Custom made means just that, all aspects of a rod can be tailored to suit the particular needs of the angler.
For details of specifications for the Lightweight Elite series rods please refer to the Elite page.
The sections below provide some insight into the different aspects of cane fly rod design and construction and give an indication of my range. Virtually all of my rods are custom made to order so I do not offer a fixed standard range. The list of rod sizes and line weights covers the range within which cane rods can be designed to perform perfectly.
I take great care in the making of these rods to ensure that they offer complete satisfaction. Each one is hand made by me and takes several months from start to finish with many hours of work.
Probably more words have been expended on describing the different actions of fly rods than on any other aspect but I will try and summarise. Firstly it is a missconception that all cane rods have a slow action but I'm already ahead of myself, what is slow?
The terms fast medium and slow and and all the stages in between can be defined in two ways, firstly as the natural frequency of the rod and secondly as the rate of rise of the taper. A fast taper is one that has a greater increase in diameter from tip to butt. This results in a shorter deflection arc for the same load and a higher frequency.
What follows on from this is where the rod bends. Faster tapered rods bend more towards the tip than in the butt whereas slower rods are the reverse. A slower rod will be more leisurely to cast and will feel is if it requires less physical effort. A faster rod will require sharper timing and the cast can be "forced" more.
The above generalities ignore the effects of compound tapers that can vary the flex over the length of the rod even within each general group.
Tip action rods have fast tapers in the tip section to concentrate bending in these areas. The resulting shorter casting arc makes the formation of tight loops easier. The Tournament rods by Leonard illustrate this style.
Butt action rods may have a slower casting stroke but as the stronger section of the rod is working they can make good distance casting tools. The term "parabolic" is used to describe some generally butt action rods and stems from the shape of the stress curve that gives raised stress levels in the tip less through the middle and then even higher values in the butt. There were several makers making this style of rod including Paul Young and Pezon and Michel. Hardy tapers also tend to follow this pattern as well and several of the rods made by Sharpes are good examples. Another characteristic of these rods, due to the rod finishing its long casting stroke unaffected by the caster is that they tend to cast a very straight line.
Through action. A commonly heard term and relatively graphic so most can visualise the deflected shape curving gradually from tip to butt. These type of rods are typified by the designs of Everett Garrison and result from having near uniform stress levels throughout the rod. They are easy to cast and effective at short and long range.
Progressive. Another commonly used term meaning progressively stiffer towards the butt. Perhaps best typified by the the rods of Lyle Dickerson and offering a good combination of power and delicacy.
The differences between rods and what works best for an individual are best evaluated by casting as many rods as you can.
For those of a more technical leaning I will happily discuss stress curves and deflection forms and these can be supplied for any rod. The main use of these tools is in the comparison of different rods and they provide a means of evaluating the rods performance.
The rod shown above is a Garrison 206 that has an easy through action but as can be seen this is no impediment to forming an arrow shaped loop if desired.
I offer two basic styles of rod and these are illustrated further down this page. The first are blond rods where the colour of the cane is pale honey, Hardys Palakona rods are a similar shade. These are made up to 7ft 6in in length although I will make them up to 8ft 6in on request. To obtain sufficiently clean cane these rods are sometimes constructed "nodeless" and the cane is oven baked to temper it before splitting. Nodeless rods therefore use selected cane joined at splices with a catalysed resin adhesive giving bonds stronger than the cane itself. These rods can also be built conventionally when sufficient clean cane is available and hollow built rods are always of conventional construction.
The second style is made from full length split strips taken from flamed culms. These produce a darker rod with variable shading and generally give a slightly crisper action although the taper used is still the main factor in this respect.
Longer rods are built hollow to save weight and a set of splines are shown below to illustrate where the material is removed leaving solid dams at intervals. Hollow building opens up a range of possibilities where the internal design becomes as significant as the exterior. Its main use is in allowing the practical application of relatively fast tapers in longer rods than would normally be possible.
All my cane is hand split so the strips follow the natural cleavage path of the culm, rather than being sawn straight through the grain. Each strip is heat straightened before bevelling heat treating and tapering.
The picture below shows the form of hollow building referred to as scalloping.
As noted above hollow building is of particular benefit to longer rods so it is included in the standard specification for 8ft 6in rods. It is however available for all rods over 7ft 6in for an additional £50. It can even be applied on shorter rods but the benefit becomes minimal.
The form of hollowing is varied for each rod and is more radical for Elite series rods.
Weights and Tapers
Hand planing allows the skilled maker to construct very accurate tapers that can be designed to suit a whole range of line weights and actions from fast to medium and on to full bending parabolic rods. Different lengths of rod work best within a certain range of line sizes and the table below indicates the most common range.
Standard rods are two piece with single tips although I will happily supply a matched extra tip if required. It has been traditional in the past to supply rods with two tips with the idea that they would be used alternately. This may well have had merit if a rod were to be used very hard or to give the advantage of having a spare but very few anglers fish that hard and most that do have several rods. For my own use I have yet to find it essential, my favourite rod has been in use for several years with no sign of fatigue.
The prices set out below offer a guide and are for typical custom made rods with all details agreed with the buyer.
8ft 6in for lines 5, 6 and 7.....Price £975 hollow built as standard
8ft for lines 4, 5 and 6.......... Price £895
7ft 6in for lines 4 and 5.........Price £835
7ft for lines 3, 4 and 5......... Price £815
6ft 6in for lines 3 and 4.........Price £740
6ft for lines 3 and 4.............. Price £720
These prices include a partitioned rod bag, ferrule stoppers and a custom made aluminium rod tube.
All the above prices are for two piece rods with single tips but I will happily quote for 3 piece rods, normally plus £120. An extra tip made at the same time as the rod will be 30% of the rod cost. Latterly I have started making "pack" rods in four pieces which are convenient for travellers and despite the extra ferrules still cast very well, they cost the same as a 3 piece rod. For more information on 4 piece rods see below. Elite series rods, price on application.
I don't normally make rods for line weights less than 3 as they are of very limited application. Similarly making the longer rods for the lighter line weights tends to produce a rather floppy rod.
I will reproduce any classic taper. Although I personally favour slightly quicker action rods by Leonard, Dickerson and others I will also make full parabolic rods such as those by Paul Young. For those who prefer designs emanating nearer to home I can also reproduce the tapers of Richard Walker, Hardy and Constable.
I also build rods to my own taper designs solid and hollow built predominantly in the range of medium to fast action and very fast for those wedded to a graphite style. If you have a valuable rod that you are reluctant to fish I can measure it and reproduce the taper as a viable fishing rod.
Swelled butt designs are available as well as standard tapers for most rods. It would be true to say that in most cases a swelled butt is selected for aesthetic reasons but the purpose is to stop the action above the grip and prevent the feeling of the cork flexing. Very much a personal choice. Plus £30.
Pack rod with spare tip and top joint shown below.
Prices includes a large amount of choice in fittings some of which are illustrated on this website and any required taper. Included is a partitioned cloth rod bag and ferrule stoppers. Aluminium tubes are also available and are shown on another page.
Detailed specifications available on request.
Four piece rods
Four piece rods are very practical and have become the norm for graphite rods. The old rule against making multi sectioned rods in cane has always been that the ferrules introduced flat spots and spoilt the action but using the right taper with custom made ferrules overcomes this issue.
The proof is clear below with pictures showing the fighting curve and the end result.
Clem Booth strikes again!
Above is a blond rod built nodeless and showing a distinctive swelled butt.
Below is a flamed rod showing typical colour variations, in this case on a plainly detailed oil finished rod.
Having tried oil, varnish and impregnation I have settled on varnishing using the dipping technique advocated by Garrison. The ring whippings are individually sealed and progressively rubbed back and polished as repeated coats of varnish are applied giving a glass smooth finish. I rarely use colour preserved whippings except when matching in restoration work so my rods deliberately exhibit translucent threadwork.
The varnish I use for most rods is a very high quality tung oil based varnish which is very durable and can take a variety of polishing so that a range of finishes can be offered from satin through to high gloss. Satin has become the most popular as shown above whilst full gloss can be seen below. An intermediate finish with a gloss aspect but slightly less glass like can also be produced.
I also use more modern polyurethane finishes that I also use on some reel seats together with my normal impregnation and penetrating oil based finish. I would of course be happy to discuss the pros and cons of finish selection for any particular project.
I now vacuum impregnate all the timbers with a thermo setting resin that I use for reel seats whether they are subsequently oiled or varnished. This ensures long term durability and stabilises even complex burrs.
The one thing you may be assured of is that the finish will be immaculate and has to be seen and felt to be fully appreciated.
Other finishes are available including oil impregnated for those wanting a very low flash finish.
Snake guides are traditional for cane rods and are used on all of my fly rods together with lined butt guides. Modern hard chromed guides and the more expensive specially treated guides last far longer than the old materials and are quite practical. Normal choice for my rods is an american twist pattern that is available in a far greater choice of finishes. English twist pattern is used where appropriate for restoration work and can be incorporated in a new rod by request. Standard finish on blond rods is bright chrome on stainless steel whilst the flamed rods are fitted with bronze or black guides. The best quality guides are used from the major suppliers in this country and the USA. On the blond rod illustrated above chromed guides are used and below the flamed rod features bronzed guides both by by Snake Brand.
As I use fine silk whipping, that is finished translucent, the guide foot is visible so some careful re-shaping is generally required to achieve the required aesthetic.
The use of agate as a liner dates back to the very early years of the last century and despite modern materials it still provides a very good solution. Unlike the rather bland alternatives the natural stone exhibits subtle variations in colour and the translucent effect can be stunning. There is a huge colour range that can be called upon to compliment the rest of the rod.
I use agate guides taken from antique rods and contemporary guides from premium suppliers. I also make my own in house and a selection of these is shown below in two sizes and a variety of frame styles.
The frames are polished nickel silver and can be supplied bright or blued as in the second guide from the left below.
Above is a modern guide with a nice banded amber coloured agate, below is a more opaque amber brown coloured stripper guide taken from a pre-war rod.
There are some wonderful looking reel seats produced by makers such as REC, Bellinger and others and I am happy to fit whatever seat is preferred either with a bought insert or custom made from a wide variety of finely figured timbers. A good example from REC is shown above which features an Amboyna Burr insert and Nickel Silver fittings.
I also make my own reel seats in several styles. I make a cap and ring seat which is down locking and used on rods up to 7ft 6in. I also make double ring seats for light weight rods and uplocking sliding ring for use with reverse half wells grips, both pictured below. I have now added nickel silver hardware to the range in a variety of cap and ring styles.
I use very fine silk for my fly rods, much finer than was used in the past on english rods and when properly finished it is translucent so the grain of the cane and the guide feet can be seen. For repair work I often finish with completely transparent overwraps that strengthen without being at all visible.
I use silk from a variety of sources but my preference is for Pearsalls Gossamer, rated at 6/0 it is probably the finest silk regularly used in the world of rodmaking, probably more familiar to most game anglers as fly tying silk.
It should be noted by prospective buyers that the colour of the silk on the reel bears very little relationship, at least in most cases, to the finished colour on the rod and that the colour varies depending on how dark the cane is.
The colours I prefer are:
Antique gold tipped with black, the gold finishes to a light tan colour on a blond rod and deep caramel on a flamed one. These are my signature colours. Changing the tipping to Java Brown gives an effective complimentary shade as illustrated on the rod below.
Olive tipped with Highland Green. This reflects the colour of the cane it is used over but shows a golden green over ferrule tabs.
Scarlet sometimes tipped with black. The scarlet retains most of its colour and looks particularly jewel like on a blond cane.
Transparent tipped with Scarlet. Probably best restricted to lightweight blond rods.
Highland Green. Makes a nice dark green whipping.
Handles are always constructed from good grade cork shives and when available I will use the thinner 1/4" shives but 1/2" is more commonly used. In general I will use reverse half wells grips for the larger rods and wherever an uplocking seat is required. On smaller rods I will fit a reduced size reverse half wells or a cigar shaped grip. The choice of grip is however open to variation and any preferred shape can be produced to suit specific requirements from a thin finely tapered grip of the type used 50 years ago to a substantial full wells grip to fit a larger hand as well as anything in between.
Cork grade can of course be specified on custom built rods but the grade I use is better than the more normal flor quality anyway. I import flor grade and then hand select for fly rod handles. A choice of finish is also available although my own preference is for a natural colour with minimal or no filling, a fully filled handle and bleached cork are also possible.
As well as new taper designs and ones from the old masters I can also re-create the style of many classic rods as shown above in the all cork handle and nickel silver fittings for a Garrison 206, all as per "The Book".
All of my rods are fitted as standard with high grade nickel silver ferrules machined from solid bar stock. These are either blued or left bright depending on the rod. I recomend bluing as this cuts down on flash and offers protection from tarnish, it is of course also traditional. Where left bright giving them a satin fish is of benefit. The exception is on special lightweight rods that can be fitted with titanium ferrules, these have a natural titanium grey finish. The top ferrule in the photograph below is an example of a titanium ferrule.
As an alternative I can now offer ferrules in high strength bronze, a superb material, see latest page.
In addition to the single metal ferrule sets I also make mixed sets to get the best combination of properties. The Female ferrule makes up around 3/4 of the total ferrule set weight so making this in a lightweight material like titanium or machining to finer tolerances to save weight as with bronze gives the greatest benefit. The male can then be made of Nickel silver which provides a good sliding fit and overcomes the problem of galling found in all Titanium sets.
Ferrule tabs are tapered and then crowned before being fitted. Tabs are left bright to reflect through the whipping and where the none mating parts are blued these are treated with Jade oil and Incralac lacquer.
The two ferrule sets shown below are both size 11 but the upper set is a purpose made semi-truncated ferrule machined from titanium. The design is able to give more than adequate strength whilst having very little effect on the rods action. These weigh around a third of equivalent nickel silver ferrules. Until now titanium ferrules have only been available in standard super Z pattern and only in size 13 (Golden Witch). I have started making them in other sizes in response to requests from anglers who have appreciated the GW version.
All rods come complete with fitted ferrule plugs turned from hardwood or split cane as shown below and with the cork hand fitted to each ferrule.
Choice of style
The advantage of custom building is of course that you may influence the style of the rod in all aspects. Nowhere is this more evident than in the finish and fittings as illustrated by the rods below. Two photographs show a beautifully detailed midge rod with finely tipped whipping and gloss varnish to complement the morticed rope knurl reel seat.
Below these is the opposite approach with a non reflective oiled finish, satin wraps in Java Brown and a simple all in one handle and reel seat with blued fittings. A stealth rod.
Tenth and counting......
Every rod I make and sell is designed constructed and finished to the highest standard. My intention is to always fulfill and exceed the expectation of my customers and the kind compliments I receive suggest that I continue to do so. True perfection may be an illusion but my work reflects the desire to achieve the best that is possible. I do not expect you to have faith in a few standard photographs of well finished work as all of my rods are photographed in detail so you can see exactly what you are purchasing. Progress photographs are issued at stages throughout the construction of a custom rod and if further detail photographs of any part of a rod are required I will be happy to oblige. You may feel confident that the rod you buy will stand comparison with a quality rod made anywhere in the world and they are offered at very realistic prices. I am confident enough to offer a full money back guarantee. If your rod does not live up to expectation just sent it back within a week, in the condition it was received and I will refund the full cost including shipping.
Some examples of recently completed custom built rods.
From the left, 6ft 6in Midge rod, 7ft fast action 4 weight, 7ft 9in Garrison 209, 8ft GR taper for a 5 weight. All are nodeless except the Garrison which has traditional spiral pattern node displacement.
Nickel silver fittings throughout from the most basic cap and ring to a rope knurled downlocking seat with mortised insert.
A perfectly matched pair. Two 3 piece 8ft rods from the same culm with mirror matched tips. These rods are of conventional construction with 3x3 node stagger.