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Can anyone give me some direction as to what would be a good first rod (taper, etc.) to build. I hopefully would like to use it for light saltwater and larger trout waters. (Lou Azzalina)


So I have a question, which perhaps represents a different perspective.

This question of what is an appropriate taper for a first rod to build seems to me a false question.  From the responses, it doesn't seem like the taper matters so much in terms of building.  OK, stay away from tricky little tips and more advanced or specialized characteristics like swelled butts or perhaps hollowing.  But in terms of building, it doesn't sound like anyone on the list thinks it matters if you build a Dickerson 8013 or a Payne 98.

So isn't the question what rod would you like, of the basic tapers, if you only built one?  And if that is the question, isn't the best advice to find a way to cast some of the possible rods you would consider?  Like attend a gathering?  (Dan Zimmerlin)

    You're right.  Rod building is an evolving process.  The single most important thing for your first rod - is to finish it.  This gives you the big picture and allows you the chance to experience the different rod building processes and where you might want to improve or do further research.

    If you do not have an opportunity to cast a rod than I would start out with a 7' two piece rod.  It's short, functional and easier and quicker to build than longer ones and try and  stay away from ultra thin tips or swelled butts.  Hexrod has a taper listed called the Jay Harvey Lincoln #1 that looks interesting and the stress curve resembles my very much revised Sir D.

    I say this when my first rod was a 7'-6" Payne 101 from the Maurer book - which is really different than the taper posted in Hexrod.  I arrived at this taper because an original is very expensive and I thought it kind of cool to fish a copy of a very expensive rod!  (Doug Alexander)

    That is similar to what I have been thinking.  My favourite taper likely the next guys least preferred - or maybe not.  There is no universal best taper - although there are statistically more popular ones (and do we believe in mean, median or mode?).

    It was suggested to me to figure out what casting style I liked and to then look for a taper that matched that.  My first rod matches me wonderfully.  Test casting would  have  been a bonus...

    My thought is to look for a taper for your first rod that matches your casting style (as well as your typical fishing needs) and look to match that. 

    My first rod was the "just build it" rod, but it is also my first and I am grateful that I really, really like fishing it.  (Greg Dawson)


I have been reading this list off and on for several years, in the hopes that I would someday start building bamboo fly rods.

Well, my wife got me the best Christmas present ever and this fall I will be taking a class to build a rod.  Hopefully this won't be the only rod I build, but just in case I want to make sure I make something I'll find versatile and be happy with.  To that end I have a few newbie questions:

1.  I think I've settled on the Paul Young Perfectionist for a taper.  George Maurer's book describes it as being suitable for a beginner to build.  I haven't been fly fishing for very long and my skills leave much to be desired.  I prefer to fish on small streams that don't get much traffic, and I like pocket water.  I find these two attributes help hide my lack of skill from the larger fly fishing community, and the fish- sparing me much ridicule ;-)  Plus, I just like the solitude.

2.  I like the look of a swelled butt, like Thomas and Thomas.  But I really don't understand how much impact this would have on the rods performance.  The reading I've done suggests it might give the rod a bit more 'back bone'.  Given the type of fishing I do, and the size of the fish I usually catch, I doubt I need much back bone.  But will building this taper with a swelled butt ruin the performance characteristics of the rod?  I'm not even sure my casting ability or experience level would allow me to 'feel' much of a difference, so this is purely a cosmetic choice for me.  If it's going to make the rod screwy, I can do without it.  (John Szarowski)

    No offense John, if your first concerns are to build or not to build with a swelled butt, well.....

    I think the Perfectionist would be more suited for larger water. The Sir D is a very nice rod and very versatile for a variety of waters. This is probably the most copied taper built to date!  (David Dziadosz)

    You know, John, I have never quite been able to get my head around what people mean when they describe a rod as "suitable for a beginner to build". Even should you choose a rod with an ultra-fine tip, you should not have much difficulty in planing it down, nor in gluing and binding the strips together.

    The only thing that might cause some difficulty is the swelled butt, and that not from a point of view of technique, but just because it requires a degree of specialisation in your planing form.

    However, if you have acquired a set of forms with a swelled butt capability, even that should pose no difficulty.

    There is not, in my opinion, any one task in the construction of a six strip bamboo rod that is inherently "hard".  Successful rod building consists of a succession  of essentially simple operations, each one performed and completed with emphasis on care, accuracy and repeatability.

    However, while there is nothing too difficult in the process, neither is there any room for the words "good enough".  Were Yoda to pass an opinion here it would be "Build or not build. There is no near enough!"

    So set out on the task with confidence that you can build any rod you want to build.  But I am inclined to David's point of view - you probably do not want to produce a PHY Perfectionist either as a first rod, nor for the kind of fishing you describe in your letter, and certainly not with a cosmetic butt swell added to confuse things further.  Good rods, like the T&T's, that sport swells, have been designed from the drop with the butt swell incorporated into the taper profile.  Adding one to an existing taper is at best a real wild card thing, and at worst a disaster.

    The only thing that I know of that can actually make a rod totally uncastable is the addition of too much swell, or stiffness, or action stopping, to the butt.

    David's advice re the Sir D is sound.  Also the Driggs River Special, the only taper I have never heard anyone say they didn't like. I have never built a Driggs, so I cannot offer a personal opinion. My own choice would be a Payne 98.

    If you build any of these you will avoid having to cope with the vagaries of the "parabolic" rod, or with the action-stopping effect of butt swell. Build yourself a rod that is easy to fish and easy to get to fish well.  Rod #2 or #3 can be a butt-swelled monster with rosewood inserts, 5 ferrules and a parabolic action that would befuddle Charles Ritz himself, if you like.

    But my best advice would be to make the first one simple and predictable,  execute it with as close to perfection as you are able, and learn to fish it in a range of situations until you know what you do like about it and what you don't like about it, and what you would like to change.

    Then build #2 and change it.  I'll bet you London to a brick that if you go with any one of the 3 mentioned above you will not want to change very much. Then, if for some reason you never build another, you will have a good rod that fishes beautifully.  And if you go on and build a couple of hundred, somewhere along the way you will do the swell and the inlays and all the rest, because we all like to show our peers what a really clever dude we really are.

    (Testosterone, you understand, is the most toxic chemical on the planet, about fifty times worse than plutonium. Fortunately it only has a half-life of about 20 years or so.)

    And then, with all that out of your system, once again it's a fair bet that you will spend most of your rodmaking career refining the few tapers that you really like to fish, and my own experience over a hundred-and-a-half rods has been that they will not be very different from the first rod!  (Peter McKean)

      You have given very sound advice to a newcomer.  I would only add that he should not be too particular in selecting a taper.  Sometimes it is easier for the angler to adjust to the rod

      than for the rod to be built to the angler's expectation.  (Ralph Moon)

        Bravo, "adjust to the rod".... well said Ralph.  So far I have never met a Bamboo rod I didn't like.  If you listen to the rod and do what it is telling you they all cast great.  Of course it may be the fact that I am not a world class caster and can't tell a difference.  Even the old engine hoist type bamboo rods make me happy when I cast them.  I just like casting bamboo rods.  (Pete Emmel)

      The only additional comment that I could add .... is the person teaching the course also has done a swelled butt. I know Jeff Wagner does teach and has done swelled butts. You may want to contact the person well before the course starts and discuss if this is path you-he/she may wish to take on, during the course.

      I ain't experienced enough to offer any recommendations, but the previous advise given is good.  (Dave Wilson)

    I went through the first rod decision fairly recently. I ended up building a Sir-D because most everybody though it was the cat's meow for new builders. Well, I hate it. I will keep the rod because it is the first, but I doubt that I'll ever fish it again. A Perfectionist would have been a much better choice for me and I really like my derivatives of David Bolin's ST-4. The point is that you cast different than others and you may just find that a slower or more parabolic action is more suitable for your casting stroke. The best move for you is to discuss your fishing with the instructor that you will be taking the class from.

    They probably have a few rods around that you can try out before you start final taper. Going to a gathering or talking to the bamboo guys at fishing shows and fly tying expositions is another good way to find someone that will let you try out a rod or two. The swell stops the rods action where the swell starts. This may not change a fast or med-fast rod much, but it can really mess up the actions that flex all the way into the handle... or may improve it. For a first rod it would be better to pick a taper that is designed with a swell so that you will have some expectation that it will work well together.  (Larry Lohkamp)

      Go for Garrison's 209E it is a great rod, 7'9" for a 5 weight.  I too do not care for the Sir D.  (Bret Reiter)

      OTOH, my second rod was a Perfectionist, and I wasn't happy.  That said, I put a heavier reel on it and like it much better.  Still, it will never be my "go to" rod (I don't think so anyway). (Neil Savage)

        It has not been a favorite of mine either. It might be our casting style.  (Tony Spezio)

      I really like the Driggs and the CC DeFrance.  But I do like what someone said about adjusting to the rod.  Maybe I have already done that.  Good luck whatever taper you decide on. (Rob Clarke)

        I think the CC de France is one of the greats. I would also recommend the Marvel.  (David Zincavage)

    I have been very impressed with the Heddon Folsom taper which is readily available at David Ray's taper library. It is a seven foot four weight two piece, the tips are about .067, so not extraordinarily small, and it has a mild butt swell that I have been able to make without special planing forms.  It is a joy to cast at short distances but can reach out if you ask it too.  (Ray Wright)

    As you can see, requests as yours, especially from a beginner gets a lot of responses.  I will just say congratulations, and remember this is all for fun at this point.  My biggest struggle is knowing when I've lost focus and I need to just stop working and come back later.

    As for taper, I would echo responses looking at the Sir D for the style fishing you are talking about.  I built a perfectionist taper, but with a mortised handle, which would equate to your swelled butt. It really doesn't load well with less than 20 to 30 feet of 5 wt line out.  It is however a very strong caster after that and can handle larger fish.  (John Wagner)


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