It’s a funny thing but I’d never thought about fishing – until I met a boy who loved fishing that is. And still, I never thought I’d enjoy it. But being a good-natured kind of a gal I thought I’d tag along to see what all the fuss was about.
For my first fishing trip, we set out on foot, walking for a few miles until we reached our destination…
The bank of our local river.
Although not exactly the destination that dreams are made of, it could have been worse – at least it wasn’t raining!
I watched with interest as kit was removed from bags and boxes and set up with precision, almost like a dance. The routine practiced to perfection over many similar trips.
Despite my fascination, I still didn’t understand the lure of the canal or riverbank. Until the setting up activity stopped that is. Calm descended on our little camp and in a moment, I got it.
Here there was no need for chatter, no living in the past or the future, only quiet appreciation of the present moment.
It was a Sunday afternoon that was pretty hard to beat as it goes. The sounds of the birds in the trees, a bit of good-natured banter. A Thermos of hot tea and the occasional flurry of activity when a fish nibbled at the bait we tempted it with.
After that first foray into this peaceful world, I was more than happy to go along again. Once, I even camped at the river’s edge for the night. It was one of the first times I felt truly at one with nature.
Enough with the reminiscing – let’s take a look at the history…
History of Fly Fishing With Bamboo
Anglers have been using bamboo to fish for hundreds of years – at least. It’s a natural material after all, and what’s more natural than catching a fish for your supper?
Fly fishing is one of the oldest forms of rod and line fishing, dating back to the 17th century – at least.
In Japan, fishing methods such as Tenkara and Ayu may have been around for a lot longer. But as these fishing methods were used in the mountains and countryside there are no records we can check.
But we do know that the European bamboo split cane rod, used for fly fishing, dates back to the 17th century, the time of Izaak Walton.
Walton was the writer responsible for the famous tome, The Compleat Angler, which was first published in 1653. He was born in Stafford, UK, around 8 miles from where I was born – but much earlier of course. Walton spent his time fishing around Staffordshire and Derbyshire. His book recounts the simple pleasure by means of poems and anecdotes.
Although the pastime of fishing and its techniques remain pretty much the same, we’ve seen an evolution in the materials used. Synthetics such as fiberglass and graphite are popular lightweight alternatives to the natural materials of old.
But one material that’s not going away in a hurry is bamboo.
Let’s take a look at some of the bamboo fly fishing equipment on the market today.
Split Cane Bamboo Fishing Rod
The bamboo split cane rod is known for its suppleness and maneuverability. The rod and its weighted line are used to skitter an artificial fly across the surface of the water. This simulates the movement of an insect, such as a mayfly, dragonfly, or beetle landing on the water attracting fish to the surface.
Split cane rods are typically made from Tonkin bamboo (Pseudosasa amablis), a variety native to China. Also known as Tea Stick Bamboo, this variety is perfect as it grows super straight and has the right blend of strength and flexibility to make rods.
Making a Bamboo Fishing Rod
Here’s Steve Pennington who lets us into the secrets of how bamboo split cane fly rods are made:
With each rod made by hand, you may have to dig deep in your pockets to find the cash to buy a new one. But by searching around on the internet or in fishing magazines, you could unearth a bargain.
Restoring a Bamboo Split Cane Fly Rod
You may consider buying a damaged rod to restore.
If you find a secondhand rod online or at your local garage sale, chances are it will need some care and attention before it’s ready for fishing.
Proof Fly Fishing has a whole host of tips in its series “How to Restore a Bamboo Fly Rod.” Start by watching this video from Matt that gives you some tips on what to look for:
Bamboo Fly Box
Once you’ve got your rod and line ready to go, how about a box to store your fishing flies?
A classy bamboo fly box makes a perfect accessory to your split cane rod and is the perfect way to hold your flies securely.
Here are some bamboo fly boxes, made by Turral, that you can carry with you.
There’s even a handcrafted bamboo presentation box, complete with a selection of trout flies.
Bamboo-Handled Fishing Nets
Another must-have bamboo fishing accessory is a net. Here are a couple of ideas I found:
If you’re fishing for pleasure, not food, then you’ll need a catch-and-release net. I found this bamboo catch-and-release net from Cortland that fits the bill perfectly. It’s even got a wrist strap.
Landing Net Handle
If you’re in the market for the best of the best then you might consider this beautiful, bamboo landing net handle from Barder Rod Co. According to the manufacturer, it’s so attractive that the fish may simply jump into the net, bypassing the rod altogether!
Make Your Own Bamboo Landing Net
Looking at the price of the beautiful bamboo landing net handles online, you may be tempted to make your own.
If that’s the case, check out this helpful blog from Dave Dozer at Bamboo Pursuits:
A Net for the Kids
When I first thought about bamboo-handled fishing nets it conjured up an image of my sister and I charging up and down the waterfront. Nets in hands, we were always on some mission or other. I don’t remember catching anything, but I do remember it was lots of fun.
Of course, there are a couple of things about those old nets I’m not keen on – the amount of non-recyclable plastic they used, and how quickly they broke. So imagine how happy I was when I spotted this eco version!
If you’re taking younger children along on a fishing trip, why not take one or two of these eco fishing nets along.
Pros and Cons of Bamboo Rods and Accessories
Let’s sum up:
- Stylish, classic look
- Natural material
- Naturally buoyant, floats in water
- Can be repaired and restored
- Can be heavier than some synthetic materials
- Needs to be cleaned and maintained with care
- Often expensive
If fly fishing isn’t your jam, you could consider a fishing pole. My fellow Bamboo Goods writer, Renee, wrote a fun article about bamboo fishing poles. Give it a read to continue learning about bamboo and fishing.
Hopefully, by now, you’re all fired up and ready to go and relax on the river bank or the shore of your favorite lake. Are you using a bamboo split cane, or do you swear by bamboo fishing accessories? If so, we’d love to hear from you. Or better still, see some pictures.
Psst. Want to find out why we love bamboo so much? Check out our Why Bamboo page.