly rod feel in terms of its medium action. The rod blank was rolled using a unique composite of varying carbon fibers and features a special ferrule design that not only adds strength but also provides a seamless transition of power from butt to tip. Says McFarland; “The taper design of these rods combines a refined progressive taper and classic action with updated materials and resin system.  The result is an extremely smooth casting rod with great line feel and perfect performance with just a few feet of line out the tips as well as at longer distances.” Indeed, at its very heart, this is a trout rod that does its best work at casting distances in the 15′ to 50′ range. It will make a perfect dry fly rod but will also serve the trout angler well fishing nymphs, wet flies, and streamers.


Mike McFarland began building fly rods in 1991 as a hobby while he was in high school. He continued building rods while in college, selling them for “beer money” as he explained to me while I interviewed him over the phone. After college, Mike started to build the business and as anglers purchased and used his hand-built rods, word got around and the business grew.


McFarland’s work in graphite – beauty and performance…

He has made a name for himself in that he not only finishes rods, but also manufactures the blanks. In fact, the bigger part of his business is selling blanks to other rod makers. He produces blanks and finished rods in both fiberglass and graphite.


A McFarland “butterstick” that surely casts as smooth as glass…

So how would a small rod maker afford the high caliber equipment needed to produce top-notch blanks? The answer circles us back to the very fly rod that’s up for auction.

It turns out Cortland Line Company once purchased the Diamondback Rod Company, based in Vermont, but eventually ended up closing the factory and moving fly rod production offshore. In March 2015, Cortland Line Company President Randy Brown announced that they commissioned McFarland to design and build a special, limited edition fly rod to celebrate Cortland’s 100th anniversary. McFarland had struck up a deal with Cortland to build the 100th anniversary rods in exchange for the Diamondback Fly Rod Company’s rod building equipment, a savvy move and a win-win for Cortland, McFarland, and the very lucky angler who will one day grace the water with a rod as beautiful as the very trout it was designed to catch.



2 Responses to “How to own a piece of fly fishing history”

  1. Bob Stanton Says:

    I’ve been thinking about acquiring a fiberglass rod for use as a small stream tool for several years now. In fact, I have contemplated building my own glass rod, if I can get ahold of a suitable blank. I’ll have look into it.

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