The Architect’s Wife has always been focused internally on showcasing our showroom space and the artists, creators, or makers within it. But given the current circumstances, we’re learning to shift our focus and connect with people in new ways. More importantly, we want to shine a light on craftspeople and the creativity they contribute to our community. In this “Stoop Stories” series, The Architect’s Wife visits friends and makers to share how they’re staying in/spired.
Let us introduce you to Joel Doub and Matt Barber. Owners and stewards of Tom Morgan Rodsmiths – a fly rod company based here in Bozeman, Montana built on a foundation of integrity and tradition. The two along with their small, powerhouse team of craftsmen and women meticulously handcraft fine custom graphite, bamboo and fiberglass fly rods, ones to be carried on as a heirloom from generation to generation. Joel and Matt took a morning walking us through their warehouse, transferring decades of knowledge, breaking down their process and sharing their "secrets" (spoiler: there is no compromising any part of the process and you must work hard from end-to-end). They left us with a nugget of sage advice passed along from Tom himself: "Don't stick with a mistake just because it took you a long time to make it". So whatever your craft may be, we hope Tom Morgan Rodsmiths generates a renewed sense of stewardship and commitment to the process.
Tell us what you do. How did you fall into your craft?
J: We make custom bamboo, graphite and fiberglass fly rods in Bozeman.
M: We are a team of craftsmen and women who build custom graphite, bamboo and fiberglass fly rods in Bozeman. All of us apprenticed under Tom Morgan, who founded the company 25 years ago.
What was your first ever job?
J: Landscaping, ugh!
M: My first job in middle school was picking shade leaf tobacco for cigar wrappers.
What does a routine day look like?
J: Wake pop with the kiddos around 6:30, make breakfast and coffee. Get to the shop around 9am, check in with my business partner Matt and inspect the rods we worked on yesterday. Work on rods until noon or so. Catch up on emails and customer correspondence over lunch and then work on rods until about 5pm. Then its back home for dinner and bedtime with my family.
M: As a small business owner I do a bit of everything including cleaning the shop, answering customer emails, ordering raw materials, shaping a fly rod handle, wrapping a rod and updating our website.
What have you been up to during this great pandemic?
J: We have been observing social distance practices, and our shop was closed for about two weeks. We have a relatively small crew and we have been able to keep our distance while still producing rods. Our business took a big hit in March but we have been steadily climbing back since, I think fly-fishing may be the ultimate social distancing activity!
M: I have a 1st grader out of school, so there has been lots of time keeping him on track, getting rods built and with the limited free time I have I've been tying flies and working on our yard.
What's something you've been working on your excited about?
J: We are continually tweaking our rod designs to make them as pure as possible, and we have a few new models in the works... We also recently started using some of our reject bamboo to create custom wading staffs.
M: We have been developing a couple of new rod models. The prototype process is an exciting one as we narrow things down with each iteration and get closer to a final design.
What's something one might not know about you?
J: I worked in medical device sales and training for 15 years and never built a fly rod before this!
M: I was an English Literature major in college and am a passionate reader. It sounds crazy to say this, but I'm committed to reading physical books (rather than digital books) so my son sees me focused on a book and not my iPad.
Where do you find inspiration?
J: Most of our inspiration comes from the streams and rivers and lakes of Montana. We feel so lucky to build a purpose driven product in one of the greatest places in the world to us it in. From an aesthetic standpoint I'm inspired by clean simple modern design and mid-century modern ethic. We are also driven by other great craftsman, knife makers, net makers and other rod builders.
M: The custom fly rod community is pretty active on Instagram. I feel inspired by seeing intricate wraps, beautiful burl wood reel seats and creative ways to capture images of fly rods.