Why Bamboo?

Taransky Bamboo Home Page

Casting and Presentation

Hooking and Playing Fish

Tackle Tips

Rod Care

Conclave Casting Notes

Flyfisher Columns

Other Articles

FAQ

As well as bamboo's aesthetics, and the connection with angling tradition, bamboo rods are unrivaled in many fishing situations. Small to medium streams and stillwaters are ideally matched with the precise, delicate presentation offered by quality bamboo rods.

The perception that bamboo rods are slow and heavy is owed to old rods that are quite commonly found gathering dust in Grandpa's garage. While these were serviceable in their day (and there are some very good old rods still around), they are heavier and slower than cane rods built today.

Bamboo is best suited to line weights between #3 & #6 and lengths between 6 & 8 feet. Within this range the weight and flex of bamboo is at its best. These shorter length rods have many advantages in tight, bushy surrounds. For those technically minded, the modulus of bamboo lies between that of fibreglass (S-glass) and graphite.

Casting and Presentation

The slight weight in bamboo loads the rod slightly even with no line through the guides. This allows it to cast short line lengths (or even just part of the leader) with ease. The natural flex in bamboo also makes it forgiving to cast with, and enhances the feel of the line loading. Bamboo is ideal for delivering delicate presentations or where accurate casting is required in sight fishing situations.

Bamboo has a cushioning effect, especially in medium or semi parabolic tapers, when casting weighted nymphs or wets. This reduces the horrible "bounce" of a weighted fly on the back cast.

A general point to consider when casting any rod (bamboo or graphite) for the first time: Give it a real work out in close to medium fishing distances as well as trying to see how far you can cast with it. There are many great long casting rods out there that won't work in close where much of our fishing is done.

The other thing to try when casting bamboo is to relax and feel the rod loading. While bamboo is easy to cast (making it ideal for beginners), it still responds to technique and smoothly applied power. The more you fish with it, the more that you realise what it is capable of.

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Hooking and Playing fish

Bamboo has a supple authority, which buffers tippet breakage on the strike, and absorbs the erratic jerks of a fish when being played. Because most modern cane rods are relatively short, they also give the angler excellent leverage and fish stopping power.

Bamboo rods are capable of landing large fish. It is important to use the rod properly when playing fish, for both maximum effectivenessin landing the fish quickly for release, and also to look after the rod. Have a look at the "Rod Care" section for more information.

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Tackle Tips

While discussing bamboo rods, it is worth making a couple of points relating to the tackle that should be used with them.

Reels - While modern, light reels are OK on bamboo rods, I prefer the balance and look of classic reels (like older model Hardy's, Peerless, Godfrey and Bogdan). Many of these reels are no longer in production, but can be found on auction sites and from reputable dealers like Jeff Wagner or Len Codella. If the reel has a bit of wear on the finish, or a few sctatches or dents, even better. It will just make you less scared of getting out and using it!

Lines - Weight forward (WF) and double taper (DT) lines are both well suited to bamboo rods - it is a matter of taste. The front taper of most WF and DT lines these days is often so similar that it makes little difference at close to medium fishing distances. I personally prefer the feel of a double taper line on medium to longer casts, as I like to have the heavy line in the rod and just out of the rod tip, turning over lighter line in the cast (the same theory as a triangle taper). For most of my fishing, I cut my DT lines in half and splice hollow braid onto the back end, giving two lines for the price of one. This gives you full control over the double taper out to 45 feet of flyline (so a 55 to 60 foot cast including the leader) and easy long shooting when needed (better than a WF) with the hollow braid shooting line.

Leader connections - Because bamboo can cast half a leader or less, I quite often have the leader connection part way through the rod. Any knot, even a tight nail knot, is a real nuisance when shooting out through the guides, so I employ the "super glue" knotless leader to line connection**. This is also much better when landing a fish, as the connection can pass back and forth through the tip and guides if the fish lunges when close to hand.

** Note - Peter Hayes is now selling Dave Whitlock Knotless Connection Kits which make this knotless connection even easier. It contain everything you need to make this and many other useful connections too. I try and keep some of these available here as well.

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Rod Care

Well cared for, a bamboo rod will last many years of fishing. Like all quality equipment, a bamboo rod should be treated with respect. Please take the time to look through the following care instructions.

GENERAL
Major threats to damaging a bamboo rod include:
- severe overbending, or placing a sharp bend over a small section of the rod;
- striking the rod against rocks, branches (or with bead head flies) causing dings or chips in the bamboo; and
- sustained contact with moisture (caused for example by storing a wet rod in a sealed tube after fishing).

Keep these general issues in mind when using and storing your rod. Following are some specific instructions which will minimise the chances of damaging your rod.

STORAGE
When not in use, the rod should be kept in a cool, dry place. Before placing the rod back in its tube after a day's fishing, wipe it dry of any excess moisture. After returning from your trip, either hang the rod in its bag in a safe place by the loop of the bag (the BEST way to store it), or at the least, leave the cap off the tube for a week or two (or permanently - just don't lose the cap) to allow moisture to leave the tube**.

Never store the rod leaning up against a wall while it is out of its tube. If left leaning at an angle over time, this may result in a "set" in the rod sections.

Never leave the rod in the sun in the back of a car.

When placing the whole bag and sections back in the tube, form a ring around the top of the tube with the thumb and forefinger of one hand (slightly smaller than the opening). This protects the rod and guides from catching on the lip of the tube as the bag is inserted.

The rod bag supplied with your rod is designed so that the rod sections can be moved in and out of the tube without complete removal of the bag. When returning a rod section into the bag, do so gently. Never try and force the rod back into the bag and tube.

When not in use, keep the plug(s) in the ferrules to keep dirt and moisture out if your rod has them.

Never store the rod assembled. The ferrules may fuse and get stuck!

** While a TOTALLY dry rod is safe in a sealed tube, I have seen many old rods damaged by damp or humid storage inside a sealed rod tube. The cork grip, in particular, can absorb a large amount of water during fishing, particularly if immersed, and needs time to breathe and dry out. Additionally, it is possible to twist and force a bend into the rod's sections while storing it in a tube, resulting in a "set", or press guides from upper rod sections into the grip, leading to dents int the grip (especially a small diameter tube with a "snug" fit of the rod). I have even seen a graphite rod, stored damp in a tube for years, penetrated by moisture, resulting in a white, chalky blotched appearance.

ASSEMBLING THE ROD
Do not lubricate the ferrule. Give the male ferrule a wipe with a clean cloth (or your shirt!) before assembly.

Align the guides from the two sections before seating the ferrule. Never assemble the rod with the ferrules misaligned and then twist it into place. Never force the ferrules together if they feel too tight. Take the rod apart and clean out the female ferrule with a cotton bud or barrel of tissue.

When seating the ferrules, keep your hands as close together as practical (adjacent to the ferrules) to avoid placing the rod under undue pressure.

When setting up, avoid bending the tip when pulling line through. Pull the line straight out from the tip. Never hold the rod near the tip and pull line out at an angle.

TAKING THE ROD APART
When taking the rod apart, hold the butt section low down (with your right hand - if right handed), with your hand close to you, and hold the tip section (with your left hand) just above the ferrule, with your arm out relatively straight. This will promote a straight pull on the rod.

Never use the guides to brace your grip on the rod while assembling or disassembling the rod.

Remember the basic rule “together-together, apart-apart” (rod together – hands together, rod apart – hands apart).

FISHING
If your rod has a spare tip, alternate the them on fishing trips.

While playing a fish, try to turn the rod over periodically to balance the pressure on the rod.

Avoid “high sticking” the rod while playing fish. High sticking is pointing the rod straight up, or even back behind you, when exerting pressure on the fish. This can over stress the rod, leading to breakage or a “set” in the rod. Because of the fuller loading nature of bamboo over stiffer materials, a more effective way to tire and play fish is to keep the rod lower, at 45 degrees.

Sometimes the rod may show a slight bend, after playing a large fish, for example. Giving the rod a wiggle as soon as you notice this, should straighten it. Keeping (and storing) the rod straight will reduce the chance of the rod taking a permanent set.

Never use the rod to pull a fly out of a snag or bush. Take some slack line in front of the tip, and carefully pull the fly free (or break the tippet) by hand.

When storing the fly on the stream, if the rod is not fitted with a hook keeper, pass the leader under the reel foot, and hook the fly on a convenient guide on the rod. Keep the line tight enough to hold the fly in place, but never so tight so the rod is kept bent.

If your rod is accidentally damaged in the course of fishing, stop fishing with it immediately, to avoid further damage. A small crack in the rod can sometimes be repaired, without the requirement to replace the entire section.

Even with care, bamboo rods can eventually take a “set” (usually in the tip section, in a downward direction). This does not affect the fishing properties of the rod, and can be seen as a sign of character.

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Conclave Casting Notes

The notes below form the basis of my "Casting Bamboo" session at Peter Hayes Fly Fishing Conclaves. Feel free to have a read, but there is no substitute for being there! I can highly recommend attending one of Peter's Conclaves. It's an ideal opportunity to learn from Australia's leading casters and instructors. As well as casting bamboo, you can learn to improve your distance, retrieves, presentation, fly tying, curve and mend casts, fishing photography, two handed casting, streamcraft and much more. There's a wealth of information for fly anglers of all levels of experience from beginner to advanced. Stay tuned to Peter's website for details of future Conclaves - www.peterhayesflyfishing.com

Casting Bamboo Notes: html rtf

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Fly Fisher Columns

Flyfisher Magazine (Australia) has been very kind in offering me a regular Bamboo column in their wonderful magazine. You can find it in Newsagents or Tackle Stores, but to avoid missing out, I recommend subscribing. Check out the AFN website to subscribe (and pickup back issues of any editions that haven't already sold out): www.afn.com.au

Flyfisher have been kind enough to let me reproduce my columns online here in PDF format once the magazine has been in circulation for a while:

Issue #6 (My path into Bamboo)

Issue #7 (Bamboo Rod Care)

Issue #8 (Rod Tapers, Famous Makers and their Rod Styles)

Issue #9 (Casting with Cane)

Issue #10 (Making your own rod)

Issue #11 (Tackle considerations - reels, lines, leaders etc - for bamboo)

Issue #12 (Short Bamboo Rods - Part 1 - Ray Brown and the "Well-Tempered Angler)

Issue #13 (Short Bamboo Rods - Part 2 - The "Monaro 45" and "Bush Creek")

Issue #14 (Japanese Rods and Rodmakers)

Issue #14 (Feature Article - Flyfishing Japan)

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Fly Fisher Columns

Article on "Technical" advantages of bamboo for Tom Sutcliffe's "Spirit of Fly Fishing" website.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How do I choose a rod?
Are bamboo rods best for all fishing situations?
Are bamboo rods durable?
I'm not very experienced. Should I get a bamboo rod?
Are bamboo rods suitable for women?
Should I use Silk Lines on a bamboo rod?
What about Double Taper versus Weight Forward lines on Bamboo?
I have an old Bamboo Rod. Is it any good? How much is it worth? It's broken - is it woth repairing?

How do I choose a rod?
(Short answer - a 7 foot #4 is a great starting point if you fish streams)

If possible, nothing is better than having a cast of some different rods and picking the one you like. This is becoming increasingly possible, with more and more bamboo rods out there. The VFFA Cane day and Peter Hayes Fly Fishing Conclaves are wonderful gatherings and present an opportunity to cast an array of bamboo rods made by me and other rodmakers. Guides like Peter, and long time Snowy Mountains guide Paul Bourne, also offer guiding with bamboo, which can be a great way to try a rod.

I make myself available here in Queanbeyan, near the Snowy Mountains to have a cast of the large range of demonstration rods I have here. With the current waiting time for a rod, there is often a chance to catch up between making an inquiry/placing an order and before I start making the rod. It's also a chance to choose grip shape and size, reelseat timbers, agate stripping guides and other rod cosmetics. Current tapers available for trial are updated on the "What's New" page from time to time. Email or call me to make an appointment.

I can also help you to choose a rod via the phone or email. Depending on the type of fishing you prefer (dry fly, nymph etc), where you like to fish (small streams, larger rivers, stillwaters, wade polaroiding etc), and your personal fishing style, I can help you to select the right rod. I also have personal experience in most Australian trout fishing regions which can assist in the process too.

Bamboo rods are great stream fishing tools - and a 7 foot #4 is a great starting point when choosing a rod.

These are some of the factors to consider:

Rod - Taper/Action
A wide variety of rod actions and tapers are available in bamboo. I offer a large number of options in both Classic and modern tapers adapted for Australian conditions. Have a look at the "Rod Range" page for detailed descriptions. Faster/tip action rods tend to be classed as "Dry Fly", though these can also be used with small nymphs and wets. Similarly, fuller loading rods, while cushioning wets, including lightly weighted flies, can also be used very effectively with dries.

It's worth noting that even fast taper bamboo rods tend to be quite forgiving when it comes to casting. Also, though full loading, slower action rods can be very good for less experienced anglers, some of the most experienced anglers and casters also really enjoy fishing these smooth, deep loading rods.

Flyfisher Issue #8 featured a column by me on different styles of rod actions and tapers. It is available now for purchase from tackle stores newsagents or online from AFN, or you view it online here.

Rod - Length
For small, tight creeks, a short rod (6- foot) is worth considering. This can also be a good choice for wade polaroiding where short, fast presentations are required. If fishing larger, or more open streams, rivers or stillwaters, a longer rod of 7 1/2 - 8 foot may be more comfortable. Short rods tend to be a little harder to handle too if you fish with weighted flies, or more than one fly (say a dry with a weighted dropper). Rods under 7 feet also require a little more skill and experience when it comes to line management, but once you get used to short rods you may not want to fishin with anything else. I do a great deal of my fishing with a fairly short rod (6 1/2 foot #4), even on some larger waters.

Rod - Line Weight
One of the the wonderful qualities of bamboo rods are the feel, close up loading and smooth presentation that they give you, even with line weights of #5-6. If you are used to fishing a light graphite (#3 or less), don't rule out a #4 or even #4/5 bamboo. You'll still get the close range performance and have fun on small fish, but have the power you'll need when the wind picks up (as it invariably does in our high country), to playing larger fish quickly for a safe release.

Of course, if you fish larger rivers or lakes and want to fish bamboo, then a #6 or possibly even a #7 may be worth considering.

Rod - Configuration (2 or 3 pieces)
In general, a 2 or 3 piece rod in the same taper will have similar performance. The 3 piece rod, with the weight higher up in the second (top) ferrule, can help load the rod a little and make it a little easier loading. One consideration for those flying is that a 3 piece rod, in its tube, will often fit inside a suitcase or other check-in baggage.

Rod - Cosmetics
There are a large number of choices available in personalising your rod, including
- Reelseat timber and style
- Grip shape and size
- Wrap colours
- Agate/stripping guide colour
- Engraving, leather rod case and other customisations
Have a look at the "Rod Range" page and "Gallery" page for choices and ideas.
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Are bamboo rods best for all fishing situations?
(Short answer - NO - but they are unparalleled for some)

A look at any old archival photographs or film, from prior to the 1960s, will show you what bamboo fly rods are capable of tackling. Massive Atlantic Salmon, huge Rainbow Trout on the Tongariro, Bonefish, Tarpon, Sharks...

Just because it's possible it doesn't mean bamboo is best for all types of fishing. Where longer rods (over 9 feet) or heavy lines (#8 and over) are required, the physical weight of bamboo becomes a factor. People ARE using bamboo for SOME of this type of fishing, but I'm reluctant to make anyone a rod over 8 1/2 foot or over a #7, unless they have already fished with bamboo rods of this size and weight.

Here's the upside. For stream fishing rods, particularly below 8 feet, the weight in bamboo is actually an advantage. It helps to "pre load" the rod, allowing accurate short to medium range presentations, as well as giving great feel and balance. Just think of other situations where weight is a positive. Try using a child's light plastic hammer to bang in a nail, or drinking good red wine from a plastic cup instead of a glass. Or how about fishing a wet fly that just won't sink! It's all about context.

In short, if I could find a rod that fished better than bamboo for stream fishing, I would be using it.
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Are bamboo rods durable?
(Short answer - YES - but not indestructable)

Properly cared for, a bamboo rod should last for many years of service - probably longer than the average fishing lifetime. For example, I made a 7 foot #4 for my good fishing mate and Snowy Mountains Guide, Paul Bourne, back in 2004. Since then he has fished the rod for approximately 400 days on the water, and caught around 3,000 fish up to around 5lb on it. Paul looks after his gear, but demands performance from his tackle and is uncompromising in his fishing. He also fishes graphite, and has been through over 5 graphite rods from major manufacturers during the same period. The bamboo rod has had a couple of minor repairs in this time, but is still going strong and fishes well.

Similarly, at a recent Peter Hayes Flyfishng Conclave, I was talking to two leading casters, who between them had broken over 10 rods between them from a major graphite manufacturer, while casting. Does this mean bamboo is stronger than graphite? No, just that any rod, under extreme load, pushed beyond certain limits, will eventually break.

Like any rod, if mistreated, abused,or neglected, bamboo rods can be broken or damaged. There are some common elements in caring for both graphite and bamboo rods, but also some differences. Have a look at the "Rod Care" section above for more information. My column in Flyfisher magazine (Issue #7) also goes into depth about rod care - you can read the column online here.
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I'm not very experienced. Should I get a bamboo rod?
(Short answer - SOON)

There are two sides to this. The easy loading nature of bamboo rods mean that they can be ideal to learn fly casting on. A full loading taper like the Driggs River, with a #5 line, is one of the best rods to learn to cast on (and one of the easiest to teach beginners with).

Having said that, there is more to fly fishing than casting, and when you are starting out, all the things to remember can be overwhelming at times. This can result in some pretty extreme and abnormal tangles and rod angles, increasing the likelihood of breaking ANY rod. Though bamboo rods are durable in many ways (see above), my advice to absolute beginners is to start with a medium action, easy casting moderatley price ranged graphite rod. Something around an 8 foot #5 is good to start with, particularly if you plan to fish streams. Get some experience and time on the water with this. I also strongly recommend getting some tuition from experts like Paul Bourne or Peter Hayes. Time and money spent early on with good instruction will pay off over and over again! Learn the basics of casting, line management, playing fish, neat line to leader connections, how to carry a rod on bushy tracks, and how to look after your tackle. It will make your fishing much more successful and fun!

There's nothing wrong at all in getting a bamboo rod once you've gained some initial experience. Just take the proper care in fishing it and looking after it, and it should last you a fishing lifetime...
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Are bamboo rods suitable for women?
(Short answer - Definitely!)

Bamboo rods are a wonderful choice for women! Although bamboo rods are slightly heavier than a graphite rod of the same length and line weight, a bamboo rod in a #4 and say 7 feet in length is not heavy in feel at all. A rod of this size is suitable for people of all levels of physical strength. In addition, the easy loading nature of bamboo rods mean that they can respond to less physical effort in a casting stroke than stiffer rods. In fact, I see more people applying too much power when trying to cast bamboo, rather than insufficient power.

Also, most mass market graphite rod makers (with at least one notable exception - good on you Winston!), make grips far too large for people with small hands, including many women. An advantage of ordering a rod made by me (or another rodmaker), is that you can have a grip made to fit your hand regardless of the size.

You can also choose wrap colours, agate stripping guides, engraving, and other cosmetic choices that allow you to personalise your rod in beautiful and distinctive ways.
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Should I use Silk Lines on a bamboo rod?
(Short answer - Not necessarily, but they are excellent lines)

Although silk lines do perform very well on bamboo rods, modern plastic lines fish well on bamboo too. Similarly, many anglers use silk lines on graphite rods. I use both modern plastic and silk lines when fishing bamboo. More and more, I am turning to silk (and Terenzio artificial silk), not for reasons of tradition, but for performance. They are thinner, shoot and present better, when well dressed, they float as well or better, and retain no memory or coiling. They are also very low stretch. Durability wise, well cared for, they will outlast a plastic line (especially a WF) several times over. The down side is that they do need to be dressed to float, dried after use, and generally treated with more care than plastic. The initial purchase price is also more for Silk than Plastic (though the longer life of Silk does offset this). Silk (and Artificial Silk) can aslo be stiff to start with and can take some "wearing in". See the "Other Products" page for more information on Silk Lines.
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What about Double Taper versus Weight Forward lines on Bamboo?
(Short answer - Personal Choice - but don't answer until you have fished a Double Taper)

With many modern fly lines, the front taper of the Weight Forward and Double Taper lines of the same model and manufacturer are pretty much the same. What this means is that for short to medium casts (most fishing situations), there is generally little or no difference between DT and WF lines.

Beyond the front taper, a DT in general stays thicker/heavier to the middle of the line, and then tapers down at the other end the same as the front taper (with a symmetrical profile like <>), WF has a rear taper, followed by thin running line (giving a profile like <--). I personally like the feel of the DT line on medium to longer casts, with the heavy body of the line being inside and at the rod tip , rather than a WF with the whole head being outside the rod along with thin running line. I believe the DT gives better line control in these circumstances. Of course, with a WF, you can shoot the thinner running line more easily. But, I think it's easier to aerialise more line to start with when using a DT...

One thing to note is that a DT line has more overall volume than an equivalent WF line (the DT stays thicker longer, and then gradually tapers back again, while a WF drops off after the front taper to thin running line). This means you'll need a reel with more capacity to fit a DT on it than a correspoding WF. This is why, for stream fishing, I just cut a DT in half, and splice some hollow braid behind it before the fine Micron or other fine backing. This:
1) Gives the same performance as a full DT or WF for short to medium casts
2) A little more thick line/head than a WF rear taper and thin running line for control on medium length casts to say 45 feet
3) Low tangle, super shooting hollow braid when longer casts are required
4) Lower volume than a full DT or WF, allowing use of a compact, standard arbour, balanced, classic fly reel
5) TWO Flylines for the price of one!

Note, I tend not to cut Silk Lines in half. They are much thinner than plastic lines in the same line weight, so reel volume/size is less of an issue. It's also a good idea to reverse Silk Lines from time to time, to wear them evenly, so it's more convenient to keep them intact.
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I have an old Bamboo Rod. Is it any good? How much is it worth? It's broken - is it woth repairing?
(Short answer - Hmmmn)

Many people have an old bamboo rod or two, that have come to them from earlier family generations, second hand stores or garage sales. The first thing I will say is that if a rod has sentimental value as a family keepsake, then it is valuable for that reason alone, and any monetary value is a separate issue.

Most older bamboo rods found here in Australia tend to be made for relatively heavy line weights (over #6), and in lengths over 8 feet. Some of these cast quite well, and are very fishable, but many are heavy by modern standards. Australian rods from Gillies, Turvilles and Southam are examples of this. When you see the size of fish people were catching (in good numbers) 50 years ago it's not suprising that these rods have a bit of heft and grunt! The market for these rods is quite small, so they often change hands at club auctions for relative bargain prices.

Similarly, most older Hardy rods found here tend to be long, slow and heavy. Although old Hardy reels are highly sought after and command (frustratingly) high prices, Hardy bamboo rods do not attract similarly high prices.

The rule of thumb for me is - if you have one of these rods, try casting some different line weights on it. If you like the feel of how it casts and fishes - great! If it feels too slow and heavy, try a modern 7 foot #4 and notice the difference! An issue with these older, heavier rods, is the massive jump in weight and action compared to a super stiff, light modern graphite that you may be currently used to. After fishing a shorter, lighter bamboo bamboo for a while, the feel of some of these older rods may become more accessible to you. I know I have warmed to a number of these old rods, though many that will bever be my cup of tea.

Another commonly seen rod is the boxed, multi configuration type (with reversible butt to allow use as both a fly or spin rod), complete with bright little flies and floats. Sadly, though these are lovely keepsakes in good condition, the bamboo used to make them (not Tonkin Cane) is not really suitable to be fished (as testified by the fact that they are nearly all broken)! Most of these were made in Japan made at the end of WWII as souvenirs for returning Western soldiers.

Collectability and price of old bamboo rods is driven by the American Classic makers and the US market. Suffice to say, if you have a rod under 8 feet long, in good condition, in a #5 or lighter from makers like Garrison, Payne, Leonard, Gillum, Dickerson, Young, Powell, Edwards (or quite a few others), you may have a rod worth quite a bit of money. There are some books that can give a rough price guide as can Classic Rod sellsers such as Len Codella's Sporting Collectables and SOME internet auction results.

Regarding repair, these rare, valuable, collectable rods are well worth repairing. The previously mentioned wooden boxed rods, or heavier, longer rods, can be touched up if they need a new guide or wrap redone, or have a set taken out. If a section is broken however, or other major work is needed, a full repair/restoration will often cost more than the rod will be worth afterwards. I am always happy though to look over old rods and give an honest appraisal.
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