Bamboo Bonzai

The Split Cane Fly Rod
(Excert from Part III: Research and Technique)
A Fly Fisher's Life (1959)
By Charles Ritz
Our sincere thanks to Crown Publishing Company

August 10th, 1998

Publishers note: Since this publisher is older than dirt, it occured to me that some may never have seen many of the older books. From time to time, we hope to excerpt interesting segments from our personal library to enlighten, entertain and perhaps amaze our rod building friends. Some things are older than you might think. Most of these books are long out of print, and if we spark an interest in you, check out the used book stores, or one of the mail-order book sellers. We previously ran a series on bamboo from Ring of the Rise, (check the archives) which I understand is now available in reprint. Your suggestions and comments are always welcome.~DB

The Split Cane Fly Rod, Part Two
(Excerpt from Part III: Research and Technique)
"How to select a cane rod without allowing yourself to be unduly influenced."

"Before describing my methods of examining rods, here are a few considerations I believe to be of importance.

Let us first rid ourselves of a widespread idea, which I have often had occassion to point out as false or, at least, much exaggerated: the reel does not balance the rod; though in the past when rods were ten feet or more, very long and heavy, a reel as a counterweight did produce the illusion of balancing the rod in the hand; but it is the line which plays the principal role owing to its weight and the shape of its taper. It is, indeed, on the line that the rod depends above all for giving its maximum, and yet retaining its balance. The ideal would be to be able to fish with the reel in your pocket.

Examining a rod in the shop enables you to determine its quality, its approximate power and its type of action; but actual casting on the water will alone show you whether it suits your particular physical and nervous make-up; in a word, whether it will tire you or not. For, indeed after a long day's fishing, you do not want to feel, at the evening rise, that you are fishing with a broom handle. If you still have full control of it, if your wrists can manipulate it as easily as at the beginning of the day, you have a rod that suits you physically and temperamentally. This is the first and most important point. I must excuse myself for talking of Parabolic rods most of the time. I must make it clear that I am not doing so for the purpose of advertising these rods, but merely as a convenient reference and in order to determine exactly the type of action. There are many first- class rods by other makers which will give you full satisfaction.

The best advice I can give a beginner is to choose a cane rod of one of the following types: Parabolic 8 1/2 ft. normal, Ritz Parabolic 8 ft.2in., or Ritz Super-Parabolic P.P.P., Master 8 ft.2in. or Powerplus P.P.P., according to the amount of money you have to spend. I only give these rods as examples; any other make providing a similar action will be just as suitable.

The Shape of the Handle

Still talking generalities, I must point out that, in a fly rod, even the shape of the handle is sometimes enough to tire the fisherman and give him cramp. Long, cylindrical handles with the minimum of curve and of a comparatively small diameter reduce fatigue, the risk of cramp and the likelyhood of acquiring blisters to the minimum, unless you have a large hand when the cork handle should be thicker.

I prefer extra light reel fittings (flange and ring), weight being the enemy of precision.

I consider that a rod should have eleven to thirteen rings according to its length. The ring at the point should be very light, as should the bottom one. They should be in hard chromium- plated metal. The agate ring belongs to ancient history. The intermediate rings I prefer are those in snake form, of fine tempered steel, either bronzed for chromiumed.

The ferrules, in rods of quality, need particular attention. Only nickle-silver, bronzed or chromiumed outside, can be considered. The portion of bamboo which enters the ferrules must not fit too tightly as this may result in the breaking of the rod tip at the joint. The male ferrule should be very slightly conical, in order to take up the wear and tear which is inevitable in the long run. The first condition of a good rod must fulfil is that the bamboo should be guaranteed by its place of origin. The best is called Tonkin cane, such as Palokona, from Hardy, or Pingona. Tonkin cane contains about 20 per cent water. Seasoning, essential before manufacture, and tempering, should reduce the water content to 5 or 7 per cent. It is, of course, almost impossible to eliminate the water altogether without danger of carbonisation.

Correct tempering lies between the minimum condition in which the bamboo is under-tempered and the maximum entailing carbonisation of the fibers. There is, therefore, a golden mean that produces a cane at once lithe, light and infrangible. The achieving of this precise condition is a great secret that, naturally, I have no right to reveal!

While talking of wood, I must point out that some bamboos are camouflaged with brown dye, the object being to give them an appearance of having been tempered. It is not always very easy to detect this abuse. Nevertheless, bamboo often displays a difference in colour though subjected to the same tempering process. That is to say, it may turn more or less dark though retaining similar qualities. If, therefore, you find slight differences in colour on the various sections of bamboo on the different facets of the same rod, you should not necessarily conclude that this is a defect. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that it may well be the opposite, for it is obvious that camouflage will be applied to every facet equally to obtain a more generally attractive appearance.

The nodes should be at different levels in each section of the rod, that is to say that they should not be opposite each other. The most that is acceptable is that three strips out of the conventional six strips have their nodes at the same level, but only on conditions that the strips are on opposite sides of the rod.

The essential part of the rod, as I have already said, is the top joint. If there are two, they must be identical, so that they are interchangeable without altering the rod's action." ~Charles Ritz

Next time, When should you choose a rod? and more. . .

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