Friday, October 1, 2010

The Angler's Roost bamboo blank review and giveaway

Congratulations to Bob Riggins. selected your comment as the winner.  

The Angler's Roost advertises, "fine fly fishing tackle at affordable prices."  They offer a wide variety of graphite and bamboo blanks, fly lines, reels, and components at downright inexpensive prices.  The owner John Kuehn has graciously supplied me with three of his bamboo blanks to review.  John has also offered one of his Presidential blanks (Hardy Marvel) to one of my readers. Details of this giveaway are at the bottom of this review.

John carries bamboo blanks in three categories:

1. Bamboo blanks [standard] $79.95-89.95
2. Bamboo spey blanks $150
3. Presidential bamboo blanks $125-150

All A.R. blanks come with two tips and depending on the blank come blond or flamed and do not have ferrules installed.  A.R. assures buyers that each bamboo blank is, "finely made...the seams are tight, none are open. There is no glue residue or drips. The sections are made of the finest Tonkin Bamboo Cane and they come to you in a quality cloth bag ready to accommodate your finished rod."  Additionally, "The [standard] blanks are built with medium action and are Parabolic in performance. The Power and strength of all the blanks comes from the middle. None are Tip Action Rods AND NONE ARE POKER STIFF. I have shied away from impregnation and the blanks come to you unstained."

The Presidential blanks can be ordered by taper ranging from a Dickerson #7012 to a Payne #400 (forty-five tapers in all).  Presidential blanks are available blond or flamed depending on the taper.  A.R. writes, "These blanks are totally hand made. They are hand split, hand planed, hand glued. They are heat treated twice. The nodes are perfectly spaced. All in all they are a great buy for pro and amateur rod builder alike." 

A.R. also offer four bamboo spey blanks.  These blanks range in length from 12' to 14' and are build on named tapers.  All of the blanks are blond and come with two tips.

The Review:

I have to admit that when I first saw these blanks online I was more than a bit skeptical.  After all, how much rod can you get for eighty bucks including a second tip?  I ordered one blank from each category to review the full spectrum.  Here is what I received:

1. Bamboo blank 7' 6"  4/5wt. (blond)
2. Spey blank 12' 8/9wt. (blond)
3. Payne #400 9'  5/6wt. (flamed)

Prima facie observations: Straightness, twists, glue lines, finish, node placement, and node treatment

The first thing I checked for on all eleven sections was for straightness and all eleven sections looked great.  There were no bent tips and every section lined up even to the four-foot straight edge I compared them to.  Second, I tested each section for twists.  I began by looking straight down the section and from there I preformed the rocker test on my desk.  I found a few slight twists on two of the sections. Third, I scanned each section for glue lines.  Here is when some differences began to show in the blanks.  The Payne #400 was flawless.  Not a glue line to be found on the entire blank and the flame job on the blank was as good as I have ever seen.  The standard $80 blank looked good, but there were a few small glue lines on the tip sections generally located around the nodes.  If you look close at the picture below you can see the small glue line on upper right of the photo. 

The spey blank had a few glue lines and a  chipped node on one section, but they were fairly small.  I did notice a slight indentation on the mid section of the spey blank where a node was not completely flattened during the build.  On all three blanks the nodes were well-spaced and staggered between three and six inches.  Although the blanks are sold unfinished the Payne #400 had been finely sanded and had a thin coat of sprayed varnish.

The standard blank also had a thin coat of varnish, but could have used a light sanding.  The spey blank had no finish whatsoever and like the standard blank could use a light sanding.  For the most part the node treatment was great.  It looks like the nodes were sanded instead of pressed, which in the long run will make for a weaker rod.   When I ran my finger over the nodes I could only feel a few of them on the spey blank (nothing a light sanding could not clean up). 

Detailed observations:  Powerfiber content, length, taper measurement

After taking a few measurements I cut a sliver off the end of each blank to check for powerfiber content.  I sanded the ends and the powerfiber looked okay.  There were a few instances where one of the strip angles was off a bit, but when I put a caliper on the blank they came out within three one-thousands of the other sides. 

The two sections on the left are from the Payne #400, the third from the left is a tip section from the standard blank and the far right is the butt section of the spey rod.  Note: on the spey rod one of the strips was cut too far back and has left a small gap (the butt section of this rod is nearly 1/2" from flat to flat).  

Next I measured the length of each blank.  The Standard blank had a 1/4" extra on each section and the butt and tip sections matched up nicely.  The Spey blank sections were exactly 48" and the sections matched up very well.  The presidential blank (Payne #400) had an extra 1 1/4" on each section.  

Running the numbers on the Payne #400
I began checking the taper by starting with the section ends.  I wanted to make sure they all matched up and that installing ferrules on the blank would not be a problem.  According to the measurements listed on RodDNA the Payne #400 requires 19/64" and  13/64" ferrules and the A.R. blank measured right on.   

Next I decided to check the butt section of the blank against the taper listed in RodDNA.  Here is what I came up with:   Note: the measurements on the A.R. blank are taken over varnish.

RodDNA  Payne #400                           A.R. Payne #400
0.4600                                                    0.4630
0.4600                                                    0.4640
0.4500                                                    0.4430
0.4040                                                    0.4000
0.3560                                                    0.3700
0.3410                                                    0.3490
0.3270                                                    0.3340
0.3080                                                    0.3410
0.2920                                                    0.3190
0.2810                                                    0.2820

I also check the tip section on the Payne #400 and it came out very close to the taper listed on RodDNA.  Again, the measurements were taken over varnish so the measurements can go either way a few thousands of an inch. 

Overall Impressions:

Overall I am impressed with the bamboo blanks from The Angler's Roost.  A.R. bamboo blanks are  good for someone looking to give bamboo a try without spending a lot of cash.  They are a bit on the soft side, and this makes me wonder about the type of bamboo and glue that are being used. 
The standard blanks are nice, but may have a few minor blemishes.  The blank I was sent is a medium action 7' 6" that throws a 5wt. line beautifully.  The presidential blank that I received did not have a single glue line and the dark flame finish was amazing!  The taper, although not 100% accurate (over varnish), is a steal with a second tip for $125-150.  They spey blank is a force to be reckoned with and to my knowledge is the only bamboo spey blank being sold right now. 

In sum:  If you are looking for a nice blank to finish without breaking the budget and don't mind a glue line or two, then for $80 the standard blank will not disappoint.  It will throw a line with the softness that bamboo rods are famous for.  For an extra $45-70 you can step up to the presidential blank where you can choose from 45 different tapers (some of which are flamed). What's the difference between an Angler's Roost blank and a blank made by a professional builder and cost $200-500?  First, there are a lot of different types of bamboo and with a known builder you are assured that the blank you order is actually made from Tonkin cane.  Second, the type of glue used to make the blank makes a difference.  If you use a soft epoxy, then the action of the rod will be very slow and the rod will not be as responsive as a rod made with say Urac.  Third, with a A.R. blank you need to install and fit the ferrules.  Working with ferrules is both an art and a science.  Forth, More than likely the people who are actually building A.R. blanks know nothing about fly fishing, while professional builders can suggest tapers, custom fit grips, and tend to all the "little" details of building a rod that in the end make bamboo such a joy to fish with. 

Disclosure- Angler's Roost provided the blanks free of charge for me to review. I was not compensated in any other way for this blog post.

Time for a Giveaway! The winner gets a Hardy Marvel 7' 6" (three piece two tip presidential flamed blank).  I just received this blank in the mail yesterday and it is AMAZING! 

How to enter:

Leave a comment on this post about why you like fishing bamboo rods or what appeals to you about bamboo rods. Note: be sure and include your name and email so I can contact the winner.

Congratulations to Bob Riggins. selected your comment as the winner. 

I’ll draw the winner with toward the end of the day on October 15. 
A big thanks to The Angler's Roost for sponsoring this review and giveaway!

Fly Fishing and Fly Tying Review 

Fly Fishing Reviews, Fly Tying Review, Rod Building Reviews, Fly rod Reviews


  1. Never fished a bamboo rod before. Angler's Roost will sure make that leap less scary! Thanks for the review, it has made me want to try one even more.


  2. well after falling in the rod building world 2 years ago, i feel the call of the bamboo, these blanks would surely make the first steps in this world easier!!!

  3. Great Review. I am a rod builder who loves the history of fishing. I started building graphite and glass about 5 years ago, but have yet to try my hand at bamboo. I have been looking at AR's blanks for a few months now, and your review makes me want to take the plunge. Thanks for the work and thanks to AR for making 'boo affordable!

  4. I have to admit....I have never cast a bamboo rod....The thought of it makes me very excited though...One step closer to the roots of fly fishing...There is something magical in bamboo fly rods..Something that can't be explained...I have asked...I have made one fly rod and would love for my next to be a bamboo...

  5. I have fished a few bamboo's. refinished a few, but have never done a complete build or owned one.Like Lane said this would that leap a lot less scary especially to get such a quality sounding blank. Thanks for the review.

  6. I'm a fan of the "slow-down" needed for bamboo. I'm really interested to see how these blanks feel.

    Question about the standard series: does parabolic translate to continuous taper? Or are these the "left overs" from the Presidential series?

  7. I've never cast a bamboo rod, but would like to have my first be one that I've built myself. I think beginning with a blank would be a good step, before beginning with the raw bamboo itself.

    I'd like to fish with a bamboo rod to experience the softness you mentioned in your review and also to connect me with more of the history of the sport. Building it would make it more personal and I'm drawn to the craftsmanship of it.
    Thanks for the review Matt.

  8. I was down at Fish Tales Fly Shop here in Calgary to-day, and the sales rep from Scott was showing some high end Bamboo rods. Out of my price range, but these blanks from Angler's Roost sure caught my attention.

    Dick Seymour

  9. Thank you for the impartial and informative review. This is exactly the kind of information I was looking for when I posed the question to begin with.

  10. I have an Angler's Roost Rod that is next on my project list. Your review was spot on. Fishing with a bamboo rod seems to me to be more natural than fishing with a synthetic rod.

  11. Having grown up in China as a panda bear, I have quite an affection for bamboo. Having this added to my collection might just help me not be so home sick!

  12. Nice to have an alternative available on the market. I've ordered from AR quite a bit over the years and have always been happy.

  13. I only have 1 bamboo rod and build exclusively on graphite blanks. I have been looking at Angler's Roost bamboo blanks for some time, but have been afraid to pull the trigger.

    This review is very helpful and may push me over the edge. Since I am a fan of quality, the Presidential seems the way to go. Now I just have to learn about the different tapers.

    Bob Riggins (dunfly)

  14. Matt,

    Thanks for the review, great detail. I think this will clear the air for a lot of people and maybe allow them to enter the world of cane without such a large investment. Overall, I think this is good for both the advanced custom builders out there are the frugal buyer. Once the frugal buyer has his hands on an AR blank he will soon want a blank from a more renowned builder as well. At least that is my opinion. Thanks again Matt and thanks to Angler Roost as well. Take care all.

    -Bill Stewart

  15. I have two bamboo rods, a 3 wt. 3pc. and a 11'6" 5/6wt. spey conversion to float rod. What I like about bamboo is the organic feeling of fishing with an implement that is "alive" or at least was alive. Versus graphite, the slow parabolic nature of the two rods I fish, one with offering under a float and the other with fly on the surface in almost indescribable. I built both these rods from blank to finished form and every time I assemble them streamside, I enjoy the feeling of nastalgia and the fishing masters that preferred this method over any other.

  16. Never fished boo before. In the past couple of years and over the last couple of builds, I've progressed to softer actions. And I'm enjoying it. Boo has my interest, beautiful, natural, and unusual. Hope to win! Thanks for the review.

  17. Great review. I never considered building a bamboo rod before, but your review has started the itch!

  18. I'm giving these a try in the future. I've purchaesed a couple "dogs" at twice the price from makers with great reps, I think those days are over! I've been putting together graphite and glass rods for many years and only recently started wrapping and fishing bamboo. I don't know if I'll ever go back to plastic now!

  19. I think bamboo has a much better feel than plastic. I have much more control over what my fly is doing. Paired up with a silk and you have some stream music! I don't fish bamboo all the time because I just don't like to beat and bang a bamboo around in a drift boat but with prices like that it wouldn't be as big a deal.

  20. Growing up on graphite rods, I never had the chance to fish with a bamboo rod until two summers ago when one of my fishing buddies brought one. He kindly let me try his bamboo rod during the trip and it was amazing to see how easily I could present my fly on the water. I could actually feel the rod load and targeting fish was very enjoyable. I was able to catch a few fish on the rod and it really was a life changing experience.

  21. Never used a bamboo rod before. I have watched numerous talented fly fisherfolk use them and always thought,"Someday I will be that good and use a classy rod like that". Winning a set of blanks from A.R. would go a long way towards realizing that dream..
    Murray Buck

  22. Very nice review matt ... thanks for your time in doing this and Angler's Roost for stepping up and doing this.

  23. There are many reasons I love Bamboo. I have several fast plastic rods that throw line as far as you can see. That's a nice feature, however, these rods don't have the touch, feel and finesse as 'boo. I have a low end 4 wt 'boo that I purchased (a working persons rod, affordable).

    Fishing this rod makes a world of difference. When your tight with a fish, you're connected. Connected to the point where you anticipate the head shake, a run downstream or the next jump. Bamboo connects you to the heartbeat of your quarry, it's pulse becomes yours. Plastic will never recreate or transmit this feeling.

    THAT'S why I love 'boo. Always wanted to build a rod, makes sense to build one I know I'll fish. With two tips, I'll pass on to my next generation too!

  24. The price may bring a bamboo rod (or more) into my inventory. I'm looking forward to your comments after fishing the rods.

  25. Sounds like this rod will fill a niche for those just starting with Bamboo. I may build a couple based on your review.


  26. I have always loved the history and traditions associated with bamboo rods. Tying flies and fishing them on my own hand- made bamboo rods is a dream I haven't been able to realise yet.


  27. Fishing with a bamboo rod is like fishing with your great great grandfather, it appears as if you've never met but as your line tightens you find yourself as close to your roots as you have ever been. Excellent, fully disclosing review.


  28. never fished or built with bamboo due to cost. Looks like that might change soon.

  29. Once upon a time, like 29-ish years ago, I cast my grandpa's bamboo rod. I'm sure it wasn't fancy, but I liked the feel of it.

    Now, I didn't know anything about fly fishing back then and gave it up. Got back into fly fishing 2 years ago... and keep thinking about that old bamboo.

    Build a couple graphite rods over the last year and had a blast. Would love to try my hand at the bamboo.

    Anyway, Cool Review! Appreciate you doing them.

    (aka JohnR at

  30. Great review. I have built fly rods for years but never a bamboo rod. It is time. I am looking forward to the more relaxed casting motion of the bamboo rod.


    Lee Chusak

  31. I have been fascinated with Bamboo since I saw my Grandfathers rod hanging in his basement 40 years ago.
    I have been building graphite rods for 5 years now, and would like to build a 'boo as a tribute to a great man!!


  32. Having made and fished bamboo fly rods, I can say nothing compares. I started fly casting on my grandfather's bamboo rod, my first purchased rod was fiberglass, and then I "upgraded" to graphite. Needless to say I have come full-circle and now fish bamboo. To me it is how fly casting is suppose to feel.

  33. Bamboo is the only way to fish!

    Martin Wittmann

  34. Why fish a bamboo rod? Because bamboo is bullet proof compared to graphite. Because bamboo is repaired, graphite is replaced. But the #1 reason, graphite rods are tools, bamboo rods are more like a fine musical instrument...

  35. Having built several saltwater rods and only recently getting into fly fishing, the idea of bamboo intrigued me, until I read about all the steps to make a blank. Was excited to find a distributor of blanks so I can build a new bamboo rod. Love the tradition of bamboo to the fly rod and the look of a classically built rod.

  36. Thanks for the review. I enjoy the look and the history of bamboo. Now I'll have a chance at testing the castability without breaking the bank!


  37. Ooops, forgot to leave contact info. And man, for my money, nothing looks as nice as the blond cane. Mmm, mmm good!

    Shanon Hedgecock

  38. love bamboo and love fly rods!

    :) Katherine

  39. I've been building and fishing bamboo exclusively for the last few years and there is just something about bamboo that suits my casting style and fishing rhythm.

    Thanks for the honest and non biased review of the blanks Matt and the closeups of the flaws and for the measurements of the blanks. I know they can bring up some heated discussions at times and it is good to know that some points on both sides are right at times.

  40. Nice review of the Chinese blanks, Matt. Your review was totally unbiased and fair... tough to do, considering the bias against Chinese-made products these days. Even though the blanks are well-made, I think I'll stick with American-made!

  41. Wow Matt

    That was a great review. Very thorough.
    Thanx for the great morning read.


  42. I have purchased a number of items from AR including a cane blank. It was the first cane rod I have built, but I'm looking forward to doing another one. As you mentioned, there is one glue line showing on the blank I received but for the money I wasn't too concerned. Because I had never used a cane rod before, (I use it all the time now) I had nothing to compare it too, but they sure are fun to fight fish one.

  43. I love bamboo because it is as natural as the places as we love to fish it in. How can it truly be any other way? The rythyms of the cast are no where near as frenetic as beat of the plastic "tools". Using bamboo is more like casting a spell with a magic wand.

  44. I'd LOVE to try one!

  45. Great review, my next order is with Anglers Roost.


  46. Great review, Matt. I have a spectacular bamboo rod on my office wall that is so gorgeous I'm scared to take it out. Must try this soon.

  47. Decided to try Bamboo rod building and found Angler's Roost on ebay. Since I am not ready for the investment in tooling yet but wanted to try bamboo, I purchased one of his blanks to give it a try.
    My casting instructor friends all love the finished rod, I am totally happy with the blank, and am proceeding with my plans to build bamboo.
    I was glad to see that your review agreed with my assessment.
    Marv Loopstra

  48. Thanks for the review. I built my first graphite last year and can't wait to build a bamboo. Why! When you put a bamboo in your and cast it's a connection to "times that were, there ain't nothin better". It makes our difficult times a lot easier.......tight lines