Bamboo Bonzai

The Paul H. Young Rod Co.

Part 10 in our Historical Rodmakers
Our thanks to Centennial Publications for use permission.

January 4, 1999

Paul H. Young was a natural craftsman who mastered the art of fly tying and taxidermy before turning his attention and efforts to building legendary bamboo fly rods. His love of angling had involved him in all these endeavors at various times. During the early 1920's he opened a small shop on Grand River Avenue in Detroit, Michigan, that specialized in taxidermy, fly tying and fishing tackle. As he developed an expertise in fly rods he began modifying large unwieldy bamboo rods into smaller rods suitable for trout fishing. Finally he decided he could build better bamboo rods than those generally available to anglers, and in 1925 began crafting his own line of bamboo rods for sale to the fishing public, and by 1927 had developed his first compound taper rod.

Young issued his first catalog in 1927, listing four models in sizes from 7-1/2 feet to nine feet in length, built on his concept of compound tapers. He was a dedicated fly fisherman and an excellent caster, and the rods he produced reflected his conviction that fly presentation was the most critical element of success. Even his early rods displayed a lightness and delicacy that became a hallmark of all Young rods. He was continually changing and improving his various rod models in a constant search for perfection. The response to his rods was phenomenal and he was continually behind on orders. For several years during the late 20's he had blanks for his rods produced to his specifications by Heddon and by South Bend, which at that time was managed by Wes Jordan. During this era Paul produced all of the hardware for his rods.

Under Paul's guidance the company grew and prospered; it survived the Depression and the lean years of World War II. During the prosperous years after the war, Young expanded his rod line to meet the demand of a new generation of fishermen. By 1946 he offered 29 two-piece models and 27 three-piece models. This was also the era when he began naming his various models, with such well-known names as the Ace and Prosperity, as well as lesser-known models such as the Little Giant, Sweetheart, Standby and Texan. During the early 1950's Young introduced the legendary Midge and his Modified American Parabolic rods, including the famous Parabolic 15.

Other well-known rod models that Young designed and developed include the Driggs, the Perfectionist, the Martha Marie, named for his wife; and the remaining models of the Parabolic series, the 14, 16, 17, 18 and 19, each named for the size of the ferrule use on each particular model.

In 1956 Paul moved the Paul H. Young Co. into a new store and production facility on Eight Mile Road in the outskirts of Detroit. Fiberglass rods were capturing much of the fishing market and Young consolidated his vast offering of some 80 different bamboo models and concentrated on producing quality fly rods. There was a good market for quality rods since many other rodmakers had either gone out of business or switched to producing the popular fiberglass rods.

After Paul Young's death in April, 1960, the company continued under the guidance of his wife Martha Marie and their son Jack who had apprenticed with Paul for many years. Mrs. Young retired in 1969 and Jack assumed control of the company.

Jack Young has been the driving force behind the Paul H. Young Co. since Paul's death in 1960. As a youngster Jack began learning the bamboo rod business during the late 1930's under his father's watchful eye. After serving in the Marine Corps during World War II he returned and went to work building rods full time with Paul. During the next 15 years his involvement in the business was instrumental in development of the production equipment and rod actions that established the company's reputation as a leader in high quality fly rods. The post-war era was the time that saw the introduction of the company's most famous models; the Midge, the Parabolic 15, the Perfectionist, the Martha Marie, and the Driggs, named after one of the Youngs' vorite rivers on the Upper Peninsula.

There is no doubt Paul Young was one of the nation's most creative bamboo craftsmen but Jack Young had a tremendous influence and was almost equally responsible for much of the later development of the Young line of rods, although he has received little personal recognition for his contribution to the Young legacy. He was involved throughout the era that saw the change from animal glues to modem adhesives and the switch to flame tempering bamboo that is possibly the most distinguishing feature of Young rods, not just from a cosmetic perspective but also from the resilience the flame tempering imparts to the cane: Young rods are known for their responsive power and light weight. Jack was also involved in the continuing evolution of the reel seats in a constant search for the lightest functional fly rods that could be built.

It was mainly during Jack's tenure that Bob Summers worked for the Paul Young Co. Summers had been hired by Paul several years before he died and remained with the company until 1972 when he left to start his own rod building operation. After Paul Young's death the company was managed by Jack and Paul's wife, Martha Marie, until she retired in 1969. Shortly thereafter Jack moved the entire Young operation north to Traverse City. Bamboo production had slowed down after the introduction and explosive growth of fiberglass rods but Jack continued Paul's philosophy of producing quality bamboo rods for the selective fisherman. Soon after the move Jack built a marina at Bowers Harbor.

This venture consumed much of Jack's time and the production of Young rods dwindled during the 70's after Bob Summers left and well into the 80's, although there never was a year when no Young rods were produced.

The marina was sold in 1987 and the rod shop was eventually moved to a downtown location in Traverse City. Jack and his son. Todd, have gradually put all of the equipment back into operation and the Paul H. Young Co. is again producing bamboo rods. Todd has worked with Jack since the mid-70's, has learned all aspects of rod production and has plans to carry on the Young tradition of quality rods. One new rod was recently added to the standard line of Young rods. It was designed by Jack and Todd and named the Smidgen, a wispy 6-footer for a #2/3 line. All other models remain relatively intact from the Paul Young era and the company is still using cane purchased by Paul before the embargo.

With Bamboo Archives

[ HOME ]

[ Search ] [ Contact FAOL ] [ Media Kit ] © Notice