Bamboo Bonzai

Why Cane?

By Lon Blauvelt

December 7th, 1998

More and more, fly fisherman are choosing a bamboo rod to use on small streams when using lightweight fly lines and seven to nine foot light leaders. These fisherman are going after skitish trout on small streams, casting 30 to 40 feet, with 2 to 5 weight lines, with a delicate line presentation.

From 1900's to the 1950's the material of choice for most sport fishing rods was bamboo. Fiberglass took over in the middle 1950's, only to be displaced by graphite rods in the 1960's and later. When fiberglass rods took over the mass production market, the major producers of bamboo rods went out of production. A few builders continued to make and market a premuim line of high- priced and well-made bamboo rods to the small group of buyers that could afford them. Orvis, Winston, Leonard, Hardy, and a few other firms continued to market bamboo as a sideline. Small firms that had a following, and former employees of the large firms, went out on their own and started to produce bamboo rods for the trade. They took the best tapers of the pre 1950's, and improved on them, with better glues, guides and finishs.

In the 1970's, some builders decided to share the knowhow they had developed, and books by Barnes, Carmichael, Cattanach, among others, came on the market. This allowed careful craftsmen to learn how to work bamboo into fine rods and the availability of more good rods on the market brought the price down to where some were competative with the higher priced graphite rods. The Bamboo rod builders group developed a bimonthly newsletter called "The Planing Form" which exchanges ideas and methods from builders around the world. There are over 600 subscribers world wide.

The conclusions reach by the bamboo rod builders, in order to sell their product, the nitch that bamboo rods best appeal to the user, is in the light, short, and flexable rods made to handle 1 to 5 weight foreward lines.

The advantage of the bamboo rod is the flexibility that can be built into the taper, soft at the tip to protect the leader, semi-stiff in the middle two thirds to give good leverage during the power cast, and hinged above the handle to give maximum leverage in the rod as it bends back under the load of the back cast, yet adds force to the line as it springs foreward to lay out the light line in a tight loop with little extra effort by the caster.

The bamboo rod in the 6' to 8' lenghts, made for 1 to 5 weight lines, with the proper tapers, are great to use, and give the users years of service. The graphite rod is best in the heavier line weights, 6 and above, and for the big flys on long rods. The fiberglass rod seems to be making a come-back as a plug casting rod. ~ Lon Blauvelt

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