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Classic Cane History: Bill Phillipson

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  • Classic Cane History: Bill Phillipson

    This is the fifth installment in the NGTO classic cane history series. This week, we stay out west to learn about Bill Phillipson and the Phillipson Rod Company. Bill Phillipson made some great rods and is just now beginning to get the historical recognition he so richly deserves.

    The following information was originally written by Dick Spurr and has been maintained on Fishnbajo's site for those who wish to learn more about bamboo rods and their makers.

    Phillipson Rods

    Bill Phillipson had been a protégé of Goodwin Granger and then supervisor of the rod shop for the Goodwin Granger Co. up until the time it closed down shortly before World War II. In 1945 he tried to purchase the Granger operation but when that failed he started his own company, the Phillipson Rod and Tackle Co., and produced his first catalog of bamboo rods in 1946. Phillipson was an innovator in the truest sense, he was constantly making changes and improvements in his bamboo rods, and later during the 1950's and 60's was one of the pioneers in development of fiberglass rods. Many of the outstanding features of the Granger rods were actually developed during Bill's tenure as production manager; including the Registered series of rods, the elliptical cork grip, that also later appeared on some Phillipson models, and the patented nickel silver internal up locking reel seat.

    Bill has often been cussed for the obvious glue lines that appear on all Phillipson rods. The glue lines are the result of the Penacolite glue Phillipson used, rather than any flaw or lack of tolerances in the milling process. Bill always valued function over appearance and refused to use what he felt were inferior glues simply because they dried clear leaving no glue lines. Penacolite was the most water repellent of any glue available, even more so than Resorcinol. The disadvantage was the dark purple color that shows as distinct glue lines between strips of bamboo; similar to, but more distinct than the glue lines evident in most Garrison and Gillum rods.

    The most common fly rod models produced by Phillipson include his original series of the Pacemaker, Power Pakt, Paramount and Premium; and the Paragon added a year later. During the later years he introduced a line of impregnated models that included the Preferred and Peerless series. Each of these models was available in a variety of lengths and line weights. Other less common Phillipson models include the Smuggler, a four-piece travel rod produced only during 1952, and the Peerless Dry Fly Special. Other rods produced by Phillipson that never carry the Phillipson name, but were private-label rods for specific sporting goods outlets include the Haywood Zephyr and the Ed M. Hunter Approved.

    The Phillipson era ended when Bill sold his company in 1972 to 3M Corporation, and they produced 300 impregnated Peerless rods at the Phillipson plant in Denver before moving the equipment to Minnesota. These rods are distinguishable by the wooden spacers in the aluminum reel seats.

    Below is a cover shot from a Phillipson catalog with a picture of Bill himself on the cover.

    And last but not least, here are a few shots of my Phillipson Peerless. I own many very nice bamboo rods, but this is one of my favorites to fish:

    Here is a shot of the classic Peerless "nose cone":

    And a very handsome reelseat:

    PS: if you have never read the "When I Die, Bury Me with My Phillipson Rods" article on the Trout Underground website, you are missing out. This is a 3 part article with lots of great info on the Phillipson rod company:

    Next week, by special request from our good friend STrutta, we will learn about the great Paul Young!
    Message sent from your mom's bedroom during pillow talk

    Buck Henry
    Simple Goat Herder
    Former NGTO President
    Hall of Fame Member

  • #2
    Great post Clark.....Phillipsons are really starting to gain popularity recently it seems, and for very good reason. They have great, smooth tapers and look classy and business like in a no frills sory of way.
    I'll add a few shots of my Phillipson PowerPakt, an 8'6ft 5wt 3/2 that could be the clone of the rod featured in your post. Definetely one of my favorite rods for larger waters, can comfortable cast anything for delicate dry flies to weighted streamers.

    Last edited by S.Trutta; 03-23-08, 10:32 AM.
    "Fish hard or go home!!!"