Bamboo Tips - Tips Area
Rod Design - Rod Lengths


< Home < Tips Area < Rod Design < Rod Lengths

Rule

I was introduced to fly fishing many years ago. I've always heard the consensus of you need an 8-1/2 to 9 foot rod so that's what I've always used and liked it.  Then the bamboo shift came to me when I found the rodmakers site, ordered my first bamboo on eBay, one of those 8-1/2 war issue noodles that double as spin rods when you reverse the handle (it was OK but kinda weak backboned). Next, I ordered some blanks that I've built in the 7 to 7-1/2 ft range. Having fished them with their particular qualities that I have to get used to - IE: they're short.  I've finally had to order another blank (since I'm not at the point where I can come up with time to make a rod from a culm) and it's an 8-1/2 Dickerson (which I'm not thrilled with because it's not as stout as one I handled at a show and I'm questioning the taper).   My point and what I'm getting at is I'm dying for at least 8-1/2 ft with backbone and once I get it I'm sure it's going to be what I use most of the time.

Most of the tapers and rods I'm hearing you guys talking about here for the past three years are 7 foot range plus or minus a few inches.  Why is that?  I like my "little" rods for plinking around streams but there always seem to come to a point where I feel the need to reach fish that I can't with the little rods and they're so much work to cast any distance with.  I fished my 7 ft 3 inch three piece bamboo rod for two weeks in Montana and landed a 24 inch brown on it - the little rod was totally maxed out which made for an exciting catch but I just can't help but to start thinking or wondering why you guys all seem to be fishing such short rods while I'm kinda losing favor with them?  Any feedback?  I'm just curious to hear.  (John Silveira)

    Well, FWIW, I keep hearing that "a long rod in cane is too heavy," "you need to hollow build anything over 8 feet" etc.  I wonder too.  My 7'6" Dickerson 7613 weighs 4.25 oz., and it has a large full wells grip.  My lightest reel (a Hardy Ultralight) weighs 5.5 oz.  Seems to me if you can't handle 12 oz. of rod and reel, you're going to be in trouble with those 24 oz. beers.  (Neil Savage)

      I suppose it all depends on where and how you usually fish. If you normally fish big water - large rivers or lakes with wide open spaces I can see where under 8’ might feel a little undersized. I've never felt the need to use anything longer than 8’ at the places I normally fish with bamboo. The rod I use the most is 7’, for some of the really small mountain streams I like to fish I use a rod 5’ long. I am testing out some tapers that are 6’ 4 piece to fit inside my backpack.

      For me the advantages of a short rod isn't during the actual fishing, it's a lot of the other logistics. Hiking out to a stream or lake it's more convenient if the whole rod fits inside a backpack. That way if I have to go through bushes or under logs the rod case doesn't get hung up. Riding a mountain bike is more convenient. Walking from fishing spot to spot it's a lot easier to get the rod through bushes or under trees. When making a cast a 6’ rod will have three more feet of fly line out than a 9’ rod.  Sometimes that is a factor in making a short cast or not.

      If I fish in a situation where a 9’ rod is a decided advantage (for me that means ocean) I use a graphite rod. Might as well let graphite do what graphite does best - light, long rods.  (Darryl Hayashida)

        I agree with Tony that it is not just the casting, but mending is important also. In the faster rivers of the South Island of NZ I  found a Leonard Tournament  9' 3/2 for 7 line was pretty good.  However, after a while the 9' 3/2 for a seven line, that actually  fishes better with a 6 line, made for me by Walt Powell is pleasanter  and less tiring. You can fish it all day, and I'm no expert caster,  so probably inefficient. The length and good taper allows you to cast  a good distance, then mend to get a better drift, usually of a  weighted nymph.  (Sean McSharry)

    I live and fish in Oregon, on larger rivers and lakes.  Most of the rods I design and build are 8 and 8.5 footers, five, six and seven weights.  I've got some great, strong, faster tapers I've developed for just these conditions.

    I agree a lot of folks talk about itty bitty rods,  but I build rods to suit the conditions I fish, and want some power (on any given day on the Deschutes there's a chance you'll hook a steelhead while trout fishing, and so far I've managed to land my biggest steelhead, 33" and around 13 pounds, on a six weight bamboo while trout fishing).

    If you are looking for readily available stronger and longer rods for western fishing, look into rods like the Garrison 212e, Payne  201, Heddon (like the president 8.5'); Heddons and Grangers were developed for fishing in Colorado and there are quite a few decent tapers in the archives and other places.

    Gary Lacey is building Granger rods again from the original specs; I don't know if he sells blanks, but you might look into it.

    For anyone who will be attending the Corbett Lake rodmakers meeting I'm bringing three new hollow built quads, all 8', two six weights and one five, and an 8'6" hex that's hollow all the way from tip to butt.  They are all strong rods.  (Chris Obuchowski)

      I was fishing yesterday and for most of it nothing was happening so I got to thinking about the long/short rod question as well as the dominance of lighter line weights. I was thinking the most popular rods on list at least are short and light and that's almost like being in a gun club and almost everybody in it owns Winchester model 70s mostly .22 cal to .270. In the way my mind works I thought it may be interesting to try to equate the classic rods to classic calibers and the corresponding versatility.

      For eg.

      • PHY Midge may be a .22 K Hornet
      • Sir D which I believe is a classic already and the Driggs River and Payne 98 would be a .222 Remington.
      • The PHY Perfectionist and Dickerson 7614 may be a .270
      • The Dickerson Guide is either a 30-06 or .300 Win Mag. There are plenty of others  but most people would know these I'd think.
      • From here on is where I'd be interested in what people may relate other tapers we don't hear much about.

      What I reckon would be interesting are the rods that relate to these calibers:

      • .300 H&H
      • .375 Magnum
      • .460 Rigby
      • .600 Nitro Express  (Tony Young)
      • Well, let's see.

        .460 Rigby = one of Jeff Hattan’s 18' two handed greenheart rods.

        .600 Nitro express = one 12' x3" culm and club 'em instead of fishing for 'em LOL.  (Will Price)

        Make a Driggs in a one piece configuration and you have  a 6.5X58R Sauer!   (George Rainville)

          I think you would at that. The classic chamois caliber. Team it with a 20 gauge in a drilling and you couldn't want for more.   (Tony Young)

            Well, I'm new to fishing bamboo but I can say that when I cast any one of my three rods, my nose never bled like it does when I touch off my 375 H&H magnum. My shoulder doesn't hurt either. (Wayne Caron)

              I would think the Gillum Light Salmon or Payne Canadian Canoe would fit really nice with the .375 slot.

              The 9016 would probably be around your .460.

              Orvis S/S/S to me might not make the 600 class but it's close. *G*  (Dewey Hildebrand)

                OK, that's what I want to hear.

                No Weatherby Brow with these but maybe a case of getting a Weatherby Elbow with these??? :-)  (Tony Young)

    I don't have much to say here but I've got a pretty good collection of old FFM and American Angler magazines. I was looking through one just this morning when I found a Thomas and Thomas ad talking about rod size. The point of the add was that among other things, rod size should be related to the height of the rod tip above the water. If you're wading in 3’ of water, you'd want a longer rod than if you were standing on shore. It also brought up the larger river and  more mending you'd want a longer rod and for pocket water a smaller rod.

    Anyway, I thought it was an interesting ad as I've never seen rod length addressed in an add before and had never seen a reference to rod length based on tip height approach before.  (Jim Lowe)

    I'm glad you mention this because you have an extremely good and provocative point.  The problem with longer bamboo is inertia. If you make it long it becomes noodly, make it more stout and more mass and more inertia so beyond a certain point and 8 feet seems it and a rod begins to become too soft for what most people like to cast.

    HOWEVER if you don't mind heavier line weights you can make swelled butt Dickersons of over #5 for instance. In fact I'm doing one right now for a #7 for my self and it looks like being a stout rod for sure but it wont be light but it will do the job because the butt looks like a pool cue. I'm making this because the Dickerson 7614 taper I've been using for a few years now is too short and too light to deal with the sorts of things  I've wanted to do with it. Namely it's too short to cast well in mayfly rivers where rushes are up to your arm pits, it doesn't mend line well enough in large water, it's too short to really get a handle on a fish that's determined to have it's way with you and single handed spey casting is almost impossible with a rod that short and it's embarrassing when the rod bends into the handle and there's nothing you can do.

    Maybe I'm wrong here but it seems to me the  fashion for short rods is commercially driven? People want a light rod with a quick action. Yes a short fast rod generates line speed therefore distance but we know there's more to fishing than distance. In fact it's almost all nothing to do with distance. A fast long bamboo rod isn't going to be light. But so what? I've never understood this drive for lightweight gear to the extent it's gone because the issue is one of balance anyhow, not weight. Yes heavy boots makes a difference, so does carrying too much around the waist line but a couple of ounces extra of rod is insignificant. The problem with this mind set is it gives people the wrong idea about bamboo. For the last couple of years I've been in a bit of a trout hotspot in NZ and fished almost every day of the week of the season sometimes guiding and wind up in the pub talking fishing pretty much every day and the number of people I've fished with and talked to who own a bamboo rod but bring a graphite one with them to NZ is astonishing. The reason for it is they almost invariably only have a #3 or #4 and they just wont handle the situation but at times they have the right weight rod but still seem to think of the rod as being not up to the task.  If I ask without mentioning I make them why they don't own a heavier line rod they answer they're too heavy. They like the rods they just seem to think bamboo is only good for little rods and doubt the ability of them on really big fish which is really funny because they're a lot more likely to stay connected to that fish of a life time with bamboo than graphite. I turn up with my bamboo rods and they're amazed they work because bamboo has become a sort of play thing for "special" days.

    I think it's been this fear of weight that's done it which is a shame because there must be a hell of a lot of really nice tapers out there that never get talked about that should. Anyhow John, there are lots out there but you can do a lot worse than starting with any Dickerson for your purposes but I can't talk for the one you have.  (Tony Young)

    You are correct about the recent short rod phenomenon.  I personally do not understand the merits of a short rod, aside from weight, which in my opinion is marginal. 

    The proponents of the short rod will say that they need them for those small "cricks", you know, the ones that are no larger than 10' wide and with heavy bush and tree growth on both banks.  I don't buy it.  As Darryl mentioned earlier, to make a 20' cast you actually have to have 2 more feet of line in the air than with an 8' rod.  More line in the air means a higher possibility of getting caught up in the bushes and trees.  Those small rivers require much more roll casting, which is better preformed with an 8' rod rather than a 6 footer.  They also require dapping the fly over a pool, and you have a much better reach with the 8' rod.  There is no denying that a longer rod also mends better than a shorter rod.

    Now I agree with Darryl that if you hike through heavy bush or ride a mountain bike to your fishing spots then the shorter rods are the way to go, simply based on portability.  Also, the shorter rods are prettier to look at (I think that is the real reason for their popularity, we all want to take the pretty girl to the dance).  But, in my opinion, there is not much more in the way of advantages.

    Well, I have probably offended a lot of people on this board, which was not my intent, and I apologize to those that I have.  It is just that I have had this stuff going around in my noggin for a long time and it was nice therapy to say it out loud.  ;o)   (Robert Cristant)

    PS:  John if you are looking for a great 8' 6" rod, the Payne 204 taper is phenomenal.  A 6 wt 3 piece rod that will do whatever you want it to.  I built a variation of it recently and it weighs in at a whopping 4.5 oz!!!! 

      Well, just for grins I weighed my dad's Heddon 125 "Expert".  5 7/8 oz.  The tag says 2 3/4 oz, so that must have been the bare blank.  Anyway, it's a 9' 3 piece 7 wt and it's NOT hollow built.  (Neil Savage)

      I had pretty much this same discussion with a fishing buddy who insists that 9’ rods are just as easy to use in brushy tree overgrown streams. So I told him to keep track of how many times he got hung up and had to untangle his fly or line from a tree branch or bush when we were fishing a small local stream.  A couple hours later  we met up. The count was 10 times to my one. He had lost three flies, I hadn't lost one. Roll casting didn't work too well for him since it was about 8 to 12 feet from the water to the branches hanging over the water. He could dap over bushes better than I could, but I wouldn't dap that much even if I had a long rod. Mending is easier with a longer rod but that doesn't mean you can't mend with a short rod.

      Don't get me wrong, as much as I like a 6ft rod for this one stream, if I could only own one bamboo rod it would be a longer rod. Probably in the 7'6" to 8' range, and I would just have to deal with the inconveniences that would impose on me when I fished the smaller creeks. But that's what I like about making my own rods. I can make specialty rods tailored to specific places I like to fish.  (Darryl Hayashida)

    Well, I'm glad some one bought this up, thank you John. The reason I'm grateful is because I'd like to build some longer (9-11 feet) nymphing rods and I can't seem to find much info on the matter. Years ago, that's what was used before the dry fly came into it's glory, but believe it or not, that's about all the info I can find.  If anyone on the list has anymore information or can lead me to some tapers I sure would appreciate it.   (Ren Monllor)

      There are several "big water" tapers in The Best of the Planing Form, Vol. 2  (Neil Savage)

      Nothing published, that I can find.

      Funnily, it’s what I returned to cane-peeling to do, but I've got badly sidetracked.  You'll need to be hollow building to a whisker of material integrity, using cane ferrules, and tolerating a lot of stress breakages before you get it right.

      I wish you, most sincerely, the best of luck. And please get on with it.  Otherwise I shall have to, and I should much prefer to copy you!

      You can have all the glory, whether you want it or not.  (Robin Haywood)

    In the UK, longer rods have always been more popular with anything less than 8‘ tagged a "brook rod".  However the older English rods above 9’ were all very slow and although they have their uses they do not appeal to many.

    As much fishing here is stocked still waters with an emphasis on distance casting graphite tends to rule with bamboo mostly restricted to the rivers.  However I get requests for dual purpose rods and for this an 8’ 6” rod works well particularly when hollow built.  It is fine to build solid at this length for a butt action rod but the faster tapers have a lot more weight in the butt that can readily be removed by hollowing.  Fast action rods for 7 weight lines weighing 5.5 ozs no problem  and cast easily without fatigue.

    To respond to another question raised - saltwater tapers for big fish - I went through the research bit recently with help from this list although I got few responses with the general view being that anything suitable would be way too heavy.  I found the Payne 400 and some Paul Young tapers but nothing I fancied so I scaled up and modified my 8.5’ 7 weight to a 9’ 10/11 weight with lots  of input  from the angler who ordered it.  It weighs 7.25 ozs without the reel seat, bearing in mind a fully loaded Tarpon reel weighs over 20 ozs you will see that the weight of the reel seat is irrelevant.  Does it work?  I don't know yet, ask me in May.  I do know it requires more than a wimp like me to cast it to anything like its limits but it loads and shoots line.  If the guy sends me a picture of a successfully landed Giant Tarpon I'll post the taper!  (Gary Marshall)

    Could it be that many of us are looking for shorter, lighter rod tapers because those are the ones that have been out of reach ($$$) in the used, classic market? From what I've seen, anything made by any of the dead guys that is shorter than 7 1/2 ft. and lighter than a 6 wt. costs a heck of a lot more than a 8 1/2 ft. 7 wt. by the same maker. How many 9’ 6 wt Leonard's go for $2000 these days and how many  Payne 97's can you pick up for a cool $600? When it comes to bamboo fly rods where I live (Maryland) many prospective buyers have it in their heads that they want something like a 6’ 3 wt for brook trout fishing and nothing else. They'd pay through the nose for a classic rod like that, if they could find one for sale. This desire might be what is driving the "dessert rod" market, whether the rods are practical for all fishing situations or not. (How many of us started building our own rods because we wanted a Payne 7' 4 wt? I know I did.) I was going to try and sell a Payne Canadian Canoe I built at my local fly shop but the owner seemed to think it would be a hangar queen because it was too long and too heavy. On the other hand, the same guy told me a story about a dude who wanted an 8 1/2 ft. Sage something or other (which they didn't have in stock) and wouldn't even cast the shorter version (8' 3") of the same model. People are weird.  (Bill Felter)

Rule

Site Design by: Talsma Web Creations

Tips Home - What's New - Tips - Articles - Tutorials - Contraptions - Contributors - Search Site - Contact Us - Taper Archives
Christmas Missives - Chat Room - Photo Galleries - Line Conversions - The Journey - Extreme Rodmaking - Rodmaker's Pictures - Donate - Store