Types of Bamboo?


Active Member
Just an idle question here. Is Tonkin the only type of bamboo that people use for rod building? If so, why? I'm certain there are other kinds of bamboo that are of the "lumber" variety, so I'm left wondering a touch. Thanks.


Kent Lufkin

Remember when you could remember everything?
Although there are hundreds, if not thousands of individual species of bamboo, Tonkin is the only one that rodmakers use today. The reason is the resilience of the fiber that allows it to flex and spring back to it's original shape through hundreds of thousands of cycles. Calcutta cane was tried 80 to 100 years ago, but it didn't come close to Tonkin. If you're interested, you should find and watch a copy of the DVD 'Trout Grass'.

Here's why tonkin cane is the bamboo used by rodmakers:

Naturally straight
No branches
Slight taper
Power fibers stiff and resilient
Nodes almost flat
Selective harvesting for full maturity
Tough and strong

This was from the web site of Harold Demarest, an importer of tonkin cane. For those interested, you can get a lot of information on bamboo, and great pictures of China, on Demarest's web site, and also Andy Royer's:


My understanding is Arundinaria Amabilis (tonkin) only grow is a small region of China, it is known for its abundance of power fibers. I read where the strong winds in the area have forced the cane to evolve stronger than other types of cane.
there are types that work especially the japanese variety and i have seen a rod made of masso but they were nodeless i have experimented with re sawing bamboo flooring and have made 4 test rods from it, it definitely does not have the same characteristics as fresh tonkin. smaller diameter and faster probably because glues and finish. contact me if there are any questions
Actually--a few years ago I did an internet search on the subject. At the time I wanted to know if the Tonkin variety could be grown on this side of the pond. (A few have tried it with generally poor results.) However, it seems that, in fact, there are other species of bamboo that can be used to build a fly rod. I found a few folks that had done some experimentation and some of them had turned out rather well. Interestingly enough, one of the species used was black and another was purple. I don't know what has happened with their experimenting since because I didn't follow up on this and lost track of the people doing it, but if you search awhile, you may be able to dig up the skinny on this. I have also come across two articles, (Can't remember--Don't ask!) from people in Japan, who reported on using small, whole canes of bamboo to make up fly rods with surprizingly good results. I believe they even used different species for the butt and the tip and one of them made an all bamboo ferrule. They used methods that their ancestors used in making what I believe is properly termed a "fish'n pole." Oh yes--as to the issue of Bamboo used for lumber--that's what most of the Tonkin cane is used for--furniture and scaffolding etc. as I recall. Only a small percentage of the very best is used for fly rod building.

Oh me, oh my--a purple rod-fly... Hmmm... . . . . . .
Whoa Nelly!!!!
Just happened to stumble on a site that discusses whole cane bamboo fly rods. Google up Marutake fly rod. Interesting...

I am building a rod out of Madake bamboo from Japan in a couple months. A Japanese builder sold me a culm. If it is is anything close to Tonkin I will jump back on this thread and tell you all about it. I also built a rod out of Moso one time. It did not have enough power fibers and was a waste of time build. The original bamboo rods were made out of Calcutta cane. The problem with Calcutta was its small diameter, small distance in between nodes, and the fact that it was not very strait. That being said, I have casted rods made from Calcutta and they were pure pleasure.