Ever notice how, on bamboo fly rods & some high end fiberglass & graphite rods, the wraps over the guide feet look like the were painted on? How the heck does that happen? Well, let me tell you.....
The first trick to get smooth wraps that lay flat on the rod is to wrap with a very small diamter thread. On bamboo rods we use silk thread not only because of tradition (it's what they had back in the day), but also because it is still the best thread you can get for wrapping rods. It's fine diameter lays down flat on the rod & over the guide feet, while at the same time it's much stronger than nylon thread - it has a tensile strength stronger than steel.
The next way to get really smooth wraps is to use varnish to coat the wraps. The same varnish that is used on the rod shafts of a bamboo fly rod will provide a very nice, even coating over the thread if applied correctly. It takes multiple, thin coats of the varnish to get it correct. An additional, & tedious step, is to sand the varnish over the wraps flat with a very fine grain sand paper before the final coat.
Of course, all this takes a lot of time, but you can't argue with the results. Wraps done this way are vastly superior to those made with nylon thread & covered in epoxy, whch result in the large, bulky wraps you see on some commercial production rods. Smooth, flat wraps are a sign of a high-quality fly rod & that's why rod makers take so much time to get the wraps nice & smooth.
The varnish on a bamboo fly rod can tell you a lot about the life that rod has lived. Just like people, some rods have had it good while others have been worked hard & abused. No matter what the age of your fly rod there are some simple routine maintenance practices you can do on a regular basis that will help any rod look better.
It's not just a case of looking better, either. A bamboo fly rod that has had care given to the varnish will last longer. There's a reason we put varnish on those rods & it's to protect the glue holding the rod splines together. If the varnish has cracks in it that will allow too much moisture through, the moisture will get to the glue & then you have some real trouble. The older rods glued up with hide glue are certainly in peril if the varnish is compromised. To keep the varnish in good shape, keep it clean & protected with a layer of good wax.
Let's take a look at how this simple exercise of cleaning & waxing can bring an old fly rod back to life:
Here is a photo of an older South Bend fly rod, made probably sometime in the late 1930's or 1940's. These rods were mass-produced & you can be sure that the varnish used on them was fine for the day, but certainly not of the quality that high-end rods were varnished with, even back then. Take a look at the varnish near the grip:
I'll bet you've seen plenty of rods that look like that kicking around yard sales & flea markets, huh?
Now take a look at the same rod, but after the rod was cleaned & waxed:
What a difference!! Folks, that's the same varnish on the same rod you saw in the top photo. It looks almost like new, doesn't it?
The process to get rod varnish looking like this couldn't be easier: clean the rod with a gentle glass cleaner & soft cloth. Dry it down good after the cleaning is done. Use a cotton swab to get into those tight areas around the line guides, etc. Then apply a liberal coating of your favorite rod wax to the rod & buff off. That's it. It takes time, but the results are worth it.
So dig out that old, neglected rod from the back of the closet - the one you quit using because it looked so bad & give it a good clean & wax. If you see an older rod for sale somewhere, don't be afraid to buy it because the varnish looks a little faded. It just needs a good cleaning.
Clean your fly rod. You'll like how it looks so much better afterward & your rod will last longer because you took the time to show it some care.
The Nickle-Silver ferrules on bamboo rods are, these days, unique to cane rods. In these days of graphite & modern fiberglass, most of us start fly fishing with rods that don't have metal ferrules. Modern rods have ferrules made up of the same material (usually) that the rod shafts are made from. These modern ferrules are a lot more maintenance-free & you hardly ever have to think about them, except when putting your fly rod together. The nickle-Silver ferrules on bamboo rods, however, should be inspected from time to time & kept clean.
I won't get into the different aspects of metal ferrules - that's a discussion for another time - but I will say that all metal ferrules are made slightly over sized by .001" or more. It is up to the rod maker when mounting the ferrules onto the rod to lap the male slides of the ferrules down to size. A very small amount of metal must be removed from the male ferrule in order for it to fit into the female. This is done so that the rod maker has control over the fit of the ferrules. A new pair of ferrules off the lathe looks like this:
The male ferrule is the one at the top of the photo above. This is the one the rod maker will lap to size so that it fits into the female ferrule shown below it.
To properly lap a male ferrule to size, the rod maker must spin the ferrule. The small amount of metal that must be removed needs to be taken off evenly on all sides of the round male slide. The metal itself can be removed with different grains of wet/dry sanding paper, special lapping files, of a combination of the two. In the photo below, I've temporarily mounted a male ferrule onto a drill bit to spin it at high speeds while I lap down the slide to the size I need.
A micrometer is a very useful tool in this process, as you'll only be removing one or two thousandths of an inch of metal.
Now, about ferrule fit:
Some folks like a very tight fitting ferrule. They want to have to pull a little harder to remove the rod sections & they want to hear a loud, distinct "pop" sound when the two rod sections come apart. That's absolutely fine, if that's what you like. For others, they don't really care so much - as long as the ferrules hold well & the rod doesn't come apart while fishing.
In my experience, when making rods for clients in general, it's always best to make the ferrules fit a very small bit looser. There are many reasons for this.
Mostly it's because as you use your fly rod, the ferrules will accumulate a small amount of dirt on the surface. This is environmental stuff, like grease from your hands, elements in the air & water, etc. This stuff over time builds a very small film on the surface of the metal & so the ferrules will occasionally need to be cleaned - wiped down with a soft cloth, wet with alcohol.
If the ferrules are fit a hair looser, it will give you more time between cleanings. On very tight fitting ferrules, you must always keep them clean until the ferrules have been used for quite a long time.
One more reason for a looser ferrule fit is the old habits of folks who have fished with nothing but synthetic rods. You should never twist metal ferrules - ever. It's a great way to tear the bamboo strips in your rod apart or to break the glue bond holding your ferrules onto your fly rod. You can get away with twisting the sections together if they don't line up correctly on modern synthetic rods, but not with the Nickle-Silver ferrules on bamboo fly rods. In my experience, I've seen too many angler twist their rod section to line them up when putting a rod together. If the ferrules are a wee bit looser on your bamboo rod, it might just save you a broken rod - if you catch yourself doing the twist in time.
You might have heard that when metal ferrules make a clicking sound, it means that they are loose & should be repaired. That is not true. It simply means that the male ferrule is moving slightly side to side inside the female while the rod is being wiggled. The only time you need to worry about loose-fitting ferrules is when they start to come apart during normal casting & fishing. Metal ferrules will eventually wear out from use, as it is a friction fit that keeps them together, but not for many years & quite possibly longer than you or I will be around. Save your money & don't have a set of ferrules replaced only because they make a clicking sound. Wait until there's actually a problem with the ferrule fit.
Like all other aspects of custom bamboo fly rods, each rod maker will put their own personal touches into each rod they make - including the fit of the ferrules. To me, super tight fitting ferrules can lead to more problems for the angler than if the ferrules fit a little looser. In the end, we all have our opinions & personal tastes, but I want every aspect of the rods I make to be as maintenance- free & enjoyable to fish with as possible. How I fit the ferrules is just another aspect of that philosophy.
If you've never read the book, "Trout Madness" you're missing out on a great read. No matter if you've read the book or not, most of us fly anglers can & will relate to Traver's words. Here then, is a short, 15 minute, vintage film showing the angler / author in his favorite environment - on a trout stream.
As we gear up & get ready for the upcoming trout season, I hope this film excites you for the season ahead. Enjoy!!
Morris Kushner was a rod maker & an engineer who helped to make some very impressive advances in fly rod design during his lifetime. His work, nor the man himself, isn't as well known as it probably should be today. Regardless, Kushner came up & proved some very interesting concepts in rod design.
The following short film, from the early 1980's, tells his story. It is a fascinating look at his life, his travels, & fishing. Anyone who enjoys watching vintage fishing footage will love gazing at this film. In addition to that, this film features comments from the legendary rod maker Bob Summers & writer Rober Traver (John Voelker).
This is a beautiful, fascinating short film. Enjoy.
One of the things that always amazes me is how talented many fly anglers are in ways that are related to fly fishing. What I mean by that is so many of you have picked up other skills along with your fishing abilities. Some of you are fantastic fly tiers. Others are excellent writers. Some are very good photographers, while others are good with their hands making fishing accessories, & some even dabble in rod building!! The point here is that most of you take your talents & abilities & apply them in some way to the sport of fly fishing.
My good friend & fellow local fly angler Mike, is no exception. Mike is a traditional angler, to say the least. He likes old rods, old fly patterns, & I've even known him to mess with gut leaders!! Being that Mike likes the traditional aspects of our sport it comes as no surprise that he likes greenheart (wood) fly rods. Yes, that's right Mike enjoys those rods most of you have probably only read about - & he catches fish, too folks. In fact, he's very good at it.
I was blown away the other day when Mike showed me his latest project. It's an old 9 ft, 3 pc fly rod made from wooden blanks!! Yup, he went out, a few years ago, & got himself some old wooden rod blanks from the Partridge of Redditch Company (I think), back when those things were still being offered. He turned those plain wooden sticks into a beautiful, gorgeous fly rod.
As you can see, the rod features a reverse-Welles wood grip, all metal cap & ring style reel seat, & gorgeous yellow/gold silk wraps throughout. I also like the bent-wire traditional tip tops as well.
The hallmark of a skilled rod builder is in the fit & finish of all the parts & you can tell that Mike has done an excellent job with this rod. I particularly like the ever so thin winding check he made himself to fit this rod....
Wow!! Great work, Mike!!
I'm always so excited to see the things that you folks come up with related to fly fishing. I'm blown away by your talent. All of you are so creative & skilled in so many ways that it really inspires me as a rod maker to do the best work that I can.
To that end, you folks should always feel free to show me your 'extra curricular' fly fishing items with me. I'd love to see them along with your fishing photos & your stories of angling adventure. I'm often awed & inspired by the things you folks do & create - as I was when Mike showed me that fly rod!!!
Johnny Diekman was a world champion fly caster who, sadly, died way too young. He once cast a fly line 193 feet at a casting competition in Detroit in 1959!!! In addition to that, he held many different world records at the time in the 1950's & early 60's.
His is a story about a man who quit a secure job to pursue his love affair with fishing. He was born & raised in the Catskills region of New York, learning to fly fish for trout from an early age. In adult life, he would end up splitting his time between California & New York, but he also fished in 48 states, Canada, South America, & Europe. He was able to fund his fishing career by doing demonstrations for, & representing, the Garcia company.
This video below is an example of his work with Garcia. Note how smoothly he casts a line & how much he gets the rod to bend without a lot of work. Indeed, as this video shows, he was a very skilled angler.
Johnny Diekman died in a plane crash in New York back in 1962, at the age of 35. Who knows how much more he would have accomplished, or how he would have influenced the sport of fly fishing & the development of fly tackle, had he lived? It was a tragic loss, but what he left us in videos like this one above are well worth studying.
Brrrrrrr.......it's cold out there today. This morning it was 3 degrees Fahrenheit, & as as I write this it's now a blazing 7 degrees!! There's slush & ice on my local trout streams. I guess winter is here now in full force. On days like this I like to daydream about warmer places & times.
So if you're like me - stuck in a place where it's freezing - the video below should help you escape for a few minutes. Let's join Jimmie Albright (the inventor of the knot with the same name) on his boat in the Florida Keys for a while & catch some strong, gorgeous bonefish with him......
Most anglers I know have a love / hate relationship with wearing waders. I, myself, have some strong feelings about them that probably put me on the “lunatic fringe” of fly fishing. Please, bear with me & let me explain:
I understand that change is inevitable. Everything changes eventually. Most of the time I don’t like the changes that take place (unless I initiate them). Obviously, in the times we live in, new technologies seem to affect almost every aspect of our lives. I’m not a “Techy” kind of a guy, as I don’t buy into the latest & greatest technologies. I seem to have a certain distrust of all computers & anything that isn’t strictly mechanical with physical moving parts. Heck, I still have a rotary telephone (& yes, I do make calls on it). However, it wouldn’t be fair to call me a luddite either. I do firmly believe in the benefits of technology - when all the bugs have been worked out & it's put to positive use.
So what the heck does that have to do with waders?? Okay, I’ll tell you - I am really going someplace with this.
For all my life I have always prefered to wear hip waders. Not just any hip waders either - the old, heavy rubber hip boots. I have my reasons for this, which may or may not make sense to you. When I was a young kid learning to fish with a fly rod, almost all anglers in trout streams wore rubber waders, mostly because they were the best that was available at the time. Back then I was too young & small to wear any waders, but eventually I grew bigger & the first pair of waders my parents got me were rubber.
Then a new product came on the market (or at least came to my attention) called “neoprene”, which promised all kinds of good things for waders like reduced weight, more comfort, etc. Later on came “gortex” that also promised the same things, only better - all of which only stood to confuse a kid in rubber hippers. I’ll admit that seeing grown up, really good anglers wearing this new gear made me curious about its benefits.
Then one day something happened that forever changed how I would look at waders for the rest of my life (so far). A friend of the family, who was also an avid fly rodder, was accompanying us on a day of trout fishing. This day was special in that it was the first day for a brand new pair of waders for our friend - & not just any waders, but a pair of brand-spanking new neoprene waders. This was a pair of (at the time) state-of-the-art fishing boots, folks. They were expensive & it had taken him a while to save up the money for them. He was so proud of them & we were all really impressed.
On our way to the stream from the car we had to go over a barbed-wire fence. That’s where it happened. Our friend accidentally slipped & ripped a huge gash in his new waders before he ever got to the water!!! Horror of horrors!! Well, nobody said it, but if he’d been wearing rubber boots we could have quickly & easily fixed them with a tire inner tube repair kit that we all carried. It was in that moment that I decided in my young adolescent mind that I forever would:
1.) Only buy waders that were readily available (back then you could get rubber hippers in just about any hardware store)
2.) Only wear waders that could be quickly, easily, & cheaply repaired on the spot along the stream without any special equipment.
Rubber boots were my answer, so I always wore them & never paid any real attention to the improvements & innovations that were made in waders as the years went by. For many years I fished away, decked out in my rubber boots, in ignorant bliss…..until the day a couple of seasons ago when the pair I was wearing finally ‘gave up the ghost’. These were well used boots that lasted me a good ten years, but the patches had patches & finally the rest of the rubber dried up & perished. I had to admit that I needed a new pair.
Off to the store I went to get another pair of rubber hip boots. I quickly realized that something had happened in that last decade since I had bought my last pair. Rubber hip boots weren’t available in any store, anywhere in my area. What was going on? All I could find were gortex or neoprene boots & confused blank expressions on the faces of young store clerks when I explained what I was after. It was frustrating & sad & I finally had - reluctantly - to settle on a pair of neoprene waders. After all, this was the height of trout season & the big hatches were on. I was desperate.
I knew these were supposed to be nice boots, but I hated the things. They just didn’t feel right on my legs. They weren’t comfortable to me. I felt like a kid who had lost his security blanket - scared, confused, & uncomfortable. I figured I just needed to give them a fair chance, so I fished out the rest of the season with them. That winter I stored them away properly. I thought maybe I’d learn to like them next season, but I never got the chance.
On the first fishing adventure of the next season these neoprene waders leaked!! It was as if these new boots had somehow self-disintegrated over the winter in the closet. Back home I tried to rejuvenate my old rubber boots that I hadn’t built up the courage to toss out yet. That was pointless, too as the rubber was just too far gone. Here another season was starting & I couldn’t wade the streams! Something had to be done.
Since no stores in my area had rubber hip boots I was forced to hurl myself into the 21st century by shopping for them online. I had no choice. When I buy boots, I want to try them on first, talk to the clerk about the weather, & generally smell the new rubber. So I reluctantly searched the internet. Luckily, I found a pair that looked promising & I ‘bit the bullet’ & ordered them.
They arrived & tried them on. They were heavy rubber & just what I’d been after. A quick trip to the stream was in order so I took them out to a good, deep area on the stream about a mile from my house. No leaks & they felt just right. I had the joy of a youngster who had found his lost teddy bear!! I’m sure I looked a fool, standing in the stream, arms raised in the air, shouting “yes”!! Finally, I had a pair of sturdy rubber hip boots on my legs again!!!
I know that waders & wader technology will continue to advance. I’m sure that the comfort & reliability of waders in the future will surpass even what we have today. Thank you, just the same. I’ll keep wearing my rubber hip boots for as long as I can. Is that practical or logical? No, not really but my waders are where I draw the line. I know that change is inevitable, but there’s some things I don’t want to change. Consistency can be comforting in some ways. So go ahead & think I’m a loon. Point & laugh when you see me on the trout stream. I will unapologetically & proudly fish in my old rubber hip waders!!!.....
…..so why hip boots & not chest or waist waders? Well, that’s a story for another day. I better quit now before you think I’m, completely daft!!
I found this old footage from 1955 showing a lady tying salmon flies & folks fly fishing what's possibly the River Tweed in Scotland. I found this fascinating & thought you might enjoy it, too. It's always nice to see a beautiful river on a gorgeous day......
The Pliant Rod
News from the shop of Chris Lantzy, Custom Rod Maker along with industry news, profiles of interesting characters, reviews, history, & whatever else strikes our fancy. Your comments & feedback are welcome. Please email me your thoughts.
These rods are available right now. please Go to the "Available rods" page for more details:
6'-0", 2/2, 3wt