106 epic rodPresented from Issue 106, October 2013
Epic rod build I had been tossing it up for a while; it is after all a big decision. Will I or will I not build my own fly rod? There are quite a lot of things to consider when you want to head down the path that is building your own rods of any type. The first thing that came to mind for me was, is it really worth doing. It is just so easy to walk into your local tackle store have a cast of the rod you are interested in, make the purchase and walk out the door again safe in the knowledge that you have an exceptionally well finished off rod with all the factory rod warranty trimmings to boot.

 If I was to build a rod myself and, god forbid, something happened to it then I would have to purchase all the hardware again and rebuild the rod etc. What sort of gear would I need to build the rod and did I want to outlay the money to purchase it all? Did I have the space to work in? Did I have the time to do it, hell could I even be bothered with it all? I had been tossing this around for about 12 months.

106 epic assembly 
 Putting together your own rod is very satisfying

The decision maker

I had purchased myself a fibreglass fly rod from Leroy at Big Fin in Devonport and was really enjoying fishing with it. Then I noticed through an internet forum that some new fibreglass blanks were being sold out of New Zealand by Carl McNeill from Swift Fly-fishing. I did some reading on their web site regarding the action, lengths and line weights of the blanks available and liked what I saw.

A brief phone conversation with Peter Hayes whom I had seen in some photos casting a few early prototypes of these rods was the final straw. He gave them the thumbs up and that was good enough for me. One final trip into see Leroy again and he pointed out how easy it was to get started without having to outlay money on all the expensive tools and equipment first up and I decided to go for it. After a lot of thought on which model to go with for my first build I decided on the 8 foot 4 weight. I thought it would be good fun to use on my local favourite – Mersey River. I bit the bullet and ordered an Epic fibreglass blank along with a custom made rod sock to suit from Carl in the above mentioned configuration.

Now that I finally had a rod blank on the way I needed somewhere I could do the hands on stuff. I cleaned out a corner of my shed, built a rod building bench along the wall and put up a few shelves to keep things away from prying hands! Then it was time to whip up a small timber jig to hold the rod whilst I bound on the eyes etc.

Parcel time

In seemingly no time at all I got a phone call from my wife whilst I was at work to say a package had arrived from New Zealand, it could only be one thing couldn’t it? After what seemed like an eternity the work day was over and it was on the Giant for the fastest pedal home I had done in a long time. With great excitement I unwrapped the package and was pleasantly surprised with what I found. Not only was there a sweet looking natural fibreglass coloured blank and rod sock, but there was also some Swift branded decals and a hard covered rod tube as well which was an added bonus.

When ordering I wasn’t sure which coloured blank to go with, as there was a few to choose from. In the end the natural fibreglass with its translucent look was a good choice that I am very happy with.

Having absolutely zero experience with the whole rod building game once again it was back to see Leroy at Bigfin for some advice on guides, spacings etc. Whilst there he had a play with the blank, located the spine of the rod and marked it on each section for me. Then taped some guides he had at his shop onto the blank and ran a line through them to make sure we had the guide spaces correct and the line was forming a nice even arc along the length of the rod. After all this was complete he wrote down what guide sizes he thought would best suit the blank and sent me on my way to do the rest of the hardware decision making.

I spent some time searching the internet on rod building sites looking at styles of reel seats, colours of reel seat inserts and different styles of guides. Along with many other things like thread colour to best suit the blank, would I use a full or half wells style cork grip, what type of winding check to use, did I want to bind on a hook keeper amongst other things. I had no idea there was so many decisions to make!

Eventually I settled on a rough plan for how I wanted the finished rod to look and sent an email to the guys from H.C.E in Victoria to see if they would be interested in helping out with the components. I had become familiar with these guys once again through an internet forum and thought well why go directly to America myself to purchase gear when I can do my bit to help some Aussie guys out with their business. So that is exactly what I did. Tony from H.C.E was back to me with a reply email in no time at all with his thoughts on what parts I should go with and another order was placed. Only downside was I had to wait a couple of weeks till they did their next reel seat order, but seeing as I hadn’t built a fly rod for 37 years I couldn’t see a couple more weeks being that bigger issue.

Throughout the whole process we only had one drama. Tony had kindly offered to glue up and machine a custom made cork grip for me, but seeing as it was my first rod building effort I didn’t want to stuff up a custom grip so I just went with a preformed and drilled grip. When all the gear arrived the cork on my grip had been damaged so a replacement had to be ordered. Not really that big of a deal, just a bit longer wait. Then the wait was over, another package arrived in the mail.

106 epic detail 
Attention to details is essential

Finally building

I decided to go for a natural buckeye insert for the reel seat and it looked good. Along with the agate stripper Tony had recommended this had the potential to be a pretty smart looking rod. As long as I didn’t butcher it too much whilst in the building phase that was. I purchased the full size range of chainsaw files and reamed out my cork grip to suit the rod diameter. When this was completed I took the rod butt, grip, reel seat and winding check into Leroy at the shop and he glued it all into place for me, showing me step by step how to do it along the way. Which I might add having never seen it done before was nowhere near as complicated as I thought it would be. Whilst in there he showed me on one of his blanks how to bind on the eyes so I could now ago away and complete the rod up to the final epoxying stage by myself. Initially I had a bit of fun getting the guides taped on in the right spot for binding but with patience it became easier with each guide completed. I made a deal with myself before I started that no guide was going to be bound a second time, if it was a bit rough on the first go that’s how it was going to stay. I wanted the rod to have a bit of a unique style to it. I wanted to be able to walk up the shore of any lake or river knowing the rod would be saying “Look at me all you factory rods, this bloke is casting me with the same hands that he used to build me and although I may not be as pretty as you guys are I can still hook as many fish”.

After taping on one foot of the guide I was having trouble getting the thread going on the other side without the guide moving so I cut a very narrow strip of tape and put on the side I was binding as well. This helped to lock the guide in place and once the thread was halfway up the foot of the guide I just removed the narrow strip of tape and continued binding the rest of the way. It was then just a matter of repeating the process till all the guides were bound to the rod in there correct positions. After all that was done I glued the tip top into position with some araldite, got my good workmate Brian Driscoll to put some fancy script on the butt section of the blank for me and finished off with some decorative thread wraps to complete the build. This is where the second and final drama of the whole process came in to play. Although I didn’t know it at the time I hadn’t done enough research into what type of pen to use for the script work and when the epoxy was applied to the scripted area I got a couple of slight runs in the text. Oh well, it had to have some character right? It was now time to head back to Leroy’s so he could show me the ins and outs of the final epoxy stage, and also so I could use his drying lathe as well. Once again he did the first guide for me whilst I watched on and then left me to it. This part of the process was no big deal either and before long I had my first fully built and epoxied rod sitting there rotating in the dryer. All I had to do now was wait for it to fully cure for a couple of days before I could run a line through it on the back lawn.

So, what does it cast like?

The Epic blanks are marketed as a fast glass rod and to be honest my first impression of the rod in the hand with no line was that it felt a bit soft in the action to what I was expecting. When I got it home though and put a line thru it my initial thoughts on the rod were completely blown out of the water. The rod casts nicely at a range of distances; roll casts well and is very good at doing a single back cast pickup to change direction which will be perfect for some tailing fish action. By the time you read this story the fishing season will have opened again for the year and I will have hopefully been able to have a cast at a Little Pine Lagoon tailing fish with it. I am busting to see how it performs with an angry tailing fish heading for the cover of deeper water firmly connected to one end. If you have never had a go at building a fly rod, or any type of fishing rod for that matter as I hadn’t, give it a go. Don’t be put off by the thought that you need expensive gear to get started, as I found out that certainly isn’t the case.

And if you are wondering what type of blank to start with why not try something a bit different and go with one of the glass blanks from the Epic range, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. It would be wrong of me to finish the story without a final thanks to Leroy Tirant for all of his help and assistance throughout the build with knowledge and equipment, there is nothing this bloke doesn’t know. Thanks legend..

Gavin Hicks