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Thread: What happened to rod building?

  1. #21
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    I’ve been building my own for 35 years now, for pretty much the same reason I tie (and build furnitue) - nothing off the rack looks or feels exactly right anymore. The guides on so many production rods, even relatively expensive ones, are one of the areas that they seem to cut costs as an example. I’ve replaced quite a few guides that had broken, gotten crushed, etc. Plus, the custom wraps, inlays and reel seats (I’ve only turned a few grips and it’s not one of my stronger skill sets, so most of those are off the rack) just set the rod apart from the crowd a bit. Different strokes for different folks I guess. And I still think you can build the equivalent of a lot of $700-1000 rods for well below half that cost. Valuing your time cheaply, o’course.

  2. #22
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    Feb 2007
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    I got into rod building in the 60s because I’d discovered good rods and couldn’t afford them on a grad student budget. But I could buy a Winston kit that included everything but guides, thread and varnish for $30 when a factory Fenwick cost $45 and that started me on what has been a long – I guess I have to call it a career – in rod building.

    The decline in amateur rod building over the past decades seems to me due to a combination of things:
    • the higher cost of graphite rods and blank, as opposed to that for the fiberglass rods that predated them.
    • the higher rate of both unexplained and customer-caused breakage for graphite rods, particularly before toughened epoxy resins were introduced.
    • the Unconditional Guarantee, which gave you a free rod if you broke one. If you broke a blank, it would also be replaced under this guarantee but you’d have to scavenge the components or buy new, and put in the time to rebuild. Cheap and Easy trumps Costly and Hard just about every time.
    • the increasing reluctance of most shops to stock blanks and components. Why sell components when a finished rod makes you more money, and where do you put them in the limited space of a small shop? A corollary to this was shop employees increasing unfamiliarity with rod building as shops stopped selling components. Most of the big catalog outfits stopped listing rod building components by 1993 or so.

    But rod building is seeing a contemporary renaissance. The fly fishing market has grown somewhat with more anglers looking at more options. There are lots of shops – though mostly online – that carry a wide range of components - Proof Fly Fishing, Custom Fly Rod Crafters, Anglers Workshop, Jann’s Netcraft and Mudhole Tackle, among them. I’m convinced that there are very few bad fly rods out there anymore, only decent and better ones. You can put together a decent one from components for a little over $100. And for the $400 price of a good mid range factory rod you can put together a much better one yourself. Buying a top end Sage or Loomis or Winston or Scott blank and high quality components to build an excellent one won’t save you much over the cost of the finished rod, but the reel seat and guide wrap colors will be your choice, and you’ll probably end up with a cork grip in a shape and length you like, not to mention one that isn’t filled with lots of ugly patches. And there’s still the intangible value of fishing something you built yourself.

    YouTube has scores of videos on the various aspects of rod building, and there are a number of good books on the subject, Art Scheck’s Fly Rod Building Made Easy being my favorite. Some fly fishing clubs are again offering rod building classes. Diablo Valley does, and the Golden Gate Angling and Casting club runs 3-4 rod building workshops every fall/winter that are popular enough to have waiting lists to enroll.

    Finally, I have to disagree with Ralph on the time involved. You probably own most of the tools you need already, though if you plan to build more than one rod it’s probably work the $100 it will cost you for a rod wrapping jig and a turning motor setup. You can glue a reel seat and a preformed cork grip on a blank in an hour (or spend another hour gluing up cork rings and turning them on a jerryrigged lathe made from an electric drill), then file guide feet smooth and tape them to the blank in the correct position in another hour. Wrapping is generally the thing that gives folks the most trouble so let's figure 8 hours for those who struggle to learn and from 2 to 4 hours for the rest. Finishing wraps with epoxy or varnish adds another hour. That's ten or twelve hours or so at most spread, out over however many days you want. And if you're particularly picky or challenged by any of the steps, and it takes 20 hours, so what?

    Russ Chatham, famous for his lack of interest in fancy gear, once suggested that we spend our dollars on tackle and our hundreds on travel. Multiply those numbers by ten and you’ve got a recipe for contemporary success.

  3. #23
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    Jun 2011
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    Fort Collins, CO
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    Larry - Very well said, and thank you for sharing. Best, Bob Giannoni

  4. #24
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    Bend, Oregon
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    DL...do you deal with Roger Penrose?

  5. #25
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    Jan 2005
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    Davis, CA, USA, Earth
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    I am glad to see that some out there are still enjoying rod building.....


    **If a fly shop has a staff member who is way into rod building, building rods at the shop to create interest, I think that shop could justify carrying rod building supplies.

    That Lifetime warranty on all fly rods seem to kill that rod building business for all but the catalog and online rod building specialty businesses.
    Bill Kiene

    Fly fishing travel consultant
    Certified FFF Casting Instructor
    Email: billkiene63@gmail.com
    Cell: 530/753-5267
    Web: www.billkiene.com

    Contact me for any reason........
    ______________________________________

  6. #26
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    Nov 2012
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    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie S View Post
    DL...do you deal with Roger Penrose?
    Charlie,
    If I'm the DL you're asking, no, I'm sorry, I don't know a Roger Penrose.

  7. #27
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    Jun 2007
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    Bend, Oregon
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    Jeff, we corresponded before with messages. Please check your messages, I sent one with Roger’s contact info.

  8. #28
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    May 2010
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    South Dakota
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Kiene semi-retired View Post
    I am glad to see that some out there are still enjoying rod building.....


    **If a fly shop has a staff member who is way into rod building, building rods at the shop to create interest, I think that shop could justify carrying rod building supplies.

    That Lifetime warranty on all fly rods seem to kill that rod building business for all but the catalog and online rod building specialty businesses.
    This is a wonderful old interview with Press Powell where he talks a little about the lifetime guarantee and what itís meant to rod builders. Itís a great piece and makes me miss the old family Powell shop.

    https://www.sexyloops.com/articles/presspowell.shtml
    There are few things in life more pleasing than the sublime marriage of form and function that is found in a well crafted fly rod.

    Rich Morrison
    Vintage Powell collector/dealer
    605-858-0800
    rich@classicpowellrod.com
    www.classicpowellrod.com

  9. #29
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    Nov 2012
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    Now in Redmond OR
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    Thanks for posting that Rich. It is interesting reading about the history and what some of the early developers thought about fly rods. I hadn't heard Andy Dear's name in quite while. He's still making epoxies but focusing on knife building now.

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