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The Journey of a Custom Built Fly Rod - Part 1 of 3
click here for Part 2
click here for part 3
(This page is LONG...please spare a moment while all the pictures load).
a journey with a custom built fly rod...from start to finish, with pictures. Here I
will show you what steps I take in a complete custom build.
the customer's requirements. In this case, it was a lady wanting to
surprise her husband with a birthday gift...a personalized custom built
I established the following to make the right choice of fly rod to build:
- What rods does he currently own and fish?
- Which of these were his favourites?
- What fish species will he be targeting with this rod?
- What waters will he be fishing? (Rivers, Lakes, Streams, etc?)
- Is he a "traditionalist", or does he like some "in your face" items?
And so forth. After finding out his
preferences, I settled on a 5wt, 9 foot, 4 piece rod, in dark blue
gloss colour, with a nice progressive fast action...
the Forecast F905-4 blank was perfect, and would not dent the bank account too much. An affordable, great quality fly blank.
She also wanted a South African wood
spacer for the reel seat...and we choose Wild Olive for this. The grip
would also be custom made, but kept subtle and functional.
On to the build!
Step one was to choose the cork
rings, and glue them together in preparation for the grip. I choose a
dark burl ring for the reelseat side, thin, for added protection
against chips..and to make the grip
unique. I also put in three composite cork discs just to make it
different and more pleasing to the eye. I kept it minimal, as the
owner was more of a traditionalist. The rest of the grip was Super Grade cork.
Once the grip is completely dried, I mount it in a lathe ready for shaping.
Starting to shape the grip, with low grit sandpaper.
Starting to take shape...
Almost the final shape, and switching to finer grit sand paper all the time.
The finished grip shape.
Even the better quality cork rings
have pitmarks...these have to be carefully picked out and filled in.
Then after drying completely, the grip is
given a final smooth sanding and it is ready to be fixed to the rod.
The pic on the right shows the grip with filled pits, prior to final
This grip received a coat of cork
sealer...to enhance the cork look, protect the cork, and prevent the
pits from falling out. This step prevents the
cork from becoming "old looking", grey and dirty. Here it is spinning
at low speed to speed up the curing time and to prevent the cork sealer
sagging and dripping. After it has dried, it is removed from the mandrel and is ready to be mounted on the rod blank.
The completed grip, with the sealer dry. Note the subtle, yet very different look to a standard cork grip.
The following step was to choose the Wild Olive wood, and turn it to make the spacer for the reel seat.
Here a section of wild olive is marked for the required spacer lengths.
The cut sections, showing off the fantastic grain of this wood.
The spacer section mounted in the lathe, ready for turning.
required diameter is almost reached...then I switch to finer grades of
sandpaper, to ensure a silky smooth finish on the spacer.
are carefully checked with a vernier caliper, to ensure a total
cylindrical shape and a perfect fit with the reel seat hardware.
completed spacer (Three views). No varnish is added to the
spacer...this ruins a great wood like this. It is treated by soaking in a mixture
of Timber Treatment Oils for
24 hours and then removed...once dry it receives a buffing, and then a
further three coats of oil. Each coating is
allowed to dry and then
buffed after each dried coat.
This is the hardware chosen for this build (Titanium colour aluminium reel seat hardware):
left to right: Cap, Nut, Hood, Threaded Tube, and Reel Foot Lock. On
the pic on the right is the reel seat complete, dry-fitted to test a
Next, the components are assembled.
First...the reelseat spacer and hardware is glued to the rod blank.
Great care is taken to ensure there is no glue residue on the spacer, and that there are no gaps visible.
the grip is reamed out carefully with rat-tail files, to ensure a
tapering hole that fits snug on the rod blank. The fit over the
is made snug, and tight. Then the grip is glued to the rod blank and the butt over the reelseat hood.
The reel seat wood spacer and grip is positioned in a fashion where
once you hold the rod in your hand...the best parts of the wood and
the grip are facing up. Small details, but makes is even more special to look at the finished product.