Bamboo fly fishing rods are true classics that are in demand. Beyond a doubt the best fly fishing rod material is good bamboo properly selected, cured, split, glued, and correctly proportioned. It possesses strength combined with lightness, resiliency, pliancy, power and balance in greater degree than either steel or solid woods.
Let’s dive right in.
The Making of Bamboo Fly Fishing Rods
Formerly anglers and rod makers could draw fine distinctions between male and female Calcutta and Tonkin “canes”. But under present conditions good Calcutta is very rare and the word “Calcutta” is becoming merely a trade term.
Good bamboo of all kinds is more difficult to obtain and a good piece of Tonkin is better than an indifferent one of Calcutta.
Male Calcutta, however, is supposed to be superior to either the female or Tonkin. The cheapest split cane is known as steel vine or African cane. It is light colored and makes good, inexpensive rods.
Six Strip and 8 Strip Bamboo Fly Fishing Rods
We assume that you know that bamboo is split and then glued together in order to utilize the hard outer enamel and reduce the diameter of the pieces.
Some bamboo fly fishing rods are made of bamboo split into six sections (hexagonal) and some in eight (octagonal). But the six strip construction is more often used.
Some makers claim that the eight strip, being a more true cylinder, possesses better action but this seems to be more theoretical than practical.
While the tiny tips of an eight strip rod are likely to be “soft” due to the comparative amount of glue necessary to hold the pieces together.
Eight strip bamboo fly fishing rods cost more than the six strip ones. And if an angler wants a round bamboo rod they are preferable to the six strip planed down ones. As planing certainly must injure a rod.
As a general rule a well-made six strip rod leaves little to be desired.
A novelty in making bamboo fly fishing rods is making what is known as the “double built” rods which are made of two layers of split and glued bamboo, one within the other.
They are heavier and strong, and it is claimed, hold their shape better than ordinary rods and are popular for sea and salmon fishing but unnecessary, I believe, in single hand bamboo fly fishing rods.
An English innovation is the steel center rod which consists of a fine piece of well-tempered steel running as a core through sections of regular split bamboo.
The makers claim this construction gives the rod a superior casting power with only an ounce of added weight. Friends who possess rods of this kind are enthusiastic admirers of this construction for heavy fishing.
An American maker supplies a rod of “twisted bamboo ” which he claims equalizes the strain and produces better action. I have never tried a rod of this type so I am unable to pass on its merits. But Perry Frazer, in his book “Amateur Rod making”, speaks well of it.
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