Over the course of decades, Payne bamboo fly rods have captured the hearts of fly fishermen for their castability, gorgeous finish, and elegant durability, and while the Payne 100 is a great example, it's only one in a long of great examples of Payne workmanship. The Fenwick 7.5' 5wt Feralite Fiberglass Fly Rod In truth, the 8.5' 6/7wt Fenwick glass rods were more popular, but everyone who's been in fly fishing since the 70s has probably owned one of these chocolate brown beauties - wonderful fiberglass fly rods that brought a smooth-actioned, lightweight (for the time), glass-ferruled, great-fishing fly rod within reach of almost everyone.
That the classic glass Fenwicks are experiencing something of a renaissance - along with an uptick in value - is hardly a surprise.
One rod may be lightest, another may cast beautifully, and another may be cheap. Naturally, saltwater and spey (two-hander) fly rods are wholly underrepresented in this list (with one exception), and I want to say right now that I've managed to avoid the slightest twinge of guilt about that.
Leonard Model 50(DF) Sure, no two Leonards seem to cast anything alike and the craftsmanship varied widely over the decades (hell, it varied widely over the course of hours), but as Uber Rod Geek Rich Margiotta pointed out, the Leonard Model 50 set the early standard for light-tipped, Catskill-style dry fly rods - a remarkably enduring style of taper that's still happily consumed by the masses today. The Paul Young Perfectionist (7.5' 4/5wt) In truth, almost any of the Paul Young semi-parabolic rods could qualify for the Desirable Dozen; I picked the Perfectionist because I own the taper.
Then there's the question of history; many will argue that today's rods - the result of all sorts of materials and taper improvements - are the defacto "best" rods.Hence the IMX 9' 4wt - a rod I wouldn't own, but a classic I must acknowledge.Sage LL 389 (8'9" 3wt) Edging out Sage's 490 LL, the 389 might have been one of the best spring creek/light fly fishing rods of all time, so naturally, Sage - marching to the tune of "more technology is better" - just had to discontinue it.Incredibly smooth, suggestively limber and an amazing fishing tool, the 389 remains one of the few rods that everyone from the bamboo fiends to the techno-rod-geeks can comfortably rave about.Inside dish from more than one industry source suggests Sage's new line of "progressive" fly rods were designed to cast and fish like the much-missed Lightline rods, a bit of circular manufacturing that should amuse you, assuming you're not paying today's higher prices for "yesterday's" action.