Care of Bamboo Rods

A good illustration of how not to land a trout. Notice the extreme J-bend in the tip

A lot of time, attention, care and experience go into the making of a fine bamboo fishing rod. It takes some care and attention on the part of the owner to keep it in good shape.

At the end of a day's fishing, be it on a steelhead river, trout stream or tarpon flat, I sight down the rod to see if it has a sweep or bend in any direction. Sometimes it will, either from not taking enough care in turning the rod while playing good fish, or maybe the idiosyncracy of an asymmetrical casting stroke. If it has such a sweep, I simply bend the rod gently in the opposite direction until it is straight. If the rod is put away straight it will tend to stay straight. I pull the rod apart, being sure to pull in a straight line and wipe the rod with a paper towel or soft cloth to clean it and remove any moisture. Then it goes back into its sack and tube, ready for the next use.

There are two main things to pay attention to in playing fish on a bamboo rod which are less of a concern when fishing synthetic material rods. The first is the one I mention above; turn your rod around while playing a good fish, so the strain is not always in one direction. The second is to try and keep no more than a 90 degree angle between the butt of the rod and the fish. This will often require pulling the leader / line connection well into the guides when landing a fish to avoid pulling the tip into a tight 'J' or even the whole rod into a deep 'U' which over- stresses it. Remember the old adage 'A bow full bent is a bow half broke'. I see rods from many makers which have fish fighting sets in them or even broken tips which could have been prevented with a little care.

Ferrules should be kept clean, inside (female) and out (male). If a ferrule feels too tight, chances are that it is a little dirty. Take a piece of paper towel and push it into the female, turning it to form a 'tool' to clean out the inside wall of the ferrule. Always wipe off the male slide (I use my cotton shirt) before inserting it into the female. It is permissible, and I recommend the use of a little paraffin or soap as lubricant if you like and this will also make the rod easier to take apart at the end of the day. Do not, however, use grease from your nose as I have sometimes seen recommended; the salt will cause corrosion and the ferrule to bind. It is also ok to use the finest steel wool once in a while to keep the ferrules clean, but not sandpaper, even of the finest grade. The female should also be cleaned inside occasionally, using a q-tip or paper towel twisted into a cleaning swab.

Keep hands close together when putting your rod together and never twist the bamboo while pushing ferrules together or pulling them apart. To get a better grip on the rod it is advisable to use grip pads of the type used to open jars available at most supermarkets. My ferrules are designed and fitted to fully seat before use; do not use a rod if you cannot seat the ferrules fully.

A word about fine tips. The tips on my rods are finer than on many other bamboo rods. People are under the impression that they are therefore very delicate and can break easily when fishing. This is not the case. When a rod is properly used in casting and fishing, the stress on the tip is immediately transferred down the rod towards the butt. A very fine tip is an important element in getting the performance I want out of a certain rod model, especially for lighter lines. These finer tips, will, however, break more easily if abused. Any pressure put on a fine tip at an acute angle will over-stress that tip. Do not pull line off your reel while pointing the rod away from you, and be sure when handling a fish that there is no pressure from the line coming off the tip at an acute angle. A tip can also break if it hits a tree or gravel when held out in front while walking. Handled properly, even the finest of tips should last for the life of the rod which should be generations.

I differentiate the tips on my rods with a single tipping wrap on one tip, while the other has double tipping. Some people always put the tip just used into the inside sleave of the rod sack, moving the 'fresh' tip to the outside compartment, then always pull the tip to be fished from the outside compartment. Like stores rotating stock!

Rods should be stored in a cool, dry place. Especially avoid leaving them in a hot trunk or in a car where the sun beats down on the tube.