My rods are best when fished at super-high altitudes, barefoot.
There are as many opinions about bamboo rods and rodmaking as there are grains of sand on the earth. Anybody who says there’s anything close to science involved is wishing, or lying, or both. While I will grant that there are physics involved in the casting qualities of flyrods, because bamboo is a natural material, there will never be two rods which cast the same. Exact bamboo rod reproductions are impossible.
The methods employed to come up with the resulting rod are also too numerous to mention. In the end, we all find our own most appropriate way to produce a fishing tool. Bitter arguments ensue, but the only way to find the truth is to fish the rod and find out first-hand how it performs. Any intelligent rodmaker and businessman is going to employ the methods which allow him/her to efficiently make the best product. While the complete learning process takes a lifetime, we can come to some pretty solid conclusions in just a few years, and that’s what I have done. I have made enough rods since 1997 to form some solid opinions, and I’ll tell you straight-up that many of my findings fly in the face of all the “conventional wisdom” out there. I have fished my rods long enough to know that they stand up to the fish; that’s the most important thing.
By the way: I started making rods before the internet was much of a “thing.” It was more of a struggle than it is today to find the information required to get started. I answered a classified ad and began a dialog with Frank Armbruster, who sent me several photocopied pages of info that led me down other paths that led me to a few choice books and choice people, all of whom were very open and willing to answer any stupid question I might have. Specifically, I should mention Russ Gooding (Golden Witch) and Mike Clark (South Creek, Ltd), who were both very gracious with their patience and time; each in their own way helped me reach a point of confidence with my work that I could never repay.
Once an acceptable level of structural integrity has been achieved, the thing left is to apply artistic touch. Anybody with patience and time can make a bamboo fly rod, but not just anybody can make a fishing tool that is also a work of art.
Having said all of that, following are some of my opinions, beliefs and habits:
I hand-plane my rods because I like to do it that way. Can a great casting tool be made with a machine? You bet. I don’t use machines like routers and bandsaws because I enjoy silence and sometimes I like to hear the music. I don’t straighten with heat guns; I use alcohol lamps. I don’t use palm sanders and belt sanders; I use sanding blocks, scrapers and files. I have all that power equipment; it’s sitting in a box under my bench and I’ll sell it to you, cheap.
I use old published tapers on many of my rods and I have “designed” (read: “ripped off from some old guy and modified to fit my liking”) a few tapers, too. Anybody who says the old tapers can’t cast plastic lines has never cast an old taper with a plastic line. I prefer the feel and cast-ability of a silk line, but I don’t use silk exclusively; it’s terribly impractical. I do recommend that everybody cast silk on their bamboo rod at least once; silk lines are pretty fun.
I mark my rods with a line weight only as a loose guide. Casting styles vary, as do rod-feel preferences. I prefer heavy lines that load my rods close-in. If it were up to me, no rod would have a weight marked on it, but I recognize line designations as somewhat of a necessary evil.
Finally, I make bamboo rods because I love to do it. I love the craft. I love to cast the rods. I love to fish them. I love the fish they catch. I love the scenery that fly rods take me to. I love the company I keep when I’m fishing them. Everything about well-made bamboo rods is great.
If you’re ready to experience a great casting tool of heirloom quality, made with care by a guy who loves and respects the art for what it is, drop me a line. Questions are welcome.