Bamboo Fly Rods

Oyster bamboo fly rod

If you read "My fly fishing philosophy" earlier, you will probably see that I am somewhat of a "traditionalist" when it comes to fly fishing. One of the things I truly appreciate is a beautiful hand-crafted bamboo fly rod. I have never owned a real good one but I do appreciate their beauty and as a woodworker, I really appreciate the talents and attention to detail that goes into the making of these treasures.

Bamboo fly rods (aka split cane rods) have a long and storied history. They have become a very collectible item in the fly fishing world.

image credit: Oyster Bamboo Fly Rod Co.

A bamboo fly rod or a split cane rod is a fly fishing rod that is made from bamboo. The British generally use the term "split cane." In the U.S., most use the term "bamboo." The "heyday" of bamboo fly rod production and use was an approximately 75-year period from the 1870-s to the 1950s when fiberglass became the predominant material for fly rods. Nevertheless, bamboo fly rods made by skilled makers continue to be 'state-of-the-art' in performance and are cherished and revered by their owners.

A little bamboo rod history - 

Initially, the bamboo rod makers were gunsmiths and other craftsmen like H.L Leonard, whom Americans credit with creating the first six-sided rod, the configuration that is still predominant today. Leonard began making rods in 1874, and continued to do so until his death in 1907. Square or quadrate rods were the first rods Leonard attempted to make, but he eventually started making 6 strip or hexagonal rods for commercial reasons. At that time good quality cane was hard to find. What was available was often full of scorch marks and insect damage. For this reason it was easier to acquire six strips of good quality cane than 4 wider strips for the quadrate rod. Bill Edwards, Clarence "Sam" Carlson and Ebenezer Green produced quadrate rods and others even made bamboo rods which had pentagonal and octagonal cross-sections.

He did not make only the rods, the H.L. Leonard rod company made machinery to produce cane/ bamboo fly rods. The most important of these was the beveler. Some of the greatest fly rod makers learned their craft under Leonard and later opened their own rod shops. The company would continue to make rods for almost eight decades under various ownership, including surviving a fire in 1964 which virtually destroyed the shop. In 1984, the Leonard Rod Company closed its doors. The machinery from the shop, including the beveler, was purchased at auction by Marc Aroner who continues to make rods under his own name using the equipment.

Collectible bamboo fly rods:

Bamboo in the Closet: Treasure or What? (American Museum of Fly Fishing)

Vintage Fly Tackle

Adams Angling - I have known Jim Adams for many years and have purchased a few books from him. A great source of info on old gear.

Classic Fly Fisherman - also has collectible reels, flies, books, etc.

Coldwater Collectibles - also has other collectible fly fishing related items.