Adam Guy recently sent me a new editorial on making traditional Japanese bamboo fishing rods. In his email he described the process and techniques used to handcraft these beautiful rods, which I found very interesting, and once completed he takes his rod fishing for the first time. Adam is never one to leave us hanging, but always the one to leave us hungry, he takes us home with him and shows us a fully prepared plate of fresh Japanese Whiting caught on his handmade rod. If this doesn’t impress you and make your mouth water I don’t know what will.
The editorial is 3 pages long, but it’s a great read and I recommend you start at the beginning. However if the internet has modified your behavior patterns, or you’re the type of person who enjoys reading the last page of a novel first, you can skip to the end for the fishing report and food.
Here I will describe the process of making my first bamboo fishing rod, with a few photographs. Some of the stages, particularly the lacquering, I was unable to photograph as I had my hands full; also some of the tools and techniques are trade secrets that must remain in the workshop. For beginners it is usual to start with a rod for either madai (red snapper) or shirogisu (Japanese whiting) with a bamboo body and fibreglass tip. Since I go fishing for whiting much more often than for snapper, I went for the latter type. The first step is the selection of bamboo; there are many varieties, of which about six or seven are used for rod making. My teacher showed me a variety from his stores, which is bamboo which has been cut and then dried for a number of years. So long as the bamboo is kept free of burrowing insects, it can keep for decades; some of his best bamboo is from his own late master, whose stock dates back to before the War. Unlike bamboo ‘cane’ that is split and fashioned into rods in the West, bamboo is almost always used whole for Japanese fishing rods.