Part 5 in our Historical Rodmakers Series
Harold "Pinky" Gillum
Our thanks to Cententenial Publications for use permission.
October 19th, 1998
Harold S. Gillum has attained an exalted
position among the top classic rodmakers,
but it is a position some authorities feel
exceeds what the quality of his rods
There appears little
disagreement that Pinky made some of the
best casting fly rods ever produced by
any maker. The controversy centers
mainly on the quality of Gillum rods. Among
many current craftsmen who specialize in
repairing classic bamboo rods, and even among
fishermen and collectors, there is a feeling
that Gillum rods are more susceptible to
delamination than almost any other make.
Whether the problem is a
flaw in construction or use of inferior glues
is a matter still open for discussion.
Most authorities believe
that only rods built during a brief period in
the middle era of Gillum's career suffer
from the delamination problem.
His early rods were constructed
with animal hide glue and his later rods were
built using resorcinol glue. But during one period in
between he used glue he acquired from George
Halstead, and it is these rods that seem to
have created the delamination problem. Halstead
rods also suffered continually from the same problem,
which is probably why so few Halstead rods remain in
Both Gillum and Halstead built
exceptional casting rods, and any rod that has lasted
into the present time is likely not one succeptible
to delamination, and would be a true treasure to own.
Therefore, in spite of this nagging
reputation, Gillum rods continue to bring the
highest prices of any rods bought and sold in the
classic rod market.
Only rods by Garrison and Dickerson bring
near the same prices. Many authorities attribute the
pricing of Gillum rods directly to their scarcity,
for it has been determined that Pinky built fewer
than 2000 rods during a career that spanned some 45
years from the mid-20's until his death in 1969.
Gillum lived and worked for most
of his life in Ridgefield, Connecticut, although
he spent a five-year period in Vermont helping
Wes Jordan train rod craftsmen for the Orvis Company.
Most authorities trace Pinky's
introduction to making bamboo rods to Eustis Edwards
who ran the Winchester rod shop in nearby New Haven
about the time Pinky appeared on the scene. Gillum
was a contemporary of Jim Payne and Everett Garrison
and shared rod making information with both men.
Again, many authorities feel much of the work done
by Gillum was merely a copy of rods being produced
by Payne and Garrison.
Indeed, he did use similar
ferrules, fashioned similar cork grips and patterned
some of his tapers on models made by these two artisans.
However, Gillum rods do not exhibit the attention to
detail of other master rodmakers and Ws grips, reel
seats and cosmetics generally suffer by any direct
Early Gillum rods can be identified
by his name lettered on the shaft of the rod. Then
after about 1950 he switched to stamping his name on
the metal band of the reel seat. Also early rods
display a mottled flame-tempered appearance while
later models have more uniformly colored cane,
evidently a change in the method he used for tempering
the cane he used in his rods.