A passion for fishing creates new business opportunity

What began two years ago as a “little something on the side” is today trolling in new and challenging waters–and reeling in the business for Richard and Solly Garbowski.
The Devlin couple is behind “Richard’s Rod & Reel Service,” a home-based venture which, by inventory alone, speaks volumes about their love of fishing and all that goes into making the equipment for the sport.
The business, born of older fishing reel stock bought up from Stratton resident Ray Bragg, has grown to handle the repair of virtually any component of hand-held fishing equipment–modern or vintage.
Those broken rod tips, missing line guides, and rod sections area fishermen lost to big fish last summer meant big business–and a busy repair schedule–worked around their day jobs as lab technologists at La Verendrye hospital here.
“Last summer was pretty hectic. I was overwhelmed with repairs,” reflected Garbowski, who also works a minnow trapline in the summer.
“We replaced a lot of parts and did a lot of cleanings.
“I call it an overhaul tune-up,” he smiled, noting one common repair job is replacing a reel crank. “Most often it gets lost in the water. The little nut falls off and you lose the crank.”
“Yes, we make a joke about that,” added Solly, noting puns were often the norm around the shop. “We can say we get a lot of crank calls.”
And fixing those common rod and reel problems associated with fishing also leads to some learning for those doing the repairs, especially about what’s hot on the market these days.
“More and more often on the reels I fix I see Spiderwire,” Garbowski said, quoting one of the brand names for an advanced type of non-monofilament fishing line.
Also known as Fireline or braided Gorilla, it has virtually no flexibility, allowing anglers greater control over what’s happening with that big fish.
It is fast becoming the line of choice over monofilament.
“Spiderwire doesn’t stretch, it doesn’t give, and that means there’s a lot of strength in it,” he noted.
“Fishermen are very particular about their [fishing] line,” his wife interjected. “This new [type] doesn’t abrade. Fishermen can horse it through the weeds without stretch.”
But as Garbowski pointed out, strong line like that can break through the line guides found on most fishing rods.
“Regular guides are not very resilient with consistent use [of Spiderwire],” he said. “There are now special guides made just for those kinds of lines.”
Crafted of carbide, they are three times stronger than their aluminum oxide predecessors.
“We are always [studying] new materials,” he said.
He also noted there’s talk in the fishing world about an experimental guideless rod with line that goes up through the middle of it.
Meanwhile, the rod isn’t spared its share of attention in the couple’s business. And Garbowski said the experience gained from repairing factory-made ones has cast them into making their own custom-crafted models made to suit the user.
Taking into account what rod action and length is required, a great deal of precise measuring and component distribution is done, along with a host of other particulars, so the custom rod (branded Solyrich) ends up as a personalized piece of equipment–right down to the thread art design done by her adjacent to the rod handle.
“She really got interested in the thread work so now the butt winding goes to her. I do all the gluing and dirty work,” he smiled.
“It suited me. It’s an outlet for my creativity,” she agreed. “And it brings a different dimension to my craft work.”
While both admitted the thread art can be a tedious job, it was less so than the spacing and alignment specifications which are crucial to the finished product.
But those particulars, pokey as they may be, are what keeps the couple focused on making the perfect rod.
“You want to make it just so. For the rod to be as one so you can feel the fish here,” Solly Garbowski said, resting her hand on the cork handle.
“There are so many challenges. It’s fun stuff,” he added.
Richard’s Rod & Reel Service also has dealership status for St. Croix Rods, with probable warranty services forthcoming from Shimano and other companies as the couple’s customer base broadens.