11: Decorative Wraps

Wrapping a rod is a learning experience each time unless you do it more often than I do. I hope this blog will serve as a process reminder for all of us. In this post I will discuss decorative wraps, often called Trim Bands and Inlays, and at the end provide references to good online descriptions.Wrap Loops 640

I will wrap from left to right, producing the completed band seen in the last picture. The main thread is red. There will be yellow and black trim bands, and a metallic gold inlay. These are colors that I have on hand, and all together they look pretty good. Start by taping the two trim colors to the blank with four or five inches working area between the tape and a couple inches of thread past each tape end. Tape down two loops, one for each band. Start the main thread with four to six tight wraps to assure it stays in place.

I plan on two wraps of black and four wraps of yellow. Remove the tape over the loops and release the black thread from its tape. Wind two wraps of black thread by hand. I wrap away from myself here. Run the end of the black through a loop while holding it in position with a spare finger. Then pull the loop to the right, pulling the black thread under the main thread. Repeat this for four wraps of yellow using the second loop.Wrap Inlay 640

At this point the tag ends can be trimmed and covered with wraps of the main thread, but I like to continue the red thread leaving the tag protruding. This allows me to pull the tag ends tight if needed. If using a color preserver, I place a drop at the base of the tags to lock them in place.wrap Rt end 640

Continue turns of red until eights wraps from the left end of the inlay remain. Place the inlay color, gold, under the red, and wrap eight more turns over the gold. Now, make three turns of gold by hand. I wrap these toward me so that they don’t tend to unwrap the red. Be sure to wrap these turns over the red thread. Lock down the inlay by wrapping a few turns of red over the gold. Assure that the gold wraps are tight, and pack the red wraps to the left. Trim the gold thread leaving an eighth inch. Turns of red will cover this end. When the red has reach eight turns from its end, place two loops under the thread, and finish the eight turns. As before, do the two black turns over the red, and use a loop to pull the end under. Finish with the four yellow wraps, but this time place both the
red and yellow through the loop and pull them under. Dab the tags with color preserver and walk away. Upon return, trim all the tags and you are done.

You have heard the saying about skinning cats, and while cleaning fish I have seen the belly slit from throat to anus, and the other direction. Wrapping is the same way. I have shown one technique here. You can find others among builders and in the literature. You should look at Scott Youschak’s “Guide Wraps and Trim Bands” part 1 and part 2 on the internet. Search his name with “Trim Bands”.Wrap Comp 640Wrap w Tags 640

We have blogged through building three rods and decorative wrapping. Now I hope you someday experience the difference between, “The rod that Grand Pa made for me.” and “The rod that Grand Pa bought for me.” The next post discussing rod repair will be the last in this series. With that, I hope you will stop and say hello if you see me out fishing. I will likely be using one of these three rods.

Read previous Post: Summary

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

5: Ferrules

5: Ferrules

I’ll mention a couple of points about wrapping ferrules and the tip-top. When wrapping the tip-top, start at the tip-top and wrap away from it. This allow you to pack the wraps tight against it, and it’s easy to finish the wrap at the desired length.

Ferrule wraps start away from the female end of the blank and wrap toward the end. This allows you to get as close to the end as desired. I leave about a 1/16 inch unwrapped. Remember, we will be putting finish on these wraps and can’t allow finish into the ferrule. Also, starting away from the blank end allows you to pack the wrap against a guide wrap as you see on the upper two rod sections. Note, no wrap is necessary on the male ferrule, but if you do wrap it, leave at least a ¼ inch gap between the wrap and the female ferrule when the two sections are assFerrule Wrapsembled. This allows the female ferrule to be pushed further onto the male as wear occurs.

About those wraps. Trim thread close, but don’t worry about very short tag ends. A quick flame will burn most off. If any remains, it will cause a bump in the first coat of finish. This can be trimmed off and the next coat will cover the trim mark. See the loose thread on the top rod section. My wrap is coming loose, and I wanted you to see that that doesn’t just happen to you. I will have to re-wrap that half of the guide. By the way, the red bands are red tape that identify these sections as part of the same rod.

Ferrules can be identified as Tip Over Butt, Butt Over Tip, and Spigot. Spigot ferrules are rarely seen. The one pictured here is part of the 5 wt fiberglass rod I built a few years ago. It is solid, sleek, and won’t loosen like machined ferrules will. Read about it here; http://airstreamflyfish.com/fly-fishing/fly-rod/3-spigot-ferrules/.Ferrules

The Butt Over Tip is the most traditional, and is on every bamboo rod I have seen, and almost all fiberglass. I don’t believe I have seen one on a graphite rod. It means that the butt section is female and fits over the tip-ward male section. They work best where the rod is a continuous tapper from butt end toward tip. Fiberglass blanks were manufactured in this manner as one full length piece, and then cut where the ferrule would be placed.

Today all graphite rods are built with Tip Over Butt ferrules. The quality and consistency of manufacturing makes this possible. It is also why you can bring your broken section into Elkhorn and leave with a new section. The part are interchangeable. The B ferrule in the photo is in interesting transition. It is a very early Shakespeare graphite 10 wt with a larger part installed over the tip-ward section to form a female ferrule. This suggests that the blank was built in one piece and then cut. They must not have wanted to use a machined ferrule, so they created what you see here. I cast this rod last week, and it works fine.

The next post will be about assembling the handle and reel seat. Then we move on to finishing the wraps, followed by fishing the rod.

Read previous post: Guide Wrapping