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Ed's Column - May/June 2010

Wednesday, 02 June 2010 17:54

Favourite internet rod building sites - Ed Herbst


Wild trout on a Boshoff rod

In the past thirty years I have searched constantly for the ultimate small stream fly rod. “Ultimate” in the sense of low mass, no flash and the lightest line possible – a rod that provides short range delicacy and accuracy and helps me compensate for my casting faults.

There have been some superb rods along the way.

They include the solid boron rods of Don Phillips, in particular his rendition of the Leonard Baby Catskill, the exquisite Archistrial composite models of Henry Haneda (http://libertydesignsinc.com/index.html) but, above all the ultra lights developed first by the late Howard Steere of Orvis and, subsequently, by Jerry Siem of Sage

This evolution has been well catalogued by Bill Byrd on his website:


My favourite website is the Ultra Light Fly Rod Forum:

http://ultralightflyfishing.yuku.com/ where one gets all the latest information on light-line fly rods.

There has been a resurgence of interest in fibreglass rods for small stream fly fishing and this forum provides a lot of useful information:



A custom rod maker whose work I find very interesting is “Tight Loop George: http://tightloopgeorge.blogspot.com/

Some of the finest Japanese split cane rod makers are featured on:


I asked three South African rod makers, Stephen Boshoff, who has a link on this site, Stephen Dugmore (www.freestonerods.co.za) of Cape Town and Mario Geldenhuys of www.customflyrods.co.za of Aliwal North to list their favourite rod building websites. Tom Sutcliffe and I agreed such a site would not be complete without one of the ‘Dark Side’s’ (bamboo fly rods) chief protagonists, Tom Lewin.


Ed Herbst using a Boshoff bamboo rod



Stephen Boshoff


Steve Boshoff

Forums: http://clarksclassicflyrodforum.yuku.com/

A substantial and very active gathering of people interested in bamboo rod making; this site contains a wealth of information on every aspect of rod making from the technical, historical and biographical to regular photo contributions on newly completed rods by well known makers.


Components: http://www.wagnerrods.com/


The site of Jeff and Casimira Wagner, master bamboo rod makers. I order components from them occasionally. Their work is exquisite, and their mail-order service personal and without fault.


Organisations: http://www.rodmakers.it/

The Italian Bamboo Rodmakers’ Association. Their on-line journal, based on the US-based Power Fibers website is exceptional. It combines contributions on technique, history and life into memorable collections celebrating our craft and passion.


As regards individual rod makers,  I am drawn more and more to Japanese makers (within the constraints of language and the capabilities of Google “translate”). Their work is extraordinarily refined and often innovative, specifically in the smaller rods I prefer. There are many makers and sites, not generally known outside of Japan, but the work of Asama, Akimaru, Kawatsura, Miyuki and Studio Line is exceptional.


I relation to those working in the west without personal web-sites, I use keep track of the work of Tom Moran and Mario Wojnicki through the websites of those who hold their work in high regard and also  through the split cane rod forums.

Stephen Dugmore


Steve Dugmore

The rodmaking websites I visit most frequently are:

http://www.bamboorodmaking.com/ This is Todd Talsma’ site. It is a great repository of tips gleaned and selected by Todd from the Rodmaker’s list. If you want to know anything about bamboo rod making you will find something on it in the ‘tips’ section. The ‘contraptions’ section is also very interesting – all sorts of useful rodmaking devices and gadgets and different variations on them.


http://clarksclassicflyrodforum.yuku.com/ This site originated as Clark Davis’ ‘Classic Bamboo Rod Forum’. There are a number of extremely knowledgeable members on this forum, both collectors and rodmakers. If you need to know the history on any rod or rodmaker this is the place to start. There is also great information to be had on rod making itself and some fun stuff on fishing with bamboo rods. Classic tapers and rods are regularly discussed and many current makers post examples of their work.



A bevy of Dugmore beauties

http://www.rodbuildingforum.com I don’t visit this site as regularly as the other two but usually find interesting and useful information when I do. It is similar to Clark’s in many respects but has the advantage of not being limited to bamboo – there are great techniques used by graphite rod builders that are applicable to bamboo as well. There are also a number of very knowledgeable members who are at home here and don’t post as often on Clark’s. It is interesting to read what they have to share

Mario Geldenhuys will submit his sites in due course.

Tom Lewin


Tom Lewin - bamboo fly rod expert


The Classic Fly Rod Forum or “Clark’s” as it is known, is the most informative site you will ever visit on matters bamboo. I have learned so much from this community over the years and have made some wonderful friends too. This is where the global who’s who of bamboo fly-rods hangs out: from world-class makers and restorers to serious collectors, dealers and hard-core fisherman. The guys in this community share knowledge freely on a wide range of related topics and the forum is properly moderated - no inane drivel tolerated here. If there is one site to save to your “favorites” this has to be it. I spend more time here than I’m prepared to admit to.


Colorado-based Mike Clark is one of the most famous bamboo rod makers alive today. His rods command top-dollar and are so exquisite in finish and feel that fishing a South Creek Limited rod verges on an out-of-body experience. I was lucky enough to sneak on to Mike’s waiting list before he stopped taking orders indefinitely and in around seven years time I expect to take delivery of my rod. Over the years I have become good friends with Mike and his assistant Kathy Jensen and have spent some memorable times fishing in the Rocky Mountains with them, so I’m not going to shy away from the fact that this is a shameless plug for Mike and Cathy – rod makers extraordinaire and two of the nicest people you could ever share a stream with. Mike’s website, like his fly-rods is high quality and well worth visiting.


Rick Sorenson of West Slope Classic Fly Tackle is a dealer who sells previously-owned bamboo fly-rods and also represents some of the world’s leading bamboo fly-rod makers. This is a great site and when I’m in the mood for a little dreaming I visit it and imagine what it would be like to buy a Payne or a Brandin with the click of a mouse. If you want to browse the finest rods on earth until you’re giddy, this is where to be. This is rod porn out of the top drawer!

Spotted! A bumper-sticker:-


Mario Geldenhuys



Mario Geldenhuys with a Lesotho Brown trout caught on a Sage #00 

Most of the sites I visit have a strong “cottage-style” or small home builder style to them, as that is essentially the position that I find myself in (as I would imagine many other rodbuilders in the world as well).


The tips and tricks that one can pick up from these sites are all based on the publishers largely being forced to be extremely innovative and produce high-quality products and components from run-of-the-mill and non-specialist items.


I still primarily work in graphite (affectionately known as plastic by the bamboo guys) but have recently begun to dip into the “dark side” of the art of making rods from bamboo.


My “plastic” background thus reflects strongly in my selection of sites:



A true “vault” of information on all that is rodbuilding. With a large base of active members, all of them willing to share their knowledge, the site is a must-add to any serious rod-builder’s Bookmarks. The site is forum-based, so makes for fantastic interaction, and thus provides the user to post problems/questions to be discussed and answered.



Dedicated to ‘boo, the site does also offer major info that can be applied to plastic rods and rodbuilding. What makes me revisit the site regularly are the home-built machines and equipment that the rodmakers use to complete their bamboo rods. The site lacks interaction, since it is not forum-based, but with the sheer amount of information on the site, you quickly find that to not be a bother.


Most any Japanese rodbuilding site:

This might sound a little vague, but limiting myself to a Japanese site to recommend is simply not possible for me. Fortunately with Google Translate and a number of other translation sites available, the Japanese Craftsmen’s sites have become understandable, and a whole new world has been opened to me. The exquisite attention to detail in their craft is simply staggering, and their innovation and use of non-traditional methods of building and making rods simply boggles the mind. What attracts me most to the Japanese “style” of making and building rods, is the use of traditional methods and hand-tools. Truly something to aspire to in today’s age of mechanizing everything.

Last word from Ed- The first rule for successful fly fishing

Persuading a fish that is aware of the angler’s presence and disturbed by this to take a fly is difficult if not impossible.

It is therefore axiomatic that the first rule of successful fly fishing is to avoid being spotted by your quarry.

My particular interest – indeed my only interest – is fishing small streams for trout and every book I have read on the subject makes the point that if you cast from a kneeling position with a low, side-arm cast, your chances of success increase exponentially.

On my streams however, in the mountains near Cape Town in South Africa, the stream bed consists of football-size boulders and little else. Kneeling is rarely less than discomforting and often quite painful.

A few years ago, a fellow member of the Cape Piscatorial Society, (www.piscator.co.za) made me aware of a new neoprene product called Airprene and referred me to a local wetsuit manufacturer, Coral Wetsuit (www.coralwetsuits.co.za).


Elaine Mouton

There I was to meet the proprietors, Elaine Mouton and Irene Morris and they told me that this thin neoprene was developed for the motion picture industry because extras clad in wetsuits often spend hours waiting for an episode to be filmed.

They were happy to make kneepads from the material because they already had a template – the kneepads they make for abalone divers.

In the summer heat, I wear the Airprene version but, when it gets colder, I use the 2mm version. Neither inhibit movement and while they don’t totally obviate the occasional wince-inducing fall or stumble where your knee takes the brunt of the impact, they do offer very worthwhile protection.

What is more important, is that they provide a greater incentive to lower your profile and increase your strike rate by kneeling.

Coral can also make gravel guards and offer an Airprene sock, ideal for wading, that is half the cost of the imported versions.

You can phone Elaine and Irene on 021  447-1985.

Until next time, Ed


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