The Paul H. Young Rod Co.
Part 10 in our Historical Rodmakers
Our thanks to Centennial Publications for use permission.
January 4, 1999
Paul H. Young was a natural craftsman who mastered the
art of fly tying and taxidermy before turning his attention and
efforts to building legendary bamboo fly rods. His love
of angling had involved him in all these endeavors at various
times. During the early 1920's he opened a small shop on
Grand River Avenue in Detroit, Michigan, that specialized in
taxidermy, fly tying and fishing tackle. As he developed an
expertise in fly rods he began modifying large unwieldy
bamboo rods into smaller rods suitable for trout fishing.
Finally he decided he could build better bamboo rods than
those generally available to anglers, and in 1925 began crafting
his own line of bamboo rods for sale to the fishing
public, and by 1927 had developed his first compound
Young issued his first catalog in 1927, listing four models
in sizes from 7-1/2 feet to nine feet in length, built on his
concept of compound tapers. He was a dedicated fly
fisherman and an excellent caster, and the rods he produced
reflected his conviction that fly presentation was the most
critical element of success. Even his early rods displayed a
lightness and delicacy that became a hallmark of all Young
rods. He was continually changing and improving his
various rod models in a constant search for perfection.
The response to his rods was phenomenal and he was
continually behind on orders. For several years during
the late 20's he had blanks for his rods produced to his
specifications by Heddon and by South Bend, which at
that time was managed by Wes Jordan. During this era Paul
produced all of the hardware for his rods.
Under Paul's guidance the company grew and prospered;
it survived the Depression and the lean years of World War
II. During the prosperous years after the war, Young
expanded his rod line to meet the demand of a new
generation of fishermen. By 1946 he offered 29 two-piece
models and 27 three-piece models. This was also the era
when he began naming his various models, with such
well-known names as the Ace and Prosperity, as well as
lesser-known models such as the Little Giant, Sweetheart,
Standby and Texan. During the early 1950's Young introduced
the legendary Midge and his Modified American Parabolic
rods, including the famous Parabolic 15.
Other well-known rod models that Young designed
and developed include the Driggs, the Perfectionist,
the Martha Marie, named for his wife; and the remaining
models of the Parabolic series, the 14, 16, 17, 18 and 19,
each named for the size of the ferrule use on each particular model.
In 1956 Paul moved the Paul H. Young Co. into a new store
and production facility on Eight Mile Road in the outskirts
of Detroit. Fiberglass rods were capturing much of the fishing
market and Young consolidated his vast offering of some 80
different bamboo models and concentrated on producing quality
fly rods. There was a good market for quality rods since many
other rodmakers had either gone out of business or switched
to producing the popular fiberglass rods.
After Paul Young's death in April, 1960, the company
continued under the guidance of his wife Martha Marie and their
son Jack who had apprenticed with Paul for many years.
Mrs. Young retired in 1969 and Jack assumed control of the
Jack Young has been the driving force behind the Paul H.
Young Co. since Paul's death in 1960. As a youngster Jack
began learning the bamboo rod business during the late 1930's
under his father's watchful eye. After serving in the Marine
Corps during World War II he returned and went to work
building rods full time with Paul. During the next 15
years his involvement in the business was instrumental in
development of the production equipment and rod actions
that established the company's reputation as a leader in high
quality fly rods. The post-war era was the time that saw
the introduction of the company's most famous models;
the Midge, the Parabolic 15, the Perfectionist, the Martha
Marie, and the Driggs, named after one of the Youngs'
vorite rivers on the Upper Peninsula.
There is no doubt Paul Young was one of the nation's
most creative bamboo craftsmen but Jack Young had a
tremendous influence and was almost equally responsible
for much of the later development of the Young line of rods,
although he has received little personal recognition for his
contribution to the Young legacy. He was involved
throughout the era that saw the change from animal glues
to modem adhesives and the switch to flame tempering
bamboo that is possibly the most distinguishing feature
of Young rods, not just from a cosmetic perspective but also
from the resilience the flame tempering imparts to the cane:
Young rods are known for their responsive power and
light weight. Jack was also involved in the continuing
evolution of the reel seats in a constant search for the lightest
functional fly rods that could be built.
It was mainly during Jack's tenure that Bob Summers
worked for the Paul Young Co. Summers had been hired by
Paul several years before he died and remained with the
company until 1972 when he left to start his own rod building
operation. After Paul Young's death the company was
managed by Jack and Paul's wife, Martha Marie, until she retired
in 1969. Shortly thereafter Jack moved the entire Young
operation north to Traverse City. Bamboo production had
slowed down after the introduction and explosive growth
of fiberglass rods but Jack continued Paul's philosophy of
producing quality bamboo rods for the selective fisherman.
Soon after the move Jack built a marina at Bowers Harbor.
This venture consumed much of Jack's time and the
production of Young rods dwindled during the 70's after Bob
Summers left and well into the 80's, although there never was
a year when no Young rods were produced.
The marina was sold in 1987 and the rod shop was eventually
moved to a downtown location in Traverse City. Jack
and his son. Todd, have gradually put all of the equipment
back into operation and the Paul H. Young Co. is again
producing bamboo rods. Todd has worked with Jack since
the mid-70's, has learned all aspects of rod production and
has plans to carry on the Young tradition of quality rods.
One new rod was recently added to the standard line of Young
rods. It was designed by Jack and Todd and named the
Smidgen, a wispy 6-footer for a #2/3 line. All other models
remain relatively intact from the Paul Young era and the
company is still using cane purchased by Paul before the