Without a doubt, fine bamboo that has been carefully chosen, cured, split, bonded, and proportioned makes the greatest material for fly fishing rods. More so than steel or solid wood, it combines strength with lightness, resilience, pliancy, power, and balance.
It used to be possible for rod builders and anglers to distinguish between male and female Tonkin and Calcutta “canes,” but in the current climate, good Calcutta is becoming more and more of a trade phrase. It is more difficult to find decent bamboo of any kind, and Tonkin is preferable than Calcutta when it comes to quality. However, Tonkin or the male Calcutta are thought to be inferior than both. Steel vine or African cane is the least expensive split cane. It is a light shade and can be used to build decent, affordable bamboo fly fishing rods.
Six Strip and 8 Strip Bamboo Fly Fishing Rods
We’ll presume you’re aware that bamboo is split, then the pieces are glued together to shrink the diameter and make use of the tough outer enamel. Although bamboo can be divided into eight or six parts to form octagonal or hexagonal rods, the six-strip design is more common. Some manufacturers assert that the eight-strip has greater action since it is closer to a genuine cylinder, although this claim seems more theoretical than practical, and the tiny ends of an eight-strip rod are probably “soft” because of the relative amount of glue required to hold the parts together. Eight strip rods cost more than the six strip and if the angler wants a round bamboo fly fishing rod they are preferable to the six strips planed down as planning certainly must injure a rod. As a general rule a well-made six-strip rod leaves little to be desired.
Special Feature Bamboo Fly Fishing Rods
The “double constructed” rods, which are formed of two layers of split and bonded bamboo, one inside the other, are an innovation in the manufacture of bamboo fly fishing rods. They are stronger and heavier than regular rods, and it is said that they maintain their shape better. They are popular for salmon and sea fishing, but I don’t think single-handed fly rods need them. The steel center rod, an invention of the English, is made of a fine piece of well-tempered steel that runs as a core through sections of ordinary split bamboo. The creators assert that this configuration results in a rod with improved casting power while adding only one ounce of weight. Friends who own these types of rods are ardent supporters of this design for heavy fishing.
An American manufacturer offers a “twisted bamboo” rod that, in his opinion, equalizes the tension and results in superior motion. I’ve never used a rod of this kind, so I can’t comment on its virtues, although Perry Frazer praises it in his book “Amateur Rod making.”