Bamboo Tips - Tips Area - Guide Placement

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     Guide spacing chart @ The Rod Rack
     Guide placement program by Al Baldauski
     Guide placement spreadsheet from David Bolin


I've been using this method for testing the placement of my guides.

First I work out the spacing, according to the length of the rod, number of sections and location of the ferrules.  Then I tape the guides in place, run a fly line through them and put the rod in a jig.   I put enough pressure on the rod to put a nice bend in it, about 90º.

Then I measure the distance from the rod to the line,  between snake guides. If I've done it right, the distance is about 1 inch and will be almost exactly the same for each guide set all the way to the stripper.  If it's not right one or more of the spacing will be greater then the others.   I adjust the snakes and try again.   When all the measurements from the bend in the rod to the line are within about 1/8 in.  I measure the locations and then wrap the rod...  (Terry Kirkpatrick)


Can someone give me the Formula for calculating guide spacing.  (Tony Spezio)

    Don't know that there is a formula, per se. You can use the Online Hexrod program to get a rough estimate, using a mathematical progression, but ultimately the guides should be tuned for each rod.  (Martin-Darrell)

    Sure wish I had a scanner....

    Here goes, and I hope this isn't plagiarism. According to Dale Clemens you can space your guides using the formula:

            B = n(t) + (( n(n-1)d )/2)


    • B = the distance from the tip to the guide being placed
    • n = the number of guides being placed
    • t = the distance from the tip to the first guide

    It is a given that the first guide is placed 4 to 5" from the tip and the stripper (last) is placed 28" to 32" from the base of the reel seat. These are not etched in stone, they are just numbers to get you started.

    The first thing we need to calculate is the "d", a constant for the rod we are currently working on.  This is the first step for any new set of dimensions.

    As an example I'll use a 9' rod. You can opt to use a no of guides that equals the length of the rod in feet or one more or two more (if you select badly you get a guide-on-the-ferrule, not a happy result of all these calculations)!

    For this rod we'll use 11 guides (n=11), a tiptop to first guide distance of 4 1/2" (t=4.5), and a 30" distance from the butt of the rod to the stripper (last guide).  

    Since this is a 9' rod (108") we subtract the 30 from the 108 and arrive at a guide "spread" of  78".  The formula now becomes:

                    78 = 11(4.5) + (11(11-1)d)/2)

                    and d=.52

    We now can use the customized-to-our-particular-rod formula.

            Guide 1         1(4.5) + ((1(0)0.52)/2)      = 4.5"

            Guide 2         2(4.5) + ((2(1)0.52)/2)      = 9.5"

            Guide 3         3(4.5) + ((3(2)0.52)/2)      = 15.1"

            Guide 4         4(4.5) + ((4(3)0.52)/2)      =1.1"

    and so on with subsequent guides sitting at:

            68.4"   and

    For each new rod we must determine the "d" by knowing the rod length, the no of guides, the tiptop placement site,  and  the butt-to-stripper distance. That "d" will enable the builder to place the guides in their best approximate settings for that blank.

    Dale Clemens gave credit to a Jeffrey Baehre of Depew NY for developing the formula. I've shown the formula to any no of fellows I've taught to build rods and some are initially intimidated by its seeming complexity, but if you'll noodle around with it for 2 rod lengths you'll see that it's quite straightforward and actually "proves" itself by the stripper's landing at the very spot you selected for it in the first place! It's also a process that ought to lend itself to a quick-and-dirty computer program. Once in awhile you'll find a length which pays you back by landing that damn guide SMACK on the ferrule; all you have to do is add one more or use one less guide for that length.

    The idea is to have a place to tape all your guides initially and then you can move them around to "perfect" your design. I seldom have to move any at all.  (Art Port)

    Looking at these formulas people have posted, spacing seems fairly similar.  Is there a difference for spacing and number from cane to that heathen plastic?  It looks like these sites with the formulas are plastic sites.  (Pete Van Schaack)

      Any guide spacing system is but a suggestion of a place to start for guide placement,  so it doesn't matter the substrate.  (Martin-Darrell)

    I have a wacky system for guide placement.  I assemble the rod and lay it on my bench then start placing guides next to the rod.  I stand back and just look at it and when the number, size and placement "looks OK," I mark the guide locations with a crayon.  Its all by a gut feeling.  (John Long)

    Guides & guide spacing are a lot like religion.  Some folks like it this way, some folks like it that way, almost everybody has at least a little, some have way too much, and a few have none at all.  By starting a discussion on guides, anyone's strongly held position is likely to violate the fundamental beliefs of at least three other sects.  Trying to determine truth in matters of faith will lead to mayhem and bloodshed.  However, if we could all drop our guard for a day, admit that we are first and foremost devotees of the List, then we could have a nice ecumenical discussion on guides before reconvening later armed for battle.

    My opinions (and nothing more):  The tip most snake guide should be 4"-5" away from the tip top.  The stripping guide for "spec" rods should be roughly 28-35 inches from the center of the reel seat - use your judgment based on how heavy the rod is.  You don't need to to guess though if you are making the rod for yourself or a particular client who can come over to test the rod.  With the grip on the rod and no guides, have the client close his eyes.  Pretend he is in the middle of a stream, the line has been cast out, the drift completed, and the line is now straight away from him downstream.  Have the client lift the rod tip to prepare for the first back cast.  His line hand should almost naturally come up to "grab" the imaginary line just below the imaginary and ideally placed stripper (if it doesn't, then encourage him to make a short "haul" with his back cast).  Your job is to tell him to freeze when the rod is around 10 O'clock and his line hand is near the rod.  Now imagine a straight line drawn between the line hand and the rod.  Mark the rod at the intersection of this line.  Go two inches further up the blank and put your stripping guide there.  For myself, this usually winds up being 24"-26" from the center of the reel seat, but I'm a fellow who has been genetically deprived of a heroic stature.  The stripping guide may look like it is a notch too close to the grip.  If this offends your sense of aesthetics, propriety, tradition, or whatever, then slide if further out.  If you leave it where the experiment determined it should be, the rod will be a comfortable one for the client.  If, say, he drops the line from his line hand, he won't have to stretch to re-grasp it as the line will hang just at the comfortable edge of his reach.

    The rest of the guides should be placed in a growing progression from the stripper to the tip top.  Dale Clemen's book "Advanced Custom Rod Building" has some charts to help with the math of using even progressions to space guides.  I used these for a while, but now I generally just eyeball the guides.  I use one guide (not counting the tip top) for every foot, or partial foot, of the rod length plus one more, e.g., 8' rods get nine, 8' 6" rods get ten.  I used to use two extra, which made for good line control, but too many folks complained about the  "crowded" looks.

    Now tape the guides in place according to your progression.  String up the rod and tie the line to your kitchen table (or your car bumper if your wife is at home).  Have your client hold it and put an arc in the rod, as though he were fighting a reasonable fish for the rod.  Look at the line.  If there are flat spots you need the guides to be closer together so that the line follows the bend of the rod fairly closely.  Different actions of rods require different spacing.  If you have a real noodle of a rod, you may have to add a guide in order to avoid flat spots.  If you have built the cane equivalent of steel rebar, you cane skip a few guides and the line will still follow the blank.  Once you've adjusted the guides and re-taped them you can test cast the rod.  Honestly, I don't bother.  I know I've got the stripper placed correctly for the client and the snakes  placed correctly for the rod, so it is time to go back to work and wrap the rod.  (Russ Gooding)


What guide spacing should I use for a 7' rod using 7 guides + a stripper? the design rules that I've seen says you need to have the stripper 25 to 26 inches up from end of butt and there needs to be a guide next to the ferrule and the guide spacing needs to increase at a certain rate.  (Mark Pohl)

    I couldn't wrap with Gossamer to save my butt (or tip) until I bought JW's wrapper.  Now it's easy!  (Grayson Davis)


When spacing guides..... how close to the ferrule should a guide be placed?  Is it better to place the closest guide above or below the ferrule?  (Mark Pohl)

    Many put a guide right below the ferrule, and some do not.  Personally, I have a spacing chart for each of my rods, then adjust them to what works best for that particular rod, and believe me, just because two rods are supposed to be or "ARE" identical tapers, doesn't mean that the guide spacing will be identical.  Some places in the bamboo just bend different than other places.  Maybe it has something to do with the conditions on one side of the plant as opposed to the other, such as exposure to sunshine, wind or maybe it's just bad luck, but not all bamboo from the same culm has identical properties.  I had two rods from the same culm for a a single customer (Troy Miller saw them) and when taped in place, the guide spacing had to be adjusted on each, but differently on each... the butts from the same area of the culm, the mids from the same area of the culm and the 4 tips from the same area of the culm, yet each of the rods deflected differently, so I had to adjust.  Since these were going to a single customer, I "averaged" the guide location to what worked best on each rod, so they would be identical, but in truth, each rod was different, even though made from the same culm.

    I just start with a half inch incremental spacing and since most of my rods are 2 piece, not three, start with one guide just below the ferrule.  I tape the guides in place exactly according to my charts, then adjust them to get what I want.  The guide will almost always will have to be moved to give what I want, but it's a good place to start.  Adjust your spacing to get the deflection you want in the rod.  You can tape them in place with electrical tape them move them around.  Even slight changes in guide locations WILL make a difference in the way the rod casts.   Pick what you like best and what suits that particular rod best.  Just keep in mind that the so called "tried and true" spacing charts are, in my opinion, only good starting points.  (Bob Nunley)

    The guide spacing formula suggest the following spacing using 8 guides for a  7' rod, and the stripper 26" from the butt:

    • 1   4.33
    • 2   9.50
    • 3   15.50
    • 4   22.33
    • 5   30.00
    • 6   38.50
    • 7   47.83
    • 8   58.00

    You might have to play with it a little to make sure one of the guides isn't too close to a ferrule.  The equation is based on a geometric series that was posted  in the archives a few years ago.  (Kyle Druey)

      Dumb question here...  When the spacing experts suggest using one guide for every foot of length plus one, does that include the stripping guide?  Or is that simply the number of snake guides?  (Harry Boyd)

        No and Yes.

        A word of warning to beginners about guide spacing.. all given length rods are not =.   Due to the difference in tapers each rod assumes its own flex characteristics (especially near the tip) and I believe one set of spacing dimensions does not fit all. if you want to generalize the spacing then the one size fits all is OK.

        But...You should temporarily mount the guides run a line through them, flex the rod by pulling the line and see if the line is roughly equidistant from the rod at the mid points between the guides ( in other words, it follows the flex of the rod without any large disparities), adjust all guides and test again, and again, and again :).  (Jerry Foster)

        I ain't no expert but in my case the running foot plus portion thereof plus 1 includes the stripper. For an 8' 6" I use 10 guides which include 1 or 2 strippers depending on line weight. and does NOT include the tip top. Also, I've been using the guide formula for years with no discernible ill effects but I haven't run into a taper that didn't work well with the formula. I've even had an 8' for a 7 or 8 weight. forward that would cast 20+ feet into the backing. Yeah, I'm talking cane.  (Hank Woolman)

    The usual recommendation would include the stripper in the total number of guides. For examples sake, a 7' rod would have 8 guides - seven snakes and a stripper.  (Larry Blan)


I had an interesting experience last week that made me think about guide placement more seriously.  I made a 7' semi-parabolic #4.  It flexed very nicely before the guides went on.  Then, after all the guides except for the last two on the tip were wrapped on, I jointed it up and flexed it again.  This was something I had never thought to try before.  The rod now had the worst recovery I have ever experienced.  I thought the tip would never stop bobbing up and down.  It was bobbing within 10" of the tip top; nothing visible further down.  When the tip's bottom two guides went back on, the rod returned to excellent recovery.  (Grayson Davis)

    I had a comparable awakening about guide placement - and the fact that the taper of the rod can influence optimal placement, so it isn't just a matter of some formula applicable to all rods. I've been working on a 7' 3-piece taper that retains as much as possible some of the characteristics I like in my 8.5' 3-piece 5-wt Phillipson Power Pakt. That means some sections of the rod with little or no increase in diameter for several inches, which of course tends to concentrate stress. This seems to be most critical in the bottom third of the tip, and I've found that placement of a guide in just the right place a few inches above the tip ferrule helps reinforce it without killing the action. Putting it in the wrong place can reduce the effect I want. Changed my whole outlook on this.

    I think I'm also learning that a taper of this sort in a short light rod pushes the bamboo  very near  to it's  limit in stress tolerance - something not very well predicted by Hexrod as far as I can see. Not that it doesn't show increased stress in critical areas, just that it doesn't help me figure out how much is too much in real-world use. Anyway I'm learning a lot and doing it my favorite way - by experiencing it myself.  (Barry Kling)


At long last I'm ready to start building a rod.  I've chosen to build a Payne 98, using the dimensions sent to me by Al Medved (Thanks Al!).  I'm starting to look at ordering some of the components a bit at a time, and guides and the winding check are some of the first things I'm going to order.  So, here's the questions.  First, since it's a 7 1/2' rod, I'm assuming I'll need 7 guides, 1 tip top and 1 stripper, correct?  What sizes should I order based on using a 4 weight line?  Next, based on Al's dimensions, the 84", 80" and 75" point are .312", and the 70" point measures .282".  How long is the standard grip with reel seat for this length of rod, which would give me the distance from the butt end to figure out what size winding check to get?  (Mark Wendt)

    I put 9 guides on a 7 1/2 ft rod, counting the stripper. but not the tip top, 6 on the tip, 3 on the butt. Most reel seats are right around 3 1/2", decide how long you want the grip to be and order  the winding check accordingly. You will need one bigger than the flat to flat measurement if you are going to leave it round, you will want the point to point measurement of the finished butt section right in front of the grip. You might be better off waiting to order the winding check until you glue up the rod, then measure it and order what you need.  (John Channer)

    The Payne catalog lists the 98 as a 7', "Fast DF-5".

    The original taper I have is from an unvarnished rod....

    tip 0 = .066, 5 = .082, 10 = .092, 15 = .110, 20 = .122, 25 = .137, 30 = .147, 35 = .159, 40 = .171, 42 = .174

    Butt 42 = .190,  45 = .194,  50 = .205,  55 = .220,  60 = .242, 65 = .261, 70 = .281, 75 = .312, 80 = .316

    Al & I both averaged the drop over the ferrule between 40 = .171 and 45 = .194 which gives you a 42" measurement of 11.53/64th for a size 12 ferrule.

    Grip & reel seat: Grip on the original was  6" and the skeleton reel seat was a cap & ring that measured 3 1/2" for a total length of 9 1/2".

    Guides & spacing: I don't have the original spacing but the following works really well on 7'er's..

    Tiptop, 4 1/2", 9 1/2", 15", 21 1/4", 28", 35 1/4", 44" (just below the female ferrule), 53" stripper

    Sizes: I'd use one size 1/0, 2 - size #1, 3 -size #2, 1 -size 3, and a size 10 stripper  or you could skip the 1/0 and use three size 1's instead

    Tight Lines: fly and glue.  (Dennis Higham)


Garrison's 7'9" rods had:

8mm stripper @ 26"
#2 snake @ 34 5/8
#2 snake @ 42../p>

On tip:

#1 snake @ 5 3/4
#1/0  " @ 13 1/4
#1/0  " @ 20 1/4
#2/0  " @ 27
#2/0  " @ 33 1/8
#3/0  " @ 38 5/8
#4 top guide

These are Garrison's spacings from "The Book". He has them for all rods 6'9" - 9'3", not by weight or model but by length. I think you'll find the snake sizes pretty small unless you're going to cast silk.  (Art Port)


What is the general consensus of how close the stripping guide should lay to the butt of the rod?  I usually try and put it no closer than 22" but I am doing a 6'3" two piece rod right now and when I lay out for spacing (with a guide right below the ferrule) I come up with only about 20"s from the butt for the stripper. In my thinking this is getting to close for a good angle of  line coming off the reel for smooth casting.  Any thoughts on this one?  (Bret Reiter)

    I used this on a 6'3" er.


    That may put the stripper too far away for your taste (at 27" from the butt), but at least you can reach out to strip line without overreaching it. This was done with the Clemens formula. It requires the 8 guides as 7 screws up. The general rule with that formula is you need one more guide than the no. of feet in the rod or you'll get a ferrule smack dab on the ferrule. If you want to try 6, it suggests this spacing.

    48.00  (Art Port)

    I used the following spacing on the last 6'3" I did. 4 1/4, 9 1/8, 14 1/2, 20 1/2, 27 1/4, 34 3/8, 42, 50 1/2. Leaves 24 1/2" from stripper to butt cap.  (Dennis Higham)


I was wondering if anyone has and would be willing to share a good starting point for the sizes and spacing of the guides on a PHY Driggs River Special 7'-2" #5, 2 piece?  I sure could use the help.  (Hal Manas)

    This is what I measured from a friends PHY Driggs River. Appears the rod is from 1947.

    From bottom of the tip section:

    #1 - 5 3/4"
    #1/0 - 13 1/4"
    #1/0 - 20 1/4"
    #2/0 - 27"
    #2/0 - 33 1/8"
    #3/0 - 38 5/8"
    #4 fly tip.

    From bottom of the butt section: 

    25 1/2" (7mm stripper)
    #1 - 34 3/8"
    #1 - 42 1/4"  (Jerry Young)


I used the Clemens formula for guide spacing for several years 'til I found the Orvis guide tables used the same formula for guide nos. that are x+1 where the x=  the number of feet of rod length plus any portion thereof (a 8.5' rod gets 10 guides where x = 9).  (Hank Woolman)


The spacing for the Dickerson 7613 and the 7612 are from the tip top down 5 1/4", 5 1/4", 5 1/2", 6 1/8", 6 3/8", 6 1/2', 7" for the tip, the butt from the top of the ferrule. 1 1/2" (1st guide directly below the ferrule) 7 1/4" then the stripper at 9 1/2".

The 7012 is from the tip 4 1/2", 5 1/2", 6", 6 1/2", 7", 7", the butt from the ferrule (1st guide directly below the ferrule) 7 1/4", the stripper 8 1/4" these came off my personal rods.  (John Pickard)


I'm just getting ready to ferrule and install all the hardware on my first bamboo rod blank.  Did I read correctly here somewhere that there's a spine to bamboo also and that I should place the guides in some certain relationship to it, also had something to do with rod twist otherwise.  (John Silveira)

    Yes there usually is a spine or stiff side to bamboo just like a graphite blank. But, I don't worry about that, myself.

    I usually look down the blank and look for the side that sweeps up slightly. I place the guides on the other side. As the weight of the guides will bring the tip section back down straight. The only other thing to remember, is if you make matching tip sections, you can't always go by that. Because, you want both tips wrapped  and set up exactly the same.  (Dave LeClair)

    In an ideal world, where all strips in a section are absolutely identical, there would be no spine. In the real world, there often is.  What I think is more important , but sometimes linked to the spine, is the way the sections vibrate. If you hold the larger end of each section on the edge of a table and vibrate it on each flat, then wait for the vibration to die out and the tip end come to rest, you will see that only one or two (opposing) flats will vibrate straight up and down until it stops, the other flats will either make a circle or move diagonally.  I always put the guides on the flat that vibrates straight and, of the two, seems to bend to the easiest.  (John Channer)

      John Channer has given excellent advice about one way to locate a spine in the tip sections.  While the presence of an obvious spine can be located more quickly and easily, Channer's technique can detect a spine even when the more usual techniques cannot.

      But there's one thing about Channer's method that he didn't explain.  The rod section must be as straight as you can possibly get it, or the final oscillating motion of the tip section will become a function (to some unpredictable extent) of the bend rather than that of the spine.  This could lead you to misjudge the actual location of the spine.  (Bill Harms)

        I did forget about that part, didn't I ? Sorry John! Just to further complicate it, I have also noticed that if one dimension is consistently larger than the other two the full length of the rod, the section will vibrate best on that plane.  (John Channer)


I have a question on my first rod (If I don't get this sucker finished quick I'm going to fall on the blade of a sword, or my block plane). I'm laying out the guides and sizes and I have a few questions. Here is how I am laying a 7'6" 2 piece 4/5 weight from tip top down I have spacing and sizes as follows:  #1 @ 4 7/8", #1 @ 10 3/8", #1 @ 16 5/8", #1 @ 23 7/8", #2 @ 31 3/8", #2 @ 39", #3 @ 47 1/4", #? @ 55 3/8", stripping guide @ 64".

You can see my first question is what size goes in the #8 slot?  Should it be a snake guide or another stripping guide? And does the layout look OK or am I all screwed up? I’m putting the #7 Guide about 1" below the ferrule I didn’t know if this is normal or not.

Any feedback would be appreciated (except on the part of whether I'm screwed up).  (Mike Maero)

    A lot of 2 piece rods I have restored have the guide right on the female ferrule.  Your guides seem big. I would recommend  1-2 1/0s on the tip but looks good otherwise. Get some 1/8 inch tape and give it a cast with guides on.   (Rich McGaughey)

    #3  guide in the 8 spot. I would probably put a #2 in the 7 hole but that's me. 10 mm stripper.  A guide 1" below the ferrule is OK.  (Marty DeSapio)

    What I am finding I'm doing now, right or wrong, is using roughly the following sequence of guides  for the rod you described.  1/0, 1/0, 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, stripper (8 mm or 9 mm).  I seem to lean to the smaller guides probably more for looks than function.  (Tim Wilhelm)


I have a 6 1/2' 3 wt ready to wrap. Placed the guides according to the guide spacing chart I have but it don't look right. can someone help me with this.  (Tony Spezio)

    I come up with a spacing (Say start at 4 1/2"  and add about 3/4" to each space.   Could be more, could be less.  This is iffy.)  But the most important thing I do is tape the guides on,  string up a line and put some bend in the rod.   I look for places where the rod bows way out from the line or comes real close to the line.   Then I adjust the guides and try again.  When the distance between the bow and the line is about even I'm done.  I don't care how the spacing looks.  (Terry Kirkpatrick)

    Here's the guide spacing from a 6 foot 6 inch Dickerson taper that I made. I like the Garrison type spacing where there's a guide right behind the female ferrule and I designed the spacing for my rod in the Garrison style. Measurement is from the tip with the rod assembled.

    0, 4 1/2, 9 3/8, 14 3/8, 20 3/4, 27 1/4, 34 1/4, 41 3/8, 49, 56 3/8  (Jim Bureau)


Could someone please give me the guide spacing for a Paul Young Midge, or better yet is there an archive for these?  (Matthew Grallert)

    I took these from my Paul Young built midge. From TT ....... 5", 10 3/8", 16 1/4", 23", 30 3/4", 40", 50" (stripper).  (Marty DeSapio)

    Here’s one that I had stored away, do not know the original poster. Sorry.

    Here is the guide spacing on the PHY Midge.

    Starting at the tip: 5", 6-3/8" 6-13/16", 6-7/16", 7-7/8", 5-1/2", to end of male ferrule. Male portion that fits inside the female is .875".

    From end of female ferrule: 5",  9-1/2",  16-1/2" to front of grip, 3-15/16" to end of grip, 3-1/8" from end of grip, to end of rod/reel seat.

    Total length of the entire female ferrule is 2".  (Bob Maulucci)


For those of you that custom fit the guide spacing for each taper, what method do you use?

I would be interested in knowing what those of you do with the equal angle method, or the method that tries to base the spacing on an equal gap distance (where "gap" = the perpendicular distance between the chord of the arc and the highest point of the arc, where the arc is the curved distance between guides).  (Kyle Druey)

    My understanding is that both will work.  I have never seen anyone evaluate one against the other in terms of performance.  Neither have I seen anyone present data that one is superior for one taper versus another.  There's lots of room for you to report back on.

    Each system will result in progressively wider spacing down the blank.

    After you build your apparatus, the equal angle system is easy to use. You can quickly get your guide placements.  You do have to know the number of guides you want to use.  You do have to build the apparatus.  If ease of use is your priority, then this might be the way to go.

    There are other systems.  I've seen a system based upon a geometric progression of sorts.  I've seen one that one  reminded me of the sum of years digits that accountants use.  Some advocate spacing the guides by adding the distance of a set increase from one guide to the next moving down the rod.  All of these seem to work.

    I've wondered if application of a logarithmic scale wouldn't work.

    There is a nicely written article in the most recent issue of Rod Maker Magazine that describes a static deflection test methodology with a series of progressively increasing stresses.  It does require some time and some trouble, but it does not presuppose the number of guides and it requires no high powered math.  In its practicality, it works too.

    Personally, I begin by first establishing the location of the stripper guide.  For the snake guides I feel myself drifting toward using one more guide than most standard rules suggest.  For the additional guide I tend to add one more of the smallest size guides.  From that point I use a standard distance increase to establish a preliminary location for each guide. Knowing the location of the stripper, it is a simple mathematical calculation to get the distance of the first guide from the tiptop.  Common sense has to intervene at the point that guides end up on top of, or very near, ferrules.  I then use a deflection methodology to refine the spacing if necessary.  This gives me a chance to see if the guide pattern allows a line to mimic the curve pattern of the rod under stress.  This test can help to resolve issues of whether to put the guide in front of or behind a ferrule.  I call this allowing the rod a chance to see if it likes the guide distribution pattern.  Then, I cast the thing to see if I like it.  (Russell Dabney)

      I've tried several different types of spacing and find the one that seems to work the best for me is to start with a spacing from the foot of the tiptop (the tiptop doesn't bend, so why include it in the flexing of the rod?) From there I add a constant, usually about 1/2 to 3/4 inch.  I do this on paper first to make sure my calculation doesn't end up with a guide in the middle of a ferrule. (Thinking about that, I don't see why it wouldn't work?) 

      Then I tape the guides in place (some folks use surgical tubing cut to small rubber band size.)  Run a line through the guides and put a fair bow in the rod.  Check for uneven spacing from arc to line and adjust.  Usually the second and third guides require some adjustment.   Also the spacings that includes a ferrule usually requires a little extra space. (Ferrules don't bend.)  (Terry Kirkpatrick)

    I usually just put them on where they look good and produce a good arc of the rod from my perspective.  (Todd Talsma)


I am getting ready to put guides on an eight foot three piece based on Payne's 102 taper. If I space the guides in the same place that I did on the two piece 102 that I built, only the stripper guide will be on the butt section, with the next guide being placed on the mid section. Is this common for three piece eight foot rods?( Only the stripper guide on the butt section) I don't have any three piece rods to compare with. The only other three piece I can examine is a friend's 8 1/2 footer and that allows a stripper guide and one snake just at the ferrule of the butt section. Thanks for any help. (Ron Revelle)

    I have an 8', three piece Payne 200. It is original and has 11 guides, many if not most of the Paynes I've seen and cast have more guides on them than the modern day standard of 1/foot +1(ask Hal Bacon about this he is the Payne guy). This Payne has 5 on the tip, 4 on the mid and 2 on the butt. Guide spacing with the rod assembled is 4 7/8, 10 1/8, 15 1/2, 21, 26 1/2, 34 (at the base of the mid female ferrule), 40 1/8, 47 1/2, 56 1/2, 66 (at the base of the butt female ferrule), 74 1/8 (stripper). Hope this helps. Oh yea, the rod casts like a dream.  (Dennis Higham)

    This is normal for a 3 piece.  I usually put the stripper directly below the butt ferrule so I can have a continuous wrap over the stripper and ferrule, punctuated with tipping.

    If you're wrapping the guides, you've probably already dealt with the problem I usually encounter on a 3 piece.  I almost always forget to put the winding check on until I have already installed the ferrules.  The winding check will rarely fit over the ferrule on a 3 piece unless you have a significantly swelled butt.  (Robert Kope)


I have a 9’ 3 piece, I'd say a 5 weight Leonard rod, total restoration. No ghosting on the old cane, so I'm lost on the guide spacing. Can anyone help me? I want to use an authentic spacing,  does anyone out there know what it might be? or is there a site with such things?  (Jerry Andrews)

    I'm not replying because I know the answer to your question. I had a similar issue recently with a Dickerson 8015..

    I searched the web, couldn't find a darn thing about guide spacing for my problem...ultimately, I used the online program on Frank Stetzer's web site:

    I just played with the numbers, did a bunch of lawn casting and ultimately wound up with something that couldn't be that far off (I don't think).  (Patrick Mullen)

    Ted Knott posted these with a 9' 4 weight 3 piece which he had miced. Hope they help.

    Stripper guide from butt 24",  next guide 33 1/2", 42 5/8", 49 7/8", 56 7/8", 63 1/2", 70", 77 5/8", 83 1/4", 88 5/8", 94", 99", 103"  (Art Port)

    This is from a Leonard Prefire 9' 3/2 #4 with intermediates.

    4 1/4", 8 7/8", 14", 19 5/16", 24 3/4", 30 1/4", 38 1/8", 44 3/8", 51", 58", 65 1/8", 74 1/4", 83 3/4" (snake stripper).  (Marty DeSapio)

    I have a 9' 3 piece older Tournament with a metal reel seat and full intermediates that I have used a 6 weight. I measured from the reel seat up on the butt section (which has a stripping guide and a snake), and I measured up from the male ferrule on both the mid and tip and here is what I have.

        butt    24", 32 1/2"
        mid    6", 13 1/2", 20 1/2", 27 1/2", 33 1/2"
        tip    5 1/4", 11", 16 1/2", 22", 27 1/4", 32 1/4"  (Bob Kayes)


I am presently working on a 8' 6" #5 3 piece that is modeled after a Granger "Victory".  This is my first 3 piece and I am a little puzzled on guide spacing with two ferrules. Any suggestions on proper spacing for a 3 piece is greatly appreciated.  (Mike Hoffman)

    Here's the guide spacing from my original 8-1/2' WM Granger Victory. There are only 8 guides. If I was making one like this, I'd use 9 guides. Also, the stripper is only 28-1/2" from the butt & I usually go 30" to 32".

    6 1/4
    20 1/4
    36 1/4 (in back of female ferrule on mid)
    60 1/2
    73 1/2 (Only guide on butt)  (Tom Bowden)


I have a 8'6" Granger Favorite that was partially stripped when I got rod, and I need guide spacing and intermediates spacing on the tip section. When you measure could you do it from the tip of the rod.  (Dave Henney)

    Here are the measurements from a W/M Granger Deluxe. This is one model higher but I believe the spacing is the same.

                                   5 7/8"
                                   11 3/4
                                   18 3/8
                                   25 1/4
                                   32 1/2 at ferrule
                                   36 1/4 at ferrule
                                   53 7/8
                                   73 3/8 stripper  (Marty DeSapio)


Can someone please advise on optimum sizes of guides and spacing for the Sir D rod?  (Stephen Dugmore)

    This was passed to me by Dennis Higham, and seems to work pretty good for 7' rods:

    Tiptop, 4 1/2", 9 1/2", 15", 21 1/4", 28", 35 1/4", 44" (just below the female ferrule), 53" stripper.

    Sizes: I'd use one size 1/0, 2 - size #1, 3 -size #2, 1 -size 3, and a size 10 stripper  or you could skip the 1/0 and use three size 1's instead.  (Mark Wendt)

    I generally use the Maurer/Elser guide spacing for unknown 6'6" to 7'6" rods. Works pretty well, but all rods really need adjustment after test casting.  (Bob Maulucci)


I am in the process of making the Digger Degere Ice Cream Parlor Hole 6'9" 2 wt.  Any suggestions for the proper GUIDE SIZE used on this rod? I have the blanks drying now, and hope to order guides this weekend after sanding glue off.   (Bill Latham)

    That was my old rod, here is the original guide spacing:

    Guide spacing:  4, 8.25, 14.125, 20.25, 26.75, 34.75 2.375, 9.75, 17" (stripper)

    I would use two each of 2/0, 1/0, 1 and 2 with a 8 mm stripper.  (Bob Maulucci)

    Size 8  stripping guide  (or use  a #2 snake guide as a stripper), 3 - #1 snakes, 2- #1/0 snakes, 2 - #2/0 snakes, light wire loop tip tops.  (Marty DeSapio)


Would someone out here please assist me in how do you determine the choice of a guide size.  How do you know what size to use, and how many of each to use after determining rod length. I know the rule of using one guide more than the rod footage plus tip and stripper. I noticed E. Garrison uses the same guide set up depending only on rod length, BUT the guides are small due to the use of silk line being cast. Is there a system or type of rule I can use to determine guide size? Can I continue to use E. Garrison's sizes, but go up one size for each guide? 

I need to know how to choose what size guides and how many of each size used in ascending order, would be needed for many of the tapers that do not give this information. Is there a book or specification sheet available that gives this information? Just looking for some kind of information that I can use to assist me in my choice for many of the different tapers and style rods that are available.  (Bill Latham)

    I use 2/0 as my smallest and use generally 2 @ 2/0, 2 @ 1/0, 2 @ 1, 1 @ 2 and 1 @ 8 mm stripper for most 7 and 7'6" rods.  Generally, I will add #1s and #2s to this for longer trout rods. For a rod 7 wt or bigger I will start with 1/0 and progress into #3s.   As Tom Morgan has said, bigger guides are not always the best thing, they allow for slop as  the rod slaps around out the tip. And as M-D once said, a 2/0 is a lot bigger than you think. (Look in the archives). I generally use the guide spacing listed in Garrison or Maurer for a guide, but I start at 2/0 as the smallest.  (Bob Maulucci)


I am finishing up a 204E and am trying to figure out the spacing.  I have Garrison's spacing, but it seems to me like 6 guides on the tip section seems a little excessive. There are no excessive stress points with the 6 on the tip and the line strung through the guides, but it just seems odd.  I know that normally you go 1 guide per foot and add an extra and then the stripper.  

Any insights? What spacing are you using?  (Mark Babiy)

    In my opinion, go with Garrison. Use more guides rather than less.  As a rule of thumb the length of the rod plus one for the number of guides you will need i.e 7 foot rod = 7 guides + 1 = 8 guides plus tip top plus stripper.  A way that has never failed me is to start about 4.5 inches from the tip top and  make each guide 1/2 inch longer than the next.   On a two piece rod  I normally put a stripper and two guides. I always try to make sure on I have one guide right on the ferrule area.  (David Ray)


This spreadsheet is an attempt to pull together everything I've read about guide spacing on the list and in several books.  Before I start wrapping guides with this, are there any obvious errors that need to be corrected?  I'm especially interested in comments about the distance from butt to stripper.  I seem to remember reading that 28 to 30 inches is a good rule of thumb.  Is that reasonable?  (David Bolin)


Anyone out there got a method for figuring out the guide spacing for a 3 piece 9 wt. I use Wayne Cattanach's method on my 2 pieces, IE: placing one guide close beyond the ferrule and then using the overall dimension and a 9/16 rate of spacing change in a formula to come up with the spacing, but I don't think this will work on a 3 piece.  (Saunder Hutchinson)

    All I do is what I have always done, which is put the butt ring where I can reach it and the tip ring 4'' from the tip.

    The others are all spaced out by eye.  I don't worry unduly if one or more ends up near a ferrule or other joint, although I might if I were building spliced salmon rods.  If you really must use two butt rings, as appears to be the fashion in some parts then they need to be 2'' or so apart, you get used to the look, although I have yet to do so on cane rods, and there are advantages, probably! (Robin Haywood)

    You might want to try one of the published sets of information.

    Certainly a useful starting point.  (Gary Marshall)


Can somebody tell what is the best way to place the guides at the right place on the rod.

Because I think this and of course the rod action, right line etc. will give the best casting results but this is also a very important issue.  (Jaco Pronk)

    What I do is:

    1.. Use the recommended guides spacings. If these are not available

    2.. Use Wayne Cattanach's formula in his book or,

    3.. Use the Maurer/Elser guidelines in their book.

    4.. Tape the guides to the rod,

    5.. Test cast to see how it feels,

    6.. Position the stripper to suit your style

    7.. Hold the grip down to a table,  string a line through the guides, fix it at the grip and load the rod by tensioning the other end.

    8.. Look at the gap between the line and the rod at the midpoint of each set of 2 adjacent guides, especially in the tip. This is important because larger gaps  equals greater stress at that point. This can be a real problem with a fine tip rod.

    9.. Move the guides to average out the size of the gaps,

    10.. THEN test cast again. If it feels similar or there is an improvement from the first test cast leave the guides. If not move them back towards the old position and repeat until it feels good and the gap differential is not too great.

    I usually find Wayne's formula to be very reliable unless I am making a very thin tip section where fine adjustment of the first 3 or 4 guides is required.  (Stephen Dugmore)

      It sounds like this is probably a question about spacing but my answer technically "is" still on topic if not a little delayed (I was forced to go fishing, sorry). This is how I was taught to pick a spline side for the guides.

      Following each rod section build up, all cleaned up with nothing on it, I place one end (it doesn't matter which end) on the workbench. Only about 1 or 2 inches on the workbench, the rest hanging out in space. I press down real firmly to hold the rod in place on the workbench and then grip the opposite end and bend a little, then let go so it is spring back and forth.  It doesn't matter if you bend it sideways or not, just don't break it when you bend it. Just a little is all you need. I do this on the three different flats and I will find that one set of flats usually has a much more pronounced up and down action as opposed to bouncing in a circular action. So I pick the flat that has the closest (up and down) action for the guides. You have narrowed it down to 2 flats for you guide choice now. I hold the rod out straight and sight down it to see which or the two flats has more of a pronounced sag. I have actually placed the guides on both sides on different rods. While I like the looks when I place the guides so that there is minimal sag (with guides down), I prefer that action with guides set opposite for my tastes. My thinking is that I am getting more power on the forward cast and that's where I need it, not fighting fish.  (Martin Jensen)


Are there any "functional" concerns about placing a guide right next to the female ferrule?  (Matt Baun)

    I can't think of any functional reason, maybe someone else will pipe up on that.  But I find the rod is more aesthetically pleasing if the guides are place nearly equidistant from the male and female ferrules.  There's a "guide placement" program on Bamboo Rodmakers Tip site that let's you choose the distance of the first guide from the tip, number of guides, and distance of last guide from butt.  By fiddling with these numbers you can get your intermediate guides to straddle the ferrule joint.  It works easily enough for a two piece rod but three or more pieces may be a challenge.  (Al Baldauski)

    I almost always try to place  a guide just below the female ferrule.  I think it looks good, and it has traditionally been done as an effort to add a little extra strength to a stress prone part of the rod.  (Harry Boyd)

      On 7 1/2 foot three-piece rods.  I usually put the stripping guide up near the female ferrule.  Granger often put guides before the female ferrule, and after the male.  (Doug Easton)

    Adding a guide at the ferrule will effect some tapers more then others. Graph out the taper and see were the ferrule is located. If it is at a "bump" in the taper then it usually is okay to add the guide because it is going to be stiffer there due to the taper as well as the ferrule. Also you can tape on the guides and line it up and flex the rod. You will see if it flexes over a smooth arc or if it is segmented causing undue stress to the rod.

    Last and not least cast it with the rod with the guides taped on and then move the guide to  the ferrule and away from the ferrule. It can make a difference, and after all that sometimes it does not.

    But the fact does remain we all talk about tapers, glues and hollow building, which are all great but the number of guides and their placement have a huge effect on the rod action. All you have to do it flex a rod with and without guides and it will become self evident.  (Adam Vigil)

      I'd like to hear a little more about this.  I've got my own ideas but, hell, I'm never too old to learn.  (Terry Kirkpatrick)

        Well I came to realize how important the number of guides as well as wraps really have an effect on the rod and its action when I was building a rod taper Jim Reams gave me. After building the blank it was obvious it was much more flexible then the finished rod. After placing the guides the rod came to life and I learned to you could actually tune the action by guide spacing and the number of guides used. Now of course this has been known by many rodmakers but it really came home to me when  I was building Jim’s 8.5' 5wt.

        You can fine tune the action of the tip by either increasing or decreasing the guide spacing especially in the 1/3 of the tip.  (Adam Vigil)

          For years I have had a strong suspicion that most of the rods we make would perform better with an extra guide or two.  Check some original spacings and you will see, for example, that most Payne 8' rods had eleven guides rather than the 9 you might expect from the "length of the rod in feet, plus one" rule of thumb.  So for several years I've been adding an extra guide or two, or even three.  I think it makes a difference.

          Then a few weeks ago I received a Hans Schlecht Ontario in the shop for some minor repairs.  With the owner's permission, I've been casting it  a little.   It has bamboo tip-over-butt ferrules and a super light reel seat, and weighs next to nothing.  The strange thing is this 7' 9" rod has a total of only eight guides.  It'll cast 10 feet with barely any movement, and nearly as easily at 50 feet.  It wimps out at about 70 feet, but so what?  It may well be the best casting rod I have ever handled.

          Makes me say, "Hmmm".  (Harry Boyd)

            Those of you familiar with the famous rodmaker Robert Crompton  may remember that he never used any guides on the butt section of his  rods.  He claimed that they would cast better without them.  (Larry Tusoni)

            The guide definitely do more then just hold the line. And you are right and extra guide does make a difference in action. So for those who have a rod that is a little to soft for them they can respace the guides and add one or two to stiffen it a bit.  (Adam Vigil)

              I'm of the opinion, and boy am I opinionated, that guides and wraps do make a difference.  That is, the more guides and wraps, the stiffer the rod will be.  Therefore, a rod design which is already stiff may be better with fewer guides/wraps and vice versa.  So if one is trying to copy a specific rod because he likes the feel of it, then he better pay attention to the original guide number and placement. And it may be obvious, but for the sake of completeness, the numbers of guides and wraps at the tip will have MUCH more effect than those on the butt section.  (Al Baldauski)

                This is what I have come to realize, and I think more attention and research needs to be done on how guides and wraps affect the rod and its action. We tend to have such a tunnel vision on the taper we often overlook other aspects.  (Adam Vigil)

                I'm of the same opinion as Al.  I think guides and guide wraps make a difference in many different ways.  Garrison noted it in terms of weight, but I believe that as Al says, number of guides and guide placement affects stiffness(wraps and the guide).  And of course we all worry about line sag between guides and the smoothness of the bend when the line is pulled taut.  There are so many variables, and I think you just have to try different numbers of guides and placement into till you get what you want.

                Even the best Edwards rides tend to have fewer guides than we usually think be appropriate.  I don't think they were trying to cheap out.  I think it may be knew something.  I know that a well-dressed silk line behaves differently on shooting than a plastic line.  This also might account for some discrepancies between our current ideas, and the original rods were trying to copy.  (Doug Easton)

                  Not in all cases, I have a Gene Edwards Autographed 7'6" 2 pc that has 11 guides on it. The taper is in Frank's archives if your interested.  (John Channer)

      I truly hate to admit it, but I  did once have one of my rods, a big salmon rod, break just below the female ferrule while I was casting it on the Miramichi. It was the only rod that I ever made before or since that did not have a guide placed directly below the female ferrule.

      Another thought on guide spacing: perhaps the added stiffness from adding more guides is simply the effect of adding more wrapping locations. I'm convinced that additional wraps do increase stiffness, within limits of course.  (Bill Fink)

        There is a fairly long section in Clemen's Advanced Custom Rod Building on modifying actions via guides and wraps. It is aimed toward the synthetics, of course, but I would wager that if it can produce a change in a graphite rod, it would apply to bamboo in spades. He does specifically mention wraps, even suggesting that 'long' wraps can be used on the guides.  (Larry Blan)

          Thanks for the info. I am going to have to check out that book. Glad to see others have observed the same thing.  (Adam Vigil)

        Don't forget the stiffness added by the guide foot itself, especially if you're using double-foot guides.  (Al Baldauski)

          You can also remove a "set" from a tip with the proper placement/manipulation of guides.  (Dave Collyer)

    The guide placement spreadsheet on Todd's site (David Bolin version) is based on the formula posted by Art Port several years ago (other credits for the formula are provided on the spreadsheet - I just built the spreadsheet, not the formula).  I added a twist to the formula that's relevant to this discussion - a "proportional adjustment".  I added that so I could adjust all the guides between the first guide below the tip and the stripper proportionally.  I wanted to be able to place the guide nearest the ferrule just below the female without creating disproportionate spacing with the other guides.  So...the results of the original formula are adjusted to place that guide below the ferrule (or where ever) while maintaining proportional spacing of the other guides.

    Said another way, you can use the proportional adjustment to shift all the guides (except the first and stripper) up or down the blank.  You can also change the position of the first guide or the stripper to shift the other guides.  So you have four different variables that you can control (position of the stripper and the first guide below the tip, number of guides and a proportional adjustment of everything between the stripper and first guide) and still maintain the integrity of the original formula.  If that still doesn't make any sense, just play around with the proportional adjustment and watch what happens to the spacing of all the guides.

    The guide placement tables in that spreadsheet have already been proportionally adjusted to place the guide nearest the female immediately below the female.  In some cases, I had to play around with the number of guides to get that to work.  Placement on three piece rods was more of a hit and mis thing but I did the best I could with the four variables.

    WARNING, as with any other free advice on the list, don't take that spreadsheet for granted.  Tape em on, string it up and do the static test before you start wrapping guides.

    Now a question...when I built that spreadsheet it occurred to me that the formula assumes that optimum spacing is determined by the four variables mentioned above and the length of the rod.  What about significantly different tapers?  For example, wouldn't the optimum number of guides and the spacing be a little different for a Payne 98 and the Driggs (assuming they're both 7 foot rods)?  It seems to me that there would be a difference.  But I never pursued that any further.  (David Bolin)


I was looking at the posted guide size and spacing for the Dickerson 7613.  Spacing is no problem and can be adjusted but guide size calls for 5-2/0's, 4-1/0's and the stripper guide 8 mm.  These sizes might work  for silk but what about contemporary lines?  Then I started to look at guide sizes for other 7-6 5 wt. rods and basically any combination of sizes you can imagine is there.

Are there guidelines on determining what guide size to use?

I can think of four guidelines:

- Use a guide that fits within the flat of the bamboo.

- The snake guide in front of the stripper guide should be about the same height.

- A year ago the Snake guide guy said if a stripper guide looks too small on a rod it is.

- Guides are in ascending height from tip top to snake guide.

Guide spacing distribute tension along your rod.  Guide size should allow you too cast line unimpeded.  Is a larger guide size better ?  (Doug Alexander)

    Well truth be told I always go back to Wayne Cattanach's book and follow what he recommends and it has not let me down as of yet.  (Adam Vigil)

    I was talking to Larry tonight, and along with the recent conversations about guide spacing, I would like to put this forth for your consideration.

    I have always used the diagram from the planing form. Works great, however, I have been considering that the way I have been using it may be wrong.  I tape on some guides, string the rod, PULL THE LINE, and adjust, and go back to the chart and adjust. (short version)

    Now, this is fine spacing for a fish on, but when we are just casting with the power supplied from the butt, and only the line weight out, I no longer believe the rod flexes the same way. If you watch people cast bamboo, the arc (deflection) of the rod is not nearly as severe as it is when you pull on the line. Is it just a microcosm of the same action? Or, is it different? The difference would make me reconsider how I space guides. It is very obvious that the guide spacing does make a difference in rod performance. And, how would you simulate the dynamic arc of the rod under deflection?

    Any thoughts?  (Jerry Foster)

      A fly rod is a tapered beam. As such its deflections, either statically or dynamically, are nonlinear. This means that if one doubles the tip load (statically or dynamically) on a rod, it does not have twice the tip deflection or exactly the same beam deflection from butt to tip. Note that the dynamic rod loading includes the inertia associated with rod motion (accelerations). To address the question you raise, you would probably need to have guides that moved on the rod during the casting process.  There obviously is an optimum guide location for each deformation of the rod (note these probably would not be the same for a rod that is statically deformed or dynamically in motion with the exact same tip force load). So from an engineering point of view, one needs to make a "design decision" as where to put the guides when building a rod. Within the constraints of our decision making capabilities, the location of guides using a static loading process is probably the best we can do - it is not optimum, but it is probably quite acceptable to most of us who make and fish with bamboo rods.  Hope this helps.  Just and engineering opinion.  (Frank Paul)

        Good question, good answer, but it seems to me that the real work of  the guides comes when shooting a bunch of line. When that happens,  the rod is straight, or nearly so, and the line is pulled out through  the guides at high speed. Logically, that would imply that whatever  the optimum guide spacing is, it is independent of taper, since the  rod is straight at the time. Since experience seems to contradict  that, some other things are probably going on as well.

        I wonder, however, if some sort of an experimental mechanism could  not be set up to watch the behavior of a line as it is pulled through  guides, and a linear optimum spacing/sizing established that reduces  line slap, etc, to the minimum. It would be interesting to see what  that would be, and how it relates to the practices we actually follow.  (Tom Smithwick)

          Thanks for the follow-up comments. I appreciate the positive responses. This problem of guide spacing is very difficult to do exactly. The physics of rod deflections both statically and dynamically are complex and require fairly detailed mathematics. Garrison did a good job in my opinion by using reasonable engineering rules of thumb to design tapers and I suspect rodmakers have to make similar decisions as they relate to guide spacings to make fly rods cast in "the best way". I am sure every rodmaker has different design rules that he/she uses in this regard. There are a number of procedures and programs to do the spacing and I suspect most of them are on the Rodmakers web site. My guide lines generally are:

          The number of guides are based on the rod length plus one or two - so  7'  rod would have 8 or 9 guides.

          The size of guides are based on line weights from smallest to largest from tip to butt.

          The distribution of guides along the rod has increased spacing from tip to butt.

          Keep the guide wraps as small as possible to minimize their influence on the rod deformation behavior.

          I don't think there is such a thing as "ideal guide spacing" although I do know and believe that guide spacing influences how a fly rod casts and feels to the casters.  (Frank Paul)

        I think Frank is spot on - there is no one empirical solution. It appears to me that there are 2 conditions that require attention in positioning guides - induced stress and castability. With regard to stress, 2 conditions need to be considered carefully  - the stress induced by casting, and stress induced by a 'fish on', especially when the fish is in close.

        The difference between the two induced stresses is not so much the actual load on the rod as the angle at which the load is applied . With a fish in close a totally different deflection is induced to that when casting. I think the bending test guide positioning method should ideally be done with the line pulling at different angles, and as Frank says, some judgment then used as to the best compromise. I think the fish-in-close is in many ways the more serious condition as it induces far more stress in the tip than casting does. Guides spaced too far at the point of max bending (minimum radius) exacerbate this.

        In terms of stress I am finding that the first guide can be positioned slightly further than usually advocated from the tip top, that it makes a lot of sense to 'crowd' the eyes to an extent in the area of max bending, and that greater distances can be introduced lower down where there is less bending. It is for this reason that I have moved away from simple arithmetic formulas for determining guide positions.

        As for assessing castability I can't see an improvement on simply test casting before fixing positions, although it is not always easy to work out what to change if needs be!  (Stephen Dugmore)

      My first thoughts when this topic was presented were, the casting and the "fish-on" processes placed diametrically opposed criteria on the rod builder. I can see how guide spacing and number is very important in the fish-on stressing of the rod and more guide would be better. However in the casting dynamics, I would think that fewer guides would be preferable? Wouldn't fewer guides reduce the friction placed on the line as it moved out over the rod? Although, the line would produce a sign wave as it moved up the rod and more guides would probably reduce the amplitude of the sign wave? As Frank outlined, the casting forces placed on the rod are minimal compared to the fish-on stresses. However the casting stress placed on the rode is much more frequent then the fish-on stresses, at least in my case they are. So in my mind guide number and spacing is a compromise between the best casting efficiency and stress reduction under load. Of cores there is that can of worms around the number of guide raps changing the action of the rod. Very interesting topic. I have a rod waiting for guides, I will have to take it out and see how it casts a line with just a tip top in place.   (Will McMurrey)

        I think that, particularly with light line weight rods, stress induced by a fish on is the biggest issue in terms of guide spacing. My understanding in this is that more guides are required where there is more bending and less where there is not. You can therefore end up with the same number of guides and they can even be set increasingly further apart but they should not be positioned according to an arbitrary formula which takes no account of the rod action. I think the bending of the rod is critical. eg. a pronounced tip action rod of the same length as a full flex rod necessarily requires a different guide spacing if the tip is not to be overstressed whilst bringing a big fish in.  (Stephen Dugmore)


A couple of days ago, Todd Talsma had a post for the guide spacing for the PHY Midge rod. I had two versions, and sent both. Then, another request for Midge guide spacing appeared on the classic rod forum. A response with the citation "this is from rodmaker's DNA" came along with the post. Here is the rub:

The DNA guide spacing looks like it has only a stripper guide on the butt section. The other guide spacings I had have two guides below the ferrule. Which guide spacing (if any) is the original?  (Jeff Schaeffer)

    I saw that post. The posted spacing looked odd to me too.

    I have spacing from an original '50s vintage Midge provided by George Aldrich, aka Nobler (man do I miss him!!). I hesitated to post them, due to the way they are listed. He posted pics of the rod, too, but I can't find them! If anyone managed to save them, I would love to have copies.

    Regardless of the measurements, it has 8 guides. As far as I am concerned there is nothing unusual about this, there is sufficient evidence to indicate that Young put on what he felt was needed. I'm not especially happy with the spacing at the top, but I am 100% confident of George's measuring ability.  (Larry Blan)

      Was that 8 guides including the tiptop?

      The guide spacing issue on the Midge is driving me nuts because I made one two years ago - it was a frankenrod made of all the scrap cane in the shop, and was the last rod of the winter. It was a horrible looking rod,  but I am positive it had the original correct guide spacing. First cast, I realized that I should have made it pretty. It cast like a dream, and it cast well because for once I had the correct guide spacing and not some ad hoc version. I took the rod apart and redid it with better cane in the butt section and decent hardware. Then, I couldn't remember the guide spacing I had used, and probably used a non original version. It felt different.  (Jeff Schaeffer)

        No, 7 snakes and a stripper.  (Larry Blan)


I have looked the Garrison 201/201E taper up and I'm finding some conflicting info. I have seen it listed as a 5wt and as a 4wt (Both models). The tapers all seem consistent, but the guide spacings and sizes vary. I will probably be using a silk line....any suggestions? Was it originally built for a 5wt or 4wt? Here is the spacing I found and the sizes:

4, 9, 15, 21.5, 28.5, 36.5, 45.5, 55.5 - Spacing

1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 10 (Stripper) - Guide sizes

I thought about going with a size 8 stripper, and starting with 1/0 snakes as opposed to what is listed above.. Am I going too small here?  (Paul McRoberts)

    Garrison's 201/201E are 7'0 rods. His guides recommendation in 'the  Book' are as follows:

    Spacing (down from tip #4 tiptop) 

    #1/0 - 5 5/8"
    #1/0 - 12 7/8"
    #2/0 - 19 5/8"
    #2/0 - 26 1/4"
    #3/0 - 32 1/4"
    #3/0 - 37 1/2"

    (up from butt)

    7mm Stripper - 25"
    #1 - 33"
    #1 - 40"  (Vince Brannick)

      I wouldn't start with anything smaller than 1/0. Remember Garrisons choice of going down as small as 2/0 & 3/0 was because of silk lines. if you want to use synthetic modern lines I think you will find them too small. If you are going to always use silk I guess they would be OK.  (Will Price)


        All dimensions are from the butt end of each section upward! (Editor’s note: I’ve corrected this above.) And ~ the 'small black print' (at the top of the page) states sizes are for Perfection guides, which may have some bearing.  The 1/16" diameter for the tip section end, provides a very narrow flat for mounting the guide feet, and it would seem that in some instances reducing the width of the guide feet might become necessary. I've made three 7' 0 rods and use modern lines on all three. (each rod with different taper uses 3 , 4, and 4/5 weight lines.  (Vince Brannick)

        I used to think the same thing. . .but then I read Don Phillip's book, and looked at the diameter of a 2/0 guide versus the diameter of a fly line, and now I use Garrison's specs down to 2/0 for all my rods.

        I have done so for the last 20 or so, and think they work better than if you use a larger diameter guide on the tip section.

        2/0 (I use Snake Brand) really aren't that small.  (Chris Obuchowski)

          I agree with Chris on using smaller guides near the tip. The picture in Don Phillips' book tells the story. Last year at Corbett Lake, Tom Fulk explained to me that even a small weight change near the tip is noticeable in casting. Ever since, I've been using the smallest guides possible on tip sections. The one exception is for rods that I use in saltwater, where little pieces of seaweed pass through larger guides better. With small guides, I spend more time cleaning stuff off the line.   (Tom Bowden)

            Well, I'm getting old but not too old to and change if it's for the better. I'll do some testing once #10 is finished and see if the smaller guides make a difference.  (Will Price)


Can anyone speak authoritatively, to whether Garrison's Spacing Chart reflects the use of modern day (plastic) lines, or the older silk lines?  The snake guide (Perfection) sizes  listed, seem to be quite small, even for 7' rods. TIA for any clarification.  (Vince Brannick)

    They were for silk.  (Will Price)

      Those small snakes surely suggested that the chart was from an earlier time.  The 'book' copywrite date is 1977, which prompted the suspicion that Hoagy may have just resurrected it for an illustrative example.  I'm wondering also, if the line characteristics might affect the spacing.  (Vince Brannick)


While setting up to wrap guides, I began to self question the # of guides and their placement. The rod I'm refinishing had 6 snakes, one stripper and of course, the tiptop. One of the snakes was missing, the rest were very worn and corroded, so I'm replacing all of them. I have checked Frank Stetzer's Guide placement calculator.

My questions are on the addition of a second stripper guide. It stems from seeing Lefty Kreh demo casting at a local fly shop. He used a 7wt that had 2 strippers. My project is an 3 piece, 9',  8wt  J.C. Higgins bamboo rod,  not a high dollar classic, but a fishable rod. What exactly is the reason/benefit of adding a second stripper? What effect does the # of guides have. Frank's guide recommends 10 guides for a 9', counting stripper, not counting tiptop. The rod originally had 8. If I do add a second stripper, do I count it in the 10?

I saw another guide placement that used the length of the rod not counting the grip and reel seat, that would make mine 8' 1".  (Chuck Pickering)

    There are a lot of different theories about the ideal number, size, type & placement of guides on a rod. Having 2 stripper guides close together is supposed to, I think, help you shoot line by getting the waves out of the line as it shoots thru the 2 guides.  I've got a 7wt graphite rod I built like that.  Does it work?  I think you would need a video of the line shooting to tell for sure.  But I think it looks funny and I wouldn't do it on a cane rod, personally.

    Another theory is that, in general, more guides are better, at least up to the point that the weight becomes an issue. (Google "Bob Brunsell.") I think that is true, but other think the opposite.  But beyond a certain point that looks weird too.

    Same with large Vs. small guides.  Large guides are supposed to keep the line from slapping and running against the rod.

    The best spacing for guides may not come from a formula, but by tinkering.  Lots of builders look for an equal distance between the line & the rod  when the rod is loaded.  I think that is a good way. Other guys test cast. I like to use little rubber bands cut from latex tubing to hold guides in place while fiddling with the guides.

    This probably wasn't too much help!  (Frank Stetzer, Hexrod, Taper Archive, Rodmakers Archive)

    I use masking tape cut into thin strips about 2-1/2 to 3 inches long about 1/8" wide to tape the guides in place when I am testing the positions.  (Hal Manas)

    I use dental rubber bands or bands cut from surgical tube found at dive shops. Makes it easy to move guides.

    No sticky residue left on the rod, Wrap up to the band, clip it off and keep wrapping.  (Tony Spezio)

      Very good idea Tony. Don't know why I didn't think of that. One can get the bands at sporting good stores as well. Used for sling shots.  (Wayne Kifer)

        I used to get the tube from Dale Clemens in PA when they sold rod stuff. I ran out after I moved out here and a list member put me on to the dive shops. They sell three sizes and it is sold by the foot. The smallest size has the ID of about 1/16" or smaller. On real small tips, just stretch and twist the band to make it double. That will tighten it on the blank. The same with the Dental bands in the purple bag.  (Tony Spezio)

        I have done it with both by cutting surgical tubing and buying dental rubber bands. Rubber bands are far and away superior, and either is superior to tape.

        Go visit your local orthodontist. His hourly rate is very expensive but he sells the rubber bands very cheap. Especially if he is a fisherman and knows why you want them.  (Steve Shelton)

        If you know any surgical nurses, ask them to get you a urinary catheter -- they're smaller than slingshot tubing.  Makes a smaller band.  I think the best size is 8 French.   (Greg Kuntz)

          I'm assuming, correctly, I hope, that you specify unused ones. Right? LOL  (Will Price)

      I ran out of Orthodontist rubber bands about five years ago. I went nuts looking for more. I spent a whole morning looking at eBay with no luck until I finally found them listed in of all places under doll accessories. They were listed as Barbie Hair bands. They were available in all sizes for 50 cents a pack of 100.  (Mike Shay)

        Bought 200 today. Thanks!  (Doug Easton)

      For temporarily holding guide feet on blanks while positioning and then wrapping, I use bands that are sold at any Target, Walmart, drug store, etc. designed for pony tails. I almost said womens'/girls pony tails but since I used to have one can find them in the hair brush/comb section. They're not always rubber bands per se but they work and come in various colors.

      I have some of the flex coat guide foot adhesive which is similar to a hot glue stick but I find it messy and a bit troublesome to use. Plus, it adds bulk, though small, beneath the foot. In my limited use, it's also hard to reposition once a guide is placed.  (Eric Zamora)

        I live in a rural/agricultural area and down at the local hardware store they sell small heavy duty rubber bands for use in castrating lambs. They hold the guides great.  (Chad Wigham)

          Urinary catheter, castration bands, Man the family jewels area sure is taking a hit to further the science of rodmaking.  (Will Price)

            Anything in the name of science!  Kind of makes you cringe, doesn't it?  (Greg Kuntz)

            I can’t have that kind of stuff around the house. My wife is an ER Nurse that grew up on a farm. She is very familiar with those things. One day I’ll come home with yet another tool or gadget I don’t really need, and she’ll show me what those things are REALLY supposed to be used for! Masking tape is very safe. (Ray Wallace)

              Following shoulder replacement surgery in October, I've had quite enough of catheters for a long time.  (Neil Savage)


My apologies in advance for the long post. In Wayne Cattanach's excellent and informative book, Handcrafting Bamboo Fly Rods, he includes a section on guide placement (p.131). I have read the section over and over but still don't get the gist of the formula that he uses for guide foot placement. I have included that section below. Could someone help explain the formula and how it's used to determine guide placement? He writes

In the past I have experimented with several guide-spacing methods. Eventually I found the model I prefer is the one where the space increases by 9/16 per guide. Having chosen the spacing increase, I was able to write a basic formula for different-length rods. I simply measure the dimensions for the ferrule guide and then calculate the remainder of the guides.

On a two piece rod I always place the guide immediately below the ferrule. This is what I call the ferrule guide. The space between the end of the ferrule serration and the end of the guide foot is 0.075 inch. This is just enough space for 15 wraps of size 00 thread....

The exact distance between the ferrule and the tip top can vary from rod to rod depending on the size of the ferrule that the rod shaft requires. This explains why I decided to us a formula rather than a spacing chart. If you decide to leave the feet longer, or to use a different ferrule style, my formula can easily accommodate these changes.

Thank you.  (Jim Sabella)

    I can't explain the formula to you without digging out my copy of the book, but I can solve your problem much more easily.

    Go here.  It's the online version of Hexrod, the guide spacing program.  Just plug in your numbers and voila!!  (Chris Obuchowski)

    Thanks to all who responded to my question. After quite some time trying to figure out where to place the guides, I now know there is both a chart and a bit of software to do the calculations for you. You're a great group of people. Thank you.  (Jim Sabella)


I have only used 2/0 snake guides once,  a 7' 3 wt that would be fished with silk, otherwise started with a 1/0.  When do you use them and why?  (Tim Pembroke)

    I use 2/0 on almost all the rods I build. I generally start with an 8mm stripper then 2 #2 snakes on the butt (unless it's a really short rod) then 2 each 1, 1/0 and 2/0 on the tips. I only drop the 2/0 and add a #3 on 6 wts, and I hardly ever make one of those.  (John Channer)


I've noticed that most of the tapers that I can find show stress graphs, taper measurements for each station, ferrules sizes, etc., but I've yet to find one that also includes the size and location of the guides.  Is there a chart I can download or a formula I can use to determine both.  I've ready to wrap a 8' 4" 3 piece 5wt, but need some help with size and placement.  This is a taper a buddy and I developed so none of you will have this exact taper for reference.  Thanks in advance for your help/opinion.  (Tom Key)

    Check out Carlin Bamboo Fly Rods, he has guide calculator available for download.  (Charley McNeil)

    There are three downloads available on the Todd's site.  See the top of this page.  (David Bolin)

    This post got me thinking and looking at all of the charts and programs that I could find.  What I have found is precious little about guide size.  The third listing on the tips site has a list of guide sizes at the bottom right that seems about what I would use,  but others that I have found seem to have very large guides.  Do any of you have a chart or list of what size guides you use for your rods?  (Hal Manas)

      I noticed something the other day that sort of took me by surprise. I found that with my rods, when I did a static stress test and hung the weight on the tip top that it deflected less than when I used the weight on the line thought the guides. I would have thought that the guides would distribute the weight over the length of the rod and the deflection would be less with the weight on the line, but not so.

      Any of you folks noticed this ?  (Bob Norwood)

      Wayne Cattanach had a Guide placement calculator with his DOS Hexrod 96C. I have misplaced my copy but will try and find it and send it to you.  (Bob Norwood)

        Here is a link to the version Frank Stetzer has up. (Larry Blan)

        This is a link is to an online version of Wayne's calculator, which was designed for bamboo rods.

        On the other hand, I've had no complaints using Chris Carlin's Guide Calculator, which was designed for graphite rods.  The results have worked well on the bamboo rods I've built.  (Paul Gruver)

        I think that third worksheet is mine.  I researched guide sizes as you have and found that there are a variety of opinions in the books and in the on-line archives.  I settled on a table of guide sizes that was about the average of all the stuff I read.  There is very little consensus on guide sizes, but the averages are statistically significant.

        One thought that seems to be consistent in recent years is that bigger is NOT better.  The prevailing theory is that smaller guides shoot better.  But I'm not sure that there's a consensus on that either.  (David Bolin)


I understand that it is desirable to place a guide near the ferrule to reduce stress.  So, for example, in a 2 pc rod, would it be better to place the guide at the end of the tip section, or at the end of the butt section?  I've done it and seen it both ways.  (Dan McConnell)

    I like having a guide below the female ferrule.  Not only does it reinforce the section, it just looks right.  (Harry Boyd)

      I agree with Harry,  it looks funny  to have a guide just above a ferrule.  (Neil Savage)

    As you know, Dave Lewis who finishes graphite rods can no longer use epoxy for doing the wraps. He developed serious breathing and I believe sinus reactions from the material. He now uses varnish to finish his rod wraps. Epoxy is bad stuff unless one is very careful; getting it on the skin and also outgassing the vapors. I know some on this list have been using this stuff for a long time and have had no problems, but so did Dave - almost 20 years I believe - but about 3 years ago he became allergic and could not tolerate the epoxy for rod wraps. I suggest you might check out your situation with your doctor or get in touch with Dave.   (Frank Paul)

      The dust from sanding is murder if you're sensitized.   (Tony Young)

      I was a big Epon advocate for years. Three years ago I came down with rare form of cancer. I attribute the cancer to Epon. No matter how hard you try and how careful you are you get a little of that stuff in your system when you use it. I used a double layer of surgical gloves, I used a rubber apron, I took all the precautions possible but I always managed to get a little glue on skin and breath the fumes while assembling the rod.

      With the cancer I've had three operations, four months of chemo and six weeks of radiation. It was no fun I can assure you. The doctor told me a long term cure for me is six months. About six months ago I told Harry this, and advised him to throw that stuff away. I'll say it again, I attribute my cancer to Epon and recommend everyone switch to a less toxic glue.

      I now use Titebond for the few rods I'm able to build and I wish I'd used it from the beginning. It's great stuff, not toxic and I've had good results.

      Anyway, that's my story and I hope it's food for thought among my fellow rod builders.  (Mark Dyba)

        Sorry to hear of your problem; Harry, dump the Epon fast. So now in addition to avoiding Epon and other epoxies, and the various formulations with formaldehyde, that pretty much narrows the choices down to the PVAs (Titebond), and PUs (Gorilla Glue and Probond). This just keeps getting better and better.  (Larry Puckett)

          I'm not dumping Epon.  According to Dr. Dan Smith, the typical allergic reaction  would be breaking out in a rash or hives.  I just had some itchy, watery eyes.  The Tulip Poplar, Bridal Wreath, Yellow Jasmine, and Flowering Quince are blooming in my yard.  Since my eyes are still itching and watery, I bet my trouble is with pollen rather than Epon.

          Now I was closed up in a 120 square foot room with the Epon fumes for about 8-9 hours.  Never once thought about cracking the door or window, much less putting on a respirator.  That was dumb.  Will do things differently next time.

          Common sense goes a long way towards solving most of the problems I have.  Only trouble is, as Will Rogers (I think) used to say, "Common sense, ain't."  At least not always with me.  (Harry Boyd)

      Wow, a chance for me to contribute something to the list!  (I am a dermatologist).

      Most skin reactions to epoxy are an allergic contact dermatitis (think poison ivy) to the epoxy resin.  You have to have repeated skin contact to become sensitized.  This could show up fairly quickly or after many years; as a general rule more exposure = more likely sensitization.  The lower the molecular weight of the resin, the more potent it is as a sensitizer.  Apparently Epon 828 is a very low molecular weight resin (I'm not sure about the 826).

      The epoxy resin molecule can cross latex and nitrile gloves, so you can become sensitized even if you wear these gloves while working with epoxy.  "Heavy" vinyl gloves are said to prevent exposure.  I know that I generally manage to get epoxy on my skin despite gloves (which are just nitrile exam gloves anyway).

      Now, as far as eye and face reactions are concerned, the hardeners and curing agents are much more likely to be the culprit.  These agents are more volatile than epoxy resins, so they basically float up onto your face and eyelids.  This sounds more like your situation, Harry.  Of course, the volatile hardeners can also be a simple irritant (as opposed to a true allergy).

      Some people also have respiratory reactions and urticaria (hives) from working with epoxy; these are also more likely from the volatile hardeners.

      So, what do you do about it if you develop an allergy to epoxy?  Probably find another glue.  The cornerstone of treatment for allergic contact dermatitis is avoidance.  If you have an itchy rash limited to areas of contact  (hands, arms, etc.) you could try heavy vinyl gloves.  The face and eye reactions might be minimized by working outside/improving ventilation (although I wouldn't count on it).  Respiratory reactions, I would recommend another glue family.  I should add that fully cured epoxy is not an allergen, but I would still be careful with dust from sanding the stuff.  (Dan Smith)


What do you do when your guide spacing lands on a ferrule?  I have an 8’ 2 piece 7/8 wt that I have built.  The guide spacing that RodDNA suggest lands the 7 guide right in the middle of the ferrule.  If I use Hexrod to determine the guide spacing and index the 7 guide directly below the female ferrule, it will look like this:

1  5 7/16 inches
2  11 1/2 inches
3  18 1/16 inches
4  25 3/16 inches
5  32 7/8 inches
6  41 3/16 inches
7  50 inches
8  59 3/8 inches
9  69 3/8 inches 

If I decide to place the 7 guide just above the male ferrule, Hexrod says to do this:

1  5 inches
2  10 9/16 inches
3  16 11/16 inches
4  23 7/16 inches
5  30 11/16 inches
6  38 1/2 inches
7  46 7/8 inches
8  55 13/16 inches
9  65 5/16 inches

What would you all suggest?  I think you will probably say do them both and see which one casts better but I was wondering if you all might have a reasoning between the two based on what it will actually do the the stress curve or action.  Will placing the guide above the male, produce a slightly faster/tippier rod since it will force more bend into the tip?  Will I be able to tell or is more of a looks thing?  (Greg Reeves)

    I think I would go with example one. Number 7 just below the female ferrule. Even though the stripper is closer to your hand on example two, it almost feels too close to me. You might also consider running the guide program with ten guides and see what that does to your numbers. Consider also changing the increment spacing?

    I normally use ten guides on an eight footer with .5" increments, and the stripper falls at 68 3/4" and the guide below the female (#8) at 51". I normally use Tony's ferrules and 51" is pretty close to the end of the female ferrule.

    Either way, I would try and keep the guide close to the female rather than the male, but that's prolly just me.  (Mike Shay)

    I think you will find that it's pretty much that way on all 2 piece rods regardless of length. I don't know if you have the Garrison book or not, but he had the same thing on his 2 piecers.  (Will Price)

    Might think about using 9 snakes on that large of rod, plus it solves your problem.  (Dave Collyer)


I am in the process of making a "Sir D", the Darryl Hayashida variation on Wayne Cattanach's taper. (I decided on this taper in part to honor his passing.)  I have completed the ferruled blank, glued on a reel seat, cork grip and tip top.  I am ready for guides.  Two questions came up more out of respect for him as him as a rodmaker, than about rodmaking in general.  Could anyone send me the guide spacing that Darryl used on the 7 ft 4 wt Sir D?  And did he have preferred colors for his silk wraps on that rod?  Any other info on characteristic features would be appreciated.

I am not trying to make a copy in any sense. For one thing I flamed mine and I believe he tended toward blondes (at least in bamboo.)  But I am feeling sentimental and thought I might at least find out what choices he made.  If nothing else I can learn from those.

BTW, I taped on some guides, just so I could  cast it.  I think I have a new 4 wt favorite.  (Dan Zimmerlin)

    Here is the guide info that was given to me by Mark Wendt, given to him by Dennis Higham

    Hi Bill,

    Here's the spacing and guide sizes I was given by Dennis Higham:

    tiptop, 4 1/2", 9 1/2", 15", 21 1/4", 28", 35 1/4", 44"(just below the female ferrule), 53" stripper

    sizes...I'd use one size 1/0, 2 - size #1, 3 -size #2, 1 -size 3, and a size 10 stripper.

    I have made 5 of these in the past some for myself and some for gifts and it is my favorite rod. I know of no mention of any specific wrap color that Darryl used.  (Bill Bixler)

      Darryl posted a picture on one of the internet forums of his rod, I'll see if I can find it.  (Jim Lowe)

        Darryl posted this picture at

        This is not a Sir D but I have seen a couple of other pics of Darryl's rods with the  same color wraps as these.  Not sure if Darryl used this combination consistently or not.  (Ron Elder)

          I found the post. But it didn’t really have much to go by (see here).  (Jim Lowe)


Since the subject has come up again - I have been reading some articles coming out of the plastic rod camp in Rodmaker Mag, where some over there are saying that aligning the guides according to the spine makes no difference whatsoever.  Now there are those who are saying to just forget it.  Thoughts?  (Darrol Groth)

    What are you doing reading those yellow press journals? Say three Hail Everetts and pray the stations of the Hiram.  (Henry Mitchell)

    As I understand these days, the plastic rods are now finished with higher quality than 20 years ago and have little spine; back then I felt that adjusting for spine  on  a glass or graphite rod was important.  I have a sense that spine is less a problem today with improved production techniques for plastic rods. Currently I am working on three bamboo rods and two of them needed spine adjustment while a third rod just seemed to come out without much spine problem. So, my experience suggests that it is best to spine bamboo rods as Tony suggests.  (Frank Paul)

      Folks, it is rare that I comment on the board, but the topic of spine is an intriguing one.  It is also a complicated one.  I personally try to avoid using the term "spine" most of the time because it has come to mean different things to different people, all of whom seem bent on arguing over use of the term rather than the problem at hand.  So, I try to contemplate a rod's preferred bend, or flex, instead.  But, I'll stick with spine in this discussion with the idea that it represents the rod's preferred bend or flex.

      A guy named Don Morton, down toward Boaz, Alabama, has done a tremendous amount of research on the general topic, although as far as I know only for graphite and fiberglass rods.  He has threatened to publish a book with his findings, but the title would go something like "Spine, it is more complicated than that".  I am afraid that evidence suggests that the quality of most graphite rods has deteriorated over the past few years.  Few are made in the US any more.  We are fortunate to have a few companies that still manufacture here in the US, and they tend to be top notch.  Many others have resorted to manufacture in Asia.  They also are capable of producing excellent rods, but so far the experience reflects a high degree of inconsistency.  From the Don Morton bag of tricks, if you want a graphite blank, go to your supplier and spine all of those of your selected blank. You may find that they are all different.

      I am syndical enough to suggest that the idea of "spine no longer matters" roughly translates into "we can no longer control it."  I have watched Don Morton take a graphite rod, flex it, and discover that it's spine actually changes as the point of deflection moves up and down the rod.  I have seen his slow-motion pictures of a rod tip twisting 90 degrees in the forward cast.  Often it is about 3.5 inches from the tip; just where they break. Mandrels wrapped with a single flag will usually produce a rod with a spine because of the line where the flag is ironed onto the mandrel.  If that line is straight along the axis of the mandrel, the spine will be consistent throughout the length of the rod.

      But a basic questions need consideration.  Is a spine desirable?  A number of bamboo makers can produce rods that have no, or at least no significant, spine.  Now, that says volumes about the care and ability of a builder.  An expert caster might be in hog heaven.  Not being an expert caster, I do not fit that characterization.  Neither does Don Morton.  So, I asked him.  If you had your preference, would you like a rod that has a spine, or a rod that has no spine.  His answer confirmed by suspicions.  He wants a rod with a strong, consistent spine.  Making the blank with two flags diminishes the influence of a spine.  Three flags, and additional odd numbers of flags, produce spines, and often increasingly strong spines with a greater number of flags.

      The number of flags also influences sensitivity.  Here, we bamboo folks have it made.  But optimal sensitivity of a rod results from the graphite fibers running parallel to the mandrel, just the way power fibers run through a bamboo rod.  This is hard for graphite manufactures to achieve because the mandrels are not cylinders, but cones.  The flags do not wrap informally around the mandrel.  A greater number of flags helps to align more fibers with the axis of the mandrel, and produces a more sensitive rod.

      So, if you, like me, want the casting help of a strong spine and want to realize greater sensitivity, you might lean toward a rod made with a high, odd number of flags.  You can be sure that the folks at Bass Pro will not have the foggiest idea of what  you are talking about, let alone tell you which rods are made that way.  But, ironing flags to a mandrel is tricky stuff.  If it is not straight down the axis of the mandrel, you will get the shifting spine as indicated above.  Frankly, it is hard to iron a flag to a mandrel absolutely straight.  Each additional flag adds potential for inconsistency.  Do you see that at this point they are throwing in the towel?  We cannot control the spine, so it might as well not matter!  Put the guides down the straightest axis of the rod.

      Another point is in order.  Some will argue that in terms of casting, the "plug" will dictate the direction of the cast, regardless of the spine. That might have some truth to it, but it is certainly not true of fly fishing where the rod does directly influence the path of the line.

      The inside - outside decision has various fans.  I think the key is that either inside or outside of the curve is preferred to 30, 60, or 90 degrees off from the preferred bend.  We don't grow mammoth trout here in Atlanta. In years of fly fishing the number of times I could play a fish off the reel are quite few.  Less than a hand full of fingers.  So, fish fighting qualities are not particularly important to me, but casting accuracy is. So, I tend to go for better casting.  It is just personal.

      I reason that when properly set-up, the rod will bend in the direction it prefers, introducing less unintended motion to the rod, rod tip, and line as a result of my poor casting skill.  Even with my poor casting, the rod can minimize my inadequacy, and essentially help my casting by helping to keep the line in the same plane, front to back and back to front.  (Russell Dabney)

        What is a flag? Seriously.   (Greg Reeves)

          Graphite comes as a sheet.  The sheet is cut according to the specifications of the rod one makes.  These cut pieces of graphite are ironed onto a steel mandrel, then wrapped around the mandrel.  They are then baked, which transforms the graphite into that apparently solid material that we use as fishing rods.  The mandrel is then knocked loose and removed from the center of the graphite.  That's why graphite rods are hollow.

          So, think of a flag on a pole, and then wrapping the flag around the pole.  (Russell Dabney)

    I say "To each his own" I know a graphite rod maker that puts his guides 90 degrees to the spine.  He says because most fishermen twist their rods when fighting a fish. Others I know sight down the rod and look for the straightest line. A company in PA glues the grip and seats on the blank and line up the guides with the seat.

    Again, "To each his own."  (Tony Spezio)

    That's why I go with a good vibration and I don't even check the spine. Sage just sights the rod for the straightest axis.  (Ken Paterson)


I had some spare sticks lying around, and used them to make a one piece 4'4" taper that I drew up a while back and never built. Has anyone worked out a good guide spacing scheme for such a critter?  (Tom Smithwick)

    I built a 4'9" Blue Ridge Banty a couple of years ago.  I just used Chris Carlin's guide spacing calculator off the Rod Building Forum.  I set the stripper at 25", and gave it 5 guides plus tip top.  It casts pretty fair.  The only problem is that it's hard to pick up the slack when you go to set the hook. (Paul Gruver)

    Here is what I got from AJ Thramer when I built his 4'4".  (Louis DeVos)

    Here is what I used Louis, from tip in inches 4, 8.25, 13.5, 20, 28. The last is the stripper guide and it should go just below the female ferrule. The exact measurement will vary with different ferrules. 


Have any of you guys (or gals) ever seen any of the longer (8 ft or more) bamboo rods with more than a single stripper guide?  With graphite, these days, a rod is considered subpar, even badly designed, if it only has one stripper.  Again, I refer to longer rods, although it seems 9 ft has become the new standard in plastics.  In certain circumstances this may violate tradition, but in strict regard to performance, a second, smaller stripper does indeed improve distance and probably accuracy, despite the additional weight.  Just wondering...  (Bob Brockett)

    My San Francisco-era Winston made in 1967 has 3 strippers.  They’re small, maybe sizes 8,7,6.  The rod is a 8 ½’, 2/1 (made that way), 4 1/8 oz model that Glenn said was made on a “tournament” taper. 

    It has a parabolic action, but I never mic’d it to verify my limited experience of categorizing and describing rod actions.  All I know is it shoots line very well (better, or course with a thinner silk) and I like it’s casting feel.  

    One of my favorite graphite rod is a Scott G904-4 that has 2 stripping guides.  It’s a 4pc, 9 ft, 4 wt made in the earlier/mid 90’s.  I can’t say whether the 2 strippers enhance casting or not, but I like the rod for its smooth medium action and portability.  I also prefer a couple of Sage 379LL and 490LL that I finished from blanks back in the early 90’s.

    Multiple strippers are definitely not a new thing, just taking another trip around the block.  (Lou Martin)

    I have not, although a friend of mine raised the question.

    Bob Nasby, a professional fly caster in our community and a competitor in the national distance events, believes that guide size is NOT (repeat, NOT) relevant to distance.  He goes so far as to say that the rod could be assembled with the tip section guides 180 degrees to the butt section guides, and it wouldn't affect the casting at all.  He also reps for SA and used to guide in the Keys.  The man knows whereof he speaks, in my experience and that of dozens of his friends, clients, acquaintances, etc.  (Steve Yasgur)

      For what it is worth, and with all due respect to Bob Nasby, who I have never heard of before, and who believes that guide size does "NOT" matter, I would offer the following bit of trivia. Oversized guides have been SOP on fly rods used in the salt on the Texas Gulf Coast for at least 20 years now; simply because they enable one to cast farther while contending with our perpetually strong coastal winds, according to those in my acquaintance who regularly fish there.  I would simply suggest that hundreds,  maybe even thousands, of Texas Coastal fishermen can't ALL be wrong! In my own personal experience, I put the maker's recommended size guides on the very first fly rod I ever built, a 5 wt, and was sorely disappointed in how far I could cast with it on the lakes and ponds I fish. Sometime later, I made the acquaintance of a highly respected Master Custom Rod builder, to whom I mentioned my problem. After a thorough interrogation, he told me to go up one guide size on the next rod I built and see what would happen to my distance. I did, and was astounded at how much easier it is to cast 50-60 feet of line; a frequent casting distance. I have followed his advice on all subsequent rods that I have built and have not been disappointed with any of them. Just my own personal experience! I do put a second stripper on 9 ft. rods; again at the suggestion of my mentor.  (Frank Schlicht)

      I would not want to misquote him but I believe the estimable Mr. Tom Morgan, former owner of Winston, agrees and continues to build with smaller guides in his current Rodsmiths line.

      Smaller is sometimes better.  (Gary Nowak)

        Here's the rub: what is "smaller?"  If you try casting some of the new lines in the old guides, good luck & use lots of grease.  The Biblical camel through the eye of a needle.  All is relative to the size of the line.  After that, though, there has to be some hard tests done by the tackle industry out there that would come down on this one side or the other.  One would think...?  (Bob Brockett)

      Yeah, seems like everytime someone raises the spectre of larger guides & bigger strippers (still talking fishing here), someone goes 180 like your Bob here.  Well, size has to matter somewhat.  The line does have to fit down the  virtual tunnel you're creating.  Beyond that, I'd like to see some real test results.  Once, many moons ago, I cast a spinning rod that had the guides spiraling around the blank ending with the tip upside down.  Looked crazy with the line coming off that way.  Distracting at first.  But it cast just fine and lots of guys tried it.  If I remember right, Dale Clemens had that or something like it in his first book.  Anyway, without the benefit of empirical testing, I maintain guides do make a difference.  (Spacing may have more effect than overall size.  That's just a guess.)  Otherwise, all the tackle innovators of the last several centuries are idiots.  They could've made just one design for all and have done with it.  Instead, there are fly guides, casting guides, spinning guides, etc., and lots of variety within.  Someone knew something.  At any rate, you have to have something on the damned thing.  Try casting a rod without guides!  !^)    (Bob Brockett)

        Well, it could be because guide salesmen smarter--or because there's one born every minute, Bob!  Naz's take on the guide size thing (and I completely agree with you, by the way, about guide spacing) was that too large a guide opening allowed the line to waste energy by rattlin' around--kinda like shootin' a .22 thru a 6mm.

        'Twould be fascinatin', would it not, if they tested a bunch with 2 sizes o' guides and they both cast the same?  THEN what?  No Santy Claus?  No Ether Bunny?  Can we handle the truth????  (Steve Yasgur)

        If you'll do a little research over at and perhaps order some back issues of RodMaker magazine you can get a look at some of the testing that has gone on in the last 10 years.  Tom Kirkman's book "Rod Building..." contains some really good information too.  Their big show in High Point, NC is coming up in a week or two, and one can learn more about guides, guide placement, and guide sizes there than can be assimilated in a lifetime.

        The latest thing in casting rods is "micro-guides."  Their guides are TINY.  Many of them are quite similar to threading a needle.

        In spinning rods, it's the New Fuji Guide System (well, that's close).  The new system features one very small taming guide, then moves immediately to very small #6 or #8 guides.

        Both feature much smaller guides than what we might consider normal, and both claim significant performance improvements.  Many test rods have been built with both the new systems and more traditional guide arrangements.  The tests speak for themselves.  The smaller guides cast farther.  Every time.

        Think of it this way... you're putting a round line through a (basically) round guide.  The round line only touches the round guide at one point.  As long as the line will fit through the guide, whether the guide is large or small makes no difference in friction between line and guides.  Try it out with a pencil and a big peanut butter jar.  Then try the same pencil with a tall, slender olive jar.  There is the same amount of contact.  Where the small guides excel is in controlling the line, keeping it from whipping around.  The small guides are lighter too, and the old E=mc(2) formula squares the speed factor.  So speed is more important than mass.  Go to almost any ACA casting competition and the winners will be using rods with small guides.

        Lefty Kreh pushed the large guides for years, and I think there are some real advantages to large guides when using heavy terminal tackle. And of course saltwater, where larger terminal tackle is the rule,  is Lefty's forte.  I have recently increased all my snake guides by one size simply to make it easier for the flyline-leader connection to pass through.  Rather than starting with 2/0, I now normally start with 1/0 and work up... though usually won't go larger than #2 snakes.

        Longwinded way of saying that there is research out there.  Give it some study and draw your own conclusions.  (Harry Boyd)

    About a hundred years ago I remade an eight-foot fiberglass rod and used Aetna foul proof guides all the way. My theory was the guides would flex with the rod and maintain slow action that I liked. It cast just fine.

    Well, it wasn't a hundred years ago, but I sure was a lot younger at the time.  (Larry Myhre)


Can someone explain how to determine the proper side to place the guides. I have the Garrison book and in it Carmichael claims on page 140 that, "The trick is to find the flat that has the least resistance to bending under compression, and mark that side for the placement of guides." I interpret this as finding the weakest flat and putting the guides on that flat. Is this correct? In layman's terms please explain how I find the flat I am supposed to place the guides? This is only the 2nd bamboo rod I have made so please excuse my confusion!  (Zac Denton)

    Here is my take on this.

    I have posted this before but I will again being that the subject has come up again


    Here are two articles I did a while back

    Arkansas Tony

    Subject: Spine spline

    Subject: Re: The Spine in the Splines

    There are several ways to find the spine.  I will only cover two ways here.

    I put the butt end of the tip section on a flat surface with one hand pressing down in about the middle of the section. The other hand at the tip so that the tip can roll in the palm of your hand. Press down to bow the section while you roll the section till you feel a jump. That is the spine. Roll the section till it bows without any resistance, the guides should be on the inside or outside of the bow. (curve) The guides should be lined up with the bow and not off 90* or so. This is loading the rod. You will find if the Spine is off, say 90*, while a load like playing a fish, the rod will want to twist in you hand to the soft side of the rod. In casting, the line will want to cast off center. You can check the spine on a table. If you lay a blank flat on a table with about 2/3 of the tip section off the end, bend the tip down and release it. If the tip is not on the spine it will oscillate in an oval. The closer to the spine the narrower the oval. When on the spine it should just vibrate up and down in a straight plane. Doing this will give you an idea of what your line will be doing when you cast a rod that does not have the guides on one or the other side of the spine. (soft or stiff) I do know books call it a spline and it may be, but to me it is the spine I am looking for. I have made three Graphite rods with the guides on the outside bend, did not like them at all. Made over 100 with the guides on the inside of the bend. I find that the guides on the inside seem to cast best for me. The tradition I have heard is: for power put the guides on the stiff side, for accuracy put the guides on the soft side. I go with the soft side except for Casting and Saltwater rods. Yes, there can be more than one spine but one will always be pronounced. That is the one I use. I have had two bamboo blanks that it was almost impossible to find a spine. Can't tell you why, don't know. I make them all the same way. Now to crawl back into my hole.

    After I posted my message I got several off list messages as to why I place my guides on the inside of the curve.  Rather than answer them separately I will post my reply.

    I may be all wet but this is my way of thinking. Think of your rod as a bow. With the guides on the soft ( inside) side when raising the rod to pick up line off the water the line puts load on the rod. It will bend and load the rod on the soft side, (inside bend) more than it would on the stiff side. As the rod comes up and the line loads the rod on the back cast it has resistance from the stiff side. It will want come back to neutral. Being that the rod is loaded on the stiff side now, it will want to straighten out fast and will throw the line out with higher speed. Being that it has to work against itself in the opposite direction it will not bend as far forward as it does back thus keeps from throwing the line down. It will tend to stop quicker and throw the line straight out instead of down. In fighting the fish, The rod can be raised higher and the fish is fighting the soft side, this is easier on the tippet and more pressure can be put on the tippet without it breaking due to working on the soft side.

    What happens when you have no spine, darned if I know.

    Article # 2

    Most of the experience has been with graphite rods but it also applies to bamboo as far as I am concerned. This is my take on why I put the guides on the inside of the bend on fly and spinning rods and on the outside of the bend on Salt water Spinning and Casting rods. I may be all wet on this but it is the way I do it.

    By putting the guides on the inside of the bend There is more accuracy in casting. Just imagine casting with a stiff broom stick, it would be hard to direct the cast. Now think about a Willow sapling, you can direct the cast better. My thinking is that when you pick up the line off the water, the rod is going to bend more on the inside of the curve, therefore loading the rod more than if the guides were on the stiff side of the bend . When the line on the back cast straightens out, the resistance is against the stiff side and the stiff side wants to straighten up. That will help in throwing the line forward increasing the line speed. Having the guides (line)inside of the bend also takes the load off the tippet when fighting a fish. On Saltwater Spinning rods (when I was making them back East) I put the guides on the outside of the bend because the rod  would have more fighting power for big fish. Same for casting rods. Did the same on the few Saltwater Fly Rods I put together. Many years ago I built a 3 wt, my first graphite blank. When I got the blank, the instructions were to put the guides on the outside of the bend. I still have this rod but seldom use it. It never felt right when casting it. Maybe some day I might change the guides.

    In the other hand, I was given two commercial made rods to try here on the White. Both have well known names on them, both have the guides off (the bend) spine. When I hook a good size fish on either of those rods, they want to twist in my hand. One will twist one way the other the other way. Both are on the rack with the 3 wt.

    As far as Bamboo goes, I have made several rods that had almost none or no spine, most of the ones I made have had enough of a spine that I consider it as far as the guides go.

    We all have our ways of doing things, do what you feel is best or are satisfied with.

    I am not an expert, I have only made just under 90 bamboo rods and over 150 graphite and glass rods.  (Tony Spezio)

    Some individuals do just as Garrison. Some of us put the guides on the opposite side from the softest side. Put the butt of the section on the table and flex the rod as you roll it on the surface and the side that it jumps to is the softest side.  (Timothy Troester)

      And I've heard from some professional rodmakers that they put the guides on the straightest flat, since that's the first thing potential customers look at when they pick up the rod.  Not being cynical here, but that's what I've heard.  I suppose it depends on what you're looking for -- pretty or pretty good.  Either one might be reason enough to lay out four figures.  And it would take a better caster than I am to know whether the guides were on the right flat.  Of course, if you disagreed with the flat selection, you could always rotate the rod 60 degrees at a crack until you found the best casting performance, but personally, I wouldn't know it if it bit me, and I suspect I'm not alone.  (No disrespect to the brethren who would.)

      I've always understood the guides went on the weak flat.  'Course, I always heard that a perfect planing job produces no weak flat, since they're all identical, but this was from a confirmed fisherman, so ya can't believe THAT, can ya?  (Steve Yasgur)

        One confounding variable is that many casters do not cast with the rod bending in the guide plane, they angle the reel off to the side to some extent.  It is illustrative to watch these casters work with a rod that has a very strong difference in resistance to bending from one plane to another.  I’ve built several rods with rectangular or  oval cross sections which have that characteristic.  The rods definitely want to bend in the soft plane and tend to twist in such a way that the caster is forced to turn the rod into the appropriate casting plane.

        All that said, I anchor the larger end of each section on a table, pull the smaller section down and set the rod to vibrating.  I repeat that for each flat.  There usually seems to be one flat for which the rod vibrates in a vertical plane, while the vibration pattern for the other flats tend to become oval.  I mount the guides on the flat which has the straightest vibration.   (Bill Lamberson)

    Okay, I am still confused. I have had the same questions as Zac.

    Timothy says: "put the butt of the section on the table and flex the rod as you roll it on the surface and the side that it jumps to is the softest side"

    Is that the top flat or the bottom flat, in other words, the concave flat or the convex flat?

    Bill Lamberson says: "I mount the guides on the flat which has the straightest vibration."

    Again, which flat are you considering? The flat that is on top or the one on the table? I like this idea as having tried it (the vibration thing)...the blanks really do vibrate in different planes.

    As I learned on graphite rods, the option for mounting guides is 1) on the concave side, which puts the strong back "into" the cast, or, on the convex side, which makes for a softer casting rod with more "pickup" power.  (Scot Lewis)

      It is the same way with bamboo except you have to choose one of the 6 sides where with graphite you have theoretically infinite possibilities. I put my guides on the convex side, usually. Garrison says the concave side. Lamberson's technique I do also employ. i think this is hard to communicate and easy to demonstrate. It is alot easier than it takes the time to explain.  (Timothy Troester)

      I use the vibrate method to place my guides, they go on the flat that's down. It would seem that opposite sides would vibrate the same, but they don't necessarily. I went to doing it that way because I never could figure out if the guides should go on the inside of the curve or the outside when you bow it. One thing you must pay attention to if you use the vibration method, the sections must be straight or you won't get true results.  (John Channer)

        I think that the vibration method is best, but I put the guides on the convex side if possible. My reason is that if the rod has a slight upcurve (that sometimes happens), then the weight of the line will have slightly more strength to hold it. Also, when casting, there is slightly more strength required to overcome the effort of lifting the line out of the water for the back cast than for the forward cast. The difference is minimal, I know, but perhaps it's a bit psychological.

        Also, we must remember that when looking for the weak side and strong side, we often overlook the fact that the strongest side is the side which is 90 degrees to what we think is the stiff side or the weak side -- in other words, the side of the rod which is 90 degrees to the bend. Think about bending a 1" x 2" piece of wood -- it will bend a lot easier on the flat than the edge. But with a fly rod, if the guides were put on the stiffest edge, the rod would tend to twist 90 degrees when casting.  (Ron Grantham)

        One thing you must  pay attention to if you use the vibration method, the sections must be straight or you won't get true results.

        This holds true for any method!

        For the ones that have rods ready to wrap, try measuring the rod sections. You might find the numbers on the stiff flat a little wider across the flats. I had to sand a little off the stiffer flat of a tip section so the tips would be a perfect match (nodes/guides/spline).  (David Dziadosz)

      Think of the rod as your body and we have a back bone, and some of us have abs!

      Your back is for keeping straight and providing support your gut is there for when you need that extra strength, to support your back.

      Likewise with rod,  I use the backbone, the strong side or convex side as the back of the rod and the weaker Concave  side for the guide side.

      Hover having said all of this, and as.  A cane builder, I like to make sure that there is no weak side and find that once fish is hooked there is an automatic resistance that kicks in to my rods.

      I have also noticed that over time the weak side can move to one of the other facets.

      That's the beauty of cane it is always different; just like rivers.

      Good luck in your endeavor.  (Keith Paskin)

    Just an anecdotal comment relevant to the question from a one time personal experience.

    I was in charge of a major redfish tagging program on the Texas coast in the early '80's. We used sport tackle for their capture. All rods were so-called graphite popping rods. One morning I connected with a very substantial red that was quite reluctant to come to hand. The torque placed on the rod, due to misplaced guides, almost twisted the rod from my hand before it was finally landed. For the uninitiated, a popping rod is nothing more than a larger and longer version of a standard bait casting rod with a much longer straight handle, with the guides on top. In this instance, the rod was doing it's best to rotate 180 deg. so that the guides would be on the bottom. Needless to say, based on this one-time experience, in my opinion it is very important to properly locate the guides relative to the spline: soft (concave) side for fly and spinning rods; stiff (convex) side for casting and trolling rods. Why add torque as an opponent when fighting a nice fish is what I ask myself. Simply let the rod bend naturally. It has been over 25 years and I can still feel the twisting of the handle of that rod in my hand. What an abomination!  (Frank Schlicht)

      Interesting story Frank. That must have been a fun job. I never seem to be able to get those... although I almost got on with an outfit that chased geese. You took dogs out to businesses and parks and let the dogs chase off the geese. Harassing wildlife for fun and profit. Anyway...

      How would you put the guides on a spiral built rod? That’s a rod where the guides start out on top and spiral around to the bottom of the rod. I don't really see the point in building one, although someone told me that having the tip facing up made a casting rod want to rotate down, so having the reel on top and the tip on the bottom fixed that. Hey, I didn't come up with this or say I bought it, but where would the spine go?  On the top, on the bottom, or half way, or??? And would it be better to spiral left or right? Something to think about while the varnish dries, eh?

      I use the vibration method, but I doubt it make a lot of difference to my inept casting.  (Larry Lohkamp)

        You "plan" on guide placement when you twist the rod sections in your hold-down device.  You get what you get, or you figure out how to place guides on  non-flats using some method of leveling them.  (Larry Tusoni)

          Maybe the new Snake Brand Universal guides would work for on the apexes?

          See this link for details.  (Scott Grady)

          I know this is not what Larry is talking about but you can control where the guides will go on a" twisted" rod. I have made several of them. What I do is make a hex blank, place the guides on each flat around the blank in the spacing order. Then I heat the area between the guides and twist the blank to line up each guide. That places each guide on a flat.

          Just thought I would pass this on. Did a presentation on this two years ago at the SRG.  (Tony Spezio)

      Needless to say, based on this one-time experience, in my opinion it is very important to properly locate the guides relative to the spline: soft (concave) side for fly and spinning rods; stiff (convex) side for casting and trolling rods. Why add torque as an opponent when fighting a nice fish is what I ask myself. Simply let the rod bend naturally. It has been over 25 years and I can still feel the twisting of the handle of that rod in my hand. What an abomination!

      Can you actually feel a rod torquing (is that a word?) or twisting if the guides are on the bottom?  With a fly rod or spinning rod, I just can't see how a rod could twist when fighting a fish.  Help me understand this...  (Harry Boyd)

        Here's somewhere to start. These are generally salt rods... and graphite... but there is a whole group building this way to PREVENT torque in the rod. I don't profess to know much more than what I've read, but, yes, there is torque when alignment is off.  (Mike St. Clair)

          This wouldn't apply to spinning or fly rods since the guides are already on the side facing the fish.  (Scott Grady)

            Agreed... in general. I was merely trying to show that the torquing of a rod plays a role and can be felt... I do believe that baitcasting rods are far more susceptible to it, but misalignment of the spline, in my opinion only... could play into the same theory. Something that MIGHT affect the cast and retrieve on a fish.  (Mike St. Clair)

          From an admittedly cursory reading I would say the torque referred to with baitcasting and trolling rods has little to do with spines in flyfishing rods. The torque it would appear results from fighting fish with the guides on top of the rod, which is not how one fights a fish on a flyrod.

          My understanding is that when force is applied to the line, by a fish for example, the line wants to follow the shortest distance between fish and the reel. If the line is held above the rod by the guides a force will be exerted on the lever arm (which is effectively the distance between the inside of each guide – the point closest to the rod where the line is actually running - and the rod itself). If the rod is slightly canted to the side the direction of the force will not be directly through the center of the rod and will result in rotation of the lever arm around the center of the rod i.e. ‘torque’. The guide could then rotate almost 180 deg to the bottom of the rod. If the guide is well fitted the rod will twist rather than the guide rotate.

          If the guides are however on the bottom when fighting a fish the force on the guide will be away from the center of the rod and any canting of rod the would result in minimal twist.

          When casting a flyrod on the forward cast the line is effectively ‘above’ the rod, but since we generally use snake guides on bamboo rods the line actually lies against the rod or even partially under it so there is no real lever arm or torque on the guide or rod. I have not yet experienced twisting in any bamboo rod I have made or cast.

          I am therefore not sure that spines really make all that much difference and think on the balance of things it is probably better to choose the best alignment through the ferrules as the means of choosing where to put the guides. Refer this link in support of this position.  (Steve Dugmore)

        You can actually feel it when casting. It creates the feeling of the rod wanting to favor to either the left or the right.

        A while back I read your writing on adjusting the planing of a strip so that the legs of the triangle are even; when I plane I constantly, but very gently, flex the strip in between alternating the sides and that usually gives me a very accurate indication of evenness and how things are going in my planing process.

        I’ve noticed with some rods that when casting them, on the forward cast more than the back, the rod or a portion of it, will want to kick out to the side, either into my body or away from it, and I feel it a lot more if there is no line loading the rod.  (Ren Monllor)

          Thanks for the tip on finding where the angles are out of shape.  I'll give that a try.

          Are you certain that what you feel when casting isn't a rod that is less than straight?  I've noticed that on some crooked rods before.  (Harry Boyd)

            That’s a good point Harry.

            The truth is I’ve cast both straight and bent rods and the feel is different.

            On a bent rod, if the bend is pointing to the outside say tip pointing to the right for a right handed caster, away from the body, as you cast forward from the bend on forward, there is more of a drag as it goes against the air, causing more of a twisting (if you’re right handed, counterclockwise)feel in the hand whereas, if it’s a stiffer side, then it is more of a feeling of the rod wanting to favor that side as opposed to twisting to that side.

            There’s a snappier feel to it as it comes to rest.

            Hope this helps, I’m probably not very clear as I’m no engineer.  (Ren Monllor)

      As I mentioned in my post, I found the same thing on a couple of 4 wt Graphite Fly Rods I own. These were commercially built rods that have the guides about 90 degrees to the soft side. The guides were put on the straightest side.  (Tony Spezio)


Working out calculations for a 7' 6" 3 piece rod.  7 guides plus stripping guide for a total of 8.

I get four guides to the tip, but the bottom guide comes at 23" leaving 7" to the ferrule and then the first guide on the mid tip at 31.25"

Should I work it out to adjust the tips bottom guide to be closer to the ferrule?

Or recalculate for 8 guides and a stripping guide?  (Pete Van Schaack)

    Use more guides.  (Timothy Troester)

    I use 8 guides on 7 1/2'ers  (1 per ft +1 and a stripper and tip top). I end up with 4 on the tip, 3 on the mid, and 1 + the stripper on the butt section.  (Will Price)


A customer called me last night to complain that I put one of the guides in the wrong place.  This was for a 7'6" 4 wt, 2/2.

Am I the only one who reduces the distance between the guides on either side of the ferrule?  (Scott Grady)

    If it's your design, then it's your call. If he saw/cast the rod before purchasing it and still ordered one, what's the problem? (Ren Monllor)

    Not sure which guide he is talking about but guide spacing should follow the strength of the rod and no two 7'-6" rods, Dickerson vs. Payne etc., are exactly the same.  Guide spacing charts are a great place to start but not always final.  An easy check is to to temporarily tape guides in place, string line through guides and stress the rod by pretending you have a fish on - which is always a fun thing to do.  Try to equal the distance from bamboo to line between guides by sliding guides and this will tell you if the spacing is where it needs to be.

    Something tells me you already know this when I read "Am I the only one who reduces the distance between the guides on either side of the ferrule"?  You just might be since any rod I have ever seen has a progressive, adding a bit more distance, from guide to guide starting from tip top to butt.  (Doug Alexander)

      I start with a 3/4" addition at each guide,  which seems to work with most rods.  I agree the distance from line to rod, when the rod is under stress should be the same between each set of guides.   I "increase" the distance between guides over the ferrule. because there's less bend in that part of the rod.  I've found that moving the guides to accomplish this seems to improve casting.

      I’d bet the customer is using some kind of chart.   Tell him that if he wants you to you'll re wrap the rod to his specifications.  He is, after all, the customer.  (Terry Kirkpatrick)

    I would expect the rod to be stiffer around the ferrule and, if guide placement is largely based on keeping the line from touching the rod, if anything, I would think you could tolerate a wider spacing in that area.  No experimental data, however. I suspect aesthetics is probably more important in any case.  (Dave Burley)

      I think you can make a case for Scott's method.  When the rod is under maximum stress (e.g. fighting a large fish) the guides are the points where that stress is being applied to (spread out over) the rod.  The ferrules are stress concentrators (not good) , and it would seem that guides at either side of a ferrule would spread the stress at those points where it would otherwise concentrate.  Maybe an engineer could explain it in correct language.  This may be a case where aesthetics, casting, and fighting a fish lead to different optimum solutions.  (Frank Stetzer, Hexrod, Taper Archive, Rodmakers Archive)

        I am always of the belief that "line" guides are put on the rod spaced progressively from the tip to the butt so that the line shoots through those guides smoothly to it's intended target while casting.  The minute you alter any of those locations by shortening or lengthening the space between the guides part way through the rod, you run the risk if creating a sag in your line, thus creating drag as you shoot the line to the intended target.  The spacing as a consequence, evens out the stress on the rod but is not the intended reason why you space the guides accordingly.  (Scott Bahn)

    Do you shorten the guide spacing around the ferrule to reduce the stress in that area?  I try to always put a guide immediately below the female ferrule for that reason and adjust the guide spacing to "fit" around that.  It is sometimes difficult to achieve an aesthetically pleasing spacing on a three-piece rod while constraining the positioning of two guides to the area immediately below the ferrules.  (Bill Lamberson)

    Scott - no you're not the only one.  (Lee Koch)

    PS  Anyone else remember the Grangers with a guide on either side of the tip/mid ferrule?

      Not understanding what Wayne wrote in his book about a guide at the ferrules, I placed a guide on each side of the female and male ferrule on the first bamboo rod I made. It is a Sir "D". Been fishing it that way for 11 years. Casts like a dream. I also found out the guides are not spaced like they should be.   Have no intention of changing them.  (Tony Spezio)

        Take a look at some original Payne guide spacings!! You may be surprised!! From what I've been told, it was intentional!!!  (Paul McRoberts)

        My first rod was a Sir D.  Darrol suggested it.  I probably planed a little bit too much and brought it to a 3 weight.  I really like the way it cast with a 3 DT line.  It is as good and maybe better than some graphite rods I have of that weight.  My butt guide is close to the ferrule, but my 1st tip section guide is up a bit from the ferrule.  (Grant Adkins)


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