A tale of two Scotts...
My name is Dave and I love Scott fly rods. My first "serious" fly rod was a Scott that I bought, with my own money, when I was in high school in the mid-90's. You all have your brands that you're loyal to, I'm sure. Scott is one of mine. You never forget your first, amIright?!
I wear many hats during any given week. My day job is being an Aviation Director for a small conservation non-profit. I also co-own and co-manage Rent This Rod, LLC. Oh - and I occasionally moonlight as a contract corporate pilot.
I recently got offered a 3-day flying trip to Gainesville, FL - taking a family, whose daughter just got a Lacrosse scholarship to the University of Florida, down to visit the town and campus for the weekend. I figured I could bring along a rod and reel and see what kind of fishing was to be had in north central FL (or at least get some photos of our rental gear in action (for posting to our social media feed) so it wasn't a hard sell to get me to commit to the trip. I brought along a Clutch Archipelago 8wt and Ross Animas reel (a proven excellent bass and/or Redfish rig), not knowing exactly what I'd be getting into.
A bit of a brief personal history, if you'll allow...
I grew up fly fishing with my father - a prolific fly-tier and fisherman around western NC. I took a hiatus from roughly 2000 - 2015. In that time, I went to and graduated from college, put myself through flight school, got married, started a career as a professional aviator, and then had a child. An acquaintance at the time, Brian (who's now a very close friend and Rent This Rod business partner / co-owner), got me back into fly fishing a few years ago and ever since it's been my drug. Seriously. And not just fishing, but the acquiring of rods and reels. I've also come to the realization that I love fiberglass fly rods. LOVE them. In fact I insisted that we carry several glass rods within the Rent This Rod inventory. We currently carry the Thomas & Thomas Lotic series - the 7'10" 5wt being the rod I reached for most this past year. More on these rods at another time.
I've been fortunate to have owned and fished several makes and models of glass rods... but the Scott rods that I've owned were always the ones to compare to.
I recently joined the Fiberglass Flyrodders Forum - publicly stating my affliction as a "glass geek" - hey, admittance is the first step, right? What an absolute wealth of knowledge that's available there, for anyone who ever had an interest in, let alone a conscious thought about, fiberglass fly rods. If you're not familiar with this particular forum but are interested in the subject matter, I highly suggest you look into it.
One of my (very few) submissions (so far) on the forum happened recently when I posted under the "Fiberglass Fly Rods Wanted" section. I wrote about how I was in search of any model of original, yellow, Scott PowR-Ply era rods. Many of these rods were made in founder, Harry Wilson's, basement shop in San Francisco, CA - years before the company changed ownership and relocated to Colorado. These rods were understandably made in smaller quantities, and as such, are quite rare to find today. Many people search for years for certain models. Some are considered the "Holy Grail" of fly rods. So, I figured I had my work cut out for me, and perhaps years to wait.
Back to the Gainesville, FL trip.
I poked around town the first day I was there, and aside from casting a few times in a small pond that I found, the fishing was less than ideal. Don't get me wrong - there are several lakes in and around town, but without a boat it's very hard for a fly caster to find a suitable place to go. That being the case, I had resigned myself to knocking around town and going to see a movie. I woke up on Saturday, ate breakfast, and then headed for the workout room. I happened to check my email as I was about to head out of the hotel for the day, when I saw that I had a message from another Fiberglass Flyrodders Forum member. The message referred me to a vintage fly tackle dealer - codella.com - and that the dealer (Len Codella) had two yellow Scott rods in his inventory, for sale. I immediately went to the website to look. At first I couldn't find them. Len Codella specializes in selling vintage bamboo and graphite rods and reels and that's all that I saw initially. But then, finally, I found them. Under a "Save $$$" tab on the website were a few special glass rods - among them, a Scott F84 (8'4" 5wt, 2-piece) and, gasp, a Scott F75 (7'6" 5wt, 4-piece) - exactly what I had been searching for. EXACTLY.
Before I actually found the rods listed, I had already called the number posted on Len's website, but both calls went to voicemail. After finding the photos and descriptions of the rods under the available inventory, my heart sank when I noticed a "hold" had been placed on both rods, leading me to believe they were both already spoken for. Ugh! I had acted as quickly as I could. The rods had been posted on Friday, and here it was Saturday morning and they had already been reserved. Another couple of phone calls to Len Codella resulted in my finally getting him on the other end of the line. My fears were confirmed. A foreign buyer had already made a commitment to buy both of the Scott rods. I asked Len if there was any point in leaving my credit card info or contact info on the chance things fell through. He said no, since there was little chance of that happening. He also told me that he doesn't typically deal in vintage glass rods, so who knew if he'd ever get anything similar back in stock. Discouraged, I thanked him for his time (and apologized for psycho-calling him) and hung up. Not one to dwell on misfortune, I left the hotel and headed for the closest movie theater, looking for something to do for a couple hours.
An hour and a half into the movie I had all but forgotten the events of the morning. That's when my phone rang. My caller ID signaled a call from Inverness, FL. The only person I had spoken with in Inverness, FL - ever - was none other than Len Codella. I exited the theater, and answered the call out in the hallway. Len's voice came through clear on the other end - "It must be your lucky day!" he said. The other buyer had changed his mind on both Scott rods and they were back on the market! I didn't even attempt to play it cool. I blurted out that I'd take them - both of them! We discussed payment options, shipping options, etc, but then I remembered that Inverness was only about 75 miles away from Gainseville. "Will you be around this afternoon?" I asked. Len said he'd be there all day. "I'm headed your way!" I exclaimed. I walked out of the theater and missed the end of the movie (Vice) - don't tell me how it ends!
Just under two hours later, I arrived at Len's home in Inverness - a beautiful place, situated on a lake. He welcomed me inside, we exchanged greetings, and he led me back to his "tackle room". More rod tubes and fly reels than I could count adorned the shelves and racks in that room. We sat down together and he brought out the Scott rods that I had driven down for. I inspected them both carefully - both were in great shape. The serial # had almost disappeared from the 4-piece rod, but I thought there was enough left to be useful in dating it once I got it back home.
In the brief time I was at his house, Len and I spoke about all manner of fishing topics - from scud fishing in the northeast, to the fact that he once owned Thomas & Thomas Rod Makers - a company I have a huge fondness and immense respect for. I should probably write another blog post just about my conversation with Len, but that'll have to wait until another time.
Len's wife, Carol, ran my credit card and a few minutes later I was the extremely proud new owner of 2 - yes, 2 - vintage Scott yellow glass rods. Lucky me! Before I left, I shamelessly asked if Len ever let anyone cast a line off his backyard dock. He smiled and said "Have at it!"
I only fished for about 5 minutes on Len's property. Nice dock, beautiful setting, but hardly any room for a decent back-cast. I thanked him profusely and then headed back to Gainesville, my smile never fading for the entire drive.
The next day, I flew back to North Carolina with the rods riding shotgun and right by my side.
Once home I began the search for info on what I had. I wanted to know how old the rods were, among other things. I returned to the Forum and posted about my find and my extremely good fortune. After a couple days I sent a private message to Mr. Larry Kenney, who, I had learned, was one of Scott Flyrods' first employees (and later part-owner, I believe). Larry has a wealth of knowledge about all things Scott, especially from this era. His reply to me indicated that the 2-piece rod was actually a kit rod that Scott offered on a limited basis in the mid-late 70s. Scott would include the rod blank, finished grip, and rod inscription (by Harry Wilson). All the original buyer had to do was wrap and epoxy the guides and go fish! This info makes sense as the guide wraps and epoxy on this particular rod differ from the other rod I purchased and are not what I would call "Scott quality." The wraps also differ in color between the 2 sections. Still, a great rod from a more than decent build. Larry even mentioned that he fished this model himself until Scott came out with the G905 series.
As for the other rod - the F75 (ie, the holy grail in my eyes) - Larry said it was from the early 70s, from the serial number and model type. Harry Wilson had played around with the 4-piece design, but then gave it up in favor the the 5-piece models that proceeded it. My rod was built in Harry Wilson's original basement shop, likely in 1974 - 8 years before I was born! Wow. Just... wow.
I do plan to fish both rods - the F75 on very special occasions, as I don't want to chance a breakage or other damage. I've managed to lawn-cast the F75 a couple of times. Each time out, I swear it feels like I'm conducting a symphony -A symphony that's almost 50 years old, but one that can still stir emotions and bring tears to the eyes!
I've paired the F75 with a new red-anodized Abel TR 4/5. Some purists out there might insist on a vintage Hardy or something similar - you could indeed do a lot worse. My Abel, however, matches and balances the rod perfectly. I'm going to call this setup my "California Special".
Thanks for reading!