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              Fly Rods(tm)

Other information, including web links

Care of bamboo rods
Books and links
Other Flyfishng links
There's a lot more information than can be, or should be, put in one web site.   For example, the information I give on building a bamboo fly rod is strictly for people who are curious about the process, not for anyone who'd actually like to build his/her own.  The object of this page is to fill in a few of the gaps, either by including "this and that," or by pointing you to books, web sights and other resources.

Casting Bamboo.
When I talk to someone who hasn't had much experience casting a bamboo rod, I often hear, "They're slow," or  "They're soft."  Chances are the person talking hasn't cast a bamboo rod at all.  Those that have will eventually admit that they were casting a Montague or even one of the thousands of cheap rods brought back from the Far East by G.I.s after World War II. 

In truth there are some really bad bamboo rods out there.   In the old days bamboo rods started as low as $3, which was cheap even back then.  The rods were mass-produced and, by today, probably have been refinished at least once.  They may have twice the amount of varnish they originally had.  The line they originally used may not have a modern equivalent.  Other rods had hardware so cheep that the owner was luck if they lasted one season.   The standard rod, a 9 ft 3p, was a challenge for both builders and fishers.  Making a good casting rod in 9 ft length that's still easy to fish is more art than science. 

Most modern bamboo rods are based around a different set of parameters.  Today's builders usually came into the craft by way of graphite rods.   They know what the modern fisher demands.  They build a rod that's more responsive without being overly heavy.

Yes, casting a bamboo rod is a bit different than casting graphite -- but not that much.  The biggest difference is in the timing.  The biggest thing you need to remember, casting a bamboo rod, is to relax.  Let the rod do most of the work.  Don't hurry.

The other secret to cast bamboo really well is to accelerate smoothly.   You can generate as much line speed casting bamboo rods as you can casting graphite by using a very smooth cast.   You can open your loop up just a bit and still generate enough line speed to cast as far as you can cast with any other rod.  Or, if you want,  keep your loops small.  With good bamboo it really doesn't make much difference. 

When casting bamboo, the forward cast will start  just before the line is fully extended.  This timing will allow the rod to start it's flex before the line starts to move forward.   The rest of the forward cast is a smooth acceleration to the "power snap."  As your arm moves forward the rod flexes.  All this time the rod will be "following" you.  That bow in the rod holds the energy that you're about to deliver to the line.  Flip the power snap like, as one person put it, flipping a potato off a fork.  As the rod straightens it gets rid of it's stored energy.  Once you get your timing down you'll feel the energy flow out the rod and into the fly line.  

A good way to start all this is to cast about 20 to 30 feet of line using the least amount of power you can to make the cast.  Then increase the cast about 5 ft at a time.  Ninety percent of people's problems casting bamboo is overpowering the rod.  The rod wants to do about half the work.  Let it.

As you know, every rod, graphite, fiberglass, or bamboo casts differently.  One thing you may not have noticed is that you cast each rod differently.  In the old days, casting was taught by placing a book between the body and caster's rod arm.  Almost all casting was done with the forearm and wrist.  This worked well because when casting a slower rod you use less of your upper arm and more of your lower arm.   When casting a fast rod, the entire arm is involved.   You'll find that as you cast bamboo rods you'll move your upper arm less.

Because each person has his or her individual casting style, I can't give much more specific information.  But here's one last piece of information that I'll pass on to you.   To improve your cast, learn to cast without a rod.  One of the great Florida legends, Carl Hanson, taught me the trick to casting without a rod.   Start with abut 8 ft of 1/4 in. rope.  Cast back and forward until you can cast about 20 to 25 feet.   Then move to smaller line.   Increase the distance while decreasing the diameter of the line.  Eventually you'll be casting about 30 ft of fly line without a rod.  The stroke you use to cast without a rod can be directly applied to your casting.

I often refer to casting a bamboo rod as using a "relaxed stroke."  This is part of the enjoyment of casting a bamboo rod.  Relaxing your cast, using less of the upper arm, making smooth but powerful strokes. 

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Books and links

Care of Bamboo Fly rods.
 Most bamboo rods break the same way graphite or fiberglass rods do; someone slams a car door on them or otherwise abuses them.  Very few Bamboo rods break while casting or playing a fish.  Many bamboo rods built in the early to mid 1900's are still in use today. 

However, because bamboo is a natural fiber, there are a few things you should keep in mind. 

When you assemble your rod, it's best not to twist the sections together.  Push them together.   A straight pull is best to take the sections apart.   A little candle wax will lubricate the ferrules -- only if needed.

Playing a really large fish can put a "fishing set" or bend in the tip.  If you're worried about this happening, turn the rod over and play the fish on the back of the rod. 

If you have to pull a fly out of a tree, point the rod tip at the fly and pull the line, just like you would a graphite rod. 

It's best not to leave it assembled leaning against a wall for days at a time.  The natural fibers can take a "set." 

It's a good idea to dry the rod after use.  This can be as simple as leaving the rod hung in a dry place, in the rod sock for a day or two, before putting it back in the tube. 

There's no need to tie the rod bag ties tightly. 

Storing the rod "butt sections down" will reliever a lot of the weight section tips and place it on the butt where it should be. 

An occasional cleaning and waxing will keep the rod in service for a lifetime. 

Bamboo Rod Action

Because they cast differently than graphite rods, bamboo rods are too often labeled "slow" action.  This infers that bamboo rods aren't as powerful as graphite.  This isn't true.  Graphite action is just different. 

Action is made up of flex, return, and dampening.  These three properties give a rod a unique "feel."  Let's look at each. 

Flex stores energy.  It is the distance the rod tip will travel from its centerline (the rod will bends) as the it tries to overcome the inertia of its own weight and the weight of the line.  (Graphite rods have to overcome very little of their own inertia.  As we will see, this is both good and bad.)  As line weight increases and/or as the force of the cast increases, the rod tip moves further and further from it's neutral or center point.  Eventually the amount of flex reaches a point of diminishing return.  If even more force is applied, any rod will break.

Return is the ability of the rod to return to the center or neutral point.  It delivers the stored energy to the cast.  The speed and force with which the rod tip returns to the neutral point is as important as the amount of flex in a rod.  If a rod flexed but didn't return it would remain bent!

As the rod unbends ("returns" from a state of "flex") it doesn't stop at it's center line, it continues on until excess stored energy is dissipated.   This forward flex once more stores energy, but in the opposite direction.  The energy is used up in a series of diminishing oscillations.  Dampening is the defined as the speed with which the rod quits these oscillations.

Consider a 60ft cast of a WF5F line.  No matter what rod is used, a specific amount of energy is required to get the line out there.  The material and taper of each rod will determine how that energy is applied. 

Bamboo differs from most fiberglass and almost all graphite fly rods because (hollow built aside) it's solid.  In a good bamboo rod, the rod mass stores and delivers energy.   The energy of the cast is not only applied to the line, but to the rod as well.  It's why bamboo shouldn't be rushed.  In a graphite rod, the flex is almost completely caused by the weight of the line on one end and the force of the caster on the other end of the rod.  In a Bamboo rod part of the energy causing in the flex is caused by the mass of the rod.   While glass, graphite and bamboo all have good return values; bamboo is the only one that includes the energy stored in the rod.  This energy has no place to go but to the fly line.  Bamboo and Graphite both have very good dampening qualities.

While graphite rods require almost a frantic casting style, bamboo wants a much smoother application of power.   So relax.  Slow down and enjoy the sport. 

Top of page
Care of bamboo rods
Places that carry my rods
Bill Jackson's
shop for Adventure

Located in Clearwater Florida, this shop is one of the oldest and largest independent sporting goods stores in Florida.

H & H Sports
Located in Murphy, NC, an outdoor sports store like we used to see before the chain stores came into existence. 

Gun Shack -crosswind
Located in Mt. Airy, MD, this shop is another of those rare shops where  you can finds almost anything you need for fly fishing and hunting.

Swann's Fly Tying and Fly Fishing Outfitters
Jim Swann's shop in Dade City, FL is another of those must see shops.  If you're around Orlando, FL, drop in.

On the Net
Bamboo Rod making FAQ
Tons of  information on bamboo rod building
Rod Builders Home page
lot's of information on bamboo rod building and builders.
Bamboo Rodmaking Tips page
a ton of tips for builders
Jann's Netcraft
Most everything you'll need to build a rod -- and then some.
Anglers Workshop
Almost every thing you'll need to build a rod -- and then some

Charles H. Demarest, Inc.
A second generation supplier of Tonkin Cane, Harold Demarest has live an interesting life, pilot, navel officer and head of the company that imported Tonkin bamboo.

 Hock Blades Sharpening page
Hock Blades Are said to be the best,  I copied my sharpening style from the owner.

Scary Sharp FAQ
A way to sharpen plane blades without water stones.

Rod builders
here's some other rod builders I trust

Harry Boyd's site.

When Harry isn't tending his flock or building fine bamboo fly rods he's  involve in
The Southern Rodmakers gathering Mountain Home, Ark.
Twin Pines Rod Company
Jon Clarke builds some beautiful and pleasant casting bamboo rod!

If you're interested in a Custom Graphite rod, talk to Dave Lewis

Performance Fly Rods
Dave Lewis' web site.  A good man to do business with. Check out his essays for beautiful pictures and great prose.

There are many more fine rod builders and suppliers
I wish I could list them all.

Other fly fishing links
Directories of  Fly fishing stuff
The fly fishing network 
Fly Fishing Equipment, Gear, Trips and Vacations... 
 The Fly Fishing Network provides information, links and web resources to serve the avid angle

on Fly Fishing
"for the pursuit of fly fishing online.
...the top fly fishing professionals, products, shops and destinations worldwide..."

About Fly Fishing
Ian Scott's in depth web site.  Includes links, swaps, classified and much more.

Suncoast Fly Fishers
This is my home club.  Meets 3rd Thur of the month, except Dec. 

Tampa Bay Fly Fishing Club
Meets in Tampa, Fl but you might run  into a member almost anywere on the water.

Here's a list of books on rods and rod building

Bamboo rod Restoration Handbook Michael Sinclair, Centennial Publications c.1994
Best of the planing Form Various, Alder Creek Enterprises c.1997
Constructing Cane Rods Ray Gould, Frank Amato Publications, Inc. c.1998
Handcrafting Bamboo Fly Rods Wayne Cattanach, The Lyons Press c.2000
The Lovely Reed John Howell, Pruett Publishing Company c.1998
McClane's Standard Fishing Encyclopedia A. J. McClane, Hold, Rinehart and Winston c.1965
The Complete Book of Sportfishing Various, AB Nordbok c.1988
The Technology of Fly Rods Don Phillips, Frank Amato Publications, Inc. c.2000



Building a bamboo fly
Rod an outline 
 A short history of flyrods
 Fish-Tested Rods
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