Thursday, September 30, 2010

Rod Building 101 – Part 2

This is part 2 of the Rod building Tutorial by Michael Newby and Shaun Futter. Part one can be found here.

How to build the Rod – Step by step guide

You have chosen your blank (Make, colour, weight, length, sections), your reelseat, grip, guides, tiptop, winding check and hook keeper, thread colours, and obtained all the tools required for the build. Now let’s put your new baby together.


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Test fit the reel seat components as shown above, to ensure everything fits together properly. Also test fit the grip to the reel seat hood, to ensure the pre-cut hole in the grip is the correct size to the reel seat hood’s  outside diameter.


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Find the “Spine” (or “Spline”) of your blank sections, as shown above. Put a section of masking tape around the blank. Roll the section of blank on a flat surface with your right hand’s fingers, and support the blank’s thinner section with your left thumb. You will feel a distinct “jump” every half turn. One of these jumps will be more pronounced than the other. This is the spine. Mark it on the inside curve of the blank. Our guides will go on this line (Opposite the spine). This will mean the rod will play fish easier and protect the tippet better, and give you power in the back-cast. If you place the guides on the spine, you will create a rod that has more power in the forward cast. Neither way is more correct. The most important aspect of the guide placing is that they must be in a straight line and spaced correctly. Even if you skip this step, do not worry too much…your rod will still perform as it should. There has been much debate about the “spine” of the rod, some companies do not even spine their rods anymore. For all intent purposes, we will spine this rod…the traditional way. (Even if it is more mind over matter, and will give you more confidence in fishing the rod).

Find the spine on each section of the blank. It will be more difficult with the thicker sections. Just do your best there and move along.

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Insert the tip-top onto your top blank section, to ensure proper fit. It should slide over easy, but not be too loose. Slide it all the way on, and put a piece of masking tape on the blank to indicate the depth. Scratch the inside of the tip-top with a bodkin or needle, and lightly sand the tip of the blank. Just slightly, you only need to remove the shine.

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Measure the distance that the reel seat and grip will occupy on the blank butt-section, and put a piece of  masking tape on the farthest point. Then lightly sand the blank. Again, you only want to lightly scour the blank and remove the shine. This ensures proper cohesion between the reel seat, grip and blank by the epoxy glue. Do not sand further than the cork grip’s end! If you are unsure, leave 1cm in front un-sanded, that the grip will go over.


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Lightly sand the area on the reel-seat where the threaded hood will go. Then put the reel seat hood on the insert as above in the second picture, and mark the position with masking tape. Lightly sand the insert in front of the masking tape as well, where the hood will go. (Third Picture).


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Again put the reel seat hood on the insert, and mark the area where the reel foot will go. This area will not receive any glue. Then scratch the inside of your reel seat threaded hood.


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Mix up a batch of epoxy (don’t try to skimp…rather mix too much than too little, to ensure proper mixture of the resin and hardener components of the epoxy) as per the manufacturer’s instructions. I like using slow cure epoxy, as it gives you more time to line the parts up and to clean excess glue off.

Put a thin layer of epoxy on the area’s that the metal parts will occupy on the wooden insert, on the inside of the threaded hood, and the inside of the reel-foot hood (remember NOT to put glue on the inside of the part you marked on the reel seat hood, where the reel’s foot will go. Also put a thin layer of the epoxy on the blank’s tip section, and put epoxy in the tip-top with a needle as much as you can.

Assemble the parts and clean up the excess glue that will ooze out with 70% alcohol. MAKE SURE all the excess glue is cleaned up! Line up the parts properly and let it stand overnight to cure properly, where they will not be bumped or disturbed. Make sure the tip-top is aligned with the spine we marked on the blank. (See the last picture above)

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The blank’s O.D. is (normally) a lot less than the reel seat insert’s I.D., which means we have to create “bushes” around the blank’s butt section to center the blank properly in the insert. This we do with masking tape. As shown above, build up two “bushes” of tape around the blank, more than the reel seat insert’s inner diameter. (It’s easier to remove a little tape at a time, than trying to add it).Then try to fit the blank into the reel seat. Remove a little tape at a time, until the “bush” and the blank slides snugly into the reel seat insert. Do the same with both bushes, until the blank can slide in all the way.


Next time we will finish the epoxy work and start wrapping the guides.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Rod Building 101 – Part 1

As promised this is part one of a excellent rod building tutorial by Mike Newby and Shaun Futter. You can see more of Mike’s builds on his site Advanced Fly Rods.

Rod Building 101 – By Shaun Futter and Michael Newby


One of the things that has always really fascinated me about the gentle art of fly fishing are the many facets of the sport one discovers and can take part in.

For many years the extent of my interest in fly fishing was merely geared towards the fishing itself. Shop bought flies were the weapon of choice until I eventually became frustrated trying to find the flies I wanted, and so decided to start tying my own, and probably like many of you out there reading this, have never looked back.

Recently, I stumbled into yet another of what I would term fly fishing related hobbies - Rod Building.

Rod building, although incredibly popular in the United States and other countries abroad, doesn’t seem to have taken off in a big way in South Africa. Apart from what seems to be a handful of professional rod builders whom one reads about from time to time in the local magazines, it would seem that there aren’t too many amateurs who have caught onto this fantastic hobby and given it a try themselves.

Why Build a rod?

Up until around 8 months ago, I had never even considered building my own fly rod, thinking that the process must be a delicate and difficult operation, not to be messed with by someone with 2 left thumbs  like me. I also surmised that it probably required a proper dedicated workshop area, equipped with specialist tools too. Not having access to the above, I never really gave it much further thought.
That was until I read about some guys building their own custom fly rods on a local fly fishing website. Several novices were attempting their first builds, and I was amazed by the fantastic results they achieved on their first attempts, and using only some rather rudimentary equipment. As one by one, my misconceptions were rebutted by the more experienced guys on the website, who were all too happy to offer advice and assistance to the novices, the idea of trying to build a rod myself began to sound quite within reach and quite appealing. I found myself becoming quite inspired by the idea of catching fish using a rod I had built myself on a fly I had tied myself too.

For the novice or occasional amateur builder, who is happy to use factory turned reel seat inserts and cork grips, a specialist workshop area is not a requirement. Any flat, level, dust free work area even in the house will make do. All 3 rods I have completed to date have been built on my study desk, and with very simple tools,most of which I made myself before beginning my first build.

Obtaining a finish at least as good as, if not better than a factory built rod is also not as difficult as one would think. With a little bit of practice and taking one’s time and rigorously following the manufacturer’s guidelines when it comes to tasks such as mixing the epoxies, would generally mean you can expect to obtain an excellent result. One must remember that as with most mass produced goods; the manufacturer doesn’t have the time to pour over getting the little details 100% right, as you would when creating your new pride and joy.

If you were to compare like for like blanks and components, building a rod yourself does tend to be slightly cheaper than buying the factory built equivalent. One can of course end up spending significantly more or less though, depending on one’s choice of components, whose prices and quality can vary quite significantly between manufacturers.

Rod Components, Materials and Tools Required

The best piece of advice that was given to me before I attempted my first build was to build the best rod I could afford to. Ultimately building a rod is a time consuming process, and the last thing you want to do is spend all the time and effort building a rod that at the end of the day you won’t want to fish with, and will sit gathering dust at the back of your cupboard. Most steps involved in rod building aren’t permanent until the epoxy is applied, and thus can be redone as many times as it takes to be happy with the result, so there really isn’t that much risk of totally wrecking a build if you are fairly careful. One can build an absolute broomstick of a rod 100% perfectly, and it will still be a broom stick, whilst a good rod will always be a good rod, even if the epoxy finish isn’t 100% perfect.

Having said that, you also don’t have to go out and buy one of the big ticket brand names. A little bit of research will quickly show that there are many blank manufacturers out there who supply some exceptionally good blanks at reasonable prices. Ultimately you just need to decide what you want out of the rod you are going to build, and select the appropriate blank accordingly. When it comes to selecting the reel seat, grip, guides and other components, the sheer number of choices available is astounding. My advice when selecting components is to obtain the very best quality components you can afford, and at least initially to stick with the well known brands like such as Struble, Pacific Bay, and Hopkins & Holloway. Quality components generally are more consistent in quality and often require less preparation before they can be used. For example, I have found that Hopkins & Holloway guides as used on most Sage rods generally don’t need extensive filing of the guide feet before they can be wrapped onto the rod, as do some other brands I have used.

So, having said that, let’s put together a shopping list of the components you need to build a rod:

Rod Components

Your choice of Rod Blank

Rod Bag and Tube (Optional but essential to transporting and protecting your new baby)

Reel Seat

Cork Grip (Preformed or turn your own if you have a lathe or similar means of turning and shaping)

Tip Top – matched to the tip thickness of the blank

Set of single foot or snake guides, sized and spaced according to the blank manufacturer’s guidelines and Stripping Guide, Winding Check (Sized for the blank at the point where the front of the grip starts) and Hook Keeper (Optional).

Materials Needed

Rod Wrapping Finish i.e. Flexcoat High Build or Flexcoat Lite Rod wrapping finish – Used to coat the thread wraps

Epoxy Glue – i.e. Epidermix 372, a 2-part slow cure epoxy– Used to assemble the reelseat

Flexcoat Rod Builder’s Epoxy (or again Epidermix 372 – Used to bond the reelseat and cork grip to the blank

Denatured Alcohol – used for any cleanup operations (70% Stength)

Masking Tape (10mm wide)

Wrapping Thread in required colours – I use Gudebrod Nylon thread in Size A

Optional: Colour Preserver & Thread Sealer, Cork-Seal.


Assuming the builder will be using a preformed cork grip and reelseat insert
Tape measure – Used to measure the guide spacing on the blank
China Marker – Used to temporarily mark the guide spacing and other measurements on the blank, or use masking tape for this task

Spirit level – Used to check the rod is level when drying the wrapping epoxy, otherwise the epoxy will tend to run downhill

Reamer – Used to ream the hole in the cork grip to fit the blank snugly. (A reamer can be made using suitable diameter dowel or broken rod section with a strip of 220grip sandpaper glued around it in a spiral with super glue.)

800 grit water paper – used to sand the bottom section of the blank where the reelseat and cork grip will go, alternatively use 3M Scouring Pads available from any hardware. This is to ensure proper adhesion of the epoxy.

A Rod wrapping bench/stand – This can either be purchased from one of the many online rod building supply stores, or made yourself relatively easily and cheaply.

A rod Dryer – Used to turn the rod whilst the finishing epoxy dries to prevent drips and sags forming. This can also be purchased or once again built yourself fairly easily using a low RPM motor like a rotisserie motor used on braai’s.


Next time Mike and Shaun will show us how to actually put everything together.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A non fishing weekend away

I say non fishing weekend even though I did take the fly rod along. There was just to many things to do and besides, the water at my friends farm is still incredibly low due to the ongoing draught.

We decided to take my wife’s Jeep instead of my Bakkie (truck)for the 4 hour trip this time as it has never been offroad before and I was keen to see what it can do.

We arrived at the farm late morning on Friday and as it was National Braai (barbeque) day here in South Africa we soon had a fire going and started to relax. Apart from my mate showing us the proper way to prepare and cut up a lamb and also showing us how he harvests and prepare honey we spend most of the day sitting on the balcony  drinking beer and wine.

Saturday we decided to go for a fun drive on the now almost dry river bed and promptly got the Jeep stuck.










Even after a hell of a lot of digging we couldn't pull it out with my brother in Laws Landrover and we then also proceeded to get his Landrover stuck in the process.


After some more digging we eventually used a high lift jack and jacked the vehicle out of the mud. We propped the wheels up on some rocks and with the help of the now unstuck Landy and a Toyota bakkie  we eventually got it out.





Boy,digging out a stuck Jeep is hard work.




We then went off and played some more….


Saturday night was once again spent around the fire and the two legs of lamb that we had on the spit had us eating like kings..



Even though there was no fishing it was still a nice relaxing weekend and the batteries are charged for another work week.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Building your own fly rod

In the next few post I will share a excellent rod building tutorial with you. I have always admired some rods that a local guy here in South Africa makes and about two years ago I decided to also built my own. It didn’t come out quite as nice as I wanted but I was still pretty impressed and following this easy step by step it was not that difficult at all.

The blank that I chose was a Rainshadow 6”6 2 weight as I wanted a short stick for some of our local streams. It was quite a daunting task and when I first received all the parts I laid everything out on a table and dry fitted everything. For a few days this was all I did everyday as I was a little bit nervous to actually start.

I made myself a very simple rod wrapping stand from some scrap pieces of wood lying around and eventually I decided it was now or never. After finding the spine,  I glued on the cork handle, fitted the reel seat and was ready to start wrapping.

My first wraps were around the hook keeper and I can tell you that I lost count of the amount of times that I re did this section. After a few nights I was eventually happy with how it looked and I could finally move on.

I eventually got so confident in myself that I even added trim band


My first stripping guide done and dusted.

When all the wraps were finally on, the nerves once again kicked in as this was for me the critical step, so I sat and stared at my handiwork again for the next few days. At the end it was not so bad after all and the final coating did not come out to bad though there certainly was still some room for improvement.


I wish I can tell you that my new rod and myself had years  of enjoyment together, but sadly on its first outing I managed to break it through my own stupidity.  I keep on wanting to send it in for a replacement section but have just never got around to it. I guess now is as good a time as any.

My new rods first and only time out on a stream doing what it was meant to do….

….and the hike out that broke it. Can you spot the wooden ladder?

Keep an eye out in the next few days for the rod building step by step.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rubber Leg Copper John

HOOK: Size 10  - 18
BEAD: Gold Tungsten
TAIL: Goose Biots
ABDOMEN: UTC Chartreuse and Copper Wire (Brassie)
WING CASE: Thin skin and Holographic flash
THORAX: Peacock Dubbing
LEGS: Round Rubber Legs
rubber leg copper john

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The missing evening rise

A friend and myself fished the evening rise at Blue Gum Grove last night. Unfortunately there was not much of a rise even though the conditions were perfect and there were lots of insect activity. We both still managed to land a good sized rainbow in the hour and a half that we fished.


  Jasper fighting his rainbow

And the result

There was only the occasional rise and they were all over the place which made it a pointless exercise to chuck a dry or emerger out there in the hope of a fish swimming by. I fished streamers, dries and nymphs and eventually landed a beauty on a small Flashback Pheasant Tail Nymph.

The beers were cold, it was great company and you can not ask for a better way to start the weekend.