Fenwick Feralite FF98 the slow soft-action was ideal for a Lure Rod
By Allan Burgess and Dick Marquand
Many Kiwi anglers will remember with fondness the old Fenwick Feralite fibreglass fly rods. The blanks were imported from the United States, fitted out and marketed by Kilwell Sports back in the early seventies. In their day these were top-quality fly rods. A new Fenwick Feralite back in 1972 would set you back NZ$45.00. This compares with $31.00 for a similar-sized 9-weight fibreglass Customline model that was also put out by Kilwell at the time. There is more on the price of fly rods in 1970 below.
The Feralites, there were two models, were very lightweight for their day. They also incorporated the new Fenwick patented fibreglass ferrule: Hence the name Feralite. Fenwick’s new patent was the first granted in the United States covering actual fishing rod construction in fifteen years. It was a radical departure from the previous brass ferrules. This meant that rods could be lighter and the new fibreglass ferrule was the closest thing to a single-section (one-piece) rod.
According to Kilwell’s sporting goods catalogue of the day, “In every Fenwick Feralite rod, there is not a detail of quality that has been overlooked. From the finest quality stainless steel guides and genuine agates (stripping guide ring) to the individually shaped special cork handles, no detail is overlooked in construction. Quality is paramount and not a cent is saved in making Fenwick Feralite rods the finest product available.”
Kilwell also said in their 1972 catalogue, “While simple in principle, the actual design and construction of Fenwick Feralite Rods is quite complicated and costly to accomplish. The exterior of the butt section must exactly match the taper in the interior of the tip section.
The tip and butt sections must also be constructed separately. These problems, when accomplished, result in a rod which, in addition to having a one-piece action, is actually stronger in construction than a conventional rod with metal ferrules.”
The two models made were the FF 116 two-piece at 9’4″. It weighed five and three-quarter ounces and its action was described as powerful.
The other model is the FF 98, again a two-piece measuring nine feet. Its weight is very light at four and three-quarter ounces. Kilwell described the action as medium-powerful.
Interestingly, I always thought the FF98 was a 9 wt fly rod, gleaned from reading the transfer on the rod (see picture) until I discovered a post on the internet that says, “FF98 is a 9 foot, 2-piece, 4¾ or 4⅞ oz., 10-11 weight. FF98s were pretty popular rods for fall chinook and winter steelhead through the late-1970s. They handled 11 weight shooting heads very nicely if I remember correctly. I’d think a 10 would work just fine, or a 9 if the rod had softened up a bit from use. (L Kenney) IMHO, FF98s are dogs with more than a 9-weight line. (Majicwrench).”
Fenwick Fly Rod Catalogue Model Numbers
There is some very good info on this website:
This same post gives a list of Fenwick catalogue number designations, specs and years of manufacture. It also says that the Fenwick Feralite FF 98 is one of the First Generation Feralite Flyrods made between (1963-1971). Includes the following model numbers:
The Early Fenwick Flyrods (1955-1962), Models 305-340.
The First Generation Feralite Flyrods (1963-1971), Models FF60-FF116.
The Second Generation Feralite Flyrods (1972-1988), Models FF535-FF1200-3.
The Fenglass Flyrods (Around 2000), FF535-2 – FF868-2. The three 5 weights have a devoted following.
The Asian Fenwicks (Current Production). There is currently a line of Fenwick rods for sale in Asia. These rods are covered on the Japanese Fiberglass Flyrods page.
Please note that Fenwick also produced other custom models for fly fishing clubs, for example, that won’t be included on these lists. The list of model numbers against known specs on this website appears to be accurate from the small number of fly rods I have been able to check against it.
Fenwick Feralite FF98
Each rod came complete with a cloth bag and a carrying tube. I purchased my 9-weight FF 98 second-hand about 30 years ago. Back in 1972, I was still at school and certainly wouldn’t have been able to afford $45.00. Unfortunately, the original tube and cloth bag were long since lost by its former owner.
The Fenwick Feralite is still, even by today’s standards, an excellent fly rod. It is very light and has a feel that most modern rods are lacking. I use mine as a lure rod for trout fishing in the normally discoloured water of the nearby Waimakariri River. I wouldn’t trade mine for anything. Over several decades I have caught many sea-run brown trout with it
You can still find these old rods second-hand, although they are now much harder to get than they were a couple of years ago. A second-hand one in reasonable order normally fetches between $100.00. and $200.00 depending on the condition. If you are very lucky you could find one in a junk shop for next to nothing.
My FF98 is not Original
Unfortunately, mine, pictured in this article was very rough when I bought it. Notably, the thread on the reel seat was damaged to such an extent that it could not be relied upon to hold a fly reel securely so I replaced it with a new black one secured from Kilwell. I think the original reel seat was a gold-coloured anodised aluminium one stamped with a Fenwick logo. I’m sure I must still have it somewhere. The fighting butt was also a customization added by me.
I also rebound the guides. Although the thread is the correct colour I have not added the thin painted black bands at the end of each binding. I purchased it from somewhere (I can’t remember where) over 30 years ago. If I were doing the job again I would be inclined to keep it as near to the original as possible.
Occasionally I have seen the odd Fenwick Feralite FF98, though not for sale, that has been in pristine condition. It was as if they had never been used. To see one in this sort of condition is a real joy to me. It must work against Kilwell’s sales to some extent if a rod purchased from them so long ago is still working perfectly today. Still catching fish after all these years!
What did the Fenwick FF 98 cost to buy back in 1970 in New Zealand?
Looking at an advertisement for Tisdalls Sports Centres on the outside back cover of New Zealand Outdoor magazine’s October 1970 edition lists the Fenwick Ferralite FF98 – 4¾ ounce 9′ at NZ$39.60. and the FF 116 – 5¾ ounce 9’4″ also at NZ$39.60.
By way of comparison, listed in the same advertisement, Fibre Glass Hardy Jet Series fly rods were No. 8 NZ$38.00, and No. 9 and No. 10 both at NZ40.00 each. While the Customline fibre glass series fly rods distributed by Kilwell in Rotorua were for the model 52-107 – 8′ 11″, 2-piece #8 weight the princely sum of just NZ$16.85, and the model 53-114 – 9′ 6″, 3-piece #9 weight was NZ$31.50.
The most expensive fly rods listed in the advertisement were hand-made can models made by Hardy and imported from England. These included the Hardy “Knockabout” 9′ 6″ at NZ$94.50, the Hardy “Koh-I-Noor” 8′ 9″ at NZ69.00, and the Sharpes “Scottie” 9′ at NZ$49.00.
Old School Fibre-Glass Fly Rods by Dick Marquand
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