In 1984 Press Powell and his brother John, with Walt's backing, started the Powell Rod Company. For the first few years they built and sold the "Signature" graphite fly rods. These were moderate action rods built on “deep brown" colored blanks rolled with 1st generation standard modulus graphite. These rods were made in 4 different "categories".
These were divided as follows: Dry Fly (DF), Light Steelhead (LTSH), Steelhead (COHO), and one Tarpon model. The Dry Fly rods were further divided into Light Action and Medium Action rods. The Dry Fly rods were built in lengths from 7 foot to 9 and 1/2 foot. They were all labeled as DF rods with the DF followed by the length and then a dash and a numeral or numeral and letter to designate line weight. Generaly the -1 rods were 4-5wt and the -2 rods were 5-6wt. The 2L was 9 foot 5-6wt and the 2H a 9 foot 6-7wt. This labeling convention continued until 1994. Later DF models were introduced labeled as -1L and these were 3-4wt rods. The Light Steelhead rods were all labeled as LTSH rods. These were all 7-8wt rods and were made in four lengths from 8 foot 6 inch to 10 foot.
The Steelhead rods were all labeled as COHO* rods. There was a 9 foot 8-9wt and then three 9-10wt rods in 6" increments from 9 foot to 10 foot. There was one "Tarpon 90" model - a 9' 11-12wt.
*Not to be confused with the COHO model of Light Touch rod. See the Light Touch Series page for more info.
In 1994 the nomenclature was completely changed for all of the Powell Rod Company rods. The Signature Series rods were still made on the same brown blanks but from that point forward they were all labeled 'SS' followed by a series of numbers indicating length and line weight. As an example, what had been labeled a DF90-1 (or a nine foot 4-5wt rod) from 1994 on was labeled as an SS9045 The length and line weights that the Siganture Series were offered in varied a little over the years.
Throughout the Signature Series production run there were also a few 4 piece models available. These ran from an 8 foot 6 inch 5-6-7wt to a 9 foot 8-9wt but not many were made and at the time were not particularly popular.
A word on the West Branch rods... The West Branch (or WB) rods were the Powell Rod Company's entry level (and least expensive) rods. These rods were built on Signature Series blanks that were not colored the deep brown but were left the untouched gray of the graphite they were rolled with. Early on the trout version of the West Branch rod, the WB90T, was labeled for lines 6-7. But the blanks used were actually the same as the DF90-2L, which was rated for lines 5-6. This intentional "overrating" of the rod was meant to make it more beginer friendly. The idea being that a novice caster would have a rod that loaded more easily with a shorter length of line out if he or she were casting a line weight or two above what the rod was originally rated for. This practice was only in place for a few years and eventually all the West Branch rods were built on the exact same blank as their Signature Series counterpart but with the less expensive cosmetics like single color wraps and all metal reel seats.