Fishing Rods: Overview Part Three - Split Cane
Human ingenuity and creativity in developing new ways to do things never ceases to amaze me. Perhaps it may not seem a great deal to some, but I find it fascintating that someone actually thought of splitting a long piece of bamboo into lengthwise triangular shaped strips, each piece tapered precisely, then, joining these pieces to form the 'blank' for a fishing rod.
We do not know for certain who the first person was to experiment with splitting cane. We do know that bamboo was used in the late 18th century in Europe and America to dapple flies as it was a material that was relatively light. Perhaps some British wood worker, familiar with the process of laminating strips of wood, attempted a split cane rod. We do know that in America in 1845, a violin maker living in Pensylvania by the name of Samuel Phillipe, constructed a split cane rod, and from there, the craft of rod making as we know it, was born. It was certainly the Americans that perfected the splitting of bamboo and re-joining the resulting strips for fishing rods.
The first split cane rods were of a 3 and 4 strip construction, and it was not until some years later that more common 6 strip rods were built. Hiram Leonard, who founded the still existing H. L. Leonard Rod Company, is often given credit for the first 6 strip rods, however, others believe it was Charles Murphy of New Jersey, a friend of Phillipe, who originated the concept.
In the years that followed, many other craftsmen took up the art of splitting cane into strips and laminating them together after careful planing to very thin and close tolerances in order to obtain the finest tapers for rods to suit any fishing condition. Bevelers were developed that could cut precise tapered triangular strips, and in fact, many of the bevelers made in the late 19th century are still in use today by rod crafters.
Several companies were founded to take advantage of the interest in fly fishing and produced production line cane rods. Some of these companies are well known - Montague, Hardy Brothers of England, and South Bend. They produced thousands of rods.
Many today believe that because something is old, it holds great value. The fact is that many antique cane rods that still exist today are not worth a great deal in monetary value because there were so many production rods being made at the time. Most collectors are choosy in what they will spend money on, preferring rods hand crafted by such men as Garrison, Payne, Thomas, and Leonard. Regardless of the monetary value, there remains much to be said for any cane rod, its unique action and grace, and the nostalgia of a by gone era.
Andy Sekora's Classic Cane
This site offers classic tackle including rods for sale, buy or trade.
Although not a split cane site, there is an image of an early Japanese jointed fishing rod made from bamboo, for the early 18th century.
Collecting Split Cane Rods
An article by Len Codella with Earnest Schwiebert that originally appeared in The American Sporting Collector's Handbook in 1976.
Fishing Collectibles Magazine
An online magazine devoted to classic tackle with many interesting and educational articles on classic and collectible tackle.
Hans Brinkel's Antique Fishing Tackle
Primarily Dutch Fishing tackle with some interesting information about early Dutch tackle. There is also a section on non-Dutch tackle as well.
History of Fly Fishing
Taken from the CD-ROM by Dick Stewart and Farrow Allen, this article provides a brief historical introduction to the sport of flyfishing in general.
The Reel Thing
A good place to check out and see what is available if you are a Hardy collector.
Tips For Collecting Bamboo Rods
Some tips to consider if you are interested in collecting bamboo rods.
Upstate New York Rodmakers
A feature article from Fishing Collectibles Magazineby A. J. Campbell on early rodmakers in the State of New York.
Value Guide For Bamboo Fly Rods
A value guide for some older cane rods. The site is to be updated with more information, but provides a good starting point for some makes of rods.