"Otter Creek Special," my favorite 8 foot 5 weight rod for
fishing big waters
Flyfish@ 2000 Bahamas Giveaway Rod. Rick Fick built the
blank for this rod, and I made that blank into a rod. It
was given away as part of an effort to help raise money
for kids in flyfishing.
Hiram Leonard and the earliest days of fly fishing in our
country, the allure of fine spilt bamboo rods has been part
of the magic of our sport. The natural beauty of a well-built
cane rod speaks for itself. Fine bamboo rods tie one directly
to the rhythm of water and nature in ways at which synthetic
fibers only hint.
don't have to be a sophisticated fly-fishing yuppie to get
hooked on cane rods. Most people who enjoy bamboo rods enjoy
the fishing as much as the catching. Often they own several
types of rods, but come back to cane. They like to own it,
and love to fish it. A fine bamboo rod pleases many of the
senses: sight, smell, and certainly feel. Something about
it just feels right.
Some of you
who read this series of articles will find yourselves building
a quality cane fly rod. In this series of articles, I hope to
show you the way I build rods. Rodmakers are a varied lot. Some
make things as simple as possible, they do what works. Others
approach rodmaking scientifically, from an engineering point of
view. I hope to show you a little bit of both approaches.
bamboo rod requires 40-60 hours of hand labor, though your first
rod will take longer. Don't let that time commitment scare you
away. Most of the work can be done in increments of an hour at
a time. Any investment of so much time demands that from start
to finish, no shortcuts are taken. Tolerances are measured in
thousandths of an inch!
the best components for bamboo fly rods.
wealth of books have been published and re-printed in recent
years dealing with bamboo fly rods.
demands that no compromises are made in materials. Only the finest
nickel silver hardware and ferrules should be used on bamboo rods.
Only select hardwoods should be used for reel seat fillers. Cork
grips should be hand-formed from the finest cork on the market.
Only the finest, small diameter silks should be used to wrap hand-made
Not so long ago, tricks
of the trade in making rods were kept close to the vest. Everett
Garrison and Hoagy Carmichael changed that when they published
"A Master's Guide to Building a Bamboo Fly Rod". My friend Wayne
Cattanach learned rodmaking through trial and error, and brought
this arcane art down to earth when he published "Handcrating a
Bamboo Fly Rod". Today there are scores of website, articles and
books dedicated to helping you build your first rod. In this series
of articles I'll point you towards many of the most useful resources
A wise man once said "the
hardest part of painting your house is opening the paint can," or
getting started. Building a bamboo rod begins with gathering the
necessary tools and components. From the over 1000 species of bamboo
on earth, only one has all the qualities for making a great fly
rod. Tonkin Cane, grown commercially in a small hillside region
along the Sui River in China is the only material suitable for building
bamboo rods. Charles H. Demarest, Inc. has imported cane for rodmakers
for over 80 years. I get all my bamboo from the kind folks at Demarest.
bamboo comes in "culms" or sticks, twelve feet long and about
two inches in diameter. Since it is a natural material, not all
bamboo should be used. Often cane arrives from China with burn
marks, leaf nodes, and "grower's marks" - a series of Chinese
characters which identify the grower. These less than perfect
culms can often still be used, but care must be taken to use only
the best parts.
Once the bamboo is selected
it is split into narrow strips. To make a two piece rod with two
tips requires 18 narrow strips. Each strip contains a number of
nodes, which must be flattened, smoothed, and straightened. Each
strip is then hand planed into a 60* triangle and heat treated
to give the bamboo even more resiliency. Finally a taper is planed
into each strip, and the strips are glued together forming a rod
section. Once the hardware is installed and the rod is varnished,
you have a treasure to enjoy for years to come.
strips of bamboo taken from a culm.