Students in the BC Flyfishers fly rod building class convened for their final class of a three class series on Saturday, March 19. A total of 9 participants were on hand with fly rod blanks that were looking a lot more like fly rods. Most of the beginner rod builders had at least some of the guides wrapped and cork grips in place. Joe Swam, veteran rod maker and chapter member once again led the class.
The third and final class focused on prepping the reel seat, setting the reel seat and cap with epoxy, prepping the rod for rod tip placement, and setting the tip-top guide in place with epoxy.
Once these steps were complete, Joe sat down at the rod wrapping station and tied several different color thread wraps on a scrap rod blank. He treated separate wraps with color preservative and marine varnish to show the effect on the thread wrap color. He emphasized the importance of doing this before actually treating the wraps as the color of the thread can sometimes end up very different from the original color of the thread.
The class did not try epoxy on the wraps. Epoxy coatings are commonly used on fly rods these days although Joe prefers to use varnish on his bamboo rods. Epoxy has its drawbacks, especially for a beginner rod builder, however. Epoxy requires a lot more attention to assure it does not retain bubbles or slump. A special motorized drying rack is normally needed to apply epoxy correctly and it needs to be done with some urgency, whereas varnish is a little more forgiving in this regard.
A recap of the major steps in fly rod building follows:
- Finding the spine – a critical step used to determine guide orientation.
- Installing the grips – this step consists of prep work to allow the cork to seat into position on the rod and then the application of 2 part epoxy to secure the grip in place.
- Ferrule wrapping – this was just the beginning of a lot of rod wrapping.
- Prepping the guides – filing and sanding the guide feet is critical for secure guide placement on the rod blank.
- Wrapping the winding check and the hook keeper.
- Spacing, aligning and wrapping the guides.
- Prepping and epoxying the reel seat in place and gluing the cap.
- Setting and expoxying the tip-top guide in place.
- Wrapping the tip-top guide.
- Treating the wraps with color preservative, varnish, or epoxy.
Once these steps are complete, the last and most important step is to fish the rod and of course, show it off!
The BC Flyfishers fly rod building class was designed for beginner fly rod makers looking to learn basic rod building skills. The cost of the class was set at a very modest $125; this included a quality 2 piece 6 weight fly rod blank and all the components along with the instruction provided by an expert fly rod builder over three 4 hour sessions. Based on the good turn-out and overall high satisfaction with this first class, there’s no doubt fly rod building will be offered again by the BC Flyfishers.
Joe Swam, class instructor, currently makes custom bamboo fly rods to order but considers himself more of a hobbyist than a production builder. He sells his higher-end Tonkin rods for $500, dependent on the design and grade of components. He also makes rods with “Maryland” cane and lower end components for half that price. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 443-945-7065.