Thursday, March 1

An ode to the Comficient grip.

I generally hate Craigslist. Its filled with assholes who think their shit is worth gold, or if you're selling, that your gold (or at least gold-washed  nickle) is worth shit. Hell, someone once offered me their "artwork" in lieu of my requested $900 for an iMac G5. Dick.

Sometimes, though, it pays off. Like the old man selling a handful of bamboo fly rods, including a Hardy Fairy, for pennies. Fuck yeah, I bought that Hardy.

I bought it as an "investment," but whatever, fish it sometimes, too. However, I wanted to buy another rod that I could use to fish the shit out of, without concern for its long term condition, in fact I bought it to "beat into submission," based on the way cane nerds talk about their shit.

At the time, I looked at the guys selection of other rods and decided I'd make an offer on a second one. I had it down between a Montague and a South Bend, and the choice was easy: The South Bend.

Why? Because it had the coolest grip I'd ever held.

The "Comficient." Comfortable. Efficient. -Oreno? 

Fuck yeah.
Look at this thing, its just the stupidest, simplest thing you can imagine but if you ask me (you did, you're reading this, good as asking) it just fuckin works like claimed. I've got a stupid grip style, my forefinger inevitably rides the spine of the rod with my thumb underneath like I'm pointing up the rod. 

The barely there flies were the focus of this picture.
Failure-Oreno of subect matter, eh? Err, -oreno...
Its not good. It kinda fatigues and hurts, I think, after a day of casting anything but the rod I picked it up on (an Orvis Superfine 1wt with its petite cigar grip). I try really hard not to use it, but you can't help it.

However, with the Comficient, you can't do it. Not only that, but when your thumb falls into its spot, you can feel the rod (in this case, a 9' 359 HDH which likes a 6wt line) come alive.

Its simplicity belies its utility. It really is comfortable, and it seems to make casting more efficient, to boot, exactly as its comical name would imply. Yet, I've never heard anyone sing its praises. Shit, people rave about the old Fenwick style grip all day (I've very little experience with that), the classic cigar, and just about every alternative (to the ubiquitous reverse half wells, at least) grip style noted.

I hate the feeling of the old sticker under my thumb, but
vintage awesome has me keeping it there. 
I'm honestly surprised no one has tried to copy this over the years, considering the patent has long expired (not that it would stop anyone from basically copying it anyways, I'm sure). From what reading I've done, it seems that the grip itself lived from 1938 to 1951 in South Bend's catalogue, and since then has expired from popularity except for the secondary bamboo market.

For the life of me, I can't figure out why.

When I bought it, I thought it was a novelty, but one I wanted to investigate. Since then, I've since determined that in any point I can fashion my own custom grip on a heavier rod (I'm looking at you, Kabuto 8053 blank!) its going to be one of these. It should be simple enough, a light application of Dremel where the thumb falls, and that should be that.

So, with that said, consider this to be a brief ode to dead technology, the Comficient grip, that which started life as the Sturgis grip, briefly existed as the Young grip, and then caused a patent war with South Bend. 

Count the different colours. Makes you wonder what's real
and what's just accumulated dirt, eh?Also, jasper thread!
I look forward to resurrecting you in the future.

For further reading, an article by Todd Larson appears here, including the original patent drawings of the Sturgis grip. 

As far as fishability, the ole South Bend 359 is surprisingly fun. Tosses a modern 6wt line (the cheapest one I could find, an LL Bean tagged Air Cel WF) although its tiny little guides could be significantly bigger. Matter of fact, the guys at Clark's, while generally downplaying the restorability of the SB, comment that more (like twice as many) and bigger guides enhance its feeling.

Hell, to put a finer point on it, I had to replace a guide. I used the second-from-top guide off a broken graphite tip for lowest snake position on the 359, and it not only fits in, but is marginally bigger than the neighbour snake.

See, shit's just right.
The 3 in 359 means "dry fly action," so take that for what its worth. It definatly casts 'em, though. The day I took the photos of the grip in order to sing its praises I spent tossing size 18 BWOs, as well as a cast of three winged wets (the South Bend #59, for the record, is the "wet fly action." I can't imagine how floppy it must be 80 years later). You can definatly throw line to trout fishing distance though, one friend (who commonly uses a Orvis tip flex Helios) commented that "this would be a great rod if you're stoned." I think that's a good thing?

If I cared more, I'd go through the efforts of upgrading the hardware, but I don't really care that much. I like it for what it is. Its fun to use as is, and there's nothing like fishing with grand dad's ole 359 and 1496.

Well, not my grand dad's. Someone's though, I figure.

Now, could someone explain the South Bend affection for putting the -Oreno tag on everything they sold?


  1. I dig this ergonomic grip. The crustiness of the cork fits you well. Believe it or not, one of my tenkara pixie sticks has a similar grip. Check the second to last pic in this post:
    Japanese Invade Valley Forge
    It's not quite as pronounced the finger groove on your Comficient, but pretty rad in it's own way.

  2. Dude I'll comficientfy my Kabuto 7643 (due in June) if you comficientfy yours. Pass the brew and the dremel

  3. Gary, your building rods now right? If you want some bamboo, I know someone who would be more than happy to get rid of some. Let me know.

  4. non-living blanks, only. haven't gotten the urge to try and plane a rod becase i'm an idiot and that's above me.

    rod building is easy, i'm just lazy. and i need to order some shit.

    oh, and i'm gonna comficient the shout of the kab, dude. it was destiny.

    turns out, T!, that there's a whole lotta grips like this out there, but no one ever talks about 'em. i though the proper way to hold a reelless rod was index finger up the spine?

    1. I could cut some, and let them sit for a bit to dry out then get them to you somehow. I thought of rod building when these people moved in to the house and wanted to get rid of the bamboo, but like you said, kinda lazy and didn't feel like learning that and probably never making/finishing a rod.

  5. Remember that box of vintage rod winding floss I have? There are a couple of extra spools in addition to the ones in that case you may have an itch to put a rod together. Just sayin'...