Tom Morgan Rodsmiths – One Fly Rod at a Time

Last updated on January 15th, 2024.

Shane Rickert

Tom Morgan had never built a rod when he purchased R.L. Winston in 1973.

But over the course of 45 years, he became an icon in the fly fishing industry. Quite simply, Tom worked tirelessly in pursuit of building the perfect fly rod by founding Tom Morgan Rodsmiths (TMR).

TMR evolved from a dream of Tom’s while owning the R. L. Winston Rod Company from 1973 to 1991.  He always wanted to build a limited number of superior graphite rods for appreciative anglers. Rods not limited by cost or materials. Rods he would fine-tune until their actions were perfect. He chose graphite as the material for these rods because it has all the characteristics necessary to make a wonderful fishing rod. It is strong, lightweight, durable, sensitive, and efficient.

While other rod companies chased a demand for stiffer and stiffer rods, Tom worked hard to keep the same progressive action that he developed while at Winston. His rods possessed a smoothness and the light, lively feeling so prized by anglers worldwide. He sought designs that emphasized continuous taper blanks with a commitment to the importance of a sensitive tip. He added the best components he could find from a carefully chosen group of suppliers committed to making the very highest quality products. To this mix he added a unique commitment to traditional design and fine craftsmanship; it is true that the whole of a finished Morgan rod is truly greater than the sum of its parts.

Different Tom Morgan Rods for sale
Different Tom Morgan Rods for sale

Tom Morgan Rodsmiths: Endless Options to Customize

When looking to order a custom fly rod, TMR offers the ability to build not just any fly rod but a fly rod that is built for you – by people who know your name. When selecting the specifics of your custom fly rod, you’re able to choose between graphite, fiberglass or bamboo. You’ll then chose your line weight – this can be from 2-9 weight in graphite, 3-8 weight in fiberglass, and 3-6 weight in bamboo. You then pick your rod length (available in all popular length sizes) and how many pieces you want (2 or 4). After those selections, you can pick your reel seat hardware (uplock, downlock, or slideband) and your reel seat wood. 

TMR has a wide range of incredible pieces of wood for a truly one-of-a-kind reel seat. They are made in-house and the TMR team will work closely with you in helping choose the perfect reel seat for you. Unique to TMR is how customizable you can make your cork handle. They start with premium cork from Portugal, sort the rings for quality and color, hand fit each cork ring to the rod blank and hand shape each handle. If you have a favorite handle or have always wanted a smaller handle for your dry fly rod, TMR is able to offer that customization! Your last step in building your custom fly rod is to pick the inscription you’d like. 

TMR Fly Fishing Montana
Fly Fishing Montana with a TMR Fly Rod

TMR has a calligrapher come in and write on your rod blank with whatever is your choosing. River names, nicknames, song lyrics, and more have been written on TMR rods. The inscription makes the rod 100% yours and makes it a true heirloom piece. TMR doesn’t stop at the ability to customize your fly rod. They’re now offering the ability to have custom wooden fly rod tubes made from craftsman Al Swanson in Helena, Montana. Choose between maple or walnut wood and have the ability to have a monogram of your initials put into the case too. This final piece of customization truly makes the TMR rod ordering and building process a unique and special experience for the future rod owner.

Tom Morgan Rodsmiths Rods on a wall rack
Tom Morgan Rodsmiths Fly Rod: Bamboo and Graphite

A New Chapter at Tom Morgan Rods

There is now another exciting chapter in the Tom Morgan Rodsmiths story. Tom and Gerri sold the company to Joel Doub and Matt Barber, two life-long fishermen committed to the preservation of the Morgan legacy. They moved with their families to Bozeman to carry the torch, and are honored to be stewards of the company as Tom and Gerri envisioned it. As such, TMR will remain a small company, and will continue to provide the unprecedented quality the brand is known for. Matt, Joel, and their small crew of rod builders continue to handcraft graphite, fiberglass, and bamboo rods out of their shop in Bozeman, Montana. The shop is open for tours (and they’re welcomed!) Monday through Friday, 8am-4pm if you ever find yourself in Bozeman. 

Owner Tom Morgan Rodsmiths
Matt Barber, one of the owners of Tom Morgan Rodsmiths

Since purchasing, the TMR team has continued to build on the incredible foundation that Tom started. They’ve recently released a line of 8 and 9 weight saltwater rods that stay true to the TMR roots. Focusing on feel, presentation, and accuracy. They’ve been tested in the Bahamas, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Alaska, and more. They’re ready to join you on your next saltwater trip and help land the fish of a lifetime. Not to rest on their laurels, TMR is working on expanding their line of bamboo rods too.

Matt and Joel also open up their shop a few times each year for those individuals interested in building their own bamboo fly rod. The class offered is one week long and you build a bamboo rod of your choice on the Morgan Handmill – a unique planing system that Tom invented. Each strip is cut on each side at once which creates a much more consistent strip size as compared to planing forms. From splitting culms, to planing strips, making your own cork handle to finishing. This is one of the most comprehesive bamboo rod building classes and you end the class walking away with a bamboo fly rod that you built. 

Sadly, Tom passed away in 2017 of pneumonia. While he is no longer with us, his legacy in rod design will touch anglers for generations to come.