We recently had the opportunity to interview Tom Kirkman, who publishes RodMaker Magazine. Tom just celebrated 15 years in business. No small feat, especially in this economy.
FF: How did you get started in rod building, and do you still build rods?
Tom: I had ordered a then new graphite rod from Browning-Silaflex. It cost $100 which was a lot of money in a time when most top quality rods could be purchased for just $25 to $35. It arrived with the tiptop twisted off. I ordered a new top from Netcraft and went ahead and got some guides as well – I didn’t like the ones on the rod. Over the winter I rebuilt the rod and ended up with such a great fishing tool I never bought another commercially made rod. I figured if I could repair and rewrap that one, I might as well trying building the next one. That was 1977, I think.
FF: What led you to start RodMaker Magazine?
Tom: I had made some money in the stock market and was going to retire at a fairly early age. Some of my rod building buddies got after me about starting a magazine for custom rod builders. Something full sized and that could be had through a subscription. They convinced me it was something I could do in the evenings a few nights per night per week. I had no idea it would lead to a 60 hour per week job!
FF: What is your favorite type of fishing?
Tom: I used to spend a great deal of time at the coast going after large quarry. Like my dad used to say, when you fish in saltwater you never know what’s going to swim by. That’s certainly true. But more recently most of my fishing is done on rivers for smallmouth bass. I like being in the water and I like the feel of the fight on a fly rod. It’s funny, the guys who started out river fishing with me used to kid be about being “disadvantaged” because I’d only use a fly rod against their spinning and casting outfits. Now, they’ve made the switch to fly rod only. They saw just how deadly it was when used properly.
FF: Where is your favorite place to fish?
Tom: I don’t think I can pick just one. Any moving river, with clear water and a rocky bottom is okay with me. The less development around, the better.
FF: What can we expect to see in RodMaker Magazine in 2012?
Tom: More of the same. We’ll continue to push the envelope. There is still plenty of room for innovation where fishing rods are concerned.
Tom is also involved with the International Custom Rod Building Exposition, held in High Point, NC on February 25 & 26. This is a premier event for rod builders.
We wish Tom and RodMaker Magazine continued success!
Good interview. I wish I had the skills to build or even repair rods. It’s a fine craft.
It’s not as difficult as you might think. Fly tying is harder IMHO. There are some great videos and builders forums out there to get started. Parts are easy to find and there are even complete kits for purchase. Learning to wrap guides is probably the greatest challenge for a beginner.
I started out 4 years ago and have built both graphite and fiberglass rods, as well as refurbished my old bamboo rod. Build about 1 per year. Just finished a 4-piece, 9 ft, 4-wt over Christmas break that I really enjoy.
Fly Tying Company says
I love this about the USA, you guys love to build your own robs. It seems to be a really rare thing in the UK which is a crying shame. A buddy of mine made his first rob last year, it came out ok (7/10) and I am sure his next will be a straight 10