fishing for words

(and tossing out random thoughts)

part four of building a rod: wrapping up a few things


Last week I mentioned patience as one virtue required of rod building. This week patience has been required in spades.

Wrapping fly rod guides reminds me of trying to thread a size 22 fly with 8x tippet. You hope to be lucky and get it right the first time. In my limited experience, when it comes to wrapping guides, hope and luck aren’t enough. Preparation and practice pay dividends; and I got most of my practice in with one guide that required wrapping, unwrapping and rewrapping at least six times.

The goal is to wrap thread up against itself, then up onto the foot of a guide until the guide is sufficiently held in place. Securing the guide in place requires aligning each wrap of the thread, sometimes burnishing it into place with a toothpick, skewer or other often improvised tool.

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Beginning the wrapping process with the thread locked in place.

Starting the wrap is one of the few times that being all thumbs can be of benefit. The idea is to lay down a wrap and while holding the thread in place with a thumb, bring the tag end to the inside of the wrap and, continuing to hold the thread in place with that thumb, use that thumb to gently roll the rod blank so that subsequent wraps lock the tag end in place. Three or four wraps later the tag end can be cut and the wrapping begins in earnest.

Until one gets to the foot of the guide.

Wrapping up the guide foot is easily understood. As threads wrap against each other, they should begin to climb the foot of the guide. Execution is another thing all together. The thread didn’t always act as expected, and too often the first wrap popped off the guide foot with a telltale ping. Thus, I grew proficient at reversing the wrapping process with a few reverse turns of the thread spool.

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Starting to wrap up the guide foot; easier said than done consistently.

Locking the thread into place was another challenge in trusting in my proficiency and the behavior of my materials…a bit like tying flies. I was instructed to secure a loop of thread, preferably a different color, underneath the wrapping thread.

Once the wrapping thread reaches its endpoint — where the guide angled away from the rod blank — it would be cut (again using a thumb to hold the wrapped thread in place) and the tag end inserted in the loop. Pulling the loop would bring the tag end under the wrapping thread to secure it.

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The loop of thread that will pull the tag end through secured with a wrap. Time to trust in the force...

Then, cutting the tag end cut short enough would ensure that it wouldn’t be pulled out from under the wraps. This is also the point at which practice makes perfect. Pulling the looped thread too slowly would allow the tag end to slip next to the guide foot, where a gap between the thread and the rod blank would prevent the tag end from locking into place. I did that a few times before realizing that cutting the tag end as short as possible and throwing caution to the wind and a quick yank would lock the thread into place.

With a bit of luck I’ll finish up wrapping the rod tonight. I finished all but one of the guides last night, and tonight will be devoted to that last guide and wraps on the butt section. I’ll also have to decide whether to throw on a few decorative wraps of metallic thread, but I don’t think the fish will notice one way or the other.

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A finished guide. Pretty nice. (The color of the thread will become darker after epoxy is applied.)


3 thoughts on “part four of building a rod: wrapping up a few things

  1. And herein lies the reason why I’ll never build a rod: patience is not a virtue of mine. However, I can enjoy the process vicariously through you. Looking good!

    • Thank you, sir, but I dare say it goes both ways when it comes to living vicariously through others. While I’m building a rod, you and some buddies seem to have put a few rods to good use (and good effect) on the Clearwater River. As for the controversy over your “retirement,” your occasional observations and jabs here support my theory that you’re hiding from the spotlight of newfound celebrity to once again rub elbows (or fish) with the common man.

      More important and germane to the post at hand is the question as to where in your neck of the woods would a 4 wt rod be best employed?

  2. It is beautiful!

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