Why I Love the Tom Morgan Rodsmith O’Dell Fly Rod
Continuing the tradition of Tom Morgan's signature smooth feel, only 50 of these new rods have been made. Without even casting it, I know it's amazing.
Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+.
Tom Morgan is a legend. The famed rod builder purchased R.L. Winston Rod Co. in 1973, moved it to Twin Bridges, Montana in the thick of some of the best trout fishing in the country, and over the next 20 years proceeded to produce some of the finest bamboo, fiberglass, and, eventually, graphite fly rods ever made. Shortly after he sold the company in 1991, Tom was diagnosed with MS and started Tom Morgan Rodsmiths to help pay the bills.
Tom was confined to a wheelchair for years before he passed away last summer, so his wife, Gerri Carlson, built all the rods based on his designs. The rods they made together are something of a legend among dry fly aficionados. They were always expensive—TMR rods broke the $1,000 mark long before the G. Loomis Asquith did—but they were treasured. Those who owned them often owned two, three, even four. Such was their allure. Why? Tom Morgan rods are said to have a particular feel. While rod makers today are focused on building a rod that can shoot line 150 feet, Tom built rods made to present flies to trout that are, say, 30 feet away—you know, the way people actually fish.
The O'Dell ($1,850) is just such a dry fly rod. Designed by Tom and refined by TMR's new owners, Joel Doub and Matt Barber, it is named for a spring creek in Montana where Tom used to guide. Only 50 of them were made and each one comes with a print of Tom fishing. If you're feeling lucky, you can try to win one through non-profit Casting for Recovery.
Full disclosure: I have not actually cast this rod. But I suspect it feels exactly the way I imagine a rod feeling anytime I'm stuck in a meeting or a long line at the grocery store and wishing I were on a river—smooth, firm, and able to put a size 20 Adams in slack water without even a ripple. I suspect that's exactly the way Tom imagined it, too.