My intent in building cane rods is simply to make the finest rod that can be made, both in terms of craftsmanship and performance. This endeavor includes the evolution of design concepts relative to performance as well as aesthetic refinement and development.
I design rods with primarily two qualities in mind, smoothness and power. As an individual maker, I can design and build each rod exactly as I feel it should be. My annual rod production is, of necessity, very limited; please rest assured that when you purchase one of my rods, you are acquiring something truly unique with uncommon attention paid to its making.
Four Strip or Six Strip?
Cross sections of rods showing four and six strip configuration.
After starting out by making six strip rods, I soon became intrigued by the qualities of the four strip, square section rod. For the next ten years I built only four strip rods and it has been since 1995 that I have again made six strip rods.
I believed four strip rods would be more powerful than conventional six strip rods of the same length and weight. The difference in power between a four strip and a six strip rod is more subtle than it is dramatic, however, and the actual action and power of the rod is affected much more by the taper and by hollowbuilding than by choice of cross sectional design.
Tapers The taper of the bamboo shaft is the most important element by far that determines the action and performance of a fishing rod. All the tapers for my rods are my own and undergo continuous evolution and refinement. Arriving at a successful taper is a long process of trial and error which involves many interrelated factors. Whether fast or slow, parabolic or fast dry fly, the rod should act and feel as one unit. The preferred taper shape will vary with the type and size of flies expected to be used, line type and weight, stream size or if the rod will be fished primarily in lakes. Purely personal preference is of course a major factor.
One of my earliest semi-hollow efforts completed in 1989, cut open to show the internal structure, including what I call my ‘internal swell.’
I developed a system of hollowbuilding about 1988 (when I was still building rods in Pleasantville, NY) which allows me to build the tips as well as the butts hollow. This came about after a visit to the extraordinary California rod builder Mike Montagne who opened my eyes to the possibilities of hollow-building as well as a basic method for achieving it. The method I have since then developed is an evolution of E.C. Powell’s basic ideas from the 1930’s. Hollowing the tips has a major and beneficial impact on rod action even though the actual weight of bamboo removed from the tips is relatively small. Even the slightest change in weight or taper in the tip will have a major impact on the action and feel of the rod because the further towards the tip we move, the greater is the leverage of the weight that is there, and during the dynamic bending and recoiling of casting it is moving at a very much greater speed than is the butt. A rod hollowbuilt well into the tips throws tighter loops more easily and dampens better because the tips have less inertia to overcome in casting. The power of the cane can be applied directly to the line rather than being used to overcome the inertia of the rod itself. My hollow building methods add an internal taper to the primary external taper of the rod. It is the subtle distribution of material in the rod which determines its action.
For me, bamboo is the ideal material for making fly rods. With proper use and balance of design concepts such as hollow-building, reduced weight joining methods, and cutting edge component use, I never any more feel the need to reach for graphite. This is true for me even of two handed rods up to 13 ft. and 9 ft. #10 weight Tarpon rods. With all this talk of cutting edge design and innovation, however, we should not lose track of the ever present importance of taper. There is still room for new taper work and for fine-tuning actions. It often amazes me when I pick up some of the rods made of solid bamboo from 1915 to about 1930; the wonderful feel and line control they have is astonishing and this was achieved with nothing but solid bamboo and a great understanding of tapers. My favorite 7 foot #3 line rod was built by Eustis Edwards in the teens of the last century.