Bamboo Fly Rods: Care and Maintenence

Bamboo Fly Rod Care Tips From Orvis Master Craftsman: Ron White

The ranks of fly fishermen are filled more every day by men and women who have always fished graphite rods and don't know how to care for bamboo fly rods like their grandfathers did. Ron White has been building bamboo fly rods for Orvis since 1968. Below are some tips that Whitey, as we here at Orvis know him, offers on the care and maintenance of these beautiful cane fly fishing rods.

Cleaning metal ferrules
Denatured alcohol or lighter fluid on a cotton ball can do the trick (just don't get it on the varnish!), but Whitey uses Vaseline petroleum jelly. He smears a bit on the male ferrule and slides it in and out of the female ferrule. He cautions not to use too much, but says that the Vaseline loosens dirt well. Clean all the Vaseline and loosened dirt away with a Q-tip. For heavily oxidized ferrules, Whitey recommends sending the fly rod to a qualified repair specialist like himself. Fine grit sandpaper, steel wool or a buffing wheel can do the trick, but it's important to remember that wearing away too much of the ferrule can ruin proper fit.

Storing bamboo fly fishing rods
Be sure to wipe your fly rod dry and clean with a soft cloth before you put it away. To store the rod, separate the pieces and keep them in the rod sack inside a protective rod tube. Keep the fly rod away from extremes of heat and humidity (stay away from hot attics and cold, damp basements). Laying the fly rod tube horizontally to store is best.

Polishing bamboo fly rods
Bamboo fly rods are more than just fishing tools; they are true pieces of art. Wiping them clean is the most important step in keeping them beautiful, but to bring out the best shine and luster, polish the fly rod with a furniture polish and a soft cloth. Whitey prefers a paste style polish for the job.

How to clean cork grips
There are lots of personal opinions on how best to clean the cork grips on fly rods. Some people use dish soap, some toothpaste, some household cleaner with bleach. All of these can work, but Whitey recommends that you use extreme caution in cleaning the grip that you don't accidentally take out pieces of cork. Fine grit (200) sandpaper can also do the job, but is best used by a trained repair expert.

Buying used vintage bamboo fly rods
Bamboo fly rods can be true garage sale treasures, but there are a few things, according to Whitey, that you should look at in inspecting a fly rod. Check the condition of guides and ferrules. Make sure that the ferrules fit well. Check the grip for missing chunks and dried, crumbling cork. Be sure to check the bamboo itself as well. Check for cracks and separated sections.

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