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

September 7th, 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. Armchair Angler in Hillburn, NY is one we particularly like. 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 Four
(Excerpt from Part III: Research and Technique)
"Malformation, Weakness"

"Since bamboo is a plant, the best processes of manufacture cannot change its basic texture. Very careful selection can eliminate wood which has not the appearance of guaranteeing the good quality of fibre necessary for the manufacture of split bamboo. But this quality can only finally be confirmed when, the rod having being completed after being tested for curve, the fisherman tries it out on the water.

A length of split bamboo is comparable to the leaf of a steel spring as far as elasticity and the breaking limit are concerned. To be constantly demanded from a rod the maximum it can give quickly brings on fatique which is transformed into permanent and more or less serious malformations. The same thing happens to a rod after long service. In spite of all the care lavished on it, it will show signs of weakness in curvature. There is a decadence in the stamina of the wood, precisely as there is in that of the steel of a spring.

The malformation of a rod tip is but rarely due to a failure of the glue. The glues used today have the effect of soldering the six strips together. In general, a failure of this kind is due to a slipping of the fibres which partially detatch themselves from the material sealing them together. A super-quality rod will become malformed if it is kept continuously bent for several hours, even if the curve is not more than half its maximum flexion. After several hours in a normal position, it will ultimately straighten out again and will not revert to its malformation while fishing. The fibres will have returned to their normal position.

In certain hands, rods will live longer than their owner, while other people will spoil them quickly whatever the quality of the rod may be. This is due to a twist of the wrist while casting or to defective holding of the rod when endeavouring to bring fish to the net. Too many rod tips are killed in this way.

Any failure of the glue is generally owing to shock and torsion either due to the style of casting (the thumb along the side of the handle instead of on top of it), or by taking the rod apart by twisting (this applies to rods not taken apart at night). I always disjoint my rods after every day's fishing. A slight rod deformation towards the butt of the rod is normal because the maximum casting power is applied in the last forward cast." ~Charles Ritz

Next time,"How I began working with split bamboo."


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