How to build a bamboo fly rod, a practical guide


Bamboo fly rod making

"My Flyrod "is your Flyrod

This book and its tutorial videos are the translation of "My Fly Rod", the work of a French rod maker.

Essentially a technical tool, it is aimed at beginners as well as experienced builders, at anyone who prefer a practical guide to a demonstration or a show.

There is also a reflection on the present and the future of split bamboo rods.

All text and photos on this web site are short excerpts from the book.

At first there was the split bamboo fly rod, then glass fibre rods and then carbon fibre rods arrived, which changed everything. Carbon fibre brought together lightweight, ease of casting and relatively low cost. One can say that without carbon fibre rods, fly-fishing would not have become so democratised. This is a dominance that is without question, as there is nothing to oppose it.

Nothing, really? Well, not exactly, otherwise this book would not make sense. Anyway before speaking about this, let me relate an anecdote that clearly demonstrates that, when it comes to rods, we live amongst prejudices. It is authentic and evidently occurred on the riverbank.

- “ So you are fishing with a split bamboo rod? I had one a long time ago, a Pezon & Michel. It was a beautiful rod but is now completely superseded!”

- “Tell me my dear sir what is the make of your car?”

- “Uh, a Citroën; why?”

- “Because I had one, a long time ago, an “11”. It was beautiful but is now completely superseded!”

“But… my car is not 70 years old!”

Neither is my rod…”

This is the kind of stupid dialogue that the owner of a bamboo rod could be faced with, as if the bamboo rods designed fifty or sixty years ago were still up to date in the split cane rod community. As a matter of fact the great majority of bamboo rods you can see and test today are of antique design and what sticks in the mind, is that all the bamboo rods designs are obsolete. Actually this is not the case, but the improvements remain unobserved by the average fisherman as the few amateur bamboo rod makers who turned to becoming professional manufacturers were unfortunately unsuccessful, or were forced by the market to build rods having the action the uninitiated were accustomed to, or to go on reproducing the “carbon fibre” action, that is to say making very soft action rods.


The first to make a scientific approach to fly rod action was E.E. Garrison who, during the nineteen thirties, developed a mathematical method for calculating the tapers taking into account the bamboo density and the "bending moments" resulting from the bamboo, fly line and guides weights. However, his calculations methods contained errors. He applied stress curves that evolved from what he imagined about the type of rod action. The resulting action is soft and slow and watching the movie taken when Garrison was fishing with one of his rods is most convincing. Viewing the movie in slow motion shows the parasitic vibrations resulting from these too-soft rods.

Others makers continued to refine Garrison's calculations methods and produced rod design calculation software. However, most of the users and even many designers added external constraints in the calculation method which were assumptions based upon their idea of the desired action. The program achieved by Cayre and Bodeau leaves the choice of the "stress curve" to the maker who may or may not vary it.


Going back to the bamboo rod building process, it is sufficient to say that it is far less difficult than one would imagine. This would be confirmed by many of those who have made rods with the help of other makers, in the CFR or after the sixteen training courses I held. You need good bamboo (perhaps the most difficult to obtain), some simple tools such as file or plane and a finish planing form. The rest are not essential. The best way is to know a maker who will guide you during the initial stages (…)

A bit of advice to the beginners: do not wait until you have built all the tools and every machine you think you need before beginning your bamboo fly rod construction. It is not more important to imagine machine tools that will waste your time.

In short: go ahead! Acquire the essential tools and the bamboo and began to split it into the rough strips and then straighten them. You will note that it takes up a lot of time. After that you will need a rough planing form to make the rough strips triangularly shaped. Once this part of the process has been carried out almost two thirds of the time required to construct a rod will have been spent.















Bamboo fly rod building ©2010