Matt Barber & Joel Doub – Stewards of a Fly Fishing Legacy

Matt Barber (photo credit: Paige McAfee)

Matt Barber and Joel Doub are the owners of Tom Morgan Rodsmiths, a Bozeman-based fly rod company known for its unyielding commitment to quality, craftsmanship, and enduring performance. The duo purchased the company in early 2017 from Tom Morgan, a fly fishing legend who, along with his wife Gerri, built the company into one of the world’s most unique and renowned rod builders. Rather than focus on the latest fads or selling a high volume of products, Tom was dedicated solely to building the highest quality rod, one that could be passed on from generation to generation, decade after decade.

Joel Doub (photo credit: Paige McAfee)

You may be surprised to learn that Matt and Joel are not fishing industry veterans—their previous careers were in education and medical device sales, respectively. But when Tom Morgan decided to sell the company, Matt and Joel’s passion for fly fishing, their willingness to learn from the best, and their commitment to continuing the company’s legacy allowed them to stand out from the crowd of competing buyers. To everyone’s dismay, Tom passed away unexpectedly soon after the sale of the company, but only after imparting his wisdom, craftsmanship secrets, and high standards to Matt and Joel. Building on Tom and Gerri’s rock-solid foundation, the company is now entering its next phase, and the future has never looked brighter.

Matt and Joel were in Denver for the annual Fly Fishing Show, so we met up to chat about the company and their journey into fly fishing entrepreneurship. We talked at length about Tom and his laser-like focus on quality, and how he was willing to snap a rod in half if it did not meet his high standards. We chatted about the “secret” to making these rods, which mostly boils down to being willing to work harder than anyone else. We talk about Tom’s unique partnership with his wife Gerri, and how the couple went about transferring decades of knowledge and experience to Matt and Joel. We discuss the company’s unique business model, and how it flies in the face of most mainstream, MBA business theories. And as usual, we discuss favorite books, films, crazy outdoor experiences, and plenty more.

This was a very fun conversation, and I’m excited to watch the company continue to grow and thrive under Matt and Joel’s ownership. Be sure to check out the episode notes for everything we discuss, and follow Tom Morgan Rodsmiths on Instagram and other social media. Enjoy!

Hard at work in the shop (photo credit: Paige McAfee)

All photos courtesy of Paige McAfee

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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed:

3:00 – How Matt and Joel describe their work
3:25 – Their professional backgrounds
4:50 – Overview of Tom Morgan Rodsmiths
6:40 – How Tom and Gerri and began building rods
7:20 – Tom and Gerri’s first time building a rod
8:15 – Tom’s quest for a “perfect fly rod”
9:50 – Specifics on Tom Morgan custom rods
13:00 – Why the rods do not have fancy names
14:30 – The “secret” to Tom Morgan rods
17:40 – TMR’s business model
20:45 – Why they purchased an “unconventional” business
23:50 – How they’ve been received as the new owners
26:55 – How the Tom Morgan philosophy has carried over into other parts of life
29:15 – Their history as “makers”
32:30 – Thoughts on life in Bozeman
36:20 – The process of buying the business
40:00 – What Tom and Gerri like about Matt and Joel
42:30 – Tom’s unexpected passing
43:40 – Gerri’s influence on the company and Matt and Joel
46:15 – On being embraced by the industry after Tom’s death
48:00 – “The O’Dell,” Casting for Recovery, and Duke Beardsley
55:30 – Future of the business
1:00:30 – Favorite books
1:05:20 – Most powerful experience in the outdoors
1:08:10 – Favorite location in the West
1:10:00 – Best advice ever received
1:11:20 – Request of the listeners
1:13:15 – Matt asks Ed a question!
1:16:00 – Connect with Tom Morgan Rodsmiths
Information Referenced

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