This bamboo species originally grew on only approximately 190 km² (48,000 acres) up the Sui River in the Tonkin region of Guangdong Province in China. It is said to be one of the strongest bamboo species because of its high density of fibers. This high density is what the bamboo fly rod maker is after because this gives the rod its strength and flexibility. This, however, is not the only reason that bamboo rod builders use this species. It also is selected because of its straightness, and well-spaced nodes.
In order to make this type of fishing rod, the bamboo culms are split and then split again into smaller and smaller strips, which are then planed and glued together to form a blank. This process, together with the wrapping of the guides with very fine silk thread, varnishing and making of the cork grip and wooden reel seat, can easily take up to more than 100 hours. It is for this reason that some of the contemporary artisans charge more than $2,500 for their rods today. Collectors of bamboo rods are known to pay more than $15,000 for mint condition antiques.
As bamboo popularity increased, the H.L. Leonard rod company started making machinery to produce cane/ bamboo fly rods. The first fly fishing rods were made from ash and lancewood, but H.L. Leonard started to make complete bamboo rods exclusively in 1874.
Square or Quadrate rods were the first rods Leonard made because his belief was that these performed much better but he eventually started making 6 strip or hexagonal rods because of commercial reasons. At that time good quality cane was hard to find. What was available was often full of scorch marks and insect damage. For this reason it was easier to acquire six strips of good quality cane than 4 wider strips for the Quadrate rod. The hexagonal version was easier to produce and soon became the standard. Bill Edwards, Sam Carlson and Ebenezer Green produced Quadrate rods and others even made bamboo rods which had pentagonal and octagonal cross-sections.
Bamboo soon became the preferred material for all fishing rods with Tonkin cane being prized above other species. This continued to 1950 when a trade embargo was imposed on Chinese goods. Due to the resultant shortage of quality bamboo and the concurrent development of synthetic fibers the fabrication of bamboo rods nearly stopped. By the time the embargo ended in the early seventies only a handful of craftsmen were still making bamboo rods. The main reason for bamboo rods regaining their popularity was a result of Everett Garrison together with Hoagy Carmichael publishing bamboo rod building ‘secrets’ in their book A Masters guide to building a bamboo fly rod.
Bottom line: Every fly anglers committed to the sport desires to own at least one quality bamboo fly rod in his or her rod collection, and to find time to use the prized asset at least once each fishing season. Purists will even mount an antique reel on a cane rod and use braided silk lines with dressing, like many decades in the past. It connects us all to flyfishing as it was once done; hopefully for decades to come as these 'ultimate flyfishing tools' are preserved and passed on to new generations of sportsmen. Best quality bamboo fly rods can be found among the following 20th century classic makers: Garrison, Jim Payne, E. F. Payne (the father), H. L. Leonard, E. C. Powell, Hardy Bros., Heddon, Thomas & Thomas, Orvis (Wes Jordan and Battenkill models), F. E. Thomas, Edwards, Goodwin-Granger, Phillipson, Winston, and Paul Young; for the lesser, but more affordable, quality classic rod look to makers Varney and Montague, and, yes, Wright & McGill, South Bend and J.C. Higgins also made useful, though not truly collectible quality, bamboo rods in their day. Long live the best quality Tonkin cane bamboo fly rods. Excellent books on the subject of bamboo rods and makers are A. J. Campbell's Classic and Antique Flyfishing Tackle and Ernest Schwiebert's indispensable multiple volume treatise Trout. If you like, start your search for yours today (check listings at ebay.com and www.codella.com).
Fly-fishing and a craft that endures; The history of the bamboo fly rod appeals to a wide audience, not just armchair anglers.(FEATURES)(BOOKS)(Book review)
Sep 19, 2006; Byline: Leigh Montgomery Fly-fishing on a remote stream, observing insect hatches, reading the water, knotting a fly to tippet,...
It runs through the river; Fly-fishing.(Casting a Spell: The Bamboo Fly Rod and the American Pursuit of Perfect)(Book review)
Aug 12, 2006; The line of beauty . THIS is the story, as the author admits, of the worm in the bud: the age-old battle between perfectionism...