10: Summary

The rods are complete, I have been fishing them, and all is good. Watch the Saturday Fly Tying announcements. One day soon I will bring the three in for show-and-tell after the demo. For now I want to review what is important and what I have learned in this process. This I know from experience, you will learn more doing it and writing about it than just doing it.

Starting at the butt end, if you build a rod like the 8 wt with a large gap inside the reel seat, make or buy bushings to fill it. Find reel seats that are sealed on the front so that epoxy can’t get under the front ring that holds the reel. Before applying glue, make sure you have an assemble process to assure that the reel hangs below the spline and the best side of the cork is up. Start gluing with Acetone on the bench by your side along with cloth and Q tips. Some builders do the grip/seat step first and others last. It doesn’t matter unless there are guides on the butt section, but you do have to mount the grip before wrapping the butt section.

Mark the spline along with the guide locations, prep the guides, and arranged in order for assembly. Tape the guides in place very close to the proper alignment, I wrap from the large end to the small of each section. Guides can be adjusted under the wraps if little thread tension wass used. More about that below the first picture. Using a color preserver on the wraps is an advantage. Place a drop on the end of a needle, and then on each tag where it comes through the wrap. Once dry, they are locked in place and can be trimmed flush. During this process I find it hard to maintain a consistent length of wrap over all the guides. Do your best.

I mentioned placing a Kevlar thread wrap under the visible wrap on the female ferrules of the 8 wt. I didn’t. It’s not easy to wrap over a previous wrap, and I will just be more careful about the ferrules loosening when hauling big line.

When it comes to finish, I like Lite Flex Coat because it works well using several thin coats of finish, which is my preference. It allows me to saturate the thread and further trim tag between coats. If bubbles appear, have an alcohol flame or heat gun handy to easily remove them.


Three things are important when wrapping a rod. The width of wraps, trim bands, and inlays should be consistent. There should be no gaps between individual wraps of thread, and there should be no overlapping thread wraps. These all depend on good light and good thread control. I found midway through the second rod that using a bobbin to hold and control thread worked well for me. It was particularly good on the small front section where tension will bend the rod. I use both bobbin weight and hand control to apply tension. Note, I also use my hackle pliers for grip and weight on the tag when needed. Those fly tying tool can be re-purposed.

Sometimes this all seems complicated, and in addition to the three aesthetic needs above, the thread ends must be locked under the wrap so that they don’t loosen before finish is applied. I learned that as a guide foot is wrapped, a gap between thread and the rod will form on each side. The loop that is normally placed under the last eight or so wraps so that the tag can be pulled back under the threads is best placed in this gap on the far side of the guide. It can then be easily pulled through, and the tag end pulled tight and under the threads away from you. Find a method to lock the thread ends that works for you. Use dividers to measure widths, and get started. Before you know it, you will have built a fly rod.


This finishes the initial rod building blog, but there are still two subject that I want to cover in a followup. Decorative wraps with Trim Bands and Inlays add a personal touch to a rod. These are not hard to do, and I will cover (touch upon is a better description) these in a blog post. Also, the skills learned to build a rod can be applied to repairing a rod. I will discuss how a bamboo rod with a loose ferrule and missing guide was repaired. These two repairs turned a $80 rod acquired in an antique store into a perfectly good fishable bamboo fly rod. It doesn’t get us the expensive and very good bamboo rod that can be purchased new, but it gets us the rod that our fathers or grandfathers fished.

Read previous post: Completed Rods

9: Completed Rods

  All three are complete and taken for a wet-run. The Rainbow is the first fish on the 6 wt, and the Brown the first on the 4 wt. I went out one afternoon for Carp with the 8 wt and had some opportunities, but no takes.1st-fish-4wt

Each rod casts its standard weight-forward line well, though I will try a half weight heavy line on the 4 wt when I get the chance, might also give a double-taper a try. The feel of a rod’s cast in your hand is an individual thing. A slow rod will feel faster when underlined, and a fast rod will feel slower if overlined. The 4 wt is intended for Front Range stream fishing, so a double-taper line may improve its accuracy and roll casts in the short game. Ah, the choices we have to make.

The group photo shows a collection of wraps from the three rods. They are all done in the same colors and styles.Done-Wrap_640

In the past I have inked my name on rods that I have built, but this time I had them laser engraved by Laser Imaging in Loveland. The result on the metal 8 wt seat is particularly pleasing. Elkhorn can have this done for any rod you build or own. It looks pretty cool.Done-Seats_640

The next post will summarize things that I have learned along with a few recommendations. I feel good about learning as I go. It makes the effort worthwhile. Not only have I learned from the process, but your comments and questions have added greatly. There was a request to write how-to instructions for a wrap with a highlight color. I have been thinking about doing this with just enough words and no more – it’s coming.


Read previous post: Reel Seat – Extra

8: Reel Seat – Extra

8: Reel Seat – Extra

Let’s take a quick look at a problem that arose when I began to assemble the cork and reel seat on the 8 wt rod. The seat is all metal without a visible wood insert. Its inside diameter is five-eights of an inch and the rod diameter is slightly less than three-eights. This is too large of a gap to fill with tape and epoxy. What to do?

My first thought was to cut a piece of wood the length of the seat and drill a 3/8 hole through its length. A piece of 3/8 all-thread through the hole would be chucked in the lathe, and the outside turned down to 5/8 diameter. Glue this into the real seat and the problem is solved. But, this is not a workable solution if you don’t have a lathe. We all have an Ace hardware, so I decided to solve this problem with a trip to the local hardware store.

I found a 5/8 OD, ½ inch ID nylon bushing along with a ½ inch OD, 3/8 ID bushing. Gluing these together produced the needed diameter deduction.

Two half inch surfaces holding the rod in the seat doesn’t present a strength concern with the seat being a solid metal tube. Nor am I concerned about enough glue surface to hold it in place. There isn’t much twisting force against the seat during normal use.P1070062

The photo shows how all the parts are aligned when assembled. Note that the rod blank doesn’t extend to the end of the seat. It butts up against the end cap plug. This plug is threaded to accept the screw in cork butt. The alignment pictured isn’t exact, the bushing needs to be forward so that both the blank rear-end and the cap front-end are inside the bushing. This complicates placement of parts during final glued assembly, but all things are possible.

My good friend says, “I do it the way I think I should the first time, and the way I should have the second time.” If there is a second time, I will get three bushings, two for the blank and one for the cap, and the alignment challenge goes away. This unplanned post arises from having to overcome an unplanned problem – always the source of anxiety your “first time”.


Read previous post 7: Finish

6: Grip and Reel Seat

I’m back from Southwestern Colorado, which included my first day fishing the San Juan in New Mexico. The fish count in the Juan is beyond belief, and I landed over thirty of those Rainbows. Now, back to rod building.

The grip is not the business end of the rod, but function is critical and aesthetics valuable. Select a grip style that matches the rod size you are building and feels good in your hand. Look at the grips on rods in your fly shop, but remember that they conform to the norm. I chose a half well grip for the 4 wt., and full well grips for the 6 and 8 wt. You can build your own using ½ inch thick cork sections, then sand it to fit your needs. Color and character can be added by mixing types of cork. The process requires gluing, clamping, and shaping the grip. If interested, contact me for help.GripSeats640

Like building a sub-sandwich, there are still more choices – reel seats. “The bigger the rod, the beefier the reel seat,” is a starting point. This is a matter of both looks and function. I have chosen all up-locking seats for these rods. The reel is locked in place with a threaded knob on the butt end. Down-locking seats are common on bamboo and vintage rods. The seat for the 8 wt rod has a fighting butt that is screwed into the reel seat. This is a great comfort when landing a sizable fish and allows cranking the reel with the rod anchored against your waist.

The cork grip, build or bought, will have a ¼ inch hole that must be enlarged to fit over the rod blank. The tool pictured with the blue handle is made for this. I start here. I have also accumulated a set of round tapered metal files that can be mounted in a drill. Set the drill to rotate counter clockwise. This is very important, otherwise the file will screw into the grip. As you expand the hole, turn the grip a quarter turn in your hand often so that the hole doesn’t become oval shaped. WheCorkFit640n finished, it should be a snug, but not tight fit. Themoda butt end of the grip will need to accomte the reel seat. This is easily shaped with a Dremel Tool. As I purchased the grips and seats from the same supplier, this had been done for me.

Locating the grip on the blank starts by placing the reel seat on the blank, then sliding the grip into position. The blank should extend to the end of the seat with the end cap in place. Use masking tape to mark the upper location of the grip. Next, wrap a layer of tape around the blank at both ends of the seat. This will cause the seat to be tight and centered. Now, choose the upside of the bank and mark a line on the tape. Place a very small corresponding mark on the grip, depending on what side of the grip you want facing up. The reel seat must be mounted so that the reel hangs down. Place alignment marks on the seat, cork, and tape. Finally, rough up the blank with a file or sand paper where glue will be applied.

I use waterproof marine epoxy to hold it together. This is the gutsy part. Mistakes are fatal. Spread glue over the blank where the grip sits, slide the grip in place and rotate to evenly distribute glue. Clean the reel seat hole if as necessary. Spread glue inside the cork where the seat fits. Now, cover the two bands of tape that center the seat, and fill the gap between these with glue. Slide the reel seat into position, turning to distribute glue, and fit the end cap. Run a length of tape down the side of the grip, over the end of the seat, and up the other side of the grip. This holds the grip in place while the glue sets overnight.

WARNING: don’t let glue dry in threads or where the reel fits into the seat. Acetone, Q-tips, and tooth picks are your friends when it comes to cleanup.

 Grip640In the next post, I will discuss final wrapping and finish. Fishing with the rod is in sight.

Previous: Guide Spacing