For more information & photos of these rod tubes, please visit the Leather Accessories page.
Please contact me to discuss the leather rod tubes you need for your fly rods.
blog & news
I've recently made some improvements to the leather covered rod tubes that I make in my shop. I thought I'd like to let you know about them.
I've started to use a better quality, vegetable tanned leather for these tubes. You can choose between light brown (shown here) or mahogany - the same colors as the leather fly wallets I make. This is very good leather with a natural grain. No two pieces are the exactly the same & will have a slight distressed look, or will show some grain in the leather.
These leather rod tubes are hand stitched in my shop & feature a lid that is fit snugly to the tube, which will ‘pop’ like a ferrule on a bamboo fly rod when opened. It also has snap closures & an adjustable, removable shoulder strap. A very fine way to house you most precious fly rods.
Just like the canvas covered PVC rod tubes, these leather tubes can be made to fit most size of fly rods, to an exact fit for your rod. The heavy canvas shoulder strap is not only adjustable, but easily removed for convenience when traveling, or packing the rod tube.
The aluminum tube used here is heavy-walled (1/8" thick) which makes these tubes heavier than what you're most likely used to. We use these heavy tubes because if you're housing a special rod, you want to protect it well & a thick, strong tube will do just that.
As these tubes are special order items that are made completely by hand, there will be a short wait time for them to be made for you. You can pay in full up front, or if you prefer, a down payment of half the total can be made to begin the tube, the second half due only after your rod tubes are completed.
For more information & photos of these rod tubes, please visit the Leather Accessories page.
Please contact me to discuss the leather rod tubes you need for your fly rods.
Yesterday a good friend showed me this very informative & entertaining video that discusses different types of leaders & their uses for trout fishing (thanks, Terryll).
One thing that I admit I should do in my fishing is to pay more attention to my leaders than I do. About the only time I ever really do what I should with my leader is when I'm fishing very low & very clear water where I know I could easily scare the trout. Otherwise, I'm that clod you see using a knotless tapered leader that has gotten way too short & is half straight tippet because I'm too busy fishing - or too lazy - to change to a new leader. I admit it. I'm not proud.
So I've always been interested in nicer, furled leaders. I've heard good & bad things about them from folks (mostly good things) & it's something that I really should give a try. Also, I'm curious about tippet rings. I've never tried them, but I like the concept. You see, I'm pretty old-school when it comes to all this stuff. Again, I admit it. Again, I'm not proud.
If you have any strong opinions about leaders & tippet rings, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Let me know what you think & help me to decide to either get out of the 1960's or to stay there. If you're like me & really are not 'leader aware', then the video below will help to shed some light on the subject while watching a skilled angler catch some beautiful trout.
I've said it many times & I'll say it again: if you've never gone fly fishing for bass, you just don't know what you're missing. Catching bass on a fly rod is some of the most fun you can have on the water. They fight like monsters! While they're an easily accessible fish, they can sometimes be very difficult to fool. You must approach them with the same caution & carefulness that you sneak up to trout with. In fact, in the heat of summer you'll often find that bass have moved up into many of the places where the trout were earlier in the year.
During those hot, sticky evenings of summer, catching bass on a fly rod is a blast. You don't have to slow down in your fishing just because the trout have slowed down their feeding - if that's the case where you are. No, a summer spent fly fishing for bass is fantastic!
Below is a longer video from the Orvis company. It's their primer on fly fishing for bass hosted by Tom Rosenbauer. It gives very sound advice & is aimed at the fly fisher who's never tried for bass before. Check it out & give those bass a try - you'll be glad you did!!
I can remember when I first felt an Airflo fly line. Boy, have they come a long way since then! While I'm an old-school type of angler, I appreciate & respect the thought & attention to detail that Airflo puts into their fly lines. Their use of modern technologies is very cool because, in my opinion, they integrate modern methods not because they can (like some other line companies do) but because it allows them to make the type of fly line they want.
I don't endorse any brand or type of fly line. For Bamboo & glass fly rods I typically recommend other brands of line to folks who ask me, but for graphite fly rods I say you can't go wrong casting an Airflo fly line.
Below is a short video about the company - a little of their history, accomplishments, & a very interesting look into their factory.
A few years ago I had a request from an angler for a much larger version of the leather fly wallet that I make. Upon making it for him I came up with the idea of another accessory I call a "fly book".
These fly books were fairly well received by anglers, but I always thought there were a few ways I could improve them. Well, over the winter I made many big changes to the leather fly wallets I offer, making them from far better materials than in the past - so I figured I'd take the time to redesign the fly books, too.
Now these fly books are made from a much better, heavier vegetable tanned leather in a rich chestnut color. Instead of using a snap, they now feature a stud closure. This makes it much easier to open & close them (& looks better, too).
Instead of having pages in them made from the old material that wouldn't accept barbed hooks, they now have two large pieces of 3/4" thick wool to hold the flies. This wool will accept hooks with & without a barb & is thick enough to wick away a lot of moisture from your flies, plus it acts like padding for any delicate hackles, wings, tails, etc.
Another big improvement to these fly books is the addition of side panels. These do two things: they keep your flies from being crushed & it it keeps anything inside the wallet from falling out the side. This is a huge improvement!
I designed these fly books in response to requests mostly from salmon & steelhead anglers for their larger flies, but you could easily also store any wets, nymphs, or streamers in them of any size. Over all these improvements really make these books strong & sturdy. They're almost box-like in their construction.
two sizes: large & small
I make these fly books in two sizes & there is quite difference between the two.
The small book is made to fit into a large pocket of most fishing vests. Closed, it measures 4 inches x 6 inches wide & is 2 inches thick. It weighs only 6.8 ounces empty. There's plenty of wool inside to carry enough flies, no matter their size, for a day on the water making this book a very convenient way to carry your flies with you.
The large book is made to be more like a piece of luggage for your flies. It's really big! When closed it measure 6 inches x 8 inches wide & is also 2 inches thick. Now you might not think that two inches in both directions is that much bigger, but let me say that you can hold a ton of flies in this large book!
While the small book was made to carry with you along the stream, the large book is too big to fit into most fishing vests - though it would fit into a shoulder bag, if you carry one instead of wearing a vest when you fish. Rather, many anglers actually own both sizes. They store their flies for an entire trip in the large book & load up the flies they'll need for the day into the small book to carry with them. Together, they're a great set of matching pieces to house your flies.
You should note, that even the small book is much larger than my traditional fly wallets. The wallets are a very popular accessory that I make, but these newly designed books are catching up with them quickly. Try one - or both - & I think you'll see why. When you use all three of these items together (fly wallets, large & small fly books) you'll have a wonderful system for housing all your streamers, wets, nymphs, steelhead, & salmon flies.
For more information about all these items, please visit the Leather Accessories page. If you have any questions about anything you see there, please feel free to contact me & I'll be more than happy to help you.
There are tons of older, vintage fly reels on the market today. Some of these are very high-performing reels that can be had for much less money than the new modern reels being made now. In fact, the vintage market is a great place to find a fantastic reel while saving a few bucks.
So you get that 'new' old reel home & take the spool off, only to find it loaded with dirt, old grease, & a bunch of gunk. It needs a good cleaning. There are several ways to do this, & the video below shows a very safe method of getting the old dirt off of a vintage reel. If you're not advanced in your skills of working with fly reels, than I'd suggest you follow all the procedure outlined in this video.
The second part of the video shows you how to lubricate the reel, once its cleaned & dry. Again, if you follow the examples in the video, you'll be fine. I, however, would make a few different maneuvers with my own reel. For example, in the video he only uses oil to lubricate everything. That's fine, but oil can (& will) eventually leak out into the other parts of the reel. I prefer to use grease on the main post, or spindle shaft, of the reel so that the spool is always spinning on grease. I also prefer to grease the teeth of the drag arbor gear at the bottom of the post. This is just a personal preference & you will find pros & cons about the use of oil vs grease for all applications (engineers have been debating this for a very long time).
One other tip from me: in addition to using cotton swabs to clean the reel, an old toothbrush is also a great thing to use for this kind of work. It can get into places a rag or swab can't, such as in between the teeth on gears, etc.
So if you're trying to pass the cold winter evenings by cleaning up some old reels but aren't sure where to begin or if you're doing it well, check out this video below. It's a very good, safe, guide on how to maintain those old reels to keep them spinning for many seasons to come!
The following article about my recent adventures in rod design is a bit technical & in depth. If you're interested in the nuts & bolts of bamboo fly rod tapers, read on......
Being a custom rod maker has a unique set of challenges. In making a custom bamboo fly rod for an angler, you need to first know what type of rod will best serve them in terms of action, feel, length, line weight, etc for their particular situation. As a result, you need to know all about how rod tapers work (the actual dimensions of the rod’s shafts, or the thicknesses of the rod up & down its length). Through the years there have been many different rod tapers tried & made - some good, some not so good, & a few dozen great ones.
It’s only practical to take the old tried & true rod tapers which have stood the test of time & use them in making your own rods today. You can adjust them as needed in small amounts here & there to get precisely the rod you’re after, but mostly you'll stick to the taper as it stands. This is like a chef making only small adjustments to a well known recipe. The more experience you have in making rods the more you’ll understand different rod tapers; what the numbers on the paper mean in a real life fly bamboo fly rod.
When my friend, James, brought me an idea of making him a bamboo fly rod for a 4 or 5 wt line I didn’t think too much about it. He mentioned the length of 10 ft to 11 ft & I still didn’t bat an eye, though I should have. Then he told me that what he wanted was a bamboo ‘switch’ rod. Sure, no problem, right? Well, hold on a second….. In my personal experience I’ve made bamboo rods mostly for trout (the vast majority of them), for bass, & some ultra-light fly rods. I’ve made a few all-out salmon rods, too but you can count all of those I’ve made on one hand. As I began to consider this rod, I realized there were some design hurdles ahead for me.
For the uninitiated, a ‘switch’ rod is one that is intended to bridge the gap between a large salmon, or Spey, rod & a regular fly rod. They can be cast either one handed, the typical way a fly rod is cast or with both hands as a salmon rod would be. Furthermore, a switch rod needs to cast a line as far as possible with the least amount of effort from the angler. Switch rods tend to made in lengths of 10 ft to 12 ft & have a front & rear grip on them, just lie a salmon rod. A good switch rod will perform like a single-handed rod when fishing in the typical fashion with one hand, while it will also feel like a short Spey rod when casting with two hands. You see, a switch rod isn’t just a small Spey rod.
Because this rod was going to be 10’-6” long & made for a 5 weight line, this presented a challenge. Bamboo is a heavier material than graphite or fiberglass. If we compared two identical rods with the same outside diameter of their rod shafts - one bamboo & the other graphite - the bamboo rod would be much heavier. Typically that extra weight is a benefit for bamboo as you can feel the rod load & unload during casting & if it’s designed properly it will be a smooth casting rod. However, the longer we make the rod the more bamboo there will be. That means that a longer bamboo rod (on average) will be heavier than a shorter one. When we start getting into lengths of over 9 ft it becomes more difficult to design a rod taper that will feel natural with a 4 or 5 wt line. The rod will be too heavy in overall weight for those fly lines. That’s why you don’t see many 9 ft bamboo fly rods made for 3 or 4 wt lines. In trying to create a 10’-6” rod for a 5 wt line I realized I would be in a bit of uncharted territory, at least for me.
Another way to see this problem would be take this example: let’s say I wanted a ridiculous bamboo fly rod that was 14 ft long & made for a 3 weight line. If I made the tip of this rod the normal diameter for a 3 wt line & made the butt of the rod for a 3 wt line as well, I don’t have much variation in the the rod’s diameter down it’s length. I’ve got all this distance to cover, but I can’t vary the diameter too much or it won’t be a 3 wt anymore. What kind of action would that rod have? It would be awful, not to mention that it’s bound to have a bunch of weak spots along the length of it. Because I wanted this rod to cast a 5 wt line one handed like a normal 5 wt should, I knew I had some thinking to do.
I came up with a bunch of different taper designs along the way. I decided on a 3 piece rod configuration, as this would make it much easier for me to figure out the rod taper, how each section would work together, & those sections wouldn’t be too long for transporting the rod. I eventually settled on a rod design that would have a stiffer tip & put the bulk of the flex into the mid section. I made the butt section a bit beefier than a normal 5 wt, but got around the problem of extra weight by hollowing it out (removing material from the apex of each individual strip before the strips were glued together to form the butt section’s rod shaft). This hollowing of the butt section helped to reduce the overall weight of the rod as well.
With my brand new rod taper I made up some rod sections on the planing forms in the shop & glued them together. After mounting up some test ferrules & taping some line guides on, I was ready to see my creation come to life. This was getting exciting! After going through some vigorous lawn casting tests with the rod, I could see right away that I had a problem. The tip & butt sections were fine, but the rod was flexing way too much in the middle. It had no backbone & felt weak. I’m not the best caster in the world (not even close) but a mediocre fly caster like me should be able to get the line out further than I could with this rod. Okay, back to the drawing board - at least for the mid section.
I couldn’t figure it out. Every combination of diameters I came up with for the mid just wouldn’t work. When I got to the point where I was considering changing ferrule sizes, I threw my hands up in the air! My design problems were now creating problems of their own & I was going in circles. I knew I had to be making this harder than it really was, but how? That’s when I had my best idea for this rod up to that point: I took the time to watch people casting switch rods. Pros, beginners, & every skill level in between - I watch videos of folks casting switch rods for quite a while (isn’t the internet great?). Never mind that they were all fishing with graphite switch rods, I wanted to see how these rods flexed, how they moved through the casting stroke, & how the fly line reacted. I slowed the videos down, paused them at key spots in a cast & studied how the rods were flexed & bent.
This was time well spent. I then knew what I had to do to fix the middle section of this fly rod. I beefed the taper of the mid section up in the appropriate spots on paper & made a new section in the rod shop. After mounting the test ferrules & line guides again onto the new section I took the rod out for another test drive. This time it worked as I had envisioned. All three rod sections worked in concert to cast the line with little effort.
A brief description of this rod’s taper: The tip section was stiffer (or faster) & didn’t flex too much. The bulk of the flexing was in the middle section. This was to give the rod power when James needed to get the line out some distances, yet maintain finesse when say, tossing dry flies in smaller places. The butt section was made a bit beefier for those times when he might tie into a monster that was too much for just the middle section. Because the tip was a bit stiffer, it had less to do with the action of the rod, so (in theory) James could use a bunch of different lines on this rod. He might be happy with a regular 5 or 6 weight line, or he could use a Scandinavian head on smaller fish & streams, or he might rig it up with a skagit set up with a good front anchor for some bigger rivers. This seemed like it could be a pretty versatile rod that might be fished in a bunch of different places…….like a switch rod should be.
Now, I know the rod won’t be all things everywhere - no rod is perfect for all fishing - but I wasn’t worried too much about that. James is a very skilled & knowledgeable angler & an experienced fly rod caster. He’d have no problems making any adjustments he needed & he’d know exactly which line he wanted to use & where to use the different lines. Honestly, had it been someone without the experience that James has, I would have probably insisted that they go with a graphite switch rod just because there were times when I felt I was in over my head designing this rod taper.
I finished out the rod with the cosmetics that James wanted, which were gorgeous: black line guides, blued Nickel-Silver ferrules, red silk thread wraps tipped in black, a red agate stripping guide, & gorgeous Amboyna burl wood in the reel seat. This was truly a special rod.
In the end I had a blast creating & making this rod. Yes, it was frustrating & a real challenge at times. There were moments of doubt where I wasn’t sure I could do it. That said, I loved every moment of it. It really got me thinking & out of my comfort zone. After 14+ years of making fly rods for others everyday, I realized I had become too complacent with rod tapers. In the past I had a tendency to ignore some of the lesser know rod tapers that were for longer rods - mostly because they are heavier rods made for heavier fly lines & not good for most trout fishing on small to medium sized streams. Now, after this project, I’m taking another look at these longer rods. Could they be made lighter, for thinner fly lines? Could I make a 9 ft, or longer, bamboo fly rod for say, a 3 or 4 wt line that was light in the hand & well balanced? A rod like that would be great for tossing dry flies up stream on small trout waters. I have so many possibilities running through my mind. It feels great!!!
I want to sincerely thank Mr. James Wong for bringing this rod project to me. I’m honored that he chose & trusted me to make his fly rod. I thank him, also, for his very kind patience with me as I made this rod. I can only hope that he’ll have as much fun fishing with this rod as I did making it. Thank you, James!!
Owning a quality leather fishing accessory that has been made completely by hand is a joy. Every time you use it you'll admire the fine craftsmanship that went into making it. One special point of interest in hand made leather goods is the stitching. When you see a hand stitched leather item you'll note that it is a cut above anything that was made by machine. You know that a lot of time, attention, skill, & work went into making your accessory - that it was made individually & not mass produced on a machine in a factory.
One example of hand stitching leather would be a round case of any kind - a reel case, a rod tube, etc. There are different styles of stitches traditional to leathercraft, & a round leather item typically uses two different stitches to make. Recently, I was in my shop making up some cases for the gift certificates I offer. These are a perfect example as they are a simplified version of the leather covered rod tubes that I make. Let's use this as an example to show you what goes into making round leather cases by hand. The finished cases are a great way to present a gift certificate:
To begin making a round case, a piece of leather the necessary size for the job is cut from a large hide. It's chosen for its grain (if any) & for its aesthetic qualities & strength, so it must be cut from the best place of the hide. Once the working piece of leather is cut, the stitching marks are laid out on the leather. In this instance the holes for the thread & needles are punched before the leather is wrapped around the tube. You'll see why in a minute.
In leather work, a diamond shaped awl is always used to punch the holes for the thread. This diamond shape is key to giving the stitches the proper shape, so each stitch lays down at an angle. In addition to looking good, this also gives the stitches more strength.
Once the holes are punched, I can then wrap the leather around the tube I'm covering. Some rubber bands hold the leather in place while I work.
Now that the leather is secure & the edges have been dyed & burnished, the stitching can begin. A long piece of very heavy thread is used to do this. It has two large leather needles attached at either end & both needles will pass though each hole in a certain & specific order. This is called a double butt stitch.
You might recognize this butt stitch: it's been used through the ages by shoemakers. You'll see this stitch on a traditional pair of shoes or boots on the back of the heel. Go ahead, take a look at some boots - you'll see what I mean.
Okay, now that the tube has been covered with the leather, it's going to need a cap. Leather rounds of the proper size are laid out on a larger piece of hide:
Once these rounds are cut out, the thread holes are marked out on them, indicating where each stitch will go. This ensures that I get even stitches all the way around the case. Since this is all work done by hand, I don't have the luxury of a machine marking out the stitches for me.
Attaching the round top & bottoms to the case is done using a box stitch. Again, this is a very traditional leather stitch that you will see on leather items that are stitched at their corners (where they might have corners). To see an example of a box stitch, look at any leather box, such as a tissue box cover or a covered jewelry box. Again, two needles & a long thread are used to make this stitch.
To finish this gift certificate case, all that's needed is to make a cap. The cap is made the same way as the body of the case we just discussed, though the tightness of the leather & the fit of it are much more crucial in the cap. Otherwise, the cap is made exactly the same way. Once the edges of the top & bottom caps are dyed & burnished, the case is complete.
Could all this stitching be done much faster & easier by machine? Sure, it could & there are some folks who make these cases (some quite renowned I'm sure you've heard of) that do just that. They don't take the time to make each stitch by hand, they just run it through a heavy-duty leather sewing machine & are done in no time. I don't do it that way. I take the time to stitch it by hand because it's worth it. Once glance will show you that these cases were made by hand, with traditional methods & painstaking attention to detail. I think that if you're going to purchase a quality leather fishing accessory, you want the best & the best, as they say, 'don't come easy'. In the end, it's the attention given to all the details - including each individual stitch - that makes owning a leather case truly special & something to cherish. That's why I do it this way.
Some folks like to have their custom fly rod made up with dark metal parts on it. This can be a very classy look on a fly rod.
Bluing is actually a surface treatment done to the shiny metal rod parts. Think of it as a form of controlled oxidation, which turns the metal surfaces to a dark blue, or gun-metal grey color. Not every type of metal can be successfully treated this way in the rod shop. Typically, only Nickle-Silver rod parts can be blued (aluminum is much harder to blue & it's best done by an industrial process).
Because we're treating the surface of the Nickle-Silver parts, it's important that those surfaces be cleaned very thoroughly. You must wear gloves when you do this, as even the natural oils from your hands & skin will contaminate the surface & interfere with the bluing treatment. Only after all the parts are cleaned & prepared, can you begin.
You might see in the above photo that the male slides of the ferrules have been covered with tape & the inside of the female ferrule has a plug in it. This is to keep the bluing agent from getting onto sections of metal where we don't want it.
The bluing agent is then applied by hand. You must work fairly quickly & try to get an even coating. The part is continually in motion, being turned, so that the bluing isn't darker in one spot than another.Once the rod part is colored sufficiently, the chemical reaction of the bluing agent is halted by rinsing the part in water.
After the bluing process is complete, the rod parts must have a protective clear coat of enamel over them. This is so the bluing doesn't rub off of the part & so oils from your hands & other dirt won't contaminate the bluing.
As this is a surface treatment only, you can't blue parts of a rod that will have friction, like the threads of a screw-locking reel seat or the wire line guides, but you can blue the slide rings in a seat. Of course, cap & ring style reel seats are no problem. If you want the wire line guides & tip tops dark, it's best to buy the commercially coated black ones, or ones made from titanium. After many years of use along the stream, the bluing will fade & wear off a bit. That's why it's not uncommon to see vintage rods with blued metal parts that have faded a bit.
Of course, the Nickle-Silver ring & frame of an agate stripping guide can be blued:
Also the Nickle-Silver winding check & the strap & ring style hook keeper can be treated this way, too.
Dark colored metal, while not appropriate for every fly rod, can be a very nice enhancement to your custom rod. I do charge a bit more for this, as it's time consuming, but for an extra $30 or $40 more (depending on what all you want), it can be a very cost effective customization for your fly rod.
There are times & places you'll want to get the color of a fly exactly the same as the natural bug. These are times when any old brown, olive, or cream color just won't do.
To get dubbing in a color you can't buy you're going to have make it yourself, which will require some research. If you're lucky you can find a recipe for the proper color mix in a reference book (Hatches II, et al). Lacking that you'll need a photo of the bug you're trying to copy - or even a real life sample. Some experimentation will have to happen before you get the color just right.
Fortunately, mixing dubbing is easy to do. Start with the colors of dubbing you'll be mixing together, in the correct proportions. Here, I'm mixing up some dubbing to get the color of the Whitefly (Ephoron leukon) nymph which calls for 1 part cream; 1 part yellow; 2 parts brown.
Put the pieces of dubbing you want to mix together in a jar with a good, tight fitting lid. Pour in some hot water (not boiling) until the jar is about two-thirds full. Let this sit for a few minutes to allow the dubbing to soften in the warm water.
Now shake the jar vigorously for at least a minute or two. You'll see the colors of the dubbing begin to mix together.
Drain the water out of the jar & pat dry the dubbing mix on an absorbent towel. Examine your results.
Chances are you'll need to do this at least one more time to get the colors mixed through. Each time you do this you can see the dubbing softening in the water & mixing together more & more. Compare this photo below of the dubbing in the water to the one above. You can see the colors mixing even more on my second time through.
You can see just how much more the colors are mixed through after a second time in the jar:
I'm pretty happy with this color, so I'll stop here. It's pretty close to the color of the natural Whitefly nymph, which is a burrowing nymph & lives in areas of the stream that have a sandy bottom. This should work.
Remember, nature is rarely perfect so a few mild streaks of color in your mix is fine. Also note that you should let the dubbing air dry for a while. Some mixes will change color a bit after the dubbing is completely dry. Certainly make sure it's totally dry before you store it away in an air tight container or bag!
Mixing dubbing to a custom color (once you have the proper recipe) is quite easy. You'll be able to tie flies that match the color of the natural bug more closely than anything you could buy in a store or from a catalog. Happy mixing!!
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.
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