Andy Dear | Sunday, 11 August 2019

In 2017, the fly fishing world lost one of it's most revered icons. Tom Morgan, former owner of R.L. Winston Rod Co. and founder of Tom Morgan Rodsmiths passed away two years ago this past June. Anyone who has ever had the privilege to lay hands on a Morgan fly rod knows all about the dedication to the highest level of craftsmanship and performance. There is however a much deeper level to Tom's story....one that we can all learn a valuable life lesson from.

  For most of the last three decades, Tom Morgan was paralyzed by a very aggressive form of Multiple Sclerosis. He was in fact, completely wheelchair bound without the use of his hands. This, however, did not stop him from being completely engrossed in the craft he loved so much. With Tom at her side, his wife and business partner Gerri continued to design and build what many consider to be the finest flyrods the industry has ever produced.

  I had the honor of interviewing Tom for RodMaker Magazine in 2003 and got to know him fairly well. Talent as a fly rod designer aside, he was a wonderfully generous human being that in spite of his physical limitations, continued to maintain one of the most positive outlooks on life that I have ever seen. Tom and I lost touch somewhere around 2007 or so, but I thought of him often and was always grateful for the opportunity that he gave me to share his life and his love of fly fishing with the rod building community.

  In 2013, I had a bit of a health scare when I started experiencing some neurological symptoms, not unlike the symptoms of MS. When the doctors mentioned MS as a possibility, I was terrified. The end of that story is that my tests came back clean, and I did not have MS. During that dark time, however, one of the first people I thought about was Tom Morgan, and how in spite of living daily without the use of most of his body, he still seemed to be making the most of what he COULD do.

  Not long after that, hoping Tom would remember me I sent him a note expressing my gratitude for being an inspiration in my time of desperation. He replied almost immediately with a heartfelt note thanking me for reaching out, and expressing how grateful he was for always being able to look on the bright side of things, in spite of his circumstances.

  Recently I have been working on a publication with some expanded versions of the interviews I did for RodMaker. Tom's wife Gerri has been extremely generous to share some wonderful photos for this project with me. In one of our email exchanges, she remarked "What amazes me the most about my 24 years with Tom was his incredible attitude. He never, ever, EVER gave up!

  Tom Morgan was one of the true pioneers in our industry, He gave us some of the finest trout weight rod tapers to ever cast a loop, and his pursuit of almost unobtainable perfection set new standards for aesthetics in craftsmanship and design. Perhaps the most important thing he gave us, however, was the gift of tenacious, unshakable optimism. The lesson that in spite of whatever life throws at us, that it is how we react to those circumstances that is what really defines our legacy.

Hope you all have a great week,