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Top 10 Most Expensive Fishing Rods in History

Top 10 Most Expensive Fishing Rods in History

While many fishing rods are now hi-tech devices, you might be surprised to learn that antique bamboo fly rods are generally considered the priciest in the world! Still, this isn’t always the case. So which fishing rods are the most expensive?

The most expensive fishing rod is the Thaddeus Norris Fly Rod 12′. This exceptionally long fly-fishing rod sold for $17,920 at a Lang’s Auction event in 2007. It was built in the 1860s by the “founding father of American fly-fishing,” making it a historically-significant item.

Whether you’re an avid angler or a curious reader, this ranking will reveal which fishing rods have reeled in the highest prices!

Here Are the Top 10 Most Expensive Fishing Rods in History:

  1. Thaddeus Norris Fly Rod 12′ – $17,920
  2. Hermès Fishing Rod – $13,790
  3. R.W. Lancaster “Falling Springs” Fly Rod 7’6″ 4wt – $13,500
  4. Harold S. “Pinky” Gillum Fly Rod – $10,030
  5. Garrison 212 Bamboo Fly Rod 8′ – $10,000
  6. Dickerson 761510 R.B. 7’6″ – $8,200
  7. Oyster Bamboo Fly Rod Master Series 8’2″ 5wt – $5,760
  8. Zane Grey’s Deep Sea Fishing Rod – $5,000
  9. Orvis 1856 Bamboo Fly Rod 8′ 5wt – $4,498
  10. 1950s George Halstead Bamboo Fly Rod – $3,500

10. 1950s George Halstead Bamboo Fly Rod – $3,500

photo source: R.W. Summers

Bamboo might not be one of the world’s most expensive woods, but fishing rods made from bamboo (particularly antique ones) are often the priciest on the planet.

This material is particularly suitable for fly rods, as it’s flexible enough to bend during casting, making it easier for anglers to replicate the look and movement of flies (and thus catch more fish).

Take the 1950s George Halstead Bamboo Fly Rod, for example. This highly valuable mid-century fly-fishing rod is one of less than 1,000 ever created by Halstead (who briefly worked for Orvis during the 1940s), but it’s also one of the sturdiest and springiest fly rods still around today.

Unfortunately, you probably won’t be able to make this fly rod yours, as it has already sold for $3,500.

Why Is It So Expensive?

George Halstead might not be quite as famous as Thaddeus Norris or Pinky Gillum (two top-notch fly rod crafters), but his time spent working for Orvis certainly helped him perfect his crafting skills.

The few hundred rods Halstead created during the 1950s retain a superior level of handling, even despite their age. As a result, experienced anglers tend to snap up his rods whenever they hit the market, which rarely happens.

9. Orvis 1856 Bamboo Fly Rod 8′ 5wt – $4,498

photo source: Orvis

The Orvis 1856 Bamboo Fly Rod 8′ 5wt isn’t an antique rod.

Instead, it’s a modern fly rod with a classic 19th-century look and feel. Essentially, it’s everything that passionate fly-fishing anglers look for from an actual antique rod, but at less than half the standard price.

Made of flexible bamboo and sturdy maple, this fly rod produces a satisfying whip action that makes it ideal for fishing small and large rivers and lakes. Its classic no-frills design is also quite satisfying, especially for those who’d like to enjoy a more traditional fly-fishing experience.

This experience (and fly rod) could be yours for as little as $4,498!

Why Is It So Expensive?

Orvis is one of North America’s most respected fly rod brands, and its high-quality products are well worth the investment, thanks to their superior quality and longevity.

The 1856 Bamboo Rod is a fine example of this quality and durability, but with an old-fashioned spin you don’t often find from other fly rod retailers and manufacturers. In fact, Orvis released its very first rod in 1856, making this fly rod a celebration of everything the brand has done since then.

8. Zane Grey’s Deep Sea Fishing Rod – $5,000

photo source: Bonhams

For the most part, fly-fishing rods take the cake in terms of expense. But if you’re more interested in deep-sea fishing than fly fishing, Zane Grey’s Deep Sea Fishing Rod is sure to pique your interest.

This rod is the most expensive deep-sea fishing rod in the world, selling for $5,000 at auction in 2011. Although, at 82 inches (about 6.8ft or 2.08m), it’s far from the longest deep-sea fishing rod ever made.

But it’s certainly one of the oldest and most infamous. Initially created in 1933, this deep-sea rod was made specifically for American author Zane Grey, whose works helped popularize the idealized image of the Old West.

Though it’s doubtful that Grey got much use out of this rod (he passed away in 1939), the rod remains in tip-top condition despite its age. All-in-all, it’s a fantastic addition to any angling equipment collection, though it’s still up for a few rounds out on the water.

With the help of this fishing rod, you could reel in some of the world’s most expensive seafood! As a result, your potential return on investment (ROI) with this rod is quite high.

Why Is It So Expensive?

Antique fishing rods tend to outsell brand-new ones, especially when those rods have unique histories.

Because this deep-sea rod was created in the early 1930s and once belonged to one of the most influential American authors of the 20th century, it’s a piece fit for a museum! Naturally, these qualities also make it quite valuable.

7. Oyster Bamboo Fly Rod Master Series 8’2″ 5wt – $5,760

photo source: Oyster Bamboo Fly Rods

Some fly rods are designed for catching small fish, like juvenile bass or crappie. But the Oyster Bamboo Fly Rod Master Series 8’2″ 5wt is made for heftier catches, including trout.

With a decidedly Old West aesthetic that harkens back to the days of some of the fly rod greats (including Thaddeus Norris and Lyle Dickerson), this Tonkin bamboo fly rod is a fantastic choice for dry fly sessions.

The only potential drawback for beginner-level fly-fishing anglers is the price tag, which is a whistle-worthy $5,760.

Why Is It So Expensive?

Top-quality components and construction are the primary reasons this fly rod is so costly. Every aspect of the rod, from the butt to the two tips, is perfected with care and built of sturdy, long-lasting components. If properly maintained, this fly-fishing rod could last you a lifetime (or longer).

6. Dickerson 761510 R.B. 7’6″ – $8,200

photo source: R.W. Summers

Lyle Dickerson is considered one of the legendary “greats” of fishing rod makers. Like Thaddeus Norris, Dickerson focused on creating long-lasting lightweight fly-fishing rods that could stand the test of time.

The Dickerson 761510 R.B. 7’6″ is no exception.

Initially designed for Ray Bergman (hence the R.B. initials), an American author who wrote extensively about fishing during the mid-part of the 20th century, this rod is ideal for catching medium-size freshwater fish, including trout.

While in stock, it sold for $8,200, but that’s a fair price considering its age, historical significance, and included accessories (including a storage tube and carrying bag).

Why Is It So Expensive?

The primary reason this fishing rod is so costly is the fame of its creator. Lyle Dickerson is one of the all-time mid-century heroes of fly-fishing rods, and this antique is highly sought after by collectors and avid anglers.

Because Dickerson passed away in 1981, the remaining rods bearing his name and craftsmanship are limited, making this fishing rod an exceptional find. It’s also in great shape, making it a usable piece of American fly-fishing history!

5. Garrison 212 Bamboo Fly Rod 8′ – $10,000

photo source: R.W. Summers

The ideal length for fly rods is about 8ft (about 2.4m). This length allows plenty of flexibility for casting and provides plenty of strength for catching medium-to-large fish. Still, the Garrison 212 Bamboo Fly Rod 8′ is undoubtedly one of the finest 8ft fly-fishing rods ever made.

Crafted of springy bamboo during the late 1960s, this Garrison fly rod is a highly coveted piece of American angling history. After all, Everett Garrison was one of the main driving forces behind the spread of bamboo fly-fishing rods!

This two-piece, two-tip model sold for $10,000, with other similar Garrison bamboo rods selling at similarly high prices.

Why Is It So Expensive?

The Garrison 212 8ft Bamboo Fly Rod has a lot going for it. For starters, it’s an original, unchanged Garrison build that’s withstood the test of time thanks to few uses. Secondly, it’s one of the dwindling few Garrison bamboo fly rods available, making it a rare treasure.

This antique nature, surprisingly good condition, and rarity (combined with demand) make it a valuable find that will probably only increase in value over time.

4. Harold S. “Pinky” Gillum Fly Rod – $10,030

photo source: R.W. Summers

Harold S. Gillum (also known as H.S. Gillum or Pinky) was one of the most celebrated fishing rod creators of the early 20th century, and once you’ve seen his work, you’ll understand why.

Each Gillum rod is designed for perfection. This means perfection of movement, perfection of line flow, and perfection of rod strength. His fly rods have essentially no drawbacks, making them highly sought-after treasures by dedicated fly-fishing anglers.

In fact, finding a Gillum fly rod for sale might be the most challenging aspect of these rods. Affording one is the second issue you might encounter, with most selling for thousands almost as soon as they’re listed.

One Gillum fly rod even sold for $10,030 back in 2013! Like many other beloved fly-fishing rod craftspeople, Gillum specialized in making super-flexible bamboo rods for discerning customers worldwide (but primarily those in North America).

Why Is It So Expensive?

Pinky Gillum passed away in the 1960s, and from that point forward, his remaining fly rods have sold like hotcakes due to their outstanding quality. But as time marches on, these rods become harder and harder to find, making them inherently expensive, especially among fly-fishing enthusiasts with a passion for top-quality handmade vintage rods.

3. R.W. Lancaster “Falling Springs” Fly Rod 7’6″ 4wt – $13,500

photo source: R.W. Summers

Although the R.W. Lancaster “Falling Springs” Fly Rod isn’t nearly as old as many other high-priced fly-fishing rods featured throughout this ranking.

Built in 1995, the “Falling Springs” rod gleams brilliantly in the sunlight thanks to its oil-finished bamboo construction.

And thanks to exceptional care and maintenance throughout the years, it remains in like-new condition despite passing through the hands of multiple anglers and collectors. Overall, it’s challenging to find a more capable fly-fishing rod well-suited to bass and trout fishing.

Why Is It So Expensive?

R.W. Lancaster created several custom-made fly-fishing rods for discerning anglers, and “Falling Springs” is one of the best-maintained of the bunch. Its impressive quality and casting ability make it a must-have for serious fly-fishers, especially those hoping to reel in larger fish like largemouth bass.

2. Hermès Fishing Rod – $13,790

photo source: Vogue

Hermès is one of the world’s most expensive clothing brands, but this French company makes far more than handbags and cufflinks.

This luxurious brand is responsible for producing one of the world’s priciest and most extravagant fishing rods: a rod that’s aptly called the Hermès Fishing Rod.

Like many other high-priced fishing rods, this is a fly-fishing rod. It’s separated into three attachable parts, each made of high-quality sycamore wood, leather, and flexible flax fibers. A colorful rooster feather tops everything off, though it’s purely for decorative purposes.

So, are you a trendsetter hoping to make waves while enjoying some fly fishing? You can make this luxurious fishing rod yours for only $13,790.

Well, that’s if you can find it. After all, this rod was released in 2019, so you’ll likely have to search the resale market to make one yours.

Why Is It So Expensive?

There are three reasons why this particular fly-fishing rod is so expensive. Firstly, brand reputation. Hermès is well-known for producing some of the finest (and costliest) luxury goods in the world, so anything featuring this brand’s name is bound to be pretty pricey.

Secondly, there’s quality to consider. Cheap fly-fishing rods are often made of brittle plastics and rustable metals. But this rod is made of exquisite hardwood and leather, with flax-fiber strands to make it perfectly pliable.

Lastly, there’s exclusivity. Hermès didn’t make a ton of these fishing rods, making them instantly scarce. As the law of supply and demand commands, prices rise when an item’s supply dips below its demand.

1. Thaddeus Norris Fly Rod 12′ – $17,920

photo source: American Museum of Fly Fishing

The most expensive fishing rod is the Thaddeus Norris Fly Rod 12′. This fishing rod was created in the 1860s by Thaddeus Norris, the “founding father of American fly-fishing.” When it went to auction in 2007, it sold for $17,920.

This exceptionally long 12-foot (3.6 meters) fishing rod was an example of engineering innovation, being one of the earliest American-made fly rods. Its creation dates back to the 1860s, making it more than 150 years old!

Unlike other fly rods of the time, which were often ma e of heavy hardwoods, Norris preferred to use light and bouncy bamboo for his fly-fishing equipment. This change in wood type allowed fly rods to become springier, more pliable, and easier to work with.

For these reasons (and more), Thaddeus Norris is still remembered as one of the great heroes of American fly fishing, and his rare handmade fly rods can sell for incredible prices.

Why Is It So Expensive?

Fly fishing didn’t originate in the United States, but it likely wouldn’t have become so popular without the help of Thaddeus Norris. Consequently, owning a fly rod built and handled by Norris (also known as Uncle Thad) is like having an integral part of American angling history in your hands.

Besides, Norris lived during the 19th century, so any fly rods he built are rare antiques. Fewer than a dozen Thaddeus Norris fly rods exist today, making these artifacts exceptionally valuable.

Yet another aspect of these rods that makes them so pricey is their high quality. Despite being over a century old, Norris fly rods remain some of the world’s highest-quality and most effective fly-fishing rods!

Of course, considering their high value and rarity, it’s probably best that you don’t take them out for a day on the water.

What Do Fishing Rod Numbers Mean?

Have you noticed that some of the world’s most expensive fishing rods have special numbers and codes? What could these numbers mean?

Generally, fishing rod numbers denote:

  • Pole length, and
  • Rod weight

Understanding these numbers is crucial to choosing a rod well-suited to your angling goals, and it’s also a fantastic way to learn more about how fishing rods differ.

Fishing Rod Length

Typically, the first numbers after a fishing rod’s name and model indicate the fishing rod’s length. For example, the Thaddeus Norris Fly Rod 12′ is so-called because it is twelve feet long (12′).

Numbers with an apostrophe (‘) after them indicate length in feet, while numbers with a quotation mark (“) indicate length in inches.

This is represented in another high-priced fishing rod, the Dickerson 761510 R.B. 7’6″. This rod is seven feet and six inches long, as denoted by its numbering system.

But what do the numbers and letters that sometimes follow these measurements mean?

Fishing Rod Weight

As you’ve explored the most expensive fishing rods, you’ve likely noticed that some have “4wt” and “5wt” listed as part of their names. But what, exactly, do these descriptors indicate?

In most cases, these numbers indicate weight and rod thickness. For example, a 4wt fly rod is slightly thinner and lighter than a 5wt.

Fly rods with lower “wt” or “weight” numbers are great for catching small fish, but you’ll need a rod with a higher weight measurement when catching heftier fish like bass or tarpon.

What’s the Most Expensive Fishing Rod in History?

The most expensive fishing rod in history is the Thaddeus Norris Fly Rod 12′. This 12-foot fly-fishing rod sold for an astounding $17,920 when it went to auction in 2007. Of course, that’s hardly surprising considering its rarity, age, and historical significance.

After all, Thaddeus Norris is one of the most significant historical figures in American angling. So any fishing rods he created are uniquely valuable, not only for their ability to help you catch fish but for their importance to fly-fishing history.

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