Bamboo

#1
Ok, I am trying to learn about fly fishing. (I am sure you all realize that.) Dumb question on my part but I am curious. Why does everyone rave about bamboo flyrods? The 3 rods that I have accumulated are all fiberglass. They work fine. My Uncle who has FF for years has cast with them and says they are just fine and cast well. Was not real impressed with my reels but the rods were just fine. Anyone want to weigh in with an opinion? Oh how do you tell what weight of fly rod you have? The one I can get to easily says it is an 8' 5/6 fly line. Ok I know it is an 8 foot rod. 5 to 6 weight? I have caught some trout on it. They were planted hatchery fish but I will say I caught fish with it. Granted it is not a steel head rod that much I know but what do I have?
 
#4
Answering your questions could take volumes of books - and has!

First, bamboo. Bamboo is an organic material, made not by factories but by craftsmen (and women). I'm generalizing here, but their action tends to be slower than fiberglass, which tends to be slower than graphite. There are exceptions to every rule, of course. Bamboo generally forces you to slow down your casting stroke, and that's not a bad thing. Bamboo fans feel that the their rods are often a bit more sensitive to light strikes than their non-organic counterparts. You won't see many 9' bamboo rods, as they tend toward smaller sizes and 4-7 weights (again, generalizations here, with plenty of exceptions). There are those who collect bamboo rods because of their beauty, and/or historic nature. But mostly, there are just folks who like bamboo overall, for the entire experience. I could go on, but there are many posts in these forums on bamboo, as well as books galore. John Gierach's "Fishing Bamboo" is a good general start.

Your fiberglass rods will, as you say, work just fine. There are some high-end fiberglass rods that are pretty spectacular, but also a lot of them from "the olden days." Those latter tend to be quite a bit heavier and slower action than your typical graphite rod. I have a buddy who has used a fiberglass rod he got at some department store 40 years ago that he uses, and last weekend while over at my house, and tried out my 1-piece 8'10" Hardy Zenith, a high-end graphite rod. He couldn't get over how light it was, and for that weight, how strong it was. Spend a day on the river, and every extra ounce you cast will make a difference, when cast hundreds or thousands of time in a day. Long fiberglass rods are made, but when you get above 9', they seem overly heavy to me.

Graphite is a lot stronger and lighter than fiberglass, as a general rule. Graphite rods also tend to be stiffer, and some don't like that, but a lot do, because it helps punch flies out through wind, and also helps their fly get farther out. Don't get me wrong - in the right hands, a bamboo or fiberglass rod can make long casts, but overall, it's easier for a journeyman fly caster to do so with a graphite rod.

A 5-weight, in my opinion, is about at the pivot point of needing a drag to slow big fish. Below that, a reel is just a place to hold line, in my opinion. I wouldn't buy a new reel for a 6-weight without a drag, though. a 5-weight reel could go either way. Newer reels are delightful because they are just made to tighter tolerances, with lighter and stronger materials than old ones.

In all these cases, if you decide to move from your current rods or reels, there are many choices, from $50 to infinity. But start with getting your current setup working as well as possible.

Others will likely add or subtract from this, and many of them have much more experience than I do. I will say that you should find yourself a knowledgeable fly fisher and have them look at your rods and reels to give you advice on what line to pair them with, etc. A visit to a fly shop will also be useful.
 

Old Man

Just an Old Man
#5
It's odd that you can buy a cheap reel and it will have a drag of some kind on it. Or you can go the route of the clicker drag. Like they say the reel is there to hold the fly line. Above a 5wt reel a drag is important but not required as you can palm the reel with your hand to try to slow a bigger fish down. Most every fly fished knows what palming a reel is.. If you don't, It is holding your palm on the reel to slow thing down or to keep the fish from running away and taking your line . And be sure to keep your fingers away from the knob.
 

Salmo_g

Well-Known Member
#6
I don't rave about bamboo rods, but I own maybe close to a dozen of them. What I most appreciate about fishing with bamboo rods is that they feel "alive" in my hand compared to fiberglass and graphite. I used to fish heavier line weight (8 & 9) for steelhead, but they are noticeably heavier than their synthetic fiber counterparts. So I stopped using them years ago in favor of graphite rods mainly for that reason. In trout rod weights of 5 or 6 wt, the rods are light enough - though heavier than graphite - as not to be a relevant factor in rod selection. Face it, if you're not strong enough to cast a 4 oz. rod all day, you're really not strong enough to fly fish anyway.

As for reels, the need for machined bar stock fly reels with disc drags is primarily the product of marketing hype. Cheap stamped aluminum reels are no longer made, but they last for years, and there's not a thing wrong with them unless you're susceptible to marketing propaganda. Cast aluminum reels with spring and pawl drags have been made for over a century, and many of the earliest ones are still in service. They are good for a lifetime or more of service, although they are slightly more susceptible to breaking than are the machined bar stock models. As for disc drags, many fail, at all price points. I don't know why and haven't looked into it because I'm very satisfied with the traditional and tried and proven spring and pawl models, which rarely fail, except in the cheapest models. And anyone who needs a disc drag for fishing for North American freshwater fish species just doesn't know how to play a fish. That said, I do appreciate a disc drag for playing Chinook salmon and playing them with a spring and pawl reel can feel more like work than pleasure. But I don't often fish for Chinook, so no problem for me.

When rods are not marked for line weight, you determine the appropriate line weight be developing the experience to know by feel, or lacking sufficient experience, you have someone who is experienced give it a feel and make a recommendation for you. The right line for a rod is almost as subjective as it is objective. And many of today's stiff-as-a-fireplace-poker graphite rods that are rated for a particular line weight end up casting better with a line one or two weights heavier for most casters. So the right line weight for any rod eventually becomes a matter of "it depends."
 

Big Rob

Active Member
#7
That's like asking why people restore/collect/drive vintage cars :rolleyes:
I've spent $$$$ on restoration of motorcycles born before I was.
Yeah....new shit is new, smells new, looks new, works like new. But too many have/want new.
....but to use and appreciate the stuff that was made when our chosen hobby was in its infancy....that's what gets me right in the feels. Hand crafted, not robot-line manufactured....

Fish don't care what you're casting with. Go have fun.
 
#8
I started fly fishing as a youngster, with one of my Dad’s bamboo rods.
Then got my own fiberglass rod(s), and later started using graphite rods as those became available. So have owned/fished a lot of different rods. Still have a few fiberglass that never get used, several graphite (Winston IM6 & WT, and Sage LL mostly), and some bamboo (Phillipson, Orvis, and Winston). Have been fishing the bamboo rods and the Winston Graphite rods more lately. Probably not as easy for a poor caster to use as the newest sticks, but to me they feel like shaking hands with an old friend when I pick them up. The bamboo seem to transmit more “feel” even down into the grip. The Orvis and Phillipson bamboo rods are impregnated, very sturdy and impervious to moisture.
 
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#9
Cast bamboo....shoot graphite! Each has their own place and applications, I fish bamboo 95% year round and graphite when it's cold, raining and freezing.
 
#11
I understand the analogy of the vintage cars. There is nothing like the feel of vintage equipment. For the moment I will fish with what I have. One of my reels is a good old medalist. A newer design but still quite reliable. I do like the thought of a reel being just a holder of line. Thank you everybody for your insight and your answers. I will take them all to heart.
 
#12
Some have said bamboo rods have “soul”, which is lacking in rods made from more modern materials... and I agree. Made from natural materials into the beautiful tools that they are, a bamboo rod just seems more fitting along a trout stream.

I like the tradition and handmade craftsmanship that goes into them. And I just like fishing them, especially the older ones.
 
#15
I understand the analogy of the vintage cars. There is nothing like the feel of vintage equipment. For the moment I will fish with what I have. One of my reels is a good old medalist. A newer design but still quite reliable. I do like the thought of a reel being just a holder of line. Thank you everybody for your insight and your answers. I will take them all to heart.
Rick, a Pflueger medalist is at home on bamboo. Heavy enough and American made class! I still have my first fly reel...1494 from 1965. I still fish some Pflueger's, a '30 1494 and a Gem, both clicker reels.

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