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Thread: Fly rod building...worth it? Why do you like it?

  1. #1
    Member 6XLeech's Avatar
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    Nov 2006
    Eagle River

    Question Fly rod building...worth it? Why do you like it?

    Cabela's sent a tackle buidling catalog. Although I tossed it, I did notice that top quality rod kits were much cheaper than the assembled versions - savings of maybe $100 to $300 per rod.

    If I'd built my 4 rods, I think I could maybe have paid for the rod building gear. Any problems with home-built rods? Is it as satisfying as it seems, or more frustrating than it's worth? Did you teach yourself, or take a course somewhere?


  2. #2


    Quote Originally Posted by 6XLeech View Post
    Cabela's sent a tackle buidling catalog. Although I tossed it, I did notice that top quality rod kits were much cheaper than the assembled versions - savings of maybe $100 to $300 per rod.

    If I'd built my 4 rods, I think I could maybe have paid for the rod building gear. Any problems with home-built rods? Is it as satisfying as it seems, or more frustrating than it's worth? Did you teach yourself, or take a course somewhere?

    Darned tootin, it's worth it. Especially up here if you go anywhere near saltwater with light rods, whether fly or conventional. Build your own and you can upgrade the hardware for salt. You just won't find light gear with saltwater hardware, and the stuff intended for freshwater will deteriorate quick in the salt.

    I build my big rods too, though more for satisfaction than money savings, even if that's a bonus.

    As for wrapping gear, I built rods professionally for a big shop back in the 60's and 70's. Every kind of advanced motorized equipment you can imagine, right down to lathes for shaping grips and drying tents for finishes. The gear I use now couldn't be simpler. Get real basic and it's free:

    Most times I just use a cardboard box. Cut the flaps off and cut a couple of v-notces in the top to hold the rod. Call one side the "front," and cut it down half to 2/3 so there's enough cardboard left at the bottom to support the sides, but plenty of room for hands above it. Poke a series of holes along that bottom piece on the front. Now stick a fly tying bobbin through the hole that's in the right place for the current task. Need more tension? Wrap the thread a time or two around one of the thread-holding arms on the bobbin.

    Don't want to spend $10 on a bobbin? Get out a coffee cup and a stack of books. Drop the spool of thread in the coffee cup. Open one of the books and run the thread through it and up to the blank, then close the book. Stack on more books as you need more tension.

    Using epoxy wrapping finish and need to turn the rod for hours while it dries? Rob the rotissary from your barbecue, buy one at the hardware, or find one in a garage sale. Get fancy on the rod mount, or keep it simple. I've used everything from foam pipe insulation to duct tape to attach the rod to the motor. Speed is just about perfect for drying epoxy on a rod.

    With a little practice and a few shortcuts that you can learn from books or online, you can do a basic wrap job in an evening. Even using this basic gear, you can make the wraps as complicated as you want. I can't imagine why a single pre-built rod ever sells when it's so easy and satisfying to build your own.

  3. #3


    Just like fly tying, its a slippery slope!!
    It can be both frustrating and rewarding, like any other hobby you have. There's a bit of learning curve, but once you get the basics out of the way, there should be no problem. I think you can build a rod that will have a better fit and finished look than its mass produced counterpart. Plus, you get the satisfaction in knowing that you created this rod from the butt up.

    Now, in terms of saving money, sure your going to "save money" if you build you own. But what happens is you add a slightly different real seat, then maybe you want the Titanium finish guides rather than chrome, and that removable fight butt would be a nice touch too. Next thing you know, your spending more money than the retail on the rod you wanted. That's not a bad thing really, but something to consider.

    I made the decision a long time ago that the rods I build are going to be nothing but functional. I didn't want any shiny trim wraps or fancy butt wraps, just a simple, functional rod. That's how I "save money."

    One more thing to consider. Most good rod manufacturers have a warranty on their products. Sage, for instance, its lifetime. If you break it, you send it back and its repaired or replaced. If you build you own, the warranty is on the blank only. If you break it, you strip the guides off the broken sections, send the whole rod to the manufacturer and they replace the blank. When you get everything back, you have to re-wrap and finish the rod.

    If you enjoy building rods, this is not a problem, but if you have a once and done kinda personality, it might be frustrating.

  4. #4
    Member ak_powder_monkey's Avatar
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    Nov 2006
    Eagle River/ Juneau


    just one more creative outlet to spend time and money on in the winter... I do it because I can save a bunch of money, and because its fun like tying flies. But you can only tie so many flies...

    Now I'm building bows so we'll see how many rods I make over the winter
    I choose to fly fish, not because its easy, but because its hard.

  5. #5


    It's well worth it!! You'll save money over paying retail (I' say I usually save anywhere from 25-40%), and you'll get a rod that isn't just "custom" built, it's completely personalized for you. I've seen so many rods that have price-tags of $500-700, and they have these ugly reel seats or color schemes that make me cringe. Maybe that's superficial, but it makes a difference to me. It just gives you a chance to build a rod that's exactly how YOU want it to be. A good day of fishing using something that you created is a good feeling too. To get started, I'd recommend taking a course. I got started probably 8-9 years ago, and I'm very glad I did. It really only takes a couple rods to get the hang of it.

  6. #6
    Member BlueMoose's Avatar
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    Apr 2006
    Rifle River MI

    Default Saving Money?

    I do not know if saving money is the correct term.

    If you choose to build your own rods then the passion part of doing something for your-self should be the one factor that pushes you in a good direction verses cost savings.

    IMO in order to save money when time is put into the mix you have to do a little more leg work. Most Catalog Dealers allow whole-sale accounts if you order a min requirement any place between $500.00 and some up to $10,000.00 depending on who you and what you deal in. Figure $100.00 business tax to the State and the pontential to save 40-60 "plus shipping" percent then yes a cost savings can occur.

    If your looking at 1-5 Rods when it comes down to brass tacks IMO would be some what of a wash when you put A-Z together concering expense and time. That is not to say that you will notsave some money but you need look at the bottom dollar.

    Another approach is again if we are talking dollars is spend the $100.00 to the State for your B.L. Spend the $50.00 to register as a guide, spend the $35.00 to take your CPR and First aid class then send all your data to the Big boys such as Orvis, Loomis, Ross Reels Sage, TFO etc... and recieve a discount from 40-60% for already built items if approved. Most times they wish to see who your working for or what type of business your running I will PM you to fill in the rest of the blanks.

    So to make this to long of story end if your going to build rods again IMO in order to really save bucks you have to look at what is available from all angles and include your time.

    If you wish to build rods as a hobby you are much better off and what cost savings that may occur are just a perk be it small or large.


    Richard M Mousseau

  7. #7


    I think saving money is the correct term. Mainly because I do not count my own labor as money lost or spent. My hobbies are things I enjoy because they bring me some sort of pleasure or satisfaction. So, if I'm looking at a Sage that costs $450, but I can get the kit and build it myself for $350, I've "saved" $100.

    The thing that I love about rod building is the variety of blanks available. You don't have to build a Sage or St. Croix. Look at some of the blank manufacturers and importers like Batson or American Tackle. These are quality blanks without the expense of a name brand stuck to them. Plus, these blanks provide the average rod builder, like me, to get seemingly odd sized blanks for alot less money.
    For instance, I just purchased a 7'9" 3wt blank. This is an odd sized rod for most manufacturers other than the more costly brands.
    A quick search at gave me the following results...

    St. Croix Legend Ultra® Series Fly Rods 7'9" 3wt $310.00
    St. Croix Legend Elite Fly Rods 7'9" 3wt $410.00
    St. Croix Avid Fly Rods 7'9" 3wt $230.00
    Sage TXL Fly Rods 7'10" 3wt $570.00
    Sage VT2 Fly Rods 7'9" 3wt $435.00
    Temple Fork Lefty Kreh Finesse Fly Rods 7'9" 3wt $179.00

    As you can see, the price range is $179 -$570!
    The total price for my 7'9" 3wt blank and components... $53.87!!
    HOWEVER, I didn't need a handle or full reel seat because I have components left over from other builds. Nonetheless, even if you add another $40 to include a nice cork handle and nice wood insert reel seat, I would still be $85 cheaper than the least expensive rod at Cableas.

    Moose, I think you may look at it from a business perspective, because you are a very good small business owner. Your time is valuable, because its time away from promoting your business. This may not be the case for most guys looking to do it as a hobby.


  8. #8
    Member BlueMoose's Avatar
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    Apr 2006
    Rifle River MI

    Default yes and no

    Ben that is a very good point and I try not to think of it that is in business terms to much but it does have something to do with it I guess in a round about way.

    On the other hand after building rods for the past several years in order for me to save money I have found it actually less expensive to purchase completed manufacture rods as a registered guide hence from most companies.

    That is not to say that if you establish a whole-sale account there is not a substantial savings there is even with time added. It also comes down to the items used to build the rods i.e. quality of cork, guides, reel seats etc... they can put a damper on just about anything depending on what type you wish to build with.

    IMO standard retail to retail when you add in shipping there is just not a lots of cost savings verses other avenues especially when time is added in. Now mind you there are special deals all the time that break the general rule as an example H&H 20% off first internet order or Cabela's Clearance sales etc..

    Seems to be steps in the process just like fly fishing the 7 sins of spending money very few of us are ever satisfied with standard equipment once bitten. Oh we start off with good intentions then we get bitten bad. I always wanted to make a Sage withthat really nice REC reel seat, and coil guides Bang little to no savings. Just food for thought.

    6X sorry for semi-hi-jacking the thread. Ben thanks for the input quality advise.

    Blue Moose

  9. #9
    Member Skookumchuck's Avatar
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    Feb 2007


    Good advice above. Start with a box and a cheap blank...can't go wrong. Any old drill will make a dandy cork-lathe if your so inclined. A drying motor isn't really needed if your willing to baby the rod for a couple hours after appling the finish. If your handy at all, you can build a sweet rod-wrapper for $20.

    Yup, you can save $$. the biggest pain is when you break one and have to rebuild it. You can also build a rod with much better components for the same $$, not to mention build it better. I was looking over some high-end rods a while ago and was shocked at how poorly they were put together even with the crazy pricetag. For $700 I would expect fully filled the guide tunnels....jeez. Poor quality, filled in cork too....shame shame...

    Check out Dan Craft blanks. He rolls his own in OR. great deal, great to fish, and a great guy to deal with who will stand behind his products. The FT series is really sweet.

    Anlger's Workshop and Mudhole have good deals too. Decal connection for customized waterslide decals that are very affordable is a great forum to research. You should be able to gather enough knowledge there to build a fine rod. Tom Kirkman's rod building book is the best out there if you want step-by-step instructions.

    If you like tying flies, I'd bet you'll love rodbuilding.
    Nice Marmot.

  10. #10


    There is nothing more satisfying than catching a fish with a fly you tied on a rod you built. Building rods is in many ways similar to fly tying. It can be very simple to as complex as you want to make it. I am self taught and picked it up easily with the guidance of a good book. There is certainly money to be saved, but it is more about the satisfaction of creating something with your own hands and crafting it just the way you want it. it is not difficult or expensive to get started. Give it a try. Good luck.

  11. #11

    Default Rod building classes

    Mike Hudson at Three Rivers Fly Shop puts on class several time a year. Mike and Steve are very good at what they do and additionally they have fly tieing classes too.

    Big Fisherman

  12. #12


    [quote=bigfisherman;423914]Mike Hudson at Three Rivers Fly Shop puts on class several time a year. Mike and Steve are very good at what they do and additionally they have fly tieing classes too.

    Second that, I have taken both classes, money well spent.

  13. #13

    Cool something else...

    Another advantage I have found over the years:
    If you use blanks from companies with lifetime warranties on their blanks (I like Sage personally), you essentially have a rod for life. You will already have the materials and techniques to repair anything but the blanks, and the company takes care of those...of course that makes coming up with reasons to give to my wife why I need to build more rods that much more difficult


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