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Are Bamboo Fly Rods Too Pretty to Fish??

Engraved Ferrules

One of the most common comments we receive about our bamboo fly rods is “your rods are too beautiful to fish”. While we are flattered and humbled by what is clearly intended to be a compliment, it’s also the last thing any bamboo rod builder wants to hear. That’s like walking past your first class ticket on an airplane saying, “that seat is too comfortable to sit in” and aiming for a seat in coach. PJ’s Fine Bamboo Rods strives to constantly press boundaries of the artistic limits of bamboo fly rod building, but at the core of our business we will always put making  quality bamboo fly rods above everything.

Did you know that on average handcrafted, heirloom quality bamboo fly rods takes up to 80 hours to build? It is a long held belief by anglers that owning and fishing bamboo fly rods are at the “top of the food chain” in the fly fishing world. Achieving a level of dedication and appreciation for fly fishing is something that should be cherished. Having a custom built bamboo fly rod is a celebration of what fly fishing has meant to an angler’s life and is not something that is taken lightly by our Rodsmith. Every aspect of our bamboo fly rod builds is completed by hand from a single culm of Tonkin bamboo.

The process of building a quality bamboo fly rod starts long before the rod is ordered. Tonkin bamboo grows in a relatively small area of south China near the Sui River and is considered the best species of bamboo for rod building due to its density and strength. Importing Tonkin bamboo has become increasing difficult for American rod builders in the last decade. Once a rod builder is able to obtain the bamboo it must then be given time to acclimate to climate in which the rod will be built. Buyer beware! When selecting a rod builder, you should be sure that they are using seasoned Tonkin Bamboo. There are many bamboo rod blanks being sold on the market today that are neither Tonkin bamboo nor acclimated prior to being machined, rather than hand planed, into a rod blank.

Once a rod order has been placed it takes approximately 75 steps and eighty hours to build a premium quality bamboo fly rod by hand. From flaming the bamboo culm to polishing the rod, each step takes knowledge, practice, and patience. For the craftsmen out there, you can take a class to learn to build your own bamboo fly rod. But nothing can replace the quality of a bamboo fly rod by a professional builder that has completed hundreds of rods and continuously strives to improve his art. Much like the art of fly fishing, building bamboo rods is an art that takes practice and dedication.

Wilson engraved butt cap
collector's collection bamboo fly rod

We refer to our bamboo fly rods as functional art because they are beautiful pieces of art that can proudly be displayed in one’s home or offices, but more importantly they are highly functional. The functional art movement has been generating significant movement in recent years for good reason. As the state of our environment is becoming more dire more people are rejecting the mass consumption, throw away lifestyle that has brought mankind to this point. People are embracing the importance of high quality, handcrafted, individualized pieces of art that they can take pride in owning and handing down to the next generation.

So, the next time you are tempted to think “that rod is too beautiful to fish” remind yourself that your time is too valuable to fish anything less.

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