As Meiser and a few other have mentioned, it was Fenwick who had the first graphite fly rods on the market. It was in 1972 that Fenwick (which was then located in Bainbridge, WA at the same location Sage is now) began to send some graphite rods out to well-known fly fishers for testing and evaluation. They were offered to the public in 1974.
I remember very well the first graphite rod I saw. It was when I was a student at Penn State in the spring of 1973 and taking Joe Humphrey's Fly Fishing class because I needed another Phys Ed credit to meet graduation requirements. Because I had been fly fishing since age 5 and tying flies since age 9, I looked at it as an easy "A" and a class that I'd get to learn some new stuff and get to go fishing on class outings.
Anyhow, Joe had the class out at Fisherman's Paradise on Big Spring Creek (this is only about 6 miles north of State College, PA) on a gorgeous late April day. The Hendrickson's were hatching in earnest as was a brown caddis. Joe told me to make a cast over to the far side of the stream, which was an honest 75' from where we were all standing (you couldn't wade in the Fisherman's Paradise section then, or now) on the grassy bank. I told I him couldn't cast that far with the Shakespeare Wonder Rod I owned.
Joe left and came back a few minute later with a black colored rod that was thinner than anything I'd ever seen. It has no maker's label on it, it was simply labeld 4/5 wt in white ink on the blank just up from the grip. The grip looked like a Fenwick grip though. At any rate, Joe strung it up with a 5 wt WF line, handed it to me, told me to tie on a Hendrickson, and make a cast over to where those nice fish were feeding on them off the far bank. I was amazed at how light, responsive, and powerful the rod was. I was able to make the cast and I hooked several of those fish in the next 20 minutes.
As we were packing up to leave, I asked Joe what kind of "fiberglass" that rod was made of. He told me it was a new material called graphite and that it was the first prototype he had from Jimmy Green that he liked. He said the others were either too tippy or too stiff, but that Jimmy Green nailed it on these latest ones. I then asked Joe when they would be available to buy, he told me they would be out the next year and sell for around $175.00. This was quality bamboo rod money back then.
The next year, I saw them listed for sale and they were called the Fenwick HMG. Intially they were black (very dark grey actually), but the following year the color was changed to a dark bown. The graphite revolution had begun. In about 1975 J.K. Fisher had graphite rods on the market, followed very quickly by Lamiglass (which was started by Gary Loomis and 4 others people. Gary wanted to start making rods out of graphite and get out of the aerospace industry he was an engineer in), etc.
J.K. Fisher made private label blanks and finished rods for Winston, Scott, and Orvis. They now make their own blanks.
Jimmy Green made a few fiberglass 2-handers for some folks he knew, but they weren't rods suitable for spey casting. They were designed for overhead, shooting head or long belly single-hand line casting. I think Jimmy was the first one to make a graphite 2-hander. Again this was for overhead casting, Jimmy never did learn how to spey cast as far as I know. He had no use for it and I've been told by some who knew him well that he claimed he could cast as far or further overhead with a shooting taper on a 2-hander than anyone could by spey casting. These first graphite 2-handers of Green's were not really suitable for spey casting because the tips were too flexible.
The Sage 9140-4 originally had a weird grip on it. It had a long rear grip like a spinning rod and a normal sized front half-wells grip for the foregrip. These rods look very strange. There are some who call this grip the "lLemire Grip" because Harry fished one for quite a few years and they just assumed he wanted the grip made that way. They truth is, that is how Jimmy made the grip. I suspect he simply had the gals on the production line put on a spinning rod rear grip, add the reel seat, and then finally add the standard half-wells front grip because he hadn't really seen a true 2-handed rod.
The old brownie Sage 9140-4 was designated as a 9/10 rod because Jimmy cast a shooting head on it that was the same wt as a 9/10 Scandi line. Jimmy's line was shorter than a Scandi line and was a true shooting head. This was back in the middle to late 1980's. Some of the folks here on this forum were friends with Jimmy Green and helped in the development of the graphite 2-hander. It didn't take long for the folks in the UK to start working with graphite to make 2-handers, and their rods were far more suitable to spey casting than the initial ones make here in the US. And the rest is history.
Read the original thread from Speypages LINK
I am a biologist grew up with a fishing rod in my hands. I have been fortunate enough to embrace my love of art and science in my career. Most of my free time were well spent in the nature, either studying bird behavior or chasing variety of fish with fly rods. My favorite art medium is watercolors, I love the natural and spontaneous feel created by watercolor pigments. I am currently a post-doctoral research fellow at Harvard University. Welcome to my website. Mark