By Kimberly Mason / For The Chronicle
When Wayne Anderson met Diana 10 years ago, it wasn’t a matter of “if” they were going to get married, their friends said, it was “when.” They both shared a passion for the outdoors — especially for fishing — and an infectious energy and enthusiasm for life.
The passion this married couple shares for each other extends into their young business — North Fork Custom Rods — and handcrafting custom-made fishing rods.
“It all started about 2 years ago,” Wayne said, “I was heading down to the Barrier Dam to go fishing, it was so crowded I could hardly even get down to the river. It was shoulder to shoulder. I looked down the line and everybody had basically the same thing. All the rods looked alike.”
That’s when he got his idea, to make custom handles for his fishing rods.
Wayne had been doing repairs and making his own rods for several years, so he had a lot of the equipment he needed to “play” already in his workshop at home.
“I’d come out here at night after work and wrap guides and build handles for hours. I just loved it,” Wayne said. “She’d have to come out here and get me and make me go to bed.”
It wasn’t long before Diana decided if she was going to see Wayne, she’d have to find something to do out in the shop.
“I’d bring a book out here to read while he worked,” Diana said. “He’d show me what he was working on.”
It wasn’t long before Diana wanted to try her hand at it. One day while Wayne was away at work, Diana wrapped a few guides.
“I came home from work and she was out in the shop working,” Wayne said. “She turned around and said, ‘What do you think of this, hon?’ And I couldn’t believe it, she was doing work with the wraps I couldn’t even begin to do.”
That was when Diana and Wayne Anderson started putting their two creative minds together and started the North Fork Custom Rods company.
A Different Design Every Time
The wedded pair build 350 custom-made rods a year; no two are the same.
What makes their rods different? It’s the materials, colors and decorative effects, said Diana.
“One of the things that we do that nobody else does is use real snakeskin,” said Wayne.
Above the handle, Wayne wraps a decorative strip of cobra, diamondback water snake or rattlesnake. He also has a rainbow of colored abalone shell to use in the wraps and has even used feathers in the designs.
Many of the cork handles feature a checkerboard design with a variety of colors added in; some resemble camouflage. They are always playing with the designs.
The thread wraps, a specialty of Diana’s, can feature up to five colors at a time. Diamond weaves are common.
They have even been playing with hydrographic print wraps on the rod blanks. Imagine a 6-foot rod covered in snakeskin, camo or leaf-printed wrap, Wayne said grinning, “some people say they’re too pretty to fish with.”
They specialize in building one quality rod at a time, they said, and carry about 200 blanks in their shop from a variety of brand names — St Croix, G.Loomis, Batson, Lamiglas and more.
The rods sell from $150 to $700 and up. The price depends on a number of things.
“The guides alone can cost anywhere from 99 cents to $35 apiece,” said Wayne.
A good salmon rod will average $300 to $350.
“You can come out to the shop and choose everything,” Wayne said.
There are more than 200 rod blanks in the workshop, and all the materials they need to create a custom-made salmon, steelhead, bass, trout or sturgeon rod, as well as fly rods.
You can even “girlie up” a fishing rod with pinks and purples and iridescent guide wraps.
“I tell the guys that if their wife thinks it might be too much money to spend on a custom rod, buy them one first,” Wayne winked as he talked.
Growing the Business
The first vendor show where the team exhibited their rods was the Beast Feast held in early February at Uhlmann RV in Chehalis. From there, the couple dove directly into deep waters and spent five days at the Pacific Northwest Outdoor Sportsman’s Show in Portland.
“That was an expensive trip,” Wayne said.
But it was worth it. That’s where they met rod-building icon and fishing business legend Gary Loomis, formerly of G.Loomis rods, now the owner of North Fork Composites.
“Gary Loomis came by our booth and saw our rods and he loved them,” Wayne said. “Nearly everyone that works for him came by our booth to see our rods.”
They liked what they saw so much it was time to talk business. North Fork composites, Wayne said, are the best rod blanks on the market today.
“Gary Loomis sold his business to Shimano,” Wayne explained, “and he has started a new business building rod blanks. We got our name, North Fork Custom Rods, three days before he put in for his new name.”
Everything is moving rather fast for Wayne and Diane and their new business, he said, but “it all seems to be coming together.”
The couple are talking with Gary and Susan Loomis and looking at ways that they can work together.
“It is gonna be a real good marriage,” Wayne said, speaking of the two North Fork companies. “If Gary Loomis likes my work, I must be doing something right.”
The Future of Fishing
The Andersons plan to expand their 48- by 36-foot shop and hope to be able to hire a couple of part-time helpers as their business expands.
They look forward to this spring’s fishing so they can get out and “test the waters” with their latest creations.
“Now fishing is all part of ‘research and development,’” Wayne said with a wide grin. “It’s all part of the business. I love being able to say, ‘Honey, let’s go out and do some R&D.’”
The Andersons have “three boats and a dingy,” a growing business building custom-made fishing rods from their backyard workshop and two beloved boxers and a new puppy. They enjoy finding ways they can give back to the community and share their good fortune. It isn’t hard to find a local charity with a rod from North Fork Custom Rods on the auction block or as part of a raffle. They feel blessed, blessed enough to share their good fortune.
“It doesn’t get any better than this,” Wayne said.
Kimberly Mason is a freelance writer based in Cinebar. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
North Fork Custom Rods
Wayne and Diana Anderson
542 North Fork Road
Chehalis, WA 98532
Phone: (360) 520-5741
The next opportunity to meet the Andersons and shop their custom rods is on April 2 at the Spring Community Garage Sale, at the Southwest Washington Fairgrounds.
The Andersons encourage visitors at the home workshop. “If you see the garage door is open, come on back to the shop, we’re in there working.”