In the back corner of a display area at an antique store in Ouray I noticed a collection of fishing rods. As usual these were mostly bait and spinning rods, but there were a couple of bamboos. One was a Japaneses rod of no value, and the other a Shakespeare three piece. Its reel seat, cork, and finish looked surprisingly good. Assembled, it was straight, and had a decent action. This was a nice fishable bamboo fly rod with a $100 price. It was missing one guide, and when taken apart one female ferrule pulled loose. I offered $80 and went home with a project.
This scenario can put a bamboo rod in your quiver for less than a $100 when a new rod can cost $500 to $5000. It is the same rod your dad or granddad fished, and can give you a new experience on the stream – after you get it repaired. So let’s apply our rod building skills to repairing it.
Loose ferrules on old rods are almost assured. The builders were using hide glue that loses its grip over the decades. In that case the fix is easy. You can see that the wraps have a gold trim band. As I removed the original red thread, I took care to leave the gold in place. This meant I didn’t have to find both red and gold silk thread. Note, bamboo rods were and are almost always wrapped with silk thread. It can be found today in shops and catalogs.
First remove enough old glue from the bamboo to allow the ferrule to slide in place with ease, but take care. Removing too much “wood” or causing it to be out of round can result in the ferrule not being aligned with the axis of the rod. In other words, a permanent bend in the rod.
Next apply epoxy and slide the ferrule into place. Turn it as you go to spread the glue. Wipe off the excess, and let dry. When wrapping the ferrule, I started the wrap against the gold band and packed them tight. The rest of the wrap was completed as usual.
The biggest challenge in old rod repair can be finding replacement components. Shops and people who do rod repair can help, and my friend, Jim Tilmant, was able to find a guide that matched both the color and size of the missing one.
In wrapping the guide, I again started against the gold band and completed the guide wrap as was done many times building the three previously discussed graphite rods. Color preserver was applied to the thread tag ends, which were trimmed after drying.
Finish on bamboo rods has always been varnish, often spar varnish. In this case I used General Finishes Arm-R-Seal, an oil and urethane product. I have used this on both bamboo and fiberglass rods with good results. The new wraps were saturated with color preserver. And then three coats of varnish was applied. Older rods tend to have crazing in the finish around the guides. This has the appearance of cracks. A couple of coats of new varnish over the old will make all, but the worst crazing, disappear.
When all is said and done, we have a inexpensive bamboo rod ready to fish. The same skills could have been applied to fiberglass or graphite. In many cases broken rods can be fixed, and bamboo rods that are not straight can be straightened. If you have a rod needing repair beyond what you are comfortable doing, bring it into the shop. There are people who can replace a guide, or completely refurbish a valuable rod.
This ends the series on rod building. I will soon be writing on other subjects, so stay tuned.