Getting Started In Bamboo

Thinking about making your own bamboo fly rod? Consider how you’d like to approach rodmaking. Are you the kind of person who will buy the books, watch the DVDs, and lurk the websites for information, then proceed on your own? Unlike the early days of the craft, even the first hundred years, some good resources are readily available. There’s a lot to be said for independence, but you should also be the type of person who considers the journey a key part of the experience. This approach could add considerably to the 60 hours or so it takes to complete a cane rod.

Would you rather have an occasional tutor/mentor? That’s what I did. Check around. If there isn’t one right in your household, you may have a rod maker in your backyard, or, at least, within driving distance. Keep in mind that you should do a little homework first; save the next-level questions for the busy craftsperson, who probably has a list of rods awaiting creation. Most rod makers I know will take the time to answer your questions, especially if they can work and talk at the same time; thank them for whatever time they can offer. Their List (of waiting rods) is both a pleasure and a curse.

Maybe you’d want to consider a full-fledged class; tools and tutorage come with the package, a cost-savings as you first venture out. If taking a class is your best option, time and distance are also considerations. When are you free? How far can you travel? Some rod makers offer instruction on weekends, some arrange times individually, and others offer week-long immersion classes which might result in a fishable rod but more likely in a ferruled blank, which you would then finish on your own (if you’ve finished graphite blanks, you may have a leg up). Classes come in all shapes and sizes. David Van Burgel (my husband), Art Port (a thirty year maker), and I team-teach at the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum, a multiple student class featuring a 1:3 rod maker to student ratio, but drawing on the combined knowledge of everyone involved. Here’s a peek at that approach, just one of many:

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