How Snake Brand Brought Agate Stripping Guides Back

Agate stripping guides have been a part of rod building since as far back as the 1870’s, when Kosmic Rods featured them as Agate Tunnel Guides. A book titled “Idyl of Split Bamboo”, by Dr. George Parker Holden, showed examples of agate guides and tip tops and companies such as F.E. Thomas, Payne, Leonard, Edwards, Varney and Heddon used agate stripping guides, made in Germany, extensively during the 1930’s to the 1940’s. The use of agate stripping guides dropped off during WWII and afterwards only a few rod builders possessed small quantities of these guides.

agate guides

In 1993, I received a call from Daryll Whitehead who had a cigar box containing about a dozen agate stripping guides he wanted to show me. He had been following articles on flies that I had been tying for magazines and coffee table books and thought I would have the patience to become a good rod builder. The agate stripping guides he showed me were possibly the last ones made prior to WWII and I was intrigued as to whether a German source could be located and agate stripping guides made once again.

So, I learned some German phrases and for 5 months I called various businesses in Germany at 1:00 am - 2:00 am until I found a company that had made the agate stripping guides. It was a terrific find since the company had been sold 3 times since the war. Since I was unable to get time off to fly to Germany, my friend and mentor Daryll went in my place. We would talk from midnight until 6:00 am to decide on the materials we wanted to purchase: antique guides, loose agates, and agate rings. Then 2 years later I negotiated to buy punch presses, a kick press, 600 die sets and 1700 lbs of nickel silver tubing.

agate fly rod stripping guides

I developed an agate turning machine and drilling operation and we were soon offering agate stripping guides in 8mm, 9mm, 10mm, 12mm, 16mm, and 20mm. Initially we were serving the bamboo fishing rod market but eventually graphite builders and manufacturers found out about our abilities and over the years I made over 50,000 agate stripping guides and tops for rod builders around the world. Eventually, I located a source for amazing agates in Brazil, where the highest quality of stone was found.

The agate stripping guide portion of Snake Brand Guides was sold to the owner of Struble Mfg. I recently heard that it was then sold to a fellow in Montana.

Bringing agate stripping guides back to rod building has been an amazing journey for me and I hope you found the history of this journey as interesting as I have.

Mike McCoy
Snake Brand Guides