March 5th, 2001

Rod-Repair, from the 'Inside Out.'
By James Castwell

I am not going to get into such questions as the 'bullet-proof guarantees' or the various aspects of any problems they may, or may not evoke; without them would rods be cheaper etc. That's the way things are these days, it was not always so. At one time I could buy a rod (cane, usually with two tips) and it was mine, period. If it breaks tough. Be careful and/or buy a new one.

This is about repairing them.

Life changed, society changed and so did the rod business. It became big business with a lot of companies. Competition reared it's ugly head, with it a new question. How to compete? One way was a better guarantee, which brings us to this. Manufacturers are going to get rods back, and they're going to have to fix them, that's what. But how to go about repairs? How much to charge, if at all, how fast turnaround should there be, who should pay for what, and what should be covered, just to bring up a few perplexities.

As you know, we (FAOL) is not sponsor driven, we (I) am reader-driven. It is my job to try to bring you information on the sport, you come first. With that in mind I visited a company only nine miles from me, SAGE. You know them, they make a lot of rods and they are big. I wanted to shed some light on the repair situation of fly rods and they agreed to help me out. For that I am grateful. They could not have been more hospitable or cooperative.

There are some grumblings in the fly fishing world about repairs. I wanted to see from the inside just what is involved when I send in a rod and hope to have it replaced or repaired. Although this was at Sage, much of what follows will for the most part hold true for many rod makers.

In the past a rod might be covered for certain things but not everything. A letter would go in with it explaining what happened. Often these would claim the breakage was the fault of the rod maker. This usually was not really what happened, but the letter would claim that. The companies replaced or fixed them anyway, nearly every time. They wanted happy customers. Rarely would a letter state, "I stupidly stepped into the boat onto the darn thing. Sorry, I was a jerk, can you help me out?"

Common problems are stepping into a boat on the rod, hitting the rod with a weighted fly, and rear windows on SUV's. Here is a problem though now. The rod makers still need and want the truth even if the rod is completely covered. When you send in a rod, tell them the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It will help them and will not affect whether they fix your rod or not. And be nice! Look, if you have fished the thing for four years and NOW it has a factory defect? Get real.

Crushed rod Their main concern is wanting to really know what happened. Let them know, it could help the whole industry. If it has a nasty crushed area, don't try to claim you broke it on a big fish. They have a huge supply of sections already made up, here is one area of the repair department below.

Back-up Stock

Sure, most breakage is in the tip sections, but if the break is in a butt section, they have to build you a new one to match the end you send in. (Please do not even ask them to just send you a new tip section, these things must be fitted. No, they cannot take a section from another rod and stick it on.

Broken Butt

One reason, it will need the serial number duplicated on the new butt section. And it will be made up from all the same components as your old one.

Mike Magill Sage has a separate section just for repair, from the moment it arrives until it ships out. This included all necessary functions. A new section is matched to your rod or built to match yours! This is not a 'grab one off the rack' operation. If you call for the repair department you will talk to Mike (above) or Patti, both of whom have been with Sage a very long time. This is repair central, the nerve point where all communication involving repair (and only repair) takes place.

Repair Form

Your dealer will have a form like this one asking questions about what is wrong with the rod, if not, you can print it off the web-site and send it with the rod. Normal turn around for a tip is sometimes the same day! But not always. They do have many sections already made up and may be able to match it and send it out within a matter of hours. Other repairs may take longer if things like having to replace guides and re-coat and dry a rod, that may take a few days. Remember, it might take a week for the rod to get to them and another to get it back to you. That's two weeks, not allowing any time for the repair. If you want it faster, send it by something fast and ask it be returned the same way.

Silk Screening Names

There is a charge (this varies with companies) to implement the guarantee. Trust me on this, it in no way covers the cost of repairing/replacing rods. With Sage, if a rod is returned that was pre-guarantee there will also be a nominal cost for a rod section. Remember, they all have a serial number, they know when it was made.

Building Cork Grip By the way, they do not replace rods for all reasons, like, it fell over-board or it got burned up in a fire or your ex-wife has it. Remember, they are professionals, they can probably tell you the year and make of car door that broke it. And remember too, they want you happy and bust their butts ( no pun intended) to see you get a quality job in the shortest possible time. These guys are not the enemy, they are just like you and me, trying to do the very best they can for you. I believe this is true for most rod makers.

Coating the Rod

A couple of other things too. Have a bit of respect. Please don't send rods back in wet bags, ship them in properly protected containers (NOT just the rod tube with a label on it!) And NO dead mice in the package. (Yes, it has happened.)

Sanding Cork Grip

And this about repair also. Every employee has 'take-off' ability at any stage of production. That means this. Any problem, no mater how small, noticed by anyone at any stage, will cause the rod to be removed from production at once. This is true for all employees at Sage.

Paul Johnson

In wrapping this up, I was impressed by the wide assortment of problems dealt with expertise on a daily basis by the repair department. I think they should be commended. If this sounds like an advertisement for Sage, so be it. My intent here was to bring some light to some problems of repair and to help you get the best service possible from which ever company you may deal with. My express thanks to Paul Johnson for the time and assistance in bringing this to you. Here he is with an example of how NOT to ship a rod back. ~ James Castwell

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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