I enjoy the process of taking a 12′ culm of bamboo and turning it into a fine fishing tool. Sensitive yes, but these rods are not delicate as often believed, and modern tapers, hollowing techniques, and glues have allowed the bamboo maker to push the limits of the craft and create rods that fish just as beautifully as they look.
I work on bamboo from October-April, the rest of the year is just too hot for the required time in the garage. It takes about 40 hours for me to complete a bamboo fly rod. I hand plane on traditional planing forms and use a baginski style beveler to rough out the triangles in my strips.
What makes my rods different…
In the process of building bamboo rods there are hundreds of steps that affect the outcome of the rod. Like anything that is so intensive there are often several “right” ways to do things and still end up with a nice rod. I have refined and tested the way I construct my rods in the 30 I have made to date (July 2019).
Starting with selecting and flaming the culm. I use flaming as my heat treating method and as such I heavily flame both the inside and outside of the culm. This serves to temper the bamboo and drive the moisture out of the cane. Therefore my rods are very dark in color when compared to oven treated rods.
I glue my strips together with Gorilla Glue. I made this change out of necessity and the easy availability of Gorilla Glue after I glued my first two rods with Titebond III which has a very short open time to get the blank straight after binding. I have tested some of my earlier rods on thousand of fish (many largemouth bass) and I’m quite confident in the ability of the Gorilla Glue.
I finish my rods with 12-15 coats of TruOil Gun Stock Finish. While it’s not the traditional varnish with that many coats the rods do have a nice deep shine that can be polished out and the result is nearly indecipherable from varnish. The advantage is much greater durability over varnish and the ability for the owner to easily touch up the rod after a few seasons of use. I am also willing to re-apply finish to any of my rods at any point in the future, you’ll just have to pay the shipping both ways.
I finish my wraps with a light build two part epoxy. Again this is for much better durability than the traditional spar varnish. Of all the things I do differently this is probably the choice I hear about the most. I just have to wonder if the old revered makers had access to these modern epoxies how many of them would still be using spar.
My rods are typically made with a cork reel seat, while this is my personal preference it is with good reason. With sliding band seats the cork provides a small cushion for the reel foot and allows you to lock the reel on more securely. The seat is also more customizable to the particular reel foot thickness. I have rods with cork seats that I have fished for five years with minimal wear, but when you get to the point where you need new cork I’m happy to replace the reel seat cork for free, just pay the shipping. If you would like a different reel seat I’m happy to fit the new seat to your new rod at a minimal cost (cost of the seat + $30).
I build single tip rods. I do this because I don’t believe we need to keep building the traditional two-tip rods. With modern adhesives you no longer need to worry about the hide glue failing or ferrules coming loose. This allows me to make two single tip rods from each culm of bamboo and minimize my waste of our natural resources. Most anglers today likely have several rods and in the event of damage you will be able to get back fishing in minutes or hours unlike the early days of bamboo where you likely only owned one rod.
I don’t include ferrule plugs with my rods. Personally I don’t use them so I don’t feel the need to ship every rod with plugs. I keep my rods in their socks when not in use and have never had an issue. If you would like ferrule plugs there are many different styles available from a variety of sources.
Well I think that covers most of the differences between my rods and some of the others available. There have never been so many options available for anglers looking to fish bamboo. From the remaining large shops still building bamboo (i.e. Orvis), to the full time one man shops, to hobby makers that might only build a handful of rods a year. I’m honored by everyone that chooses to fish one of my rods.
The warranty question…
I sign my name on every rod that leaves my shop. In doing so that means you’re receiving my best work and I will stand behind any material or workmanship issue you could encounter. Bamboo is an incredible material, I’d have no problem standing on one of my rod blanks laying on the floor (don’t try that with your graphite) but car doors and careless anglers still break bamboo. If your rod is damaged unrelated to my work in building it I’m happy to repair/replace/fix for a reasonable cost. If you break or loosen a guide taking the rod apart that would be cheap and maybe even more cost effective for you to have repaired locally once you calculate shipping cost. Replacing a tip that has been crushed in a car door, well that’s half the rod, and unfortunately a more significant repair bill.