Why Fish with a Bamboo Fly Rod?

Graphite vs. Bamboo

When people see me fishing with one of my split-bamboo fly rods, they often stop to chat and inevitably, the topic of how bamboo rods differ from graphite rods comes up. Unfortunately, there are no simple answers to this question - graphite rods are not better than bamboo rods, or vice-versa, they are, well, just very different!

  • Graphite and bamboo fly rods display markedly different casting actions, which results from differences in the physical properties of the two materials and the methods of rod construction.
  • Graphite fly rod blanks are manufactured by large rod companies from synthetic graphite/boron materials. Fine split-bamboo fly rods are hand-made from Tonkin cane, whose special properties give them exceptional strength.
  • Graphite fly rods are manufactured with an external taper, while bamboo fly rods can be systematically shaped with external and internal tapers enhancing power to weight ratios.
  • Graphite fly rods are powerful, but rigid. Bamboo’s unique cellular makeup endows the rod with exceptional strength and internal resistance to resonance. This reduces vibrations during casting permitting the fly to be presented with a delicacy of drift akin to that of the natural insect.
  • The typically solid structure of a bamboo fly rod makes it quite resistant to failure from surface nicks. This contrasts with graphite rods that can break or literally explode when the very thin-walled graphite tube is nicked or scratched.
  • Graphite and bamboo fly rods are both available in various lengths, actions and line weights. Bamboo fly rods are hand-made and tend to be more expensive than graphite fly rods, which are mass-produced.

As I indicated near the beginning, “graphite rods are not better than bamboo rods, or vice-versa, they are, well, just very different!” However, it is these differences that ultimately convince serious fly fishers to own at least one bamboo fly rod!