The Shop Cat
may he rest in peace
Fish-Tested bamboo fly rods are hand
planed from Tonkin bamboo. Only a few tapers that have proved
to be popular with fly fishers are built. Each rod is tested
and approved by fish before it's sold. Rods are warranted for
defects in workmanship or material. Custom hardware and grips
may be ordered to specification.
Modern Bamboo rods are the grandchildren of fly rods by such
builders as Gillum, Payne and others. Almost all modern
tapers start with the taper of one of the golden age fly
rods. They're a direct link
to our fly fishing heritage. But, most modern rods
aren't just copies of successful rods of the past. Nor will
you find the old 9 ft "willow branch" that were
commonly mass produced. New material, new techniques
and new understanding make today's fly rods some of the best
bamboo ever rods built. Today most rods are shorter, crisper, "dry
fly" designs. Fish-Tested
rods owe their feel to a combination of the tapers of the
old masters and the demands of the modern fly fisher. Fish-Tested
rods are meant to be fished, all day, every
From the maker
been a fly fisher all my life. In 1992 I became
bamboo fly rods. I rebuilt,
repaired, re-wrapped and re-finished bamboo rods, first
for myself, and for friends. Eventually I began to
donate rods to fly fishing organizations for raffles or
drawings. I found the need to replace or
completely rebuild sections of rods. Eventually I
found I'd built every part on a rod except for hardware,
which I still buy.
approached I came to realize that I'd need to do
something to keep life interesting. I've
tried my hand at many things, from flying, to sailing,
to cartooning and illustrating books. Of all
these, rod building has given me the most
satisfaction. I began to develop tapers from
the rods that worked for me. I spent the last few
years adjusting these tapers to please the modern fly
fisher. I continued to learn the craft of
rod making, fishing my own rods to verify that a
concept was as good at the end of the day as it had was
at the beginning.
"My goal is to
create functional bamboo fly rods that a person can be
proud to fish. Rods that are enjoyable to cast and
will not tire the fisher over a day of
fishing. Rods that will hook and land fish.
Rods that are affordable to the serious angler."
|top of page
All fly rods, whether made of graphite, fiberglass, steel,
greenheart, Ironwood or bamboo have a "feel" about them.
Bamboo is said to have one of the best "feels" of any
material. Bamboo is lighter than many traditional rod building
materials but still has '"body." It's possible to feel the rod
as it flexes. And while there are a limited number of
mass-produced graphite rod tapers available, there are an infinite
number of tapers available to the bamboo builder. Some
find bamboo a link to fly fishing's rich history. But
the main reason is, bamboo rods are fun to fish.
"Why don't the BIG BOY'S make bamboo any more?"
A little history might explain it. Some brands, such as
Orvis, and R.L.Winston, still do, but most modern companies
weren't around when the bamboo used on fishing rods (that comes
from China) had an embargo placed on it. At the same time
fiberglass was being introduced in the "Wonder rod." Early
fiberglass was inferior to bamboo in many ways, but it was
available and could be mass-produced at a low cost.
Eventually glass rods became very good fishing tools, but they
were being replaced by graphite. Even though bamboo is
again available, graphite is more suited to mass production.
In short mass production is your answer.
"Why do bamboo rods cost so damn much?"
The big expense is labor. The hardware used in a bamboo rod is
about as expensive as hardware in any other rod.
Estimated times to build a two piece bamboo fly rod range from 40
to 60 hours. Each section of a bamboo rod is made of
multiple strips of bamboo, and although there are four, and
five strip bamboo rods, most modern rods have six strips in each
section. A two piece rod has 12 strips in it. A three
piece has 18. Creating these strips is labor
intensive. Although some parts of the process can be sped up
by machine, the care needed to create a beautiful and functional
fly rod can't be hurried.
"So how long does it take you to make a bamboo fly rod?"
I plan my production at one rod a month. That gives me a
little time for unforeseen events. Actually planning and
assembly goes fairly quickly, but drying time is something that I
can't control. After each rod section is glued it has to dry
for at least 48 hours. Finish has to dry, and usually takes
several days or even weeks, depending on the method I use the
humidity, and temperature of the shop. Wraps have several
coats of finish and can take 48 to 72 hours to dry. I do my
best to give a customer an honest target date, and I also do my
best to beat that target date, but I don't feel comfortable
doubling up on rod orders. I also don't like to
schedule to far in advance. I know that some makers are
proud of the fact that they have a two or three year backlog, but
I don't thing that's a good thing.
"I notice that your fly rods are much less expensive than
other rods. Why is that?"
My reason for getting into the "business" isn't to try to make a
living, although I don't want to go broke either. I've got
two goals in mind. First is to continue to do something I
enjoy. The second is to introduce people to bamboo by
supplying a very nice rod, a rod that looks and fishes like a
million dollars. I hope that after you fish my rod for a
while you'd buy more bamboo. (you can never have enough fly
rods -- right?) At that point you might return to me, or you
may want to check out other excellent builders. If you
buy one of my rods, and five from my fellow rod makers I
won't feel bad. In fact I will have done what I set out to do.
"Most modern bamboo rods seem to be 8 ft or less. Why
aren't bamboo rods as long as graphite rods?"
In the golden age of bamboo rods the standard was a 9 ft 3 piece
rod. Building a rod of this length that's both crisp, and
light is a challenge. Today most builders stick with shorter
rods. Shorter Bamboo rods can be powerful, and crisp without
weighing enough to ware you out after a day of fishing. And
even in the golden age, dry fly rods were often less than 8
"Isn't it true bamboo rods are slow and hard to cast?"
Bamboo casts differently than graphite. I'd call it a much
more relaxed style of casting. In a good taper, the
rod actually helps the caster by storing, then delivering power to
the line. Loops can be a little larger in bamboo, but this
doesn't mean shorter distances. Some bamboo rods are as fast
as graphite, but normally not as much fun to cast as slightly
"Aren't Bamboo rods much more likely to break than graphite
No. Most bamboo rods that are broken meet their fate just
like graphite rods. They end up in a car door, or someone sits on them. One nice thing about
bamboo is the rods can often be repaired, or rebuilt, when these
"Where's the hook keeper?"
I've had customers suggest that I include a hook keeper on my
rods. Actually I do. I keep my hooks safely off my
rods by hooking them between the stripper guide and and the guide
support. It's one of the reasons I use the stripper guides
that I do. Here's a picture of one of my
rods with the hook over the stripper guide support.
If you want a hook keeper, let me know. they're inexpensive
and I can include one at no charge.