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August 15, 2011 / flogginwater

Rod Building Has Commenced!

So the other night I spent dicking around with my rod blanks, trying to figure out what I was going to do. In said dicking – I decided upon some non-scientific test (a more scientific way would’ve been to use the Common Cents System to test these blanks, but where’d be the fun in that?). What I did was take 3 reels, with 3 different weight WF tapered fly lines – and tape them to the butt of the fully assembled rod blanks. Both the “5 weight” and “3 weight” blanks. Then I stripped off the official AFTMA 30′ of line, plus an extra 11′ (rod length) and taped it to the tip of the rod, where the tip top would be. This gave me a 30′ static cast with which to determine how the rod would perform.

First I tested the 5 weight blank, starting with a 5 weight line. It actually cast pretty well, with a slow, graceful rolling and unrolling of the line. I actually liked it a lot more than I thought I would just assembling and wiggling the rod in the house (yea yeah, that whole scientific thing again.). Then I tried a #4 line – and it worked well also. The #6 line was way too heavy. So I decided to build the 5 weight up to the full 11′ length and mark it as a 4/5 line size. Can’t wait to finish this build and get some blood on it (that’s not my own!).

The other blank, the “3 weight” blank – simply was not. Neither the #4 or 5 line loaded this rod properly, and it took some effort to get decent cast with those lines. The #6 started to load it properly. I probably should’ve grabbed the new 8 weight line and reel off the new Cabela’s rod, but I was too lazy. I have a good idea about this blank though – and I’d say it’s easily a 7 weight, when fully assembled. Not being terribly interested in a 7 weight rod now, since I just purchased my 8 weight – I was less than thrilled.

So I pulled the butt section off and retested. As an 8′ 3″ rod, it seemed to still be in that 6/7 weight range. I’ve already got an 8’6″ fiberglass 6 weight rod – having another 8+ foot 6 weight also doesn’t terribly interest me. So I pulled another section off, giving me a 5’4″ rod blank. That sounds kinda short for a fly rod, right? Well, sort of. It’s actually a perfect rod length for some of the small streams I fish – and I’ve been itching to buy or build a short, light rod for such tight streams (where with even my shortest rod – an 8′ 4 wt – it’s all I can do to cast by flicking my wrist and casting a leader, or just resort to dapping). I taped up the #6 line/reel first. I was giddy as a school girl with how similar in action this super shorty was to the 11′ 4/5 rod. A 30′ length of line curled and uncurled beautifully. So my next step, logically, was to try the #5 and 4 lines. Of the 3 – the #5 line seemed the sweet spot, and so I’ve decided that I shall build myself a 5’4″ #5 rod along with the 11′ 4/5.

I wasn’t really thinking about such a heavy line for such a short rod before, but I couldn’t help but laugh and smile when casting my jury rigged setup with the #5 and 6 lines. I guess I don’t really *need* my light rod to be a 2 or 3 weight anyway – right? And the #5 will have more punch, and I can fish heavier flies or bushier dry flies (or even small poppers, as some of my small streams have a resident population of small bass and sunfish).

For that build, I’m going to have to turn my own grip and reel seat (well, at least the grip) since that blank will be narrower at the butt than the 1/4 inch hole most pre-made grips come with. But I’ve got a mini lathe to use for turning such grips, so no problemo there.

After all that playing with blanks and lines – I began the build process.

Using two part epoxies, I began by attaching the fighting butt, reel seat, and grip to the butt section of the #5 blank.

Being very tight on cash right now, I wasn’t going to buy a new set of cork reamers (which I hear dont last more than a few builds usually anyway) – I cheaped out and cheated. I tapered some wooden dowels on the mini lathe and chucked the raw dowel into my power drill – threw it into reverse, and went to reaming. Took 10, maybe 15 minutes to accomplish the ream job. When I was done, the dry fit was TIGHT, which is what I was going for.

I decided also, that instead of maroon wraps with silver highlights – to use purple wraps and white highlights. Looks good on the dark blue blank.

I also threw my idea of having wraps at 12, 15, 18, and 20 inches out the window. The completed grip is 12 1/2 inches long. A 15 inch wrap would be pointless, as it would be smack dab in the middle of where the writing on the blank will be. So I opted to drop all that mess, and just put a single 20 inch measuring wrap on. Since I know how long the grip is, and where the 20″ mark is, it’ll be easy to eyeball measure the length of a fish, right?

In the interest of saving some money, I also elected to use a pair of spinning rod guides for my stripping guides. They were the same size as I was going to use, and these are free, since they came off a rod tip that I salvaged.

I need to obtain a drying motor, a set of snake guides, and some thread epoxy before I can complete the build. I’ve got everything else, and most of the work is already done. If I can get the parts I need relatively soon, I can have this rod completed by the end of the month and actually get some good fishing in with it before the season ends.

I also picked up a neat little Diawa SF706 I’d intended to pair with this rod – but then i decided to put that Cortland Fairplay #4 line I had sitting around on it (gives the Fairplay one more fair chance to change my mind about it, right?) – and I might just wind up putting one of my other reels on this rod. I’ll make the final call when the rod is done, and it’s time to fish!

Here’s a few pix of the current state of the rod:

I’m enjoying the hell out of this – I think it *could* be another addicting facet of fishing – if I can afford it. It’s like fly tying – in theory it saves money per fly – but then again, I keep buying new materials and I’ve got hundreds of dollars locked up literally in a shoe box full of materials and tools. This rod building stuff could very well turn out the same way.

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