How long does it take to build a bamboo fly rod?
It depends on how much of the rod and its components are built in-house, but there is no getting around the fact that bamboo rodmaking is a time-intensive craft. From start to finish, there are hundreds of steps that go into it, all of which need to be executed perfectly for the rod to be of superior quality. Many of these steps also require considerable downtime -- waiting for glue or varnish to dry for example -- so that's a factor as well. A common rule of thumb is that approximately 60 hours of labor go into a bamboo rod, though this can vary quite a bit from maker to maker.
I'd like to learn how to build bamboo rods -- do you offer classes?
Unfortunately no, though it's not because we wouldn't like to. In fact, we love it when people are interested in the craft and want to learn. The reason we don't is simply because it's time that we should probably be spending on building rods. For those who are interested, however, there are a number of knowledgeable makers who do quite a bit of teaching as well as a number of good books on the subject.
I see that you make three models - the Hunt Pattern, the Spring Creek, and the Spinoza - what are the main differences between them?
We've been making the Hunt Pattern and the Spring Creek for many years, and they are the two primary models that we produce. In many ways they are "mostly-custom" - while some things like the color of the bamboo (dark for the Hunt, blonde for the Spring Creek) are fixed, we are able to do custom work on almost all other aspects of those models (grip and ferrule design, reel seat hardware, etc.) to tailor them to an angler's specific needs and preferences.
Our Spinoza models are built in limited edition runs and so their design is fixed.
For more information, please visit the page devoted to each!
Do you have a waiting list? How long will it take for me to get my rod?
At this time we do have a substantial waiting list. In the past it has varied anywhere from 2-5 years, though we are working hard to try and bring it down to a more manageable size. The biggest determinant of delivery time is our bamboo cutting schedule, as we try to batch similar orders together to help speed up our process. This means that if you are interested in a model that we are cutting in the next few months, then the wait time can be relatively short. If your desired model is not on our short-term cutting horizon then it's likely to take a good bit longer.
We should also note that as a one-man shop that is truly committed to quality, we sometimes run over our projected delivery times (and ask for patience should this occur). Ultimately, of course, we believe that the most important thing is to ensure that the final product is well worth the wait.
What sort of guarantee do you have for your rods?
We stand behind the quality of our rods and will take responsibility for any defects in craftsmanship. Should you break your rod we can often repair it for a fee (depending on the nature and extent of the damage). After you have received your rod we also offer a week's grace period, in which you can return it for a full refund if it is not what you had hoped for.
How did you get involved in rod building?
It's a longer story, but the trimmed down version is here. Like many rodmakers I more-or-less stumbled into the craft. I broke an old fiberglass rod when I was in my early twenties and someone suggested that I go see a couple of guys who built rods near where I lived in western Massachusetts thinking they might be able to repair it. The "guys" were Tom Maxwell and Tom Dorsey, of Thomas & Thomas fame. I went in to see them about the repair job, and was so intrigued by what they were doing that I kept coming back. Eventually they offered me an apprenticeship at $6 an hour and I never looked back.
Do you have other people helping you? I've noticed this site says "we" a lot but it sounds like it's a one-man operation?
We're a family business, a sort of one-man-plus operation. I do the rodbuilding, Junior helps out with our website, consignments, and photography, and my wife is there for general support and also helps with packaging and shipping.
How many rods do you build a year?
It depends on the year, but usually no fewer than a dozen, and no more than 16 or 18.
Are most of the people who buy your rods collectors or fisherman?
Some of both. A bamboo fly rod is first-and-foremost a precision fishing tool, and I make models for a fairly wide variety of scenarios. And properly cared for, of course, there is no reason not to fish one every day of the season which many of our customers do. That said, many people are also admirers of the craft itself and so also collect bamboo rods for pleasure and investment.
Where do you fish? Do you spend a lot of time on the water?
We've fished a lot of places over the years, and have certainly developed a few favorites. We fish for pleasure, of course, but also because spending time on the water is incredibly useful in informing our rod designs and we often use trips to test out new prototypes or features. In general we do most of our trout fishing in the northeast, and are particularly fond of the Catskills and central Pennsylvania. We also do an annual salmon fishing trip to Canada which we wouldn't miss for the world. One of the great things about building rods is that many of our customers invite us to go fishing, and we've been fortunate to see some really great water.
Do you do repair-work?
Unfortunately at this time we are not in a position to accept repair work, or at least not on rods from other makers (except in very unusual circumstances). If you need some repairs to an Aroner rod then we can usually repair it for a modest fee depending upon the extent of the damage.
Do you take rods on consignment?
Yes, and you can find our guidelines for doing so here. Typically we do this on a somewhat limited basis given our busy rodbuilding schedule. If you are interested in this possibility please contact us.
Do you do rod appraisals?
Yes, but also in a limited volume and we charge a fee for doing so. If you are interested in having your rod appraised, please contact us. We are almost always able to give both an accurate description of the rod's condition as well as a an accurate assessment of its maker and origin.
I just found a bamboo fly rod while cleaning out my grandpa's attic. Am I now a millionaire?
It's pretty unlikely though some old rods are worth quite a bit of money. We are frequently contacted by those who stumble across such finds, but the majority of them are relatively low quality, having been built in the postwar years at high production numbers. Still, it can't hurt to have it appraised.
Why should I fish bamboo instead of graphite? What's better about it?
There are many reasons to fish bamboo, but the central one is that it is simply a marvelous material for making a fly rod. Bamboo fibers possess a tremendous combination of strength and flexibility - the same features that allow it to grow to great heights in the wild despite having a relatively narrow diameter - and these are ideal qualities for the mechanics of fly casting.
Of course there are other reasons as well. Some people like the tradition and craftsmanship (not something you find on mass-produced graphite rods) and others enjoy them for aesthetic reasons, since a well-built bamboo fly rod can be an extraordinarily beautiful thing. Lastly, there is also "feel": nothing, and we mean nothing, compares to fighting a fish on bamboo.
I'm hooked -- how can I learn more and keep better tabs on what you're up to?
The best thing to do is to tune into our blog, where we post all sorts of things, ranging from the latest announcement from the shop, to observations about bamboo rod building and tips of the trade, to dispatches from our latest R&D trips. We also send out periodic emails with news and updates from the shop as well as information about the latest rods, reels, and books we have on consignment, so if you are interested in that make sure to sign up for our email list.