Bamboo guys...What do you think?

Discussion in 'Bamboo, Fiberglass & Classic Reels' started by Jeff Hale, Jan 20, 2007.

  1. Jeff Hale

    Jeff Hale B.I.G.F.F.

  2. Mike Monsos

    Mike Monsos AKA flyman219

    I don't have any personal experience with these rods but Elkhorn will be at the Flyfishing Show in Bellevue so you could possibly cast one for yourself or at least look at them for yourself in person.
  3. herl

    herl Member

    From what I've read these rods are either made overseas or the blanks are, or they are assembled overseas... something to that effect. I believe it is the same for the Cortland, Teastick, and a couple other 'low cost' bamboo rods that are available.

    That is not exactly good or bad in itself. Lots of the graphite rods that people love are mad overseas. However, I have heard more bad things than good about the quality of the workmanship in these rods and their actions (not the Elkhorn ones specifically). Another thing to consider is that, as opposed to vintage or handcrafted bamboo rods, these new imports will almost certainly lose value over time, rather than gain.

    Certainly try one out if you have the chance, but I would guess your money would be better spent getting a 8 or 8 1/2 foot Granger or better off eBay (or even better, from a dealer). These rods are well known to fish well and hold or increase in value. Alternatively, there are a fair number of US craftsman type rodmakers that can build you an outstanding rod for a small amount more.

    These last two options will take some research to pursue. I would recommend clark's classic fly rod forum as a great place to start.

    Thats my take on it, Eric
  4. Dan

    Dan Member

    There seems to be some renewed interest in general these days for bamboo rods. I don't think that you can approach acquiring a bamboo rod quite the way you would a graphite rod. For one thing, rods by the classic makers are relatively scare and can be quite expensive. The wait for rods by some current makers can be 18 months or longer. There are exceptions, of course. I got started by hanging out on Clark's. As a baseline, I would start by looking at rods by AJ Thramer. You can go up from there.
  5. garystrome

    garystrome New Member

    It grows native in S. Florida to 40 ft long. Cut it, dry it , lacquer it, pressure tape the handle. Under 10 bucks down there. I've snagged a few thousand mullet with them. You can't roll up your car window with a bamboo pole.
  6. Cliff

    Cliff Member


    Herl's advice is good. You won't know how good or bad the rod is until you cast it, and if they're coming to the Meydenbauer show you should send them an email and ask if they are bringing their bamboo and ask if you can line it and cast it. Just wiggling it in the aisle won't tell you much. Herl is also right on with his link to Clark's Classic Rod site. If you are really interested you should register and post a question in the "Fishing bamboo" room. Also do a search on Elkhorn because there may already be some threads on the topic. I'm not familar with Elkhorn, but my take on these lower priced bamboo rods that have been popping up in the last few years is that they're manufactured overseas in sweatshops, either complete, or assembled here as Herl says, and I've read that the quality is not up to snuff with current US rodmakers. In the advice you may receive here and elsewhere, bear in mind you may encounter all of the usual US snobbery and predjudice against cheap off-shore products -but the rod may be just right for you. You just won't know until you look at it and cast it

    I will be at the Meydenbauer show along with a very well respected bamboo rodbuilder and we'll be looking for these rods. If you want an expert's opinion (him, not me) I'll give you my cell number if you want, and maybe we can hook up. PM me if you're interested.

    I've been collecting and fishing bamboo for about 12 years now and there is a small learning curve here. A good place to start learning about bamboo is the book "Fishing Bamboo", by Gierach. It's getting kind of dated now but there is good advice therein. Also, hang out at Clark's web site, you'll learn a lot.

    Kent is really up on bamboo, so I'll be curious to see what his input is.

  7. Kent Lufkin

    Kent Lufkin Remember when you could remember everything?

    Dan, Herl and Cliff are right - there is renewed interest in bamboo rods, they're not the same as their graphite counterparts and there are some additional questions to ponder before plunking down $500 or more for one. The answers to these questions will determine whether your money was wasted or if you've made a wise investment in a quality flyfishing tool that will gain in value over time.

    In my opinion, the big three questions are: What taper was used to build the rod? What is the overall build quality (NOT the cosmetics)? What is the reputation of the maker?

    I believe that Elkhorn, like Sweetwater and others, is simply offering a Chinese-made rod that's been branded with their name. These rods have been in more or less continuous production for the past decade and marketed under a variety of names. The early verdict by cane experts was that they weren't worth much as fishing tools and even less as an investment. Their tapers made them more like sticks to cast, their build quality left glue seams and rounded shoulders between the flats, and nobody had ever heard of the maker, so there was zero demand for them in the used market.

    However, some reports recently suggest that the overall quality level has improved, making newer Chinese rods a better choice as a fishing tool. As an investment, they're still a poor choice IMHO.

    Compared with bamboo rods by the proven makers, an investment in a Chinese cane rod will probably depreciate just as quickly (if not quicker) than in a graphite rod by Griggs or Browning while costing a whole lot more up front.

    If it I was me considering a bamboo rod for $500 or so, I'd take a lot harder look at a used rod by a classic bamboo maker like Orvis, Granger or Phillipson, or to a lesser extent, Heddon. Being made from solid wood instead of hollow plastic, bamboo rods can last several lifetimes with just a moderate amount of care. As such, there's a robust market for used cane on eBay and on Clark's.

    For example, $500 to $700 can pick up a 1970s vintage Orvis Battenkill 7-1/2 foot 2/2 for 5wt. Many regard the Battenkill as the Chevy 283 of cane rods, holding them in the same high regard as a 1956 Bel-Air coupe. And unlike an Elkhorn or Sweetwater rod (or ANY graphite rod for that matter), you'll be comfortable knowing that you can fish the Battenkill for decades and that its value will continue to keep up with or beat inflation over the years.

  8. Tom Bowden

    Tom Bowden Active Member

    You could also go to the Wild Steelhead Coalition meeting in Seattle on February 10, and bid on a bamboo rod donated by a local amateur rod maker. This is a 7' 2/2 4wt. "Sir-D" taper - a great small stream rod.

    Hopefully you can open the attached picture.

    View attachment 7603

  9. Cliff

    Cliff Member

    Is this a Daryl Hayashida taper? Can you describe the taper and action?
  10. Cliff

    Cliff Member

    Good advice, Kent. The first thing that crossed my mind when I read Superfly's post was that I'd try to scrape up another hundo or so and start trying to find an 8'6" 5 weight Granger. as you know I'm terribly fond of that rod and it's my go-to rod, even though I have other production and hand-planed rods. Ditto on the used Orvis rods. I love my Orvis Shooting Star even though some rodbuilders sneer at impregnated rods. At some point I hope to add a smaller Light Salmon or 6/7 weight Battenkill to my stable. These Orvis impregnated rods are still a fairly good deal these days.
    Having said all this, I think a good, critical look-see at these Elkhorn rods are certainly warranted. Maybe I'll see you in Bellevue. Robert K. will be with me and he usually brings a rod.

  11. Kent Lufkin

    Kent Lufkin Remember when you could remember everything?

    I'd love to meet Robert. Let's stay in touch about which day you two plan on going.

  12. Kent Lufkin

    Kent Lufkin Remember when you could remember everything?

    One thing I forgot to mention above is that bamboo rods are quite a bit heavier than graphite. The additional weight can be a bit disconcerting to some, especially when they find the balance point is several inches beyond the winding check.

    For that reason, I'd advise anyone thinking about bamboo to scale back their expectations about rod length. While 9' is a sort of standard these days in graphite, 7-1/2' is probably the most common and popular length in cane. A non-hollowbuilt 9' cane rod will weigh well over twice that of a similar graphite and takes one heck of a reel to balance it, another reason to stick with the 7-1/2' Battenkill.

  13. Dan

    Dan Member


    I had the same thought about rod length after posting. This is one case where longer is not necessarily better.
  14. Tim Cottage

    Tim Cottage Formerly tbc1415

    When looking at 7/8 Battenkill rods, you might want to keep an ear to the ground for a Madison or an Equinox. Both also came in that weight range and are often impregnated. Many of the Orvis impregnated blanks and whole rods were made by Sharpes. Most of those will say "Scotland" on the butt cap. I say many and most not all.
    During a conversation with Marty Keene about my 7/8 Equinox, he said that the Battenkill, Madison and Equinox in that weight range were all basically the same taper.

    I cast two of Roberts rods at the Metolius Fair last summer. Of all the rods I cast there, his easily left the most lasting impression. They were "like butter".

  15. Tom Bowden

    Tom Bowden Active Member

    Cliff & All,

    The Sir-D was originally designed by Wayne Cattanach in Michigan. Daryl Hayashida modified the taper by adding .002" to the tip and 5" station. I always make one tip with Wayne's original measurements and one with Daryl's, but to be honest, I can't tell the difference when casting.

    The Sir-D is a fast-action taper that works great for small streams and dry flies. It has a "dead spot" in the taper about 15" above the grip, which enhances the rod's roll casting capability. It's a nice rod for someone who has learned to cast with graphite. Many rodmakers recommend it as a first bamboo rod for this reason, and also because it casts and fishes well.

    Here in the Northwest, a 7' rod is a bit small for much of the fishing we do. But for small stream fishing, short bamboo rods are great. Graphite is too stiff to be useful on short rods, which is why you don't see many of them on the market.

  16. Northlake27

    Northlake27 Member

    If you check out their website you will note they make no mention about the actual origin of their rods. As a Bamboo rodmaker I am glad to point out the methods and materials I use. Most makers I have heard of are the same.
    I spoke to someone who tried three of the Chinese blanks, all alledgedly the same taper, he said two would be fine tomato stakes but the third was actually OK. Which tells me they are inconsistant at best.
    When you are buying a bamboo rod you are buying much more than a fishing tool, I like to think a cane rod comes with its own Karma, a 1940's Granger has its own history and a rod from a modern builder has a bit of his personality. Given the the amount of hours it takes to build a cane rod, especially a hand planed rod, the rod can't help but be a reflection of the builder.
    I feel these chinese rods are simply an attempt to take advantage of the recent interest in bamboo rods, they can pay someone 15 cents a hour to crank these out without even understanding what they are building. No Karma at all. At a price no western builder could do it for.
  17. Jeff Hale

    Jeff Hale B.I.G.F.F.

    Cliff, Kent, Herl, and everyone else, thankyou very much for all your help and generousity with your knowledge. I owned a 9 foot 5 weight Wright & McGill, Stream and Lake, circa 1945-ish, and it was REALLY heavy for me. I picked it up for $300, put $100 into it, and sold it for $300. I actualy lost money on that rod. I avoided fishing it because of the weight and it was too slow for my liking. I have casted a few bamboo rods that were clearly superior, lighter, and faster. I would want a rod that could handle a little more than the traditional 'dry fly only' type taper. I would like something I could fish dries from #20's to #10's. Cast an indicator and nymph rig, and maybe even throw a lightly weighted bugger. I don't expect to get 80 foot casts; that's not why I like bamboo. It just keeps calling me back. I think they are beautiful works of art that just happen to also be great fishing tools, too. I like the pretty wraps, the agate stripper guides, the reel inserts, and the hand-written names of the rods/tapers/designers. The history is intriguing, and I like the fact that a bamboo rod is a labor intensive thing to make. Do you think an 8'6" Granger would fit my expectations? My Stream and Lake felt like I was casting a 9 weight graphite rod. I see myself using this rod on streams only, for trout only. I don't think an 8'6" rod would be a necessity. I can see myself getting by just fine with a light, quick 7 and a half footer. Could I find a Granger rod or Orvis that would fit my price range of $600-$700 or so, and also cast a 4 or 5 weight line? Also, I notice that when looking at descriptions of different rods and how they cast, they are described as how well they cast a #4 DT or a #6 DT. Do all bamboo rods cast better with Double taper lines? Is that more a traditional exercise, or is there good reason for it? I actually don't get to do a whole lot of dry fly fishing, but am more often nymphing for trout. However, if I see rises, I am quick to change. I would like to buy a rod that is a fine fishing tool and will also at least hold it's value. My casting stroke is less frantic nowadays and I think I may be ready to appreciate a more traditional feel when I trout fish. Thanks again. Jeff
  18. Kent Lufkin

    Kent Lufkin Remember when you could remember everything?

    Jeff, I've got an absolutely beautiful W&M Granger Special 9050 9' 3/2. Sadly, it's really heavy and lacks the kind of quick response I had enjoyed in other, shorter Grangers. I picked up a 7-1/2' T&T Special Trouter last summer and it's everything the Granger isn't: light, precise, delicate. I think the key here is to stay with the shorter lengths and avoid the 9-foot mentality we've all come to believe is 'normal' for fly rods.

    I suggested the 7-1/2' Orvis Battenkill earlier because they're an excellent casting rod and also because Orvis made a buttload of 'em over the years (including the different-named versions of the same taper that Tim mentioned above) so they're quite common on the secondary market. You can occasionally find one for $500 or so. Spending a couple hundred more should land you a real beauty as long as you're not in a hurry. Almost all Orvis cane rods are impregnated so maintenance shouldn't be a big issue.

  19. Cliff

    Cliff Member

    Jeff, in my opinion the Stream & Lake is a completely different animal from the more common Granger models, such as the Special, Victory, etc. I believe the S&L was an impregnated rod, too (or maybe I'm thinking of the W&M Waterseal?). I once lawn cast a S&L and I didn't care for it. To answer your question, the 8'6" Granger Special I have does it all for me. I fish it all the time on the Yakima and Montana rivers. I used to feel that an 8ft bamboo rod was the longest rod I would want to fish, but the 8'6" Granger feels right. All of my other rods (except the Orvis Shooting Star) are 7-1/2ft to 8ft. I've found that I prefer to fish 7-1/2ft rod on smaller streams, only. I had a beautiful little 7-1/2ft Granger Special that I foolishly sold, which was a real sweetheart. I feel an 8ft rod is a great choice for an all-around bamboo rod. Yes, you can find a good Granger 8ft to 8-1/2ft rod in the price range of $500-$700, maybe even an excellent rod. Some of the mint Grangers are selling for really high (rediculous) prices, IMO. And for an Orvis in the same range you would have no problems finding a good rod. In the 7-1/2ft Grangers the prices are getting pretty silly, but that's the nature of collecting boo. You could still find a good one for $700, but you'll see them that price and higher.

    As this thread evolves and I see more input from you I see that you have a stronger attraction to bamboo than simply a graphite guy who wants to give bamboo a whirl. If you see them as works of art that are beautiful with a rich history, then you should probably avoid the Elkhorn rod. I happen to think that a rod such as the Elkhorn - if it is a good casting rod with acceptable construction and cosmetics, may be a good rod for someone who doesn't want to do a swan dive into bamboo, or for financial reasons cannot afford the extra $200-$300 hundred dollars for an american made rod, either production or hand-built. We talk of vast amounts of money like it's no big deal, but many of us are working stiffs putting kids through college who struggle like hell just to save a couple hundred bucks. Having said this I totally agree with Kent and Northlake on their comments about these types of rods vs. american rods. But there are fishermen out there who could give a fig about that, which is why the goofy Hexagraph "fake" fly rod was popular for a while.

    I'll let the builders (Northlake) respond about the type of lines bamboo rods are designed for, but every hand-planed rod I have ever owned was made for a DT line, according to the makers I bought them from. I pretty much fish DT's on all of my bamboo rods, but I have cast WF lines and they worked just fine. If you REALLY want to have fun try casting a silk line!

  20. Cliff

    Cliff Member

    TIM, thanks for the info. I really wanted to go the Metolius gathering but I just couldn't get a way. I used to rent the USFS Greenridge lookout overlooking the Metolius every year an had a ball fishing there. Glad you got to cast one of Robert's rods. They are incredible.

    TOM, thanks for the info on the Sir-D taper. I remember reading something about it on the rodmakers listserver, I think. It sounds very interesting.

    JEFF - I hope I didn't hijack this thread. We can both learn a lot from these guys.


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