Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Good Takes- Shane Gray of Graywolf Products

So there I was on the eve of the Midwest Fly Fishing Expo, seated at a table between two strangers, trying to make conversation while not spilling food on myself.  I hate those situations.  On the other side of the table sat Cameron Mortenson talking to two other people I likewise did not know.  At a certain point, my name was said, and the guy  on the left extended a meaty paw and shook my hand.  "I'm Shane Gray, nice to meet you." was all he said.

We talked from there.  One of my missions this year at the expo was to cast some rods, and when I mentioned this to Shane his eyes lit up, as much as Shane's eyes are wont to do.

"Hey, I want you to cast all of my rods" he told me.

In case you don't know, Shane builds custom fiberglass rods for his company, Graywolf Products.  I first became aware of Shane and his work through Cameron's posts on The Fiberglass Manifesto.  I'm not a die-hard glass geek, but I drool every time I see the pictures of Shane's rods.  They are works of art, often featuring agate stripping guides and rare wood reel seats.  There is a waiting list for his rods, and at times Shane has to refuse to take orders until he is caught up with his back-log.

I did indeed cast his rods the next day.  They were a dream to cast, unlike the cheap and clunky glass rods my grandfather had.  I never knew glass could be so light, or cast so delicately.  One of the benefits of glass is being able to feel the rod load, and this made double-hauling a breeze.

Shane and I stepped away from the hubbub of the Expo for a few minutes and I asked him some questions.  Shane is a big man of few words and quiet manner, but when he speaks it counts.  Here's what he had to say.

FR:  What do you do?

SG:  Make fly rods.

FR:  What kind of rods?

SG:  Fiberglass mainly.

FR:  How in the heck did you get into building Fiberglass rods?

SG:  Cameron Mortenson.

FR:  Really? How did he get you into fiberglass?

SG:   He contacted me about a year ago and thought it was something I should try.

FR:  How did you know Cameron?

SG:  Never met him, never seen him before.  Never heard of him.

FR:  Were you into fiberglass rods on a forum or something?

SG:  No, mainly bamboo for a number of years.

FR:  Oh, so you were a builder already.

SG:  Yeah.

Shane sets up a rod for me to cast

FR:  Is it ‘builder’ or ‘maker’?  Someone else corrected me on that.

SG:  It’s either or.

FR:  Okay.  You don’t care?

SG:  Not really.

FR:  You build some really beautiful rods- what’s your formula?

SG:  Simple.  Just try make them simple.

FR:   I cast your Signature rod- it was a sweet casting rod.  How do you make such a beautiful, light casting rod?

SG:  I think it’s mainly in the layup of the fiberglass that we use.

FR:  Are you rolling blanks?

SG:  No, I would like to.  I haven’t been able to release the person that is making the fiberglass blanks yet, because of an exclusive deal we’ve got set up.  I was hoping to do that a month ago, but still, I can’t name the blank maker.

FR:  It’s nice having your own proprietary source huh?

SG:  It is.

FR: It keeps your stuff unique.   How many rods are you building a year now?

SG:  I just added it up before the show; around 100 rods a year.

FR:  How long does it take to do one front to back?

SG:  About a week or so to build and about a week to finish.

FR:  I take it you do multiple rods at a time then?

SG:  I try to.   I try to do things in stages, such as turning the grips, or mounting seats, finishing them.  I try to finish three rods at a time, that way I can move them right up to the drying rack.

FR:  Do you have rods on the shelves, or do you have a waiting list?

SG:  Well, right now I’ve got a few rods that I built just this month right before the show, but I’ve got about 28 rods on the list to build yet.  I’m not taking any orders right now.  I definitely want to get the back-log done. (Editors note- As of today, Shane has no finished rods in stock and 23 rods on the back log list and he is taking deposits for new rods.)

FR:  So if someone were to order a rod from you right now, how long would it take to get one?

SG:  Well, you’re looking at probably August.  Maybe September.

FR:  Do you ever get out to fish yourself or are you too busy building rods?

SG:  I’ve been fishing three days this year.

FR:  That’s pathetic.  Are you going to take some vacation and use one of your rods?

SG:  I think so.  June I’ll try to go out. And definitely September and October for salmon.

FR:  Thanks Shane, I appreciate it- I love your rods.

Casting Shane's rods at the Expo made a believer out of me, and I'm trying to figure out a way to finagle one.  He says he's coming up to salmon fish with me this fall.  Maybe I can make him a deal.  If you're curious or interested in Shane's rods, check out his website.  They are definitely worth a look.

or contact Shane at

You'll be glad you did

the Graywolf at work


  1. The reel seat of the top pic is gorgeous! I am starting to be a geek on unusual wood now every time I look at a rod! Looks like awesome work for sure. Glad you had a chance to sit and chat with Shane. I love get to meet so many interesting people.

    1. Yeah, it was fun. This one was rather impromptu, as I had just met him.

  2. Another fine interview. I would love to have one of Shane's rods. That Cameron guy really gets around doesn't he?

    1. Thanks Howard. Get your fund started. Better still, name it a charity and have a link to Paypal on your blog. You'll have that rod in no time. Don't get me started on Cameron.

    2. Very nice. ~ Shane is a wise man

    3. He knows how to build rods, that's for sure.

  3. His fly rods are beautiful thanks for the interview L