Published Mar 11. 2023 - 1 year ago
Updated or edited Mar 11. 2023

Colt Actionrod Restoration

Jim Burchette restored an old glass rod - stripped and rebuilt it - and it came out as good as new

This is the story of a well used 9’0”, two-piece, eight weight glass fiber fly rod, which was given as a gift to a young, budding fly fisher, passed on from a grandfather to a grandson, but with a lot of love and attention given by the author before handing it over.

The finished rod
The finished rod
Jim Burchette

Marks on the blank
Marks on the blank
Jim Burchette


Researching the Actionrod name led to confusing results and timeline. None the less, the company produced many types of fishing rods and fly rods of varying qualities.

  • Actionrod fishing rods were produced by Orchard Industries Inc., Detroit MI. The company was later moved to Hastings MI under the name of Viking Inc. Reference: Google, eBay
  • Actionrod was an independent rod maker in the 1950’s, located in Orchard Park Michigan. Bronson purchased Actionrod in the early 1960’s. Later in the 1960’s, the company was purchased by True Temper. Reference: Fiberglass Fly Rod Forum
  • Private label brand names, such as Colt were also produced.
  • The thought of documenting this rebuild didn’t occur to me at the beginning. Disassembly of the rod just happened. I received the rod from a friend who wanted the rod inspected before giving it to his grandson.
  • Green electrical tape covered the cork grip and reel seat. Upon removal of the tape, I found the cork grip was in better-than-expected shape, but the reel seat was in poor condition. The reel seat locking ring holding the South Bend Oren-0-Matic reel would not turn. Channel lock pliers were needed to grasp and turn the locking rings.
  • As I held the cork grip in my left hand and turned the locking ring with pliers in my right hand, the entire cork grip broke free of the rod shaft. Well, that answered the question of replacing the grip.
  • The scraps
    The scraps
    Jim Burchette

    Remnants of the disassembly

  • A bench grinder was used to remove the aluminum reel seat. In short order, it was removed with no damage to the rod blank. No bushing or spacer between the inside of the reel seat and the diameter of the rod butt was used in the initial construction. Was the reel seat built to accommodate the diameter of the rod blank or was it the other way around?
  • Next, I heated the tip top guide with a butane lighter. The glue gave way, and the tip guide was easily removed.
  • Thread wraps on the five remaining guides and other thread trim wraps were removed from the rod blank.
  • Thread and guides removed

  • The rod blank was in excellent condition, but the factory finish and white paint trim bands needed removing if I was to follow my plan of updating the number of guides and improved spacing.
  • Reference for stripping old rod finish was found on the Fiberglass Fly Rod forum. Numerous posts described using Citristrip to dissolve and remove the factory finish. Off to Lowe’s…
  • The factory label was preserved with layers of painter’s tape.
  • A “trough” was made by cutting down each side of a contractor grade trash bag. Two lengths of small PVC pipe were placed on the work bench surface and the plastic was set on top of the tubing creating a long trough to place the rod sections in.
  • The raw blank
    Ferrules without wrapping
    Thread and guides removed
    Jim Burchette

    CitriStrip varnish remover
    Paint stripper
    Jim Burchette

    Citristrip applied

  • The rod blank was placed in the trough and Citristrip was sprayed on while rotating the blank, applying a thorough coating.
  • An hour later, the finish and paint were removed with 0000 grade steel wool and shop towels. It came off like butter!
  • Multiple wiping’s of 100% absolute ethanol was used to remove any residual Citristrip. This step is very important!
  • The rod was placed over an air vent and allowed to thoroughly dry before moving to the spray finish step. The rod must be tack free to touch. If not, wipe again with alcohol and allow to dry.

  • Stripping off varnish
    Stripping off varnish
    Stripping off varnish
    Stripping old varnish
    Jim Burchette

    Stripped rod is complete!

    Labels still there
    The cleaned blank
    The result after removing the varnish. Approved!
    Jim Burchette
    New varnish
    Jim Burchette
  • A cardboard spray booth was setup below an overhead garage door track. Two hooks were placed on the track.
  • The metal ferrule sections were wrapped with painter’s tape. A length of string containing a loop to hang rod sections from the hook was placed under the taped ferrules.
  • Proper shaking of the Minwax Spar Urethane can was performed, and the first coat was applied to the rod sections. Ample drying time was given between subsequent coats of spar urethane finish
  • Results: BEAUTIFUL!!!

  • The varnish spray setup
    A coat of clear varnish
    Nice and unisform
    Spray booth and the result
    Jim Burchette

    Components for restoration

    The components
    The components
    Jim Burchette
  • Fenwick profile cork grip
  • Cork winding check retained from original rod
  • Aluminum double locking reel seat with rubber end plug
  • Gudebrod size A nylon thread, green #5896 & red #335
  • Stainless steel snake guides: x3 size #3, x3 #4, x2 #5, one size 12 stripping guide. Size 6 tip top guide.
  • Guide spacing from tip: 4.5”, 10, 16.5, 24, 32.5, 42, 52.25, 64, 76.5” per Fenwick 2-pc fiberglass fly rod guide spacing chart.
  • Flex Coat thread finish. No color preserver used.
  • Red trim on the wraps
    Jim Burchette

    Restoration notes

  • The factory build used five guides. I upgraded the number of guides to nine, keeping with a modern selection and placement.
  • Guide spacing for number 7 was shortened from 52 ½” to 52 ¼”in order to accommodate the metal ferrule.
  • Masking tape was built up around the blank to accept the inside diameter of the reel seat.
  • Down locking configuration for the reel seat was used.
  • Cork grip and reel seat were secured to the blank with 2-part epoxy.
  • The original cork winding check was cleaned and polished before securing in place with epoxy.
  • Thread wrapping and finish notes

  • I must say it was an experience wrapping this rod. The spar urethane topcoat gave a degree of grip to the thread. Initiating a thread wrap was very easy. Manipulating the thread once it was on the rod had a ‘feel’ different than any other rod I have ever wrapped. It was somewhat challenging to even thread gaps or dimples from tag end pull throughs.
  • Thread wraps were cleaned of any lint and errant fibers with masking tape and lightly passing over an alcohol flame.
  • Two-part Flex Coat rod wrap finish was applied with a disposable hobby brush. A small spatula was used to create a defined straight edge. The rod was placed on a low RPM drying motor and allowed to dry. The Flex Coat resulted in a very professional finish.
  • Gallery of the Finished Product, JB 123-23

    Reel seat and reel
    Wrappings and a snake eye
    Accents around the labels
    Ferrule wrappings, closeup
    Ferrule wrappings
    The handle shoulder
    A shooting eye
    The reel seat
    Images of the finished rod
    Jim Burchette


    A standard WF8F taper line was used for lawn casting. The 8-weight line loaded the rod nicely, not under lined and not over lined, just perfect. This nine-foot rod has a slow action, but casts very smoothly and is quick dampening. The rod is a bit tip heavy and an overall weight that you feel in your arm after a lengthy casting session. I feel the upgrade in numbers of guides and modern placement complimented the results of this build. Most likely, the original five guides used in the commercial build of this rod were selected out of economics and not functionality.

    Singed, sealed and delivered
    Singed, sealed and delivered
    Jim Burchette
    February 4, 2023

    Dear Ian,
    Your Grandpa Randall brought me this rod to inspect before he gave it to you. One thing led to another, and I ended up refinishing the entire rod. I put on a new reel seat, cork grip, and wrapped new line guides. I am proud of this reconstruction and hope you will enjoy learning how to fly fish with it. My first fly outfit was a was a fiberglass rod with a Pflueger Medalist reel and was given to me sixty years ago when I was 13 years old.

    Your rod is fiberglass, it is nine feet long, and is rated for an eight-weight fly line. Fly rods are made for specific fly line weights, not pound weights like a spinning rod which can be for 2-4 pound line or 15-20 pound line. Your rod is more suited for bass and general warm water fishing. It is too heavy for most trout fishing. Meaning an eight-weight fly line cast on a small stream would most likely scare the fish. However, the rod will be good to learn fly casting and line control and will be a lot of fun to catch bass and bream with!

    I have put together for you a box of flies, leaders, and a Pflueger Medalist reel with a “weight forward” taper 8 weight floating fly line from my collection. The Medalist reel is set up for left hand retrieve which is normal for right-handed casters. If you are left-handed, I can reverse the line and reel drag for you. The other reel is a South Bend automatic reel which came on the fly rod. I put an extra line on that reel for you. It is lighter than the 8-weight line on the Medalist reel. I’m not sure what weight, maybe a six or seven weight line. I tried it and your rod will cast it, but there is a lighter action. Take care of your tackle.

    Fly fishing has been a lifelong passion for me and I find it very rewarding. Any fish that swims in freshwater or saltwater is fair game on a fly rod. Not just trout. Once you catch a fish on a fly rod, you will notice the difference and hopefully, will become ‘hooked’. Fly rods can be made of fiberglass, graphite, and bamboo. Each material has its own casting characteristic. I enjoy the slower and smooth casting style of fiberglass and have numerous glass rods in my collection.

    I invite you and your Grandad to come to my house. We can have a casting lesson and talk about fly fishing, knots, and fly tackle.
    Included with your rod and reel is a fly-fishing handbook that can answer questions you may have. Some sections of the book are technical. Don’t let it intimidate you. The book gives a good introduction to fly fishing and in time, it will all come together.

    I’m sure you are proficient with fishing line to hook/lure knots (most likely clinch or improved clinch knot). These will work with most flies, but there are a few more needed in fly fishing such as a perfection loop and the double surgeon’s loop knot. The double surgeon’s knot can also be used to connect two pieces of monofilament or fluorocarbon line together. A double surgeon’s knot is nothing more than two overhand knots. If you can tie your shoelaces, you can tie that knot. Practice knot tying at home, so you don’t become frustrated trying to learn them when you are fishing. Of course, I am more than glad to show you some simple knots that will get you through 95% of your fishing needs. If you have access to YouTube, there are many good knot tying and fly-casting videos available.
    A brief note on fly-fishing leaders. They can be a one-piece drawn leader that is factory made thicker at the butt end and tapers to a smaller tip where you attach a fly. Leaders can also be made by connecting different sizes (larger to smaller) of monofilament or fluorocarbon together. The heavy leader butt connects to the fly line, usually with a loop-to-loop connection. The “tippet” is the thin end where you tie on your fly.

    Imagine you have changed six flies throughout an afternoon fishing session and your leader tippet has become shorter and fatter and needs to be replaced. This is when you will attach a new section of tippet material with a double surgeon’s knot. I use Zebco Omniflex monofilament. A large spool can be found at Walmart for $3.00 and will last you a long time. Monofilament floats, fluorocarbon sinks.
    Don’t be intimidated by fly casting and fly fishing. It can be as simple or as complex as you want. Make it fun. You will learn as you go, and I am here to help.

    As we say: “tight lines”

    Jim Burchette

    The original label intact
    Jim Burchette


    Fly rod restoration ...

    I am the grandfather in this story. An old friend gave me this rod to give to my grandson Ian just to introduce him to fly fishing. I took it to my friend Jim Burchette to more or less give me some information about the rod and reel BUT Jim is a perfectionist and now you see what my grandson has. It’s beautiful and I’m sure it will be well used! Thanks to Jim Burchette

    Serge's picture

    Restoration ...

    Just WOW! Great story, that is an inspiration for me. Congrats to Jim Burchette for the artistic work!


    Restoration ...

    What a great tribute to memories on the water from GrandFather to Grandson. This rod was is incredibly beautiful not only in the fit and finish JB has facilitated but also in having a soul that can be carried on for generations to come. You are a very talented and paid attention to every detail JB, the thought and consideration you put into the rod building process is simply phenomenal.

    Jim Burchette's picture


    Thank you all for your kind words. It was a labor of love and hopefully, will plant the seed in young Ian for a lifetime of fly fishing.


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