Bamboo Fly Rods History – The Condensed Version
How did bamboo fly rods become the go-to choice for trout fisherman? Who started making them? How long have they been around? If you’ve ever wondered about these things, the following is a brief primer on how they came to be and the evolution of bamboo rods from their beginnings to modern day custom built split cane bamboo fly rods.
The Early Days
Way back in the 1800′s, fly rods were made of all different kids of solid wood. Most were well over ten feet long. These two design decisions made these rods very hard to use because it meant you had to be really strong and have a high endurance level in order to fish with them. Since fishing was supposed to be both fun and accessible, builders started looking for alternative woods and construction methods. They needed to make rods that were lighter weight without loosing any strength. Eventually they discovered bamboo was durable and strong, yet light enough to build with. According to Wikipedia, ” it is believed that in 1846 Samuel Phillipe, a gunsmith from Pennsylvania, made the first six strips designed tip.” This six strip hexagon style construction method is still in use, although some builders do offer the option of four sided square rods.
Uncertain Times for the Bamboo Fly Rod
A trade embargo with China inn the 1950′s a made it impossible for rod builders to get the prized Tonkin bamboo that was used to build fly rods. As an alternative many companies turned to synthetic materials such as carbon fiber/graphite and fiberglass as an option. Between the trade embargo and the development of new alternative materials, split cane bamboo fly rod building almost died out.
The trade embargo with China ended in 1971, and by the early 1980′s there was renewed interest in cane rod building. A new generation of builders were reviving the bamboo rod, and making and selling rods built in the classic style using the same tapers used by the master builders.
The Future of Custom Bamboo Fly Rods
These days, modern builders have been able to not only offer exact replicas of classic rods down to the smallest details, but with their skills as well as new technologies are adding new innovations and features like scalloped parabolic rods, which will take the art and science of bamboo fly rods into the future and offer anglers a level of touch and accuracy previously unknown.
Want more information about custom fly rods? Visit our “Rods & Pricing” page to get a complete list of all available models, as well as custom rod options.
by P. Julius