bamboo fly rods

Why You'd Fish Obsolete Fly Rods Built Only Yesterday

Posted by Tom Chandler 1/22/2014

The L&&T and the kids were elsewhere, so with two hours to spare on a Sunday afternoon, I ended up at Chris Raine's fly rod shop, handling an 8' 7wt rod he built to fish bushy October Caddis and stonefly dries.

Raine's been a tear lately -- the family business is closed until March, so he's been turning out bamboo fly rods like it was easy.

For the record, bamboo fly rods are not easy, but when performing a series of painstakingly precise, highly repetitive tasks, it's clearly possible to work up a good head of steam.

His goal was to fill his outstanding orders and stock the "impulse" rack (some folks actually have the money to buy a cane rod on impulse).

Because he's a fisherman, he also wanted to build something for himself.

Which is where it gets interesting.

Raine builds gorgeous fly rods in a market where many buyers let a magnifying glass determine a rod's worth -- sometimes before they've even cast it.

The vast majority of his sales are the longer, lighter fly rods that respond well to hollowbuilding (like his 8' 4wt and new 8'3" 5wt).

But in his "off" hours, he crafted a rod using stained cane, chrome guides, a scratched reel seat and a ferrule manufactured in 1998.

He also built it on an experimental taper that has little or no commercial value, and in a line weight more common to a modern bonefish rod.

Yet the rod's no throwaway; it weighs a featherish 3.5 ounces, casts beautifully, bosses big flies smartly and still bends enough that you'll feel -- as Wayne Eng puts it -- the "heartbeats" of even an average trout.

See, I said it was getting interesting.

When your goal is to slap a bulky, wind-resistant October Caddis dry into a one-inch seam, accuracy matters. At least it feels that way when you miss. Today's fisherman is likely to replace line mass with line speed, casting big dries with lighter line weights. That works at longer ranges, but at short ranges, the bushy flies open up the loops.

Which is where the 7wt suddenly starts to make sense.

So while a builder's unlikely to sell a relatively full-flexing 8' 7wt, a fisherman who lives on a good October Caddis river and understands physics might want to fish one.

This is why I like hanging with bamboo rod builders; they're an iconoclastic bunch prone to tinkering, and you never know what's going to emerge from the dark recesses of their shops.

They're like evil geniuses, but instead of the apocalypse, they produce obsolete fly rods the market doesn't want, but fishermen should probably embrace.

See you on the river, Tom Chandler.

AuthorPicture

Tom Chandler

As the author of the decade leading fly fishing blog Trout Underground, Tom believes that fishing is not about measuring the experience but instead of about having fun. As a staunch environmentalist, he brings to the Yobi Community thought leadership on environmental and access issues facing us today.

17 comments
I fished an "obsolete" rod today... There are a lot of performance related reasons to reach for bamboo. When fishing tiny flies on light tippet for example, bamboo is still far and away the best stuff for the job (in a well designed rod.) I feel compelled to mention that "getting into" bamboo doesn't need to be a major financial undertaking. There are lots of contemporary makers turning out good quality ... more rods in the same price range as top-end graphite. And when you start looking into used rods, a whole plethora of options opens up. It is well worth noting that the price tags on many top-shelf bamboo rods reflect a whole lot more than just quality and fishability. (Is "fishability" a word?)
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Andrew: All this time I thought bamboo rods were just an avenue for wealthy fishers to connect with the traditional roots of fly fishing. For some, they are an avenue for wealthy fishers to connect with a sense of superiority, but... Andrew: Now you’ve gone and offered up a performance-related reason for why I should want one, and my wallet is hurting already! There are a lot of good glass rod makers ... more out there, though most focus on shorter rods in lighter line weights. It would be nice to find a cheaper way to see if this worked for you. I notice that Steffen Brothers offer 8'3" 6/7 and 7/8 rods, so maybe that's a cheaper way to explore low modulus. Of course, some guys know fly fishing's best-kept secret -- bamboo fly rods are great ways to get chicks. It's like being a lead singer in a bad rock band. Good luck.
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All this time I thought bamboo rods were just an avenue for wealthy fishers to connect with the traditional roots of fly fishing. Now you've gone and offered up a performance-related reason for why I should want one, and my wallet is hurting already! Nice article!
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JPS: Ok, I’ve read one too many bamboo rod posts on Trout Underground. Now I think I need a bamboo rod. Tom please write an article on what the optimal NorCal spring creek/stillwater callibaetis, pmd, bwo dry fly rod would be. I need some guidance into this realm bamboo insanity…..like I need another vice. Before I can give any more advice about bamboo fly rods, my attorney informs me I need to send ... more readers waiver forms, which must be signed and returned (like health class when you were in elementary school).
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Ok, I've read one too many bamboo rod posts on Trout Underground. Now I think I need a bamboo rod. Tom please write an article on what the optimal NorCal spring creek/stillwater callibaetis, pmd, bwo dry fly rod would be. I need some guidance into this realm bamboo insanity.....like I need another vice. It sounds like Mr. Raines has invented the ideal Hexagenia dry fly rod. Sorry to hear about the ... more harassment. Hope it comes to a stop soon. Love reading the underground.
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...Good for you sticking to the high road despite the D-baggery certain people are exhibiting...Had that problem with a crazy uncle who split up my Dad's family after Gram passed.....Karma will get it's due...
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Yes, that helps, in an oblique way. Thanks for replying to a poorly thought out, and even more poorly written question. I'm not looking to replace bamboo. I'm well aware that 'glass and 'boo are very different even if some crafters can create overlap in feel and features. So, I wasn't actually looking at your original post in that light. I apologize for the confusion. The incomplete stray thought ... more that I rushed out as a question was more about finding a 'glass rod that would be able to carry out the functional task that you described --casting big bushy things short distances, wind be-damned -- without sacrificing all of the fun and feel of a small mountain meadow trout. It would still be a different feel than bamboo but would it be a "good" feeling of its own? You said that Raine used an experimental taper so there's no hope of matching that but maybe I could come "close enough". Having written all that down the answer is probably, yeah, it'd be fun to try out the technique even if it won't ever be quite the same. I guess it's time to buy something made of fiberglass.
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Craig: Man, I remember when 7 wt was a mddle-of-the-road line weight instead of something that needed explanation. Or even apology.
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Marty: This whole graphite thing is a fad…… That Internet thingee too.
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Taku: It obviously needs a serious test in the Wyoming wind. I hereby volunteer – let me know when! You gotta volunteer to Raine. I only got to mess with the thing, not keep it. I know, it seems unfair...
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Sadly for you, I think you missed Raine this week. Samistopdog: Oh yea welcome back, been a while since you have written something with heart. It's hard to write meaningfully about fly fishing when your family's being bombarded with threatening emails about the recent court case. The latest was particularly unpretty, and things are tense here. Stienstra has a lot to answer for. More when I completely ... more lose interest in taking the high road.
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I have cast a lot of fiberglass fly rods that had characteristics similar to bamboo (but lighter, cheaper and uglier). I fish a lot of glass, but haven't fished the latest wave of glass rods (Orvis, Echo, Temple Fork, plus a zillion smaller builders). I think the 8' 5wt Diamondglass 3-pc fly rod cast -- as one cane addict put it -- like the nicest bamboo rod he'd fished. That said, a lot of the older ... more glass rods were kinda dismal (just as many bamboo rods are). Raine's rod is unusual in that it's a relatively full-flexing 8' 7wt. I own a cane rod built on a Dickerson 8014 Guide Special taper, which sounds like another 8' 7wt, but it's very strong in the butt section and the tip is light. It's fast, and while it's really nice for use when you might want a fast rod (like on a fast river or in a drift boat), it's not this rod. Hope that helps.
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Man, I remember when 7 wt was a mddle-of-the-road line weight instead of something that needed explanation. That rod sounds like it has a lot or aplications past just October caddis and such.
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This whole graphite thing is a fad...... That sounds like a great rod and one I'd like to try
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It obviously needs a serious test in the Wyoming wind. I hereby volunteer - let me know when!
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Tom, a smart tip of the Resistol to you. very well put and written. Subject (rod and builder) are very dear to this fisherman's heart. Raine is a master, somewhat quiet...before happy hour...and always thinking of what he can improve on. Next week business wise opened up due to the bad weather back east...after reading this I'm headed to his shop and try out the rod...who knows maybe he will turn ... more his back to answer the phone and I'll run like hell to the banks of the Sac to try it out. Oh yea welcome back, been a while since you have written something with heart.
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Ok, I cannot afford to experiment with bamboo but does the same thought apply to 'glass? Would I get a similar feel with a full flex, heavier lined fiberglass rod?
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