Bamboo Bonzai

Part 5 in our Historical Rodmakers Series

Harold "Pinky" Gillum

Our thanks to Cententenial Publications for use permission.

October 19th, 1998

Harold S. Gillum has attained an exalted position among the top classic rodmakers, but it is a position some authorities feel exceeds what the quality of his rods actually deserves.

There appears little disagreement that Pinky made some of the best casting fly rods ever produced by any maker. The controversy centers mainly on the quality of Gillum rods. Among many current craftsmen who specialize in repairing classic bamboo rods, and even among fishermen and collectors, there is a feeling that Gillum rods are more susceptible to delamination than almost any other make.

Whether the problem is a flaw in construction or use of inferior glues is a matter still open for discussion.

Most authorities believe that only rods built during a brief period in the middle era of Gillum's career suffer from the delamination problem.

His early rods were constructed with animal hide glue and his later rods were built using resorcinol glue. But during one period in between he used glue he acquired from George Halstead, and it is these rods that seem to have created the delamination problem. Halstead rods also suffered continually from the same problem, which is probably why so few Halstead rods remain in existence.

Both Gillum and Halstead built exceptional casting rods, and any rod that has lasted into the present time is likely not one succeptible to delamination, and would be a true treasure to own.

Therefore, in spite of this nagging reputation, Gillum rods continue to bring the highest prices of any rods bought and sold in the classic rod market.

Only rods by Garrison and Dickerson bring near the same prices. Many authorities attribute the pricing of Gillum rods directly to their scarcity, for it has been determined that Pinky built fewer than 2000 rods during a career that spanned some 45 years from the mid-20's until his death in 1969.

Gillum lived and worked for most of his life in Ridgefield, Connecticut, although he spent a five-year period in Vermont helping Wes Jordan train rod craftsmen for the Orvis Company.

Most authorities trace Pinky's introduction to making bamboo rods to Eustis Edwards who ran the Winchester rod shop in nearby New Haven about the time Pinky appeared on the scene. Gillum was a contemporary of Jim Payne and Everett Garrison and shared rod making information with both men. Again, many authorities feel much of the work done by Gillum was merely a copy of rods being produced by Payne and Garrison.

Indeed, he did use similar ferrules, fashioned similar cork grips and patterned some of his tapers on models made by these two artisans. However, Gillum rods do not exhibit the attention to detail of other master rodmakers and Ws grips, reel seats and cosmetics generally suffer by any direct comparison.

Early Gillum rods can be identified by his name lettered on the shaft of the rod. Then after about 1950 he switched to stamping his name on the metal band of the reel seat. Also early rods display a mottled flame-tempered appearance while later models have more uniformly colored cane, evidently a change in the method he used for tempering the cane he used in his rods.

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