In this pop plastic age, one tends to think of fine craftsmanship as a disappearing art, and nowhere is this more prevalent than in angling, where crusty old types swear by the split-bamboo rod. To use a term employed by angling's Blimps, this is so much balderdash. Fiber-glass rods produced by Vince Cummings in Thornwood, N.Y. are proof that craftsmanship is alive and well.
Now 50 years old, Vince Cummings has been making fly rods for almost half his life. He began with bamboo and then switched to fiber glass 16 years ago because he found the material to be "just that much better." As a matter of fact, Cummings got so enthused about the potential of fiber glass that he quit his job with an oil company to go into rodmaking and sporting goods. He has attracted such a following—Keith Fulsher, the originator of the "Thunder Creek" streamers, and Gardner Grant, a leading freshwater and saltwater fly-fisherman, are regular customers—that he is now devoting himself to rodmaking full-time.
The secret of the Cummings rods is that the fiber glass is made of extremely fine fibers wrapped around mandrels of Cummings' own design. As a result, the rods have thin walls, high strength, good butt-to-tip flex and light weight. The smallest rod he makes, a single-piece six-footer called the Elf, weighs only 1.4 ounces, and his biggest, the Ultimate Salmon VII, a two-piece nine-footer, is only 4.9 ounces. (A comparable rod by one competitor weighs 6½ ounces.) "Weight can make a big difference in the course of a day of salmon fishing," Cummings says.
Last spring I bought an Elf from Cummings, and I have gotten enormous joy using it even on days when I didn't catch a thing. The rod has the knack of "just working right into your hand," as Grant puts it, and, even if you are awkward, as I am, casting becomes pleasurable for its own sake. Youngsters love the Elf because it is scaled to their size, and they do not get discouraged as they might with a bigger rod. Rods may be ordered from P.O. Box 144, Thorn-wood, N.Y. 10594. A note to the impatient: do not expect fast delivery.
Cummings' rods are not cheap—they range from $65 to $95 with a protective aluminum case—but they are lovingly made and the fittings are of the finest materials. The cork rings are individually glued into place for the handle, and the nylon guide wrappings are snuggled so closely that one fisherman accused Cummings of using tape instead of thread. More outraged artist than businessman, Cummings took a razor blade and cut off the thread. With Vince Cummings, craftsmanship is everything.