Video Series: How to Build Your First Fly Rod
Ive been fishing my entire adult life and own way too many fly rods. At least my wife and family think so. The thing is, Ive never had the gumption or drive to actually build one of my own. Im a decently handy guy but rarely if ever build things from scratch. Thats why when Swift Fly Fishing broke on to the scene very recently with their Epic fast glass colored rod blanks and entire rod building kits, I got pretty excited.
Not only are the companys blanks unique. The detailed kit theyve put together for home builders is meticulously thought out and well organized, giving me confidence that I can actually do this. Their box even doubles as a rod holder for wrapping your thread.
Over the next few weeks Ill be bringing you video and photo updates on my rod build from a first-timers perspective—things that worked, things that didnt and potential pitfalls to help you avoid. Granted the Swift kits have everything you might need, but Ill do my best to keep the info relevant to the entire spectrum of manufacturers and rod building materials available. Oh, and if you are interested in the Swift colored glass and dont want to build one yourself, the company is happy to build it for you or send you to one of their master builders whove signed onto their program around the world.
I share an unboxing video for the Proof Fly Fishing Rod Building Kit. This will be the first video in a series of videos documenting how to build a fly rod. You can send me an email or leave a comment if you have any questions.
Click Here to watch the Video:
(Subscribe on Youtube here)
Fly Rod Building Kit Links
Heres the graphite rod kit from proof
Heres the link to the Olympic Peninsula Steelhead Trip
How to assemble the Jig Kit Video
Click here to watch the Gink and Gasoline Rod Building Series that Matt put together in conjunction with G and G.
If you have questions about building a rod or what you get in the other Proof kits, please send me an email and Ill get back to you.
I'm Dave Stewart, a passionate fly-tying mentor, course teacher and writer. I want to take risks, meet interesting people, go hard, challenge myself and explore the world.
It’s rod building time with Matt Draft of Proof Fly Fishing.
In this installment, video 4, Matt will cover wrapping the ferrules, stripping guide and hook keeper. In addition to the basics Matt will share some pro tips for the trickier steps in the process. Our DIY rod is really starting to look like something now!
Check out Matt’s site, Proof Fly Fishing. As a special thank you to G&G readers, Matt will be offering free shipping on all of his kits for the next seven weeks. Just use the code G&Gfreeship on his web site.
Build Your Own Fly Rod: DIY Video 4: Wrapping the ferrules, stripping guide and hook keeper.Louis CahillGink & Gasoline[email protected]Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter!
Welcome to Hook & Hackle!
Your source for flyfishing and flycraft resources since
BUILDING YOUR OWN CUSTOM ROD
To put it succinctly, “it ain’t that hard!” It just isn’t.
Our thought is this: If you’re already fly fishing, then building your own rod is easy. For your first project, you’ll need hours of time total over days. That’s it! Oh, and you’ll need to have a little patience too!
Before you start, you need to make sure you have the following items that are not included in this kit. They are:
• tape measure
• single edge razor blade or nail clippers • 6” square aluminum foil
• denatured alcohol
• medium grit sandpaper
• plastic stirs or sticks
• small rattail file
• pencil, felt tip pen or crayon
• a couple of clean rags
You may be asking yourself, “can I get some other really cool and expensive stuff too?” Rod wrappers, drying motor, glue mixers and so on. The answer is yes . . . but not right now. We want your first rod building experience to be quick, clean, inexpensive, fuss free and most important of all, FUN! Read these instructions in their entirety before you actually begin construction!!
Here are the 6 basic steps for building your first rod:
1. Finding the spine (locating soft and stiff side of the blank)
2. Installing the grips and reel seat
3. Guide spacing
4. Guide wrapping
Step 1 - Finding the Spine
This step confuses most beginners. Simply put, all blanks are tubular and hollow and due to the way they’re manufactured, they have a stiff side called a spine which should be located in order to properly position the guides and reel seat. All you really need to do is put the butt section (of each part) on the tip of your shoe and lightly – did I say “lightly?” – press down on the tip until the blank finds a natural curve. Mark the convex, or outside, curve of the blank to help you align guides. You can place a piece of masking tape on the butt and tip of each section to aid this process. Simply put the mark on the tape.
Congratulations! You’ve found the spine and it wasn’t that difficult at all. That’s all there is to it! We’ll discuss where the guides go in relation to the spine a little later in Step 4.
Step 2 - Installing Grips and Reel Seat
Our kits include a “preformed” grip, but it still must be reamed to fit snugly on the butt section of the blank above the reel seat. Pay attention to the taper of the blank when reaming, noting that the diameter decreases as you proceed “up” the blank. Some folks lightly sand the section to which the grip will be epoxied for better adhesion, but be careful not to damage the blank.
Now you install the reel seat. The first step is to install masking tape to be used as shims. Wrap approximately two thirds of the area to be covered by the reel seat, leaving 1//4” gaps between tape wraps. At this point, you may also apply masking tape to all wooden, threaded and hooded parts of the seat to keep these parts free of excess epoxy during the gluing process.
Before applying the epoxy, preassemble the grip and entire reel seat on the blank without epoxy Pay attention to how the hoods (parts that hold the reel in the seat) and any inlets line up. After the epoxy cures, it’ll be difficult, if not impossible, to make adjustments.
With all parts laid out for assembly, mix the two-part epoxies in a small disposable cup or on aluminum foil with a small plastic stick. You only have minutes to work with the epoxy! Start by applying epoxy to the part of the blank to which the grip will be attached. Be careful to make sure the application of epoxy starts “below” the area where the top of the grip will permanently sit. Rotate the grip as you are moving it into location.
Next, apply more epoxy to the ‘shimmed’ section of the butt. Apply the epoxy over the masking tape and slide the reel seat up from the bottom of the blank. Gently rotate the reel seat into position. Note: if the reel seat sections are not preassembled, you may wish to epoxy these pieces prior to final attachment to the blank.
Step 3 - Guide Spacing
Below, you’ll find the proper spacing of the guides. Note that all guide spacings are measured beginning from the tip section and that you’ll need to assemble the blank prior to measuring for correct placement of guides. Also, different length rods have differing measurements and number of guides, so be certain to follow the chart applying to your particular blank. All spacing figures are measured in inches with tip top attached. Be sure to attach the tip top first!
|Xi Spinning Blanks|
Step 4 - Guide Wrapping
Smooth any rough edges found on the guide feet to prevent damage to the blank and to smooth the area over which the thread is wound. You may do so with a small file or other grinding tool. Most of the guides we sell will be “pre-ground,” but it is still good practice to check.
It is common for fly rod builders to place the guides on the “outside” or convex side of the blank. That’s usually what I do, but know that this matter continues to be one of the great controversies among custom builders. (Some of the best known manufacturers that I’ve spoken with do just the opposite!)
For double foot snake guides, place tape securely on one foot to hold the guide in place while you begin wrapping the other foot. (Some folks tape both and leave room for wrapping, but I find this cumbersome. Know that you will be able to make adjustments to “perfectly” line up the guides after the wraps are finished as long as your first windings are generally in a straight line.
I start by putting my thread spool into a ceramic mug positioned about 18” in front of my work area, and then run the thread through a hard back book. You can adjust the tension on the thread by running it through lower sections of the book. We want the tension to be firm enough to securely hold the guide in place, and produce a nice smooth wrap. Too tight a wrap will stiffen the rod and should be avoided. You may wish to make a stand to hold the blank horizontally while you wrap. A simple method of doing this is to cut “V” notches into the sides of a medium sized box (i.e. - shoe box) and lay the blank across.
Before you start the wrap, cut a couple of 6” sections of thread that we’ll need later!
You can practice doing a wrap on a pen or pencil until you become reasonably confident.
Maintain constant tension between the blank for secure, consistent and good looking results.
Now we’ve come to the fun part! Position the thread to start about 3/16” from the guide foot. Then, to begin your wrap, pull the thread over the blank. As you pull the tag end around, keep rotating the blank and cross over the thread itself. It is best to wrap toward the center of the guide and the tag end of the thread should be facing toward the center of the guide. After about turns, the thread should be fully secured and you can trim the tag end. At first it may feel awkward, but after a bit of practice, you’ll get the hang of it. Eventually, you guide the thread with one hand and turn the blank with the other. For a clean look, be careful not to overlap the thread.
As you practice, you’ll find that gaps can be smoothed out with the rounded end of your razor blade or clippers. I usually use my fingers, but make sure they’re clean to avoid getting oil from your skin onto the thread as it may affect the finish. When you’re about 3/16” away from the point at which the guide foot meets the vetical part of the guide, stop and proceed to next part.
Remember those 6” pieces of thread I told you to set aside earlier? Take one and form a single loop, and place it opposite the guide with the loop facing in the direction you’re wrapping. Now continue your wrap over the loop up to the point where the vertical part of the guide foot starts. While holding the thread in place with one hand, cut the thread, being certain to have a few inches of tag end.
Grab the tag end you just cut and put it through the loop you just made. Pull the end of the loop and it will draw the tag end underneath the wrap and then out. This will secure your wrap and give it a smooth appearance. Trim the thread with a razor blade or clipper, as closely as you can without cutting into the wrap itself. For a professional look, you can burnish loose ends and fuzzies with a match, but be careful as the thread will easily burn. Try this on your practice wraps first!
In addition to wrapping the guides, you can use the above method for wrapping ferrules, hookkeepers and trim. Note that wrapping the female part of the ferrule will add strength and stability to your finished rod. Wrap the ferrule to within 1/8” of the end. A 1/2” wrap on the ferrule will be fine, but you can add a bit more for heavier weight rods.
When you have completed your wrapping, you can carefully adjust the guide alignment. If you hold the rod up and look down the guides, you probably notice that they are not in a perfect straight line. Not to worry! You can move them a bit to the left or right in order to create better alighnment. Don’t put too much pressure on the guide or the the wrap will unravel.
Step 5 - Finishing
Start by mixing EQUAL amounts of parts A & B of the finish. Use a small plastic cup and plastic stir to combine the separate parts. These should be stirred slowly, to avoid air bubbles, for approximately 2 minutes. Pour the mixture on a small section of tin foil in order to extend the amount of ‘working time’ with the finish before it begins to thicken.
Apply the finish with the brushes included in the kit, being careful to keep oils from your fingers away from the thread, which can cause ‘blotchiness.’
While continuously turning the blank with one hand, apply finish to thread. We suggest that you overlap the finish onto the blank by 1/8” to provide a good seal. A careful application is the best insurance for good guide and thread adherance to the blank. If the finish becomes too thick, stop and mix a new batch.
IMPORTANT - Continue to turn the rod 1/2 turn about every 15 minutes, for 2 hours. This will create a more even finish for the self-leveling formula. Applying a second coat, after the first application has had at least hours to dry, will create a sure bond and a nice thick look to the finish.
24 Hour Cure Time: Although the finish will ‘set’ in just a few hours, it will take 24 hours for the finish to cure properly. And after the wait, there is only one thing left to do:
We know that these are basic and simple instructions and do not include information for every possible scenario. But we can tell you that thousands of people just like you have built rods with only the information presented above.
But don't worry! If you do have a problem or question, all you have to do is give us a buzz or an email. We answer concerns like the ones you have every day!
Warranty Info: most of the rod blanks we sell are covered by a LIFETIME limited warranty. Please refer to the manufacturer for more infomation. or call us for assistance.
For more information on fly fishing, fly tying and rod building, visit www.hookhack.com or contact us directly: Phone: Fax: Toll Free: E-mail: [email protected]
Instructions brochure fly
Instructions brochure spinning
Video fly rod building
I have been a fly fisher for more than a decade now. A few years back the thought of building my own tackle crossed my mind for the first time.
Most fly fishermen probably start with tying flies. Although that was something I have been wanting to try for some time it hasnt happened yet.
Last fall my friend Renato Vitalini of V Stick Custom Fly Rods in Scuol, Switzerland built a custom fly rod for me. It is an amazing two handed rod to fish for hucho hucho. Although I knew I could never even come close to Renatos craftsmanship I was intrigued to try building my own rod.
I got in touch with Carl McNeil of Epic Fly Rods in New Zealand. Their rods had always been some of my favorites and one day, browsing their online store, I discovered their rod building kits. They seemed perfect for someone with absolutely no experience in rod building. Carl quickly offered to send me one of their kits to give it a try. The parcel arrived only a few days later. Due to other projects it took me a few months and a global crisis to find the time to finally start building the rod.
Get your Epic Fly Rod Kit: simply click here
Learnings from Building a Fly Rod
Together with a friend I decided to use the time of quarantine to build this #4 fiberglass rod. Rather than give you a detailed how-to (there is an excellent guide book that comes with the Epic rod building kit and a great video tutorial) I want to explain what we learned from building a rod for the first time. Also, I want to let you know what I wish I had known before building my first own fly rod.
What you Need to Know when Building an Epic Fiberglass Fly Rod
In my eyes the first thing you should do when you open the fly rod building kit is to read the guide book all the way to the end. It might help you consider getting a fly rod turner and drying motor. Epic offers one in their online store and it would definitely be a good decision to get one. Otherwise you will spend quite a bit of extra time on manually drying your rod.
Another useful tool not included in the rod building kit is a fly tying bobbin. If you tie your own flies already, chances are you own one. If not, you should definitely consider spending an extra $10 $30 to get one. It makes the wrapping process a lot easier believe me.
Other useful things to consider getting/preparing before starting the rod building process:
A tape measure (to find the right spots for the guides)
A roll of masking tape
Small bottle of denatured alcohol
A razor blade or very sharp fine bladed craft knife (for cleaning up the wraps)
Some medium grid sandpaper
Set up your wrapping stand in a nicely lit place with some space. Consider choosing a place where you can build the rod for at least 48 hours.
Timeframe for Building a Fly Rod
Another aspect that would have helped us before starting to build the rod would have been a rough time frame. Of course it depends on your skills but a vague estimate for beginners would have helped. In my opinion you should set aside a weekend for building a rod for example. Starting on a Friday night, chances are high your rod will be finished by Sunday. That doesn’t mean you will be working non-stop for 48 hours. But the rod building process requires some breaks for the glue to dry or the coat to soak in and dry.
In the following paragraphs we want to give you an overview of the steps involved in building your own fly rod. As mentioned before there is a complete video tutorial embedded at the end of the article. This overview shall give you a feeling for the process of building a fly rod. The guide book that comes with your Epic rod building kit explains each of these steps in every little detail so dont worry.
Spining your Fly Rod Blanks
Before starting the rod building process I had never heard of the term spining. Fly rod blanks tend to naturally bend more in one direction than another. The underlying effect behind this is called spine, hence the term spining. Often fly rod blanks have more than one spining option.
The spine results from the manufacturing process of fiberglass fly rods. It is a slightly thicker section in the tube wall of the fly rod blanks. This section is a bit stiffer and hence presents a greater resistance to bending. In order to find the spine in your fly rod blanks you hold the blank at a 45 degree angle with one hand near the tip and press down and rotate at the same time with the fingers of your other hand (see picture above).
It make take a moment until you feel the differences, especially since your fly rod blanks might have several spining options. The guide book describes this entire process very well. Also, you cant go wrong when spining your fly rod blanks. Some people question the process of spining all together. Once you found your spine mark it with the marker that comes with the rod building kit.
Marking the Guide Spacings on your Fiberglass Fly Rod
Defining the spots of the guides on your fly rod blank is pretty straightforward. Lay the blank on a tabletop, take the guide spacing chart found in the booklet and mark your fly rod blanks accordingly with the provided marker.
Measure and Mark the Cork and Prepare for Glueing
The first step here is to slide the reel seat and the cork grip onto the fly rod blank. Mark the place where the top of the grip finishes. This is a crucial mark since you cannot sand or glue the blank past this mark. Next you scuff the blank with sandpaper from this mark downwards to the end of the blank. This makes for a better glueing surface.
Once youre done with that mark the reel seat position. For that align the rear of the reel seat with the blanks bottom and clearly mark the position at the top of the reel seat. You need to shim the blank with masking tape up to this point in order to ensure a snug fit of the grip.
Wrap three pieces of masking tape around the grip. To ensure a good fit place the reel seat and the grip on the blank. Make sure to leave enough room for the epoxy.
Start glueing the reel seat with a mix of the 15 minute epoxy. Take one of the spatulas that come with the kit and apply a thin coat to the reel seat arbor.
Slide the reel seat up from the bottom of the butt section. The bottom of the reel seat should be level with the bottom of the fly rod blank. Do not glue the end cap of the reel seat just yet! Continue by applying epoxy from above the reel seat all the way to the upper mark that indicates the end of the grip.
After that apply a little bit of glue to the outer walls of the reel seat inlet. Do not get any epoxy in the bore. If that happens take a Q-tip and remove the glue.
Slide the grip down the blank. Once you get to the glued section rotate the grip while slowly sliding it onto the reel seat. Mate the grip into the reel seat to ensure a snug fit.
To finish the glueing process take the end cap and glue it onto the bottom of edge of the reel seat. The last step is the alignment of the reel seat with the Epic logo above the grip. Depending on the model you chose the reel seat might feature a logo as well. That makes alignment easier. If there is no logo on the reel seat (as in our case) just align the slots of where the reel will be attached with the logo on the blank. Make sure to clean any excess glue with alcohol.
Wrapping the Guides of your Fiberglass Rod
Prepare the wrapping of the guides by cutting a number of small pieces of masking tape about 5mm wide. Take the snake guides and start taping them to the spots marked before. The largest guide is attached closest to the grip. Then they decrease in size all the way to the tip.
Take the bobbin (if you followed our advice to get one) and attach the white silk thread. If you dont have a bobbin you can try to attach the spool of silk thread to the packaging of the rod building kit with a toothpick for example. It works but the bobbin prevents the thread from twisting and makes wrapping a lot easier.
The part that follows is the most time consuming since you have to wrap about guides (depending on your model). The wrapping process is explained in great detail in the guide book hence we will not go into detail here. It will take a couple of hours to wrap all the guides.
Just a word of advice: dont wrap too tightly as that will make the final guide alignment difficult. It will also hinder the finish from fully penetrating the thread. Also dont forget to wrap the ferules in the end. Once youre done with wrapping the guides you have to align them. If you didnt wrap too tightly that should not be a problem. After aligning the guides, glue the tip to the top end of the blank.
As a last step of the wrapping we are creating a winding check just above the grip. Its a small decorative ring meant to cover any gap between the bore in the grip and the blank. It also prevents water from soaking in between the blank and the grip.
Applying Epoxy Rod Finish to your Fiberglass Fly Rod
Mix up a batch of epoxy following the instructions in the guide book. Thin the equal parts by 1/3. If you mixed 2ml of hardener with 2ml of resin thin it with about 2ml of thinner (alcohol). Start at the guide foot and work towards the center. You will see the thread absorb the finish. Dont paint the finish. Instead hold your brush on an already wetted section and let the threads draw in the liquid.
Repeat this for all the guides and the winding check. Then let it dry overnight placing the rod in the stands or a rod dryer if you have one. Advice: clean the brush after the glueing. It might enable you to use it once again.
Finishing the Wraps Step Two
Once your guides have dried overnight they should all look nice and clear. Before applying the second coating there is most often some tidying up to do. Trim off any small humps and tag ends using a razor blade.
To finish the coating mix a batch of the two part rod finish according to the instructions. Do not thin this coat! The good thing about rod finishes is the fact that they are self-levelling. This means you dont have to get it perfect and will still get a great result.
Advice: dont apply to much finish. Rotate the rod to apply the finish and let it be pulled off the brush instead of painting it on. Quickly move on to the next guide. Once youre done put the rod back in the stands. You now need to manually rotate it for at least two hours. Simply rotate it by degrees every few minutes. A drying motor makes this process a lot easier. Hence consider getting one with the rod building kit as mentioned in the beginning. Leave your rod to dry for at least 12 hours and at least 24 hours before you cast it!
Building my first fly rod was a lot of fun. Doing so together with a friend definitely made it easier. You always have a second opinion. You can also share tasks and in the end it just makes more fun. It is definitely possible to build a fly rod (on the basis of a fly rod building kit) on a weekend and without any prior rod building skills. Epic do a great job in terms of their components and explaining the whole process thoroughly in the accompanying guide book.
Would I build another fly rod? Definitely! The entire process is a lot of fun and it definitely feels special to fish a rod you made yourself. The Epic Fly Rod Building Kit is also a great present for any fly fisherman.
Note: We earn a small commission (at no extra cost for you) if you click on one of the links provided.
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