Pictured is a completed 8-weight salmon rod built by Don Lee of TU.
Our Lake Champlain Trout Unlimited Chapter held its monthly meeting at the Gander Mountain store in Plattsburgh last week. Walt Trzcienski, the TU chapter president, opened the meeting. Members spoke on how to build your own fly rod.
The discussions started with the history of fly rods. Initial fishing rods were really tree branches or twigs. A string was tied to a thin willow, or other tree branch along with a hook made of bone and a feather tied to it. Progression then led to solid wood rods that were in sections. The tips being solid wood were fragile, so the butt end of the rod was hollowed out and a screw-on cover attached. The rod tips were kept in the handle or butt end protected. Replacement tips were made of bamboo. From solid wood rods came split bamboo rods which the speaker, Bruce Handley, preferred. After WWII, fiberglass was used, and then came graphite.
The advantages of building your own fly rod are cost. A new factory built rod may cost over $600, but a kit will be one-third to one-half of the cost for a top notch rod. Entry level kits start about $75, which is a bargain for the first-time rod builder. Don Lee and Derrick Miller spoke about the rods they built, the materials such as varnish versus epoxy, single foot ceramic line guides, thread versus silk, how to get the perfect finish on the rod and the tools needed to complete a home grown fly rod. Along with the lower costs of the “do it yourself” rod kits, comes the enjoyment of catching a fish on a rod and fly constructed at the home work bench. Don has built 14 rods for himself, family and friends. Many were given away as gifts. His addiction seemed to have spread to the folks in attendance; I know I want to try it.
With the costs of quality new equipment reaching over $600 for a rod and reel package, building your own rod from a kit makes sense. Based on the variety of fly rods needed for different species of fish, such as a 2 to 5 weight rod for small trout streams, 6 or 7 weights for larger trout and bass, and 9 or 10 weights for salmon and steelhead things can easily get out of control. Then of course there are switch rods and spey rods which are two handed fly rods used also for salmon and steelhead. Let’s not even go into salt water rods and spinning rods. The costs can add up quick. Buying 3 or 4 high quality factory built rods could deplete the average working man’s wallet in short time, leaving little money left to get to a river or stream at $4 per gallon for gas!
So if you have an interest in saving some money, enjoy doing it yourself projects, and making a high quality fly rod that can be handed down to your grandchildren, this may be for you. There are books available on classic rods, and rod makers, and rod crafting. The internet also has web sites such as the rod building forum.com. Some anglers prefer the traditional bamboo rods, and others go for the newer graphite composites. It may be an age thing, like fine wines! I think I would like to try the bamboo rod; I have graphite so this would be something new, now I just have to figure out what weight. Once again, there are too many choices. Looks like I will have to build more than one. Like I need another addiction to enjoy!
Rich Redman is a retired District Conservationist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and an avid outdoorsman. His column will appear regularly. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.