The strength and flexibility of bamboo make it the ideal material for several different products. What you may not know is that bamboo is also an excellent material for fishing rods. It’s true, from the 1870s to the 1950s, bamboo fly rods (also known as split cane rods) enjoyed 75 years of top production in the United States.
When products from China were placed under embargo, bamboo fly rods were harder to attain and their popularity with anglers was replaced by the new graphite or fiberglass rods.
Highly skilled craftsmen are making state-of-the-art bamboo fly rods today, and anglers enjoy their slow action and gentle touch over traditional rods ‘ rapid action. Unfortunately, cane rods can be expensively priced at the low to mid-thousands, because they are often handcrafted by traditional rod makers rather than mass-produced.
In this article, we’ve done our best to find the highest-quality, most affordable bamboo rods for fishers who are intrigued by the smooth casting and soft touch of the split cane rod but aren’t looking to spend an arm and a leg.
Some people falsely believe that bamboo rods are simply collectors’ items. Fine craftsmanship indeed goes into building a bamboo rod, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t great rods that should be added to your rotation. Here are some of the top benefits of using a bamboo rod.
Since bamboo is a natural fiber, many anglers describe the feeling of gripping a bamboo fly rod as organic. Bamboo fly rods allow the angler to feel the motions of the casting, making them suitable for the most delicate and subtle presentations as well as for fishers who appreciate the slow and versatile motion of the rod.
Bamboo is the heaviest material made for fly rods, making them perfect for when you’re looking for accuracy and precision. For example, use a bamboo fly rod when you plan on fishing with dry flies, emergers, or unweighted small nymphs on small to medium-sized streams and for when the trout starts to surface.
Just remember, though, if you are planning an all-day fishing excursion, bamboo fly rods are noticeably heavier than their modern counterparts, so you might want to use your graphite rod for these occasions.
Because of the heaviness of the bamboo pole, the fisher should slow their throwing stroke and truly focus on its timing. A graphite pole doesn’t have a similar finesse in casting as a bamboo rod. The feel and sensitivity of the bamboo pole compel you to ponder your fly presentation and how your line lands on the water.
In a sport where graphite rods have allowed anglers to neglect the nuance of the fly cast, bamboo takes us back to our fishing roots, where we become one with dock or boat.
Although we don’t want you to think you’re just investing in a collector’s item, a bamboo rod is such a high quality rod that even from the list of affordable choices below, you’ll be happy to pass your bamboo rod down to younger generations of anglers.
The craftsmanship in a bamboo rod is different from that of a graphite rod because the bamboo look cannot be replicated or mass-produced. This quality means you’re getting a unique look and feel that you’ll grow to love and couldn’t duplicate if you wanted to, even from the same craftsman.
Here’s our roundup of 7 of the best bamboo fly rods out there at an affordable price point.
Meet our top pick, the Headwaters Deluxe series. Headwaters is a U.S.A. based company that specializes in bamboo rods, and they’re happy to give you a new way to enjoy fly fishing.
This fly rod uses hand-planed quality Tonkin bamboo. The two-piece rod comes with an aluminum tube and a rod sock with an agate stripping guide. You’ll throw a nice loop and enjoy wet flies with Headwaters’ well-designed rod.
You’ll love the price of this fly rod, that’s why it’s our pick for the best budget bamboo rod. Made by Zhu out of Tonkin bamboo (a popular choice), this is a split, shaped, and coated blank rod that you can build yourself.
The two-piece rod comes with two tips and is good for slow to mid-action when finished.
Another option from Zhu, that comes fully assembled and is made from the same quality Tonkin bamboo. This 7’6, two-piece rod comes with two tips. The red silk windings and black tipping contribute to the overall master craftsmanship of this rod
The new split Tonkin bamboo rod is a great price and the quality is comparable to some much more expensive collector’s pieces. Like the Bamboo Fly rod, it has red silk windings and an up locking reel seat for precise rod attachment.
This fly rod option from GUFIKY is another budget friendly one that doesn’t sacrifice the quality of the bamboo build.
The two-piece rod has an excellent varnish finish and comes with a cloth rod sheath for its protection.
Made in Guangdong, China, this Special Design bamboo fly rod is a three-piece rod made of a six-sided Tonkin cane bamboo construction with two tips.
Another Zhu original, which is a meticulously designed piece of work with Tonkin bamboo cane that we can’t get enough of. Yet another affordable choice, this one comes with a high-quality handle and is only one piece. It’s on the shorter end at 5’1 versus the other rods (which are all around 7’).
This is your first bamboo fly rod, so these low-cost options are perfect because you won’t be afraid to break them. Even if you do, the great thing about bamboo rods is that they can be fixed, unlike graphite rods, which are usually history.
Most of the rods we reviewed come with two tips, but if you find one that doesn’t, it’s always good to have a spare lying around. You never know when you might need it. We know once you get your hands on a bamboo rod, you’ll always want to keep one handy.
This may be your first bamboo rod, but we can safely say it won’t be your last! You’ll be a collector before you know it.