Have a great Labor Day weekend everyone. Stay safe & have fun!!
A friend of mine sent me this cartoon a while back & it made me laugh. How many times have you felt like this angler? I know there have been days when I would swear the fish were mocking me, too!!!
Have a great Labor Day weekend everyone. Stay safe & have fun!!
I frequently get asked questions from folks who are new to rod making. That's great. I'm always happy & willing to help another angler / rod maker whenever I can. In fact, I'm honored to help (so keep those questions coming).
One of the most common questions people seem to have is what how-to books about rod making do I recommend, if any. That's a very good question. When I was starting out I read every book on the subject I could get my hands on - including outdated & out of print books. There aren't many titles about how to make a fly rod available, compared to other fly fishing subjects, but still more than any budding rod maker would care to buy at any one time. While the following books are suggestions based on my opinions only, I will tell you that I've chosen these books based on my own daily experiences as a full time rod maker.
For anyone interested in a good book making graphite fly rods, I'd suggest these two titles:
1.) "The Custom Graphite Fly Rod" by Skip Morris
2.) "Handcrafting A Graphite Fly Rod" by L.A. Garcia
These two books will also give you a firm grasp on making fiberglass fly rods as well. Designing a fiberglass rod employs the same fundamentals as a graphite rod & these books cover these fundamentals well.
If you're wanting to take the plunge into the world of bamboo rod making I suggest these books below. They are listed in order of usefulness for someone just starting out.
1.) "Fundamentals of Building A Bamboo Fly Rod" by George Maurer & Bernard Elser
2.) "Handcrafting Bamboo Fly Rods" by Wayne Cattanach
3.) "A Master's Guide To Building A Bamboo Fly Rod" by Garrison & Carmichael.
Do some research into making bamboo fly rods & you'll sometimes hear the Garrison / Carmichael book referred to as 'the bible of rod making'. I don't agree (blasphemy, I know). Don't get me wrong, while there's plenty of useful info in that book (& every rod maker should own a copy), there's also tons of complicated formulas that could easily intimidate the new rod maker. If the Garrison / Carmichael book were your only source, you just might feel overwhelmed & give up. This is why I make the Maurer / Elser book my top pick for new rod makers. It's written out in clear & simple terms with step by step instructions that walk you through all the different steps of making your first bamboo fly rod.
The first step in making your own fly rod is gathering info. This can be daunting & it will take a while. Plan to invest six months to a year (or longer) acquiring tools & knowledge before you even begin to make a fly rod. The more knowledge you collect, the better your first rod will be. Just remember that the skills needed to make a really good rod can only be obtained through practice & experience. These are things you can't get from any book.
In Part I we discussed, among other things, collecting antique wood fly rods. One additional point I'd like to mention here is what type of wood rods you're likely to find when you do go looking for those relics. The truth is, you're very unlikely to find anything ancient. The wood fly rod was used for centuries throughout Europe & America. It's highly unlikely that you'll find an intact rod from the days of Shakespeare or Columbus. These rods have mostly been lost to history. This is because the wood of the rods has deteriorated. Also, it wasn't uncommon for anglers to make their own fly rod from local trees where they lived. When the rod wore out or broke (which was a high probability) they simply made another rod. What you'll find on the collector's market will most likely be from the late 1800's - the period where wood was fading from use & Calcutta cane was taking over - & almost all factory made rods.
Following the history of the wood rod is to follow the history of the sport. Experts can tell approximately how old a rod is by the hardware on it. The reel was not used in Europe until about the 1640's or 50's. The best indicator of a rod's age is the ferrules the rod has. While delving into the development of the ferrule is too much to discuss here & a topic for another article, I'll just say that ferrules began as crudely made, poorly designed components & developed into the highly engineered pieces of hardware they are today. In fact, the first multi-piece rods were lashed together with rope or cord.
As I mentioned in Part I, many different types of wood have been used through the years to make fly rods. As technology advanced anglers access to different woods grew & they naturally tried these woods in their rods. Here, then, some of the woods that fly rods have been made from:
* There is a disparity in the term "greenheart". While sometimes it means a specific species of wood, "Noctandra Rodeoi" (native to Guyana), in other instances it can mean any wood that was cut when it was green giving the rod a green tint to its appearance.
The more popular of the woods used in rods, at least in America, have been Ash, Hazel, Willow, Juniper, & Osage Orange. Remember, different woods could be combined in a rod to give it some action. Of course the wood was shaved down into a taper that suited the angler as well. Any wood used in a fly rod needs to be strong, yet flexible.
Learning about wood fly rods & how they were used is fascinating. It's a large subject that can't be fully covered in these short overviews here. For anyone interested in learning more I suggest these books to get you started:
1.) "The Complete Angler" by Izaak Walton
2.) "The Colonial Angler's Manual of Flyfishing & Flytying" by Ken Reinard.
It's generally accepted that the American invention of the split-bamboo fly rod occurred in 1845 by a gun smith in Easton, PA named Samuel Phillippe. So the idea of taking a culm (or pole) of bamboo, splitting it into strips, planing a taper into the strips, & gluing them back together (rent & glued) pre-dates the Civil War & even dry fly fishing in America.
But what were fly rods made of before then? Well the answer, as we all know, is that rods were made of wood. Of course the types of woods & the methods of manufacturing changed as technology developed. Through the generations many different woods were tried in fishing rods, from domestic woods to those from exotic places. Many times, different woods were combined in the same rod. It wouldn't be odd to see a rod who's sections were all made from different woods. Plus remember, because the average fly rod was longer in the past (to accommodate the methods used & the material) & were made of many sections, often more than one type of wood was needed in a rod to give it flexibility & strength. The multi-piece rod is older than you might have thought!
Now, you might think wood rods are a thing of the past & you'd be pretty much correct, but there are still a few folks who collect them. Some of these folks even fish with them, believe it or not. I have a good friend who fishes with wooden fly rods & while you might think he's insane when I tell you that, I assure you he is one of the nicest, mentally stable guys you could ever meet.
I don't know of anybody making fly rods from wood these days besides maybe Ken Reinard (aka, "Ye Olde Colonial Angler"), but I wouldn't be surprised if somebody is somewhere. The folks who are into these things are mainly after the original antique rods anyway - collectors & historians mostly. You can still find old wood rods on the vintage market & they do show up at auctions from time to time so it's never too late to be bitten by the wood rod collecting bug.
I like antique wood rods because of how they look. Each one I've seen or held was unique. They seem to have had a sense of style & class about them that just gives them dignity (if that makes sense). Some of those old rods have been an inspiration to me on more than one of the mortised rods I've made. No matter what you think of them, there's no denying that they are an interesting part of angling history.
Note: in part II we'll discuss some of the different woods that were used to make these rods. Look for part II in the near future.
Yes, it's true. At one point in time some fly rods were made of steel. Those of you familiar with them know that these aren't very big with collectors. However they do represent an era of rods for the historical collector. So, what's the deal with steel rods?
Steel rods became more widely available in the 1920's &, as far as I know, continued to be made on up through the 1950's. There were some around before then - even as far back as the late 1800's, but the idea of a steel fly rod never caught on until manufacturers had learned a good way to taper the shafts of the rods. This was accomplished by extruding the steel into a long, continuous tapered shaft. This would also reduce the weight of the rod considerably, because the extruded rod shafts are hollow. Then the blank would be cut to the appropriate lengths for the rod sections, ferrules added, & on to be made into a fly rod.
But a steel fly rod?? I know, you're thinking that these rods must have been heavy, ugly clubs. Well, the vast majority of them were. A full day of casting these rods might very well leave your hands & wrist very tired. So why even make them? Because back then the only other material to make rods from was bamboo & rod manufacturers were looking for a rod they could market as "indestructible". It's true - you probably will never break your steel fly rod in normal use. The added value of these rods is that, if taken care of like any other fly rod, they will be around forever.
Some of the companies that made these rods were True Temper, Heddon, & Union Hardware. There were others, too but these are the companies I think of when I think of steel fly rods. While there's hardly any records left pertaining to steel rods from these companies, I have to think that they sold fairly well. If they didn't they wouldn't have been made for all those years. Still, based on what's available on the used rod market today, I'd put steel rods at slightly rare - you can find them without too much difficulty, but they aren't everywhere.
Believe it or not some of these rods actually felt good, fished well with a good action & were not too heavy. Honestly, there were a few. They weren't all ugly either. I happen to own a Union Hardware steel fly rod that is decked out in the companies best components & it is a nice fly rod. It doesn't weigh a ton & has a nice action. In fact, it feels like a lot of other fiberglass rods that came after it was made. While some of the steel rods were painted to look like bamboo, mine has a nice, subtle gold paint job.
So it is possible to find a decent steel fly rod.
On the other hand.......I also own a non-hollow steel casting rod from the 30's or 40's made by True Temper. This thing feels like a rug beater & could be used to defend one's self in the event of attack. Still, it's nice to have as an example of what used to be made.
Now, I'm not going to tell you that if you've never tried a steel fly rod that you should go out & buy one. No, you're most likely way better off with what you have. Finding a nice one like mine is extremely rare. However, if you see one at a yard sale or flea market & you've got $10 just burning a hole in your pocket, go ahead & buy it. Then you can impress your friends with your esoteric knowledge of not-really-collectible vintage fly fishing tackle!!
Last week I wrote a little bit about restoring graphite fly rods. I mentioned what to look for on the rod to see if it could be restored & some of the limitations to fixing graphite. Now I'd like to share some thoughts about restoring bamboo rods.
Unlike graphite rods, a lot more can be done with bamboo in regard to repairs. If a bamboo rod has a bend, or set, in any of the rod sections this can (most of the time) be taken out & the rod made straight again - or at least straighter than it was if not perfectly straight. Stripping & re-finishing a rod with new coats of varnish on a bamboo rod can have better results, too. That's because bamboo is a lot harder material that graphite. You can use sand papers, etc on the bamboo rod shafts more than you can on graphite. With graphite rods, any heavy sanding will remove too much material & drastically change the action & feel of the rod (& not in a good way). This is why if you change the locations of line guides, for example, there will be slight ghosting (or discoloration) where the old guide wraps were on graphite rods, but not on bamboo. On bamboo rods you can do a lot more sanding before you start damaging the rod.
The repairs to bamboo rods are usually a lot more expensive than on graphite rods for at least a couple of reasons. First, a high end bamboo rod is going to have more expensive components on the rod. In some cases, certain parts will be hard, if not impossible, to replace. There just aren't that many unused, original Divine or F.E. Thomas reel seats out there. Also, the actual repairs to the bamboo & the rod components is more labor intensive than the majority of graphite rod repairs. De-laminated rod sections (where the strips of bamboo have come apart) can be fixed, but it takes a lot of time & careful work. New, short sections of rod can be made & spliced into the rod, but again you're talking a lot of labor intensive & detailed work. In fact entire rod sections can be made new to match the rod, but special attention has to be made to get the color of the bamboo to match & the taper must be recreated correctly. You can see where this can get expensive.
With that in mind, it just doesn't make economic sense to restore some bamboo rods. If the value of the rod is less than the cost of the restoration, than it's just not worth it. That means many production rods with bad damage should be laid to rest. The only exception to this would be if a rod of lesser collector value has sentimental value to you. In this case, it may be worth it to restore a rod that means so much to you. Otherwise you're probably better off putting your money towards a new rod.
Recently we began to offer reel cases to the list of the accessories we make. In the process of making these cases available, we did some work to see what materials & colors worked well in the design. Well as it turns out, all the different materials worked well so now we have some extra cases. In order to help introduce these cases to the world, for a limited time, we are giving one away with every fly rod!!
The size of the reel case will be the most common & popular size to fit most fly reels. We have a bunch of different colors & color combinations available (some are two-toned), which will be selected at random.
These soft reel cases are all lined with wool or felt on the top & bottom & feature a strong zipper closure. The seams are all double & triple stitched so these cases will never fall apart & will offer a lifetime of service. For more info about these cases, please see the "Accessories" page.
This is a limited time offer & is offered with both custom ordered rods & those on the "Available" page, too. So if you've been thinking about getting a rod, now while this lasts, you'll also get a great reel case too. Please contact me if you have any questions or to discuss your next fly rod, reel case, or anything else.
When you have a fly rod custom made for you, there's no detail too small to consider - if you want to. You can get as fussy as you like about the details of the rod you're having made. That's why it's called a custom rod.
One of the smaller details which matters to some, & not so much to others, is the hook keeper on the rod. While it's not a huge decision, it can be something to consider. When it comes to fly rods, you have a couple of choices in the style of hook keepers.
The main function of the keeper, obviously is that it hold the hook well (strung up on the leader & line). So, it must be the right size for the size of hook you'll be using. Also, the hook keeper should be light weight, as you don't want to add extra, unnecessary weight to the rod. In addition, you want the hook keeper to look like it belongs on the rod, so the metal color, etc should match the line guides.
The first style of hook keeper is probably the most common seen on rods today. These are sometimes referred to as "u-shaped" keepers.
These hook keepers look good on graphite or fiberglass rods & are nice & simple.
The next style of hook keeper is what we call the "strap & ring" style. These are fancier than the u-shaped keepers. Here a strap holds down a loose ring that holds the hook. These have a traditional, classic look. Most of them are made from Nickle-Silver which means they will patina over time like other NiS hardware on the rod. While they are what's most seen on bamboo rods, they can add a nice touch to graphite or glass fly rods too.
Because they're normally made from Nickle-Silver, this style of hook keeper can also be blued to match darker colored line guides & other components on the rod, as seen in the example below.
Of course, you can choose not to have a hook keeper on your fly rod at all. Many classic rods didn't have hook keepers on them. This helped to keep the costs down in some production rods, but also some anglers just don't want them. Instead, they just hook their fly into the leg of the stripping guide on the rod.
So while it might not be the first thing that comes to your mind when choosing the options on your custom rod, you certainly do have some options available. All the little details like this add up to make your custom fly rod truly unique & special.
I'm here to help anglers & answer their questions if & when I can. It's funny how the same question will get asked by different folks within a short period of time. Anyway, lately I've had a few questions from people about restoring graphite fly rods, so I thought I'd mention some thoughts here.
Yes, I do restore graphite fly rods. Normally this entails removing the old line guides & replacing them. Also I normally put a new coat of finish on the rod shafts &, in extreme cases, replace or repair the cork grip &/or reel seat.
Often though, rods that have seen a lot of use may not be worth restoring. The time & money spent in working on them could be used towards a new rod. This is especially true for hard used rods. So, how can you tell if your fly rod is worth restoring, or past it's prime? Well, here are a few things to look for:
1.) Sight down each rod section & see if they are straight or have a bend to them. Now, a little bend of, say an inch or less, is perfectly fine & acceptable. Heck it's even expected on a well used rod. However, if any one of the rod sections has a bend, or curve, to it worse than that, I'd say the spine of the rod has been worn too much. Graphite rods, unlike bamboo, can't really be brought back straight again without doing damage to the material they're made of. So if you see an extreme bend in any of the rod sections, I'd say don't try to restore the rod.
2.) Next you want to look at each rod section under very good light. Here you want to look for any small cracks in the rod or in the finish coating on the rod. Small hairline cracks are a sign of stress on the rod & could be an indicator that the rod has seen better days.
3.) Examine the ferrules on the rod - particularly the female ferrules. What you don't want to see are any large cracks running around the rod at the ferrules. This is a very big sign of too much wear on the rod. Now, ferrules can be repaired, but it's usually not worth the expense to fix them unless in cases where the rod is fairly new, but just got damaged.
If you don't see any of these signs of wear on your fly rod, then it's probably worth restoring the rod. If a rod is used enough, line guides will start to wear out (as evidenced by seeing small grooves being cut into the inside of the guides), the cork may get damaged & have chunks missing, or the rod may just need a really thorough cleaning. No matter what condition issues your graphite fly rod has, if the rod shafts have not been over-stressed, than the rod should be able to be restored.
Fiberglass fly rods have always had a special place in my heart. My first fly rod was a glass rod & I grew to know & love that rod. That rod taught me a lot. Even though I retired it years ago (because it was very well used & I didn't want to see it break), if I were to string it up & cast line with it today it would still feel like an extension of my hand. Ahhh, the memories....
That's one big reason why I offer custom made fiberglass fly rods now. Plus, many anglers are re-discovering the joys of fishing with glass rods. The good ones are very smooth, functional, & can be a slightly unconventional choice in a world dominated by graphite rods.
Larger rod manufacturers have tried to take advantage of the recent resurgence in glass rods, but haven't had a ton of success. This is probably because it isn't a big enough part of the market to warrant all the research & marketing it takes for these big companies to have success with any particular rod model. That leaves the smaller manufacturers to make glass blanks & boy, oh boy are they!! There are some excellent fiberglass fly rod blanks available on the market today, mostly being made by small companies employing craftsmen with a huge passion for what they do. These folks hang their hat on making quality fiberglass rods.
I like to offer as many options in glass rods as possible. That's why I use the same method in my offerings of them as I do with graphite rods. In other words I will make your custom fiberglass rod on any manufacturer's blank you want. If you find a rod that you like, but wish it had this color of wraps, or that particular reel seat let me know & we'll make that happen. Not sure of any particular manufacturer? That's fine. Let me know the rod size & configuration you want & I'll go about finding it if it's available anywhere on the market. If it isn't, then we'll look into having the blank made just for you.
The standard rod configurations I offer, which are readily available with only the usual build times are all 2 piece rods, with a slower action, in these configurations:
1.) 6'-6"; 3wt.
2.) 7'-0"; 3wt.
3.) 7'-6"; 4wt.
4.) 8'-0"; 5wt.
If you want a different rod than those listed above we can do that. Please be aware though that other rod configurations may have an additional wait time while they make your blank for you.
Fiberglass fly rods are both modern science & nostalgia all wrapped together. Those of you who haven't tried a glass fly rod yet may wonder what all the fuss is about. Well, there's a reason why the number of glass rod devotees are growing. Go find a fiberglass fly rod & give it a try. There's a pretty good chance you'll become a fan of fiberglass yourself!!
Please feel free to contact me to discuss your custom fiberglass fly rod.
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.
Cases, bags, wallets, & other fine leather angling accessories.
DISCOUNTED REEL CASES