Here are the answers to the questions we receive most often when it comes to custom fishing rods and their components:

I have heard the terms “Calcutta Cane and Tonkin Cane” when referring to bamboo rods, what is the difference between Calcutta Cane and Tonkin Cane?

Calcutta Cane was imported from India by rod makers all around the world during the period of roughly 1850 to 1920…or so.  The earliest known example of a six strip bamboo fly rod was made in 1840 by a gunsmith/silversmith.  Bamboo of various types had been experimented with for several years and the six strip model, plus the selection of Calcutta Cane was determined to be the best choice for rods by most builders of the era.  At the time, this particular cane was considered the best choice for rod building due to its density of power fibers and served well with some minor issues that had to be addressed by the rod builder.

Mass production of bamboo fly rods began roughly around 1875 to 1920 where Calcutta Cane was used as the basis for the rods. Rods of this era were assembled and glued using animal based glues. Animal based glues are subject to drying out over time which leads to delamination of the six strips and rod failure. To counteract this issue rod builders instituted the use of intermediate, or decorative, wraps along the rod shaft.  These wraps are indeed decorative, but more importantly they serve to reinforce the glues holding the rod shaft together.  Intermediate wraps tend to be a giveaway with regard to the type of bamboo used and they also allow the rods to extend their lives to well over 100 years.

Calcutta Cane is relatively soft in comparison to modern bamboo rods due to the density of power fibers lying beneath the enamel which accounts for the belief that all bamboo rods have a slow, soft action.  In fact, it is possible to create any action on a modern bamboo rod from slow to ultra-fast.  When the Tonkin Province in China became open to outsiders the variety of bamboo found there, known as Tonkin Cane, became available to rod builders and was quickly adopted by virtually all as the new standard. Tonkin Cane has the most dense array of power fibers of any of the more than 3,000 species of bamboo in the world. It makes excellent rod blanks. Coupled with the advent of synthetic glues that do not require reinforcement wraps to keep the six strips together, the Tonkin Cane remains the standard today.

How should I shop for the angler in my life?

The gift giving season is rapidly approaching, and you don’t know how to shop for the angler in your life…here are a few hints:

  • Don’t worry…whether you go to a local store, an online store, a local rod builder, or a major supplier, you will be able to find help in the form of customer service folks!. Expect them to ask you a number of questions to narrow down the possibilities.

  • Before you begin your search, you will need to do some information gathering. The best way to do this is to talk to people you know about their fishing habits and needs in order to get a better handle on what to purchase.

  • People who fish a lot have favorite rods, reels, lures, spots to fish, flies, baits, fishing line types, hats, etc. People who fish can be quite protective of their best “secrets” but they do tend to pass these secrets along to their “trusted” friends, family and colleagues.

  • Once you have a basic understanding of what might be good choices for your gifts, go forth and shop!

If purchasing a rod, there are literally millions of components that are utilized in making fishing rods: guides, tiptops, reel seats, handles, weight of rod, length of rod, etc. There are wooden rods, bamboo rods, metal rods, fiberglass rods, carbon fiber rods, and various varieties of these rods in each category. If this becomes overwhelming, contact me and I will help you sort through the maze and choose the best rod for your angler.

Typically, if a rod is what you decide to gift, look for one with a rating that matches the type of fish the new owner usually fishes for; and, adequate guides to properly hook and play the fish. You can normally rely on the store staff to steer you to a suitable rod as long as you know what it will be used for and some idea of the type and size of the fish expected.

Fishing is not just about fishing rods. The reel, the line, the terminal tackle, and the bait selected all play a part in successful fishing. Most likely your recipient of the gift has multiple reels, extra line(s), terminal tackle, and a variety of bait choices.  However, he or she wants more.

  • No one who fishes will ever refuse a new lure, spinner, or fly to add to their arsenal. They will never refuse copies of their favorite lures, spinners, or flies. If you fish, you lose baits…it happens. Adding new supplies is always welcome.

  • Baits come in many different forms. If you want to gift a small group of baits the typical store has individual, or small packages of things like:

    • Lures – Plastic, Wooden, Metal, and Soft products that mimic real fish or other food

    • Spinners – Metal wire and blade products that spin and attract fish

    • Flies – Handtied imitations of live insects and other foods – fly rods use to attract fish

    • Plastic worms – Typically used for fishing along or just above the lake/river bottom

  • Reels tend to correspond to the type of rod they fit onto and support. It is necessary that you chose one that fits the right type of rod and utilizes the appropriate size of the reel itself for the rod. Many who fish do prefer one type of reel over other types on their favorite rod(s). Typical reel types include:

    • Casting Rod – Usually a crank reel that mounts on the top side of the rod and has control finger beneath

    • Spinning Rod – Typically a “Hang down” reel with a crank on the underside of the rod

    • Fly Rod – Usually a smaller reel that “hangs down” and has a crank on the underside of the rod

    • Spey Rod – Similar to a Fly Rod only much longer and heavier in weight, crank on the underside

    • Surf Rod – Similar to Spinning Rod only longer and heavier, reel and crank on the underside

  • Line -This may or may not come with a reel. You will want a line that works well with the reel. Typically, the packaging that comes with the reel will have one or more choices of line that will work well with the reel. The store staff may help you put the line on the reel; if not contact me and I will help.

  • Terminal tackle – Most who fish will have a supply of things necessary to connect the line to the bait. Typically, this consists of swivels with and without a spring clip to hold the Hook, Spinner, Fly….or, a Leader extension to carry a lighter weight Fly or Bait. No one who fishes will ever refuse more terminal gear. This is the portion of the fishing line that takes all of the weight when battling a fish. Never hurts to have plenty on hand.

  • Safety Gear is another option for your gift. For boaters, a better life vest is a good investment. A new net for retrieving the fish is a good idea. Maybe an updated Live Well would be good. Perhaps waders, hat, creel, fish scale, knife, some shoes for wading, a new automatic boat loader, a casting deck, or a new cooler. Once you get in the stores, pay attention to the many other items that could make for a merry Christmas.

Certainly, this is not an all-encompassing review but a sampling of your choices once you secretly gather the information from your angler and your other friends who fish.

If all else fails, buy a boat!!