The ferrules on a rod will sometimes become loose fitting with age & use. This can be a fairly normal condition on an older rod that’s been used a lot – especially if a rod has seen many years on the water. When the ferrules get to the point that the tip section of the rod wants to fly off of the butt section when casting, something has to be done. If you’ve been using the rod for years then I doubt you’ll want to retire the rod. The only satisfactory thing to do is to fix the ferrules.
There are two types of ferrules seen on modern synthetic fly rods: the tip-over-butt design, & the spigot ferrule. No matter which ferrule your rod has, they function in the same way in that they hold the rod together by a friction fit. In other words, a male section (most likely tapered to some degree) slides into a female section (also most likely tapered) until the friction between the two holds the two rod sections together. Anyone who’s ever put a rod together knows this. But when the fit between the male & female ferrules loosen with age & use this friction fit will no longer work. Consider how many times a rod gets put together & taken apart, add in stresses put on the ferrules while casting & fighting fish, & it’s no sin for a rod that’s seen a lot of action to have loose ferrules.
A small piece of advice before we start: know thyself. If you are not at all “handy” or you have no experience repairing the material things in your life do not attempt to fix your rod’s ferrules. Leave it to a competent rod maker. However, if you’re the do-it-yourself type & enjoy tinkering with things, then don’t shy away from doing this yourself. It’s not that difficult of a job & with careful patience you will be successful.
If the ferrules have worn to the point that they no longer hold the rod together there can only be one reason: wear. Either the female or the male ferrule has worn away causing the slippage. So, which part should you repair, male or female? I highly recommend working on the male section, even if it’s the female section that’s worn. That’s because it’s very difficult to do any accurate work inside the female section. The male is out in the open where you can get at it & work evenly all the way around it. So here we will focus on the male ferrule section.
The trick is to build up the male section with new material until it fits snuggly into the female section again, like it did when it was new. Here’s the supplies you’ll need:
-2 part epoxy glue. The longer the set-up time, & stronger bond strength, the better.
-1 cheap, small hobby paint brush (the ones modelers use)
-500 & 1,000 grit sandpaper cut into several small pieces about 2” long by ¾” wide
-0000 steel wool
-Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol – or whatever agent is recommended to clean up the glue (check the instructions on the glue)
-Plenty of patience & time – especially the first time you attempt this job
Here are the steps to take:
1.) Mix the epoxy according to the directions. Mix only a small amount, you don’t need a lot.
2.) If you repairing a rod with the tip-over-butt style ferrule, mark the butt section with a felt tip pen where the female (tip) ferrule ends on the butt section. Do not work below this point.
3.) With the small hobby paint brush, coat the male ferrule section with the epoxy as evenly as possible. Do NOT put a lot on. The lightest coat that you can evenly spread on will do.
4.) Let the rod set overnight. Place it in such a way that the epoxy won’t run down onto the rod where you don’t want it. Place the rod horizontally & turn the rod often to keep the epoxy from building up on one side of the ferrule.
5.) The next day, after the epoxy is completely set, check the ferrule fit. If they are still loose, then repeat the previous steps. If the rod sections will not go together (the male is now too big to fit), you’re ready to proceed re-fitting the ferrules.
6.) Starting with 500 grit sandpaper lay the rod’s butt section (or the sect w/ the male ferrule) across your lap. With your hand flat on the rod, roll it back & forth across your thigh while holding the sandpaper on the male section with your other hand. Hold, or pinch, the sandpaper around the male section as you roll the rod back & forth across your lap. Hold the sandpaper with just enough pressure to allow the rod to roll. This is sometimes referred to as a “lap lathe”. Here you don’t move the sandpaper, you move the rod.
7.) Start at the far end of the male & work your way down towards the grip end, checking & re-checking the fit between the sections quite often. As you begin to get more & more of the male section to fit properly, mark it with a pencil at the point where it stops inside the female. Now continue working down from that point.
8.) Continue turning the rod & sanding away the epoxy until the ferrules fit completely as they should. This will take some time, so be patient. You will eventually get there.
9.) Finish the job by lightly polishing the male ferrule section with 1,000 grit sandpaper followed by 0000 steel wool.
-I use epoxy because it’s strong, hard, & waterproof. Just make sure you use it sparingly. The more of it you coat on the ferrule, the more sanding you will have to do.
-It’s not uncommon for a ferrule to be worn on only one side (typically towards the guides). As you roll the rod while sanding, you’re actually re-centering the ferrule’s fit. Be sure to roll the rod evenly. As you progress with the sanding you may find that you end up with epoxy on only one side of the male, or only in certain places. Don’t be shocked if you end up sanding away almost all the epoxy you put on. That’s okay. Sometimes it’s only one small section that was worn causing the ferrules to become loose. The epoxy will fill in all the low & uneven spots on the male section.
-Let the fit between the sections be your guide. For rods with spigot ferrules, if there was a small gap between the sections when the rod was new, try to keep that gap when doing this job.
-It’s very important to polish the male section (1,000 grit & 0000 steel wool). Any rough spots of epoxy left may catch on the female section & be torn off, thereby undoing everything you just did. Run your fingertips along the male section when you’re done working. It should feel even & smooth.
-If you go too far, sand off too much epoxy, & the ferrules become loose again don’t panic-It’s not the end of the world. You’ll just have to start over. Just be sure not to sand away so much that you remove any of the original ferrule material. Even then you can still fix it, you’re just making more work for yourself.
-Lawn cast the rod before you take it fishing. Really put it through its paces to make sure the two rod sections will hold together. Better to find out there’s still a problem on the lawn then the moment you’ve hooked into a nice fish.
While all this may sound complicated, it’s actually a very simple job to do. With some time & patience you’ll have that old favorite rod of yours back to catching fish again. Now go dig that rod out from the back of the closet & get to work. Both of you still have a lot of fish to catch.