Help!...Replacing Rod Guides on Bamboo rods

I have a few high quality English fly rods and a Leonard that I would like to use with the newer generation fly lines. This would require they have larger "S" guides and tips installed. I am fairly handy: is there some information available on getting and sizing the new guides and the best way of installing them? Is there someone qualified who does this as a hobby and would like a little extra cash?
Thanks for the help, Charles

First of all, your idea of installing larger guides on old rods is a good one. I've done this myself on a few old rods, and it makes a big difference. Many old production rods didn't have enough guides, and cast much better if you put on the right number with the correct spacing.

Wrapping snake guides on a bamboo rod is actually easier than doing a graphite or fiberglass rod, because you have a flat surface to wrap them on. You can use either silk or nylon thread - stick with size A. The best finish for wraps is multiple light coats of spar urethane varnish, which I think is a lot easier to apply than epoxy.

There are lots of instruction books and videos that describe how to do this. A good place to start would be Golden Witch in PA. They're great folks and can set you up with all the info and supplies you need. Their web site is

Many rodmakers will do refinishing jobs for a fee. A good starting point to find someone would be the Rodmakers web site: Also, there's an on-line form that many rodmakers participate in:

Hope this helps.



Help! I'm trapped in a landlocked state.
I'll second the Golden Witch plug. Great folks and always willing to answer questions, for both the graphite and bamboo camps.
I would reccomend a few things here, one, buy an alcohol burner....for the end finish on the epoxy, well worth the $$. A rod turning motor is also key to a nice finish product. And you really need to take the advice on spacing and number here. I have learned by trial and error, but doing your homework is invaluable. I finished a rod with snake foot guides and was so dissapointed with how stiff it turned out that I went to single foot guides and started over. The rod was to be a 4wt, and it really does fish nice now that the rod hasn't stiffened because of the number of lashings on the eyes and rod.

I have never had the pleasure of re working split bamboo, I have a few hierlooms I would like to fish, but as of yet, haven't had the time. I built the rods my sons fish with to start them out in the sport...
I wish you good luck

There are lots of guide spacing charts available. Use these as a starting point to tape the guides on. Then run a fly line through the guides, and pull on it to flex the rod. Adjust the guide spacing so that when the rod is flexed the way you'd cast it, the line is roughly the same distance from the blank at each guide. It can take up to an hour of tinkering to get it just right, but it's worth the effort.

As a rule of thumb, the number of guides, including the stripping guide, should be 1 plus the length of the rod in feet. For a 9' rod, you should have 10 guides - i.e. 9 snake guides and one stripper, or 8 snakes and two stripping guides.

Hope this helps.


Kent Lufkin

Remember when you could remember everything?
I have a few high quality English fly rods and a Leonard that I would like to use with the newer generation fly lines. This would require they have larger "S" guides and tips installed.
I'm gonna take a contrarian position here.

First, I have a number of older cane rods and regularly fish them with new lines. While today's fatter lines fit more snugly in the old guides, it hasn't restricted my casting ability or distance. If you're still concerned, try fishing with one of Cortland's 444 Sylk lines. They're specifically designed to bring today's technology in a thinner diameter footprint to older rods.

Second, although you don't mention who made your older English rods or what model Leonard you have, I can almost guarantee that adding newer guides, especially if done poorly, will dramatically and adversely affect the value of those rods, NOT enhance it.

One of the beauties of old cane rods is that their value often exceeds the inflation rate, making them a wonderful investment. To use an analogy, you could also put a Mr. Goodwrench Chevy 350 V-8 into a 1960s Jaguar XK-E. Sure it'd go faster, but doing so would drastically reduce the number of people willing to pay top dollar for an otherwise original car.

I would like to thank everyone for the information. I think I may leave this job to a professional. A few years back, I had a couple of Hardy rods reconditioned by Hardy in London. I appreciate that everybody needs to make a living, but those two rods were ridiculous, I could have bought a new Bamboo rod cheaper. On a positive note, now they cast as smooth as silk. The rods I am thinking of doing are two Ogden Smith Ltd. Of London rods. I very much like their rods and the Hardy shop in London agrees that they are fine rods. Seems Ogden Smith and Hardy were neighbors in London and were quite friendly. The Lenonard rod is around somewhere but can’t find it right now and the last one is an Edwards Autograph Special #53. To the Gentleman’s comments about affecting their value, it has always been my opinion that if a piece of equipment is unable to perform the function it was originally designed to do, regardless of its beauty or pedigree, it has no value. I own many “old” things, like SS shotguns, two classic English sports cars and many fine old woodworking tools. All of them function perfectly and are used regularly or they would belong to someone else. If you cannot use expensive things, what is the point of owning them? I shoot competition Skeet with a $21,000.00 Krieghoff K80. Every year I put 50,000+ rounds through it and have been doing it for the past 10 years and it is as good as the day I bought it. I invest my money in bonds, not fishing rods. Again, thanks for all the information; I am now better equipped to ask whoever does the work some pertinent questions regarding the guides and their proper placement.
PS: you can not fit a Chevy 350 into a XKE Roadster or Coupe and still be able to close the bonnet.