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Looking for some opinions on spey tapers.

I have a good heavy culm and think it will do an OK job.

Ideally something that’s 12 – 13 feet for an 8 / 9  wt line.

I plan to hollow build and use scarf joints instead of ferrules.

Has anyone built the spey rod from the lovely reed?  (Jon Babulic)

    I'm currently planing a variation on a taper I got from a Ray Gould book (Cane Rods, Tips and Tapers) that will be 11' 6" 7/8 wt.   He has about 6 different Two Hander tapers listed. Be sure and do your homework on the taper before you start on it. Belatedly I found that my planing forms will not allow any strip over about 0.245" D to be planed due to the geometry.  My forms are 0.750" thick with a 1/4" dowel and 1/4-20 push/pull screws at each station.  In theory that only leaves .250" depth on either side.  Then some steel was removed in making the forms so that leaves me with only .245".

    Some of those big gun rods have a maximum butt dimension of over 0.600" or .300" strip depth. Also check on a ferrule supplier for the huge butt ferrule.  I was planning on using spliced joints but may change my mind and make my own ferrules for this rod.  (Larry Swearingen)

      I had the same problem with the butts of coarse rods.  Solved it by filing a waist into the center of the bolts and, reducing them to under 3/16".  This has only to be done over the ones that clash and has no effect on the operation of the forms.  To maintain stiffness file the bolts down as noted above but put only a groove into the top side of the dowels.  I can make butts up to about 0.55".  (Gary Marshall)

        Good advice – I never considered that I might not be able to do this with my forms.

        Thanks!  You may have saved me some serious frustration here.  (Jon Babulic)

      I highly recommend the Waara spey rod taper- but you’ll need to tweak it to get it to a 9wt.  I built one years ago and found it to be very nice.  I actually traded it (in blank form, as I had just used electrical taped guides/reel when casting it) to Bob Meiser for one of his rods. I seem to remember he said he also liked it.  I did use CSE ferrules on this rod.

      I’ve found that spliced-joint spey rods (as opposed to US-Style two handed overhead rods) are the way to go.  Bought a Sharpes 13’ 9wt that is my current go-to rod here in the Pacific NW for salmon and steelhead.  Will throw all of an Airflo Delta with grace.

      If you or anyone is local to me in Portland, OR you are more than welcome to borrow my Sharpes for a test cast or fish.  Just hit me off list.  (Joe West)

      Bring those strips to my place and run them through my mill. I can cut up to a flat width of .500". With some tinkering we can cut wider than that if necessary.  (Jerry Drake)

    In "Bamboo under the Microscope" by Wolfram Schott.  There is a good selection of spey tapers. Hardy (14), Pezon Michel (2), Horgard (2), Sharpes (2), HLL (3), and Payne (1).

    There are some good Spey rods that  come up for auction at what I think are reasonable prices, Particularly for Sharpes and Hardys. IMHO, Sharpes have the better actions, Hardys the better  fittings. Spliced rods are more common under the Sharpes masthead.......... for the tape, try hockey tape, there is a tape that has no sticky residue  sold by Canadian Tire.

    In an earlier time the best bamboo craftsmen made the Spey/Salmon rods. Other English makes of rods, and under the radar are Allcocks and the Milward names. Fittings and cork may be suspect, but I would expect the cane work to be good. Women’s rods in greenheart and bamboo where in the 12-14' range, men’s rods where 14-20' balanced with a reel that weighed about a pound. George Grant was making casts with a Greenheat rod of 55 yards or so, about  hundred years ago. Matching lines to Spey rods is  not a  quantifiable science (as yet), I have a rod that some like an #8 others a #10, it is best to try various lines to find what works for you.  (Peter Jones)


My interest is mostly in spey rods, I love two handed casting and I can't even cast a single hand rod. I haven’t built anything yet but have bamboo culms on the way, I am gathering the tools and researching. Weight is a big issue with bamboo spey rods and the rods from the old masters at Hardy for instance weighed far too much for modern man to cast all day, many also tend to over rotate as the casting motion stops at 1:00 o’clock. So far my digging has yielded the following weight saving steps to keep rod weight down and also to reduce the rotating or "swing" weight of the rod.

I'd be real interested in reading your comments critical or agreeable (doesn't matter) and about any other ideas for spey rods or any bamboo rod lightening methods/tips you have.

1) five sided, penta, slightly less weight and stiffer than the hex equivalent

2) glass or carbon fiber reel seat spacer

3) lightest wire guides, avoid agates - use carbide instead

4) minimalist tip top guide, cut the tip top barrel down at bit

5) spliced ferrules, metal ones tend to create a weak area in a spey rod as well as add weight and add greatly to the rods over rotate tendency

6) build 12 feet and under

7) hollowing, Powell scalloping recommended, down the center hollow fluted spey rods break (split down the center) under the torque of spey casting

8) minimalist  finish - haven’t figured this one out yet but dipping a rod 4 times must add to the weight substantially, can anyone recommend the finishing substance and number of applications to keep weight down?

9) laminate with cedar then hollow scalloping, does cedar really weigh less than bamboo pith? Here is an idea -  perhaps laminating and gluing with a stiff modern  glue (URAC) allows one to build a stiffer rod in smaller dimensions, thus saving weight.  (Wayne Vierhout)

    7) hollowing, Powell scalloping recommended, down the center hollow fluted spey rods break (split down the center) under the torque of spey casting

    Please, Wayne, is this statement the result of tests and experiences, or a personal opinion?  (Marco Giardina)

      Just research at this point.  (Wayne Vierhout)

    The best Spey casting rods aren't made of split cane. They are made of Greenheart and have spliced joints.  Greenheart is, it's true, heavier than cane and plastic rods, but it is more limber and intrinsically capable of flexing and storing more energy to release on a cast.  Greenheart is also curiously impervious to water. Its wood is commonly used for building wharves and docks.

    The best Greenheart designs were done by Alexander Grant. Grant was a musician and violin maker, who fished the River Ness where extremely long casts were required to reach fish in unwadably deep pools. Grant applied woodworking techniques learned from violin making, using a tuning fork to determine when the appropriate harmonic vibration of a rod taper had been achieved. He patented the Grant Vibration Rod in 1894.  The same year he set a world record casting an entire 168' of line without shooting any line at all. In 1900, Grant sold the manufacturing rights to his rods to Charles Playfair of Aberdeen.

    I own several Grant Vibration Rods. For general salmon fishing, I would recommend a 14' version, which I find can pick up off the water and cast slightly more than a conventional double taper fly line with enough force to pull more backing from the reel.

    Despite the weight, my wife typically grabs that 14' Grant Vibration before I can when Spey Casting is required in wading conditions in which back casts are impossible.  I have photos somewhere of Karen casting right across the Madeleine.

    Before Alexander Grant came along, the preferred Spey rods were also Greenheart, in the Castleconnell pattern developed by John Enright.  I have not found sufficient samples to form a well-informed opinion. I only recently acquired a second specimen.  The new rod is 14' with a "British thread lock" brass ferrule first joint and a spliced tip joint.  I haven't gotten around to trying it yet. I have also a remarkable 12' two piece Castleconnell which I have used.  Astonishingly, it is as light as a cane rod and rather delicate. It casts well, though it is not nearly as powerful as my 14' Grant Vibration. It is a wonderful rod for low water fishing, but it is appalling to try to transport, since it's about 7' long disassembled (spliced joints).

    Spliced joints are desirable on Greenheart rods.  Greenheart rods are reported to be susceptible to breaking at the ferrule.

    Greenheart is an evergreen containing natural chemicals inhibiting organic dissolution. Consequently, its sawdust is also inimical to organic processes, including yours.  It is important to use a breathing mask and eye protection when turning Greenheart on a lathe.

    Obviously, people did Spey cast with split cane, but it was generally observed that Spey casting placed an exceptional strain on split cane rods, stressing them beyond their intrinsic capabilities. Hardy's and some others responded by building split cane rods with steel cores. Try those for weight.  Jim Payne double built his salmon rods.  If one were going to build a cane rod for Spey casting, I'd say model it on Jim Payne's.  I do find that I can Spey cast just fine using my 12' Payne.  Of course, a 14' Grant Vibration will cast even farther.  (David Zincavage)

      OK, I have to build one!  I've made just one bamboo spey rod - a copy of the Hardy Wye in Ray Gould's book.  But I'm brand new to spey casting, and I can't find a line I like for that rod.  Do we know how Grant "tuned" his sections?  Do we have some tapers as starting points?  Do we have a source of Greenheart?   (Grayson Davis)

    I'm interested to hear the responses too Wayne because I'm going to build one too. I've already designed my taper for a 12’ rod and it will probably have magic star hollowing in the butt section anyway. Of course John thinks I should build it as a float rod. Now there's a switch rod for you.  (Ken Paterson)


I'm interested in building a spey rod/switch rod for salmon that is either a two-hander or a rod with a fighting butt that would facilitate spey casting. Not too heavy that it couldn't be casted one-handed but large enough to throw close to 100 feet of line. I'm thinking that would be possible with the right taper. Maybe an action length of 9 feet and about 10 to 10 1/2 feet total. Or even 8 1/2 feet action length and no more than 9'6" would be preferable. I've seen lots of rods in graphite that would fit this description, which I'm not interested in but to have something like that in bamboo would suit my need.

When we were at Corbett Lake I recall that Ron Grantham had a rod out to cast and if I recall correctly it was close to fitting that description. Can't remember if it was a two-hander though but I think it was maybe 8 or 9 weight. If Ron's reading here then perhaps he will chime in. That is if his taper is public info which I think it was. Also, whatever taper I go with I guess I would need some specs on hollow building that taper if it's necessary. However, with that weight would sooner not hollow build right now.  (Don Ginter)

    There are some tapers in Ray Gould's second book.  I built an 11 1/2' #7 from one of his tapers.  I used splices rather than ferrules and could cast it one handed as well spey cast.  My recollection is that it was the lightest taper listed among several.  (Bill Lamberson)

    One thing to keep in mind before you start with your two hander rod project is what is the maximum diameter at the butt you will need to plane.  Your planing forms may not allow you to plane the butt to full depth because the strip hits the dowels. So check your form to see just how deep you can go. That may have some bearing on which taper you select to make.

    I made a 12' two hander about a year and a half ago and I couldn't get the full depth I needed at the butt so had to modify the taper to a more parabolic design. I have since made myself a planing form with the dowels offset about 1/16" from center to allow larger diameter butts to be planed.  I want to remake the taper to see how bad I screwed it up by modifying it.  I'm sure it needs more butt strength.

    Also, do you have a lathe or access to one with more length between centers than the usual 7x Mini Lathe?  You'll need it to make your cork grip.  Unless you buy preformed cork.  (Larry Swearingen)

      I ran into this difficulty and dealt with it by taking a half round wood rasp to the locations where the rod came in contact with the dowels. (Timothy Troester)

        That's kinda rough on the dowels, idn't it?  ;-)  (Mark Wendt)

        HI, ALL!  REMEMBER ME?  THE ONE WITH THE FUNNY STORY ABOUT CUTTING OUT THE SECTIONS OF CANE TO AVOID TOUCHING THE DOWELS IN THE FORMS? I was just sitting, reading a book, when it came upon me that that didn't make any sense. Geez! I did it! What did I do? Then I remembered the rest of the story and why I did what I did. You all will like this. I wanted to make a spey rod but the dowels were in the way. I also thought I wanted to double build the thing. So, don't laugh, I planed out the inner sections first then laminated on the outer sections, trimmed the hangover by eye using a steady hand then reset the forms cut out the apex edge where it touched the dowels then sat the spline in the forms enamel side up and planed the spline to dimensions. I didn't plane off that much power fiber. I did plan for that. Anyway, I got my spey rod and I don't have to do that again.  There!!  (Timothy Troester)

          We could have just made bigger/deeper wooden forms. I had not thought of that before your note.

          Much easier than messing with double building and you probably would already have a hollow center on the butt since the bamboo would not be that thick...  (Gordon Koppin)

      Here's a cheap and cheerful solution.

      to the need for a lathe with a longer bed,  (Mike McGuire)

    Spey casting is an intrinsically two-handed casting technique.  One can spey cast with a one-hand rod with an extension butt in a pinch, but if you plan to build a rod to spey cast, it ought to be a real two-handed rod and it ought to be a lot longer than  10-10 1/2'. In my own view, the basic two-hand rod for Eastern Canada would be a 12'-er.  When my wife and I spey cast, our preferred choice is a 14' Grant Vibration Greenheart rod made by Charles Playfair of Aberdeen.

    The (undesirable, IMHO) graphite Spey rods in favor in international and West Coast circles are longer: 15' and 16' rods are typical.  They used to use 20' rods and larger in Norway.  (David Zincavage)

    Were you referring to my 8'6" rod with the short fighting butt? I recently used it during a three-week steelhead trip in northern BC and was really pleased with it. It's my version of a Para 16.

    Here's the taper for it:

          0     0.0713
          5     0.0858
          10   0.1007
          15   0.1165
          20   0.1346
          25   0.1531
          30   0.1725
          35   0.1937
          40   0.2117
          45   0.2294
          50   0.2440
          55   0.2570
          60   0.2691
          65   0.2808
          70   0.2923
          75   0.3025
          80   0.3129
          85   0.3222
          90   0.3316
          95   0.3403
          100 0.3474
          102 0.3489

    If it's a larger rod you want, the taper for my 12-foot Para 144 was published in The Planing Form a few years ago. I'll send it to you offlist if you want.  (Ron Grantham)

      I would be interested in seeing your taper for a 12 footer if you don't mind. I'm not real happy with the 12 footer that I modified the taper for and would like to get one for my use on the St. Joseph and Muskegon rivers in Michigan. Would your taper work with a Rio Windcutter 8/9/10 line?  That's the one that I found to work best with my rod and would like to find something to work with that line if possible.  (Larry Swearingen)


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