How To Build a Fly Rod – 2021 Beginner’s Guide

| Last Updated April 14, 2021

You’ve been fly fishing for some time now and want to get the satisfaction of using a fly rod that you’ve built. Whether you want a customized rod or you want to save money, it’s a grand project.  

This guide will give you the basics of building a fly rod and add some tips for the project. 

Quick Questions Before Starting

Building a fly rod is excellent for medium to long-term fly fishers who want to take the next step in their game. 

How Difficult is This to Complete?

It’s easy for those that are already fly fishing as you’d already know the function of each part

Photo credit: jsflyfishing.com

How Long Does it Take to Complete?

Approximately 6–8 hours altogether, done over 2–3 days. 

How Much Do Materials Cost?

The cost depends entirely on your budget and various brand prices. The lower-end brands should cost you approximately $119–$185.

Items Needed to Build a Fly Rod

The parts you need are for the rod’s components, and it sometimes comes in a kit, and then you’d need other tools and items to build the rod. 

Components of the Fly Rod

The fly rod components would cost money (listed below), and it depends on the brand you buy.

Rod Blank

$45–$51

Reel Steel

$34–$64

Grip

$8–$17

Tip-Top and Guides

$9–$15

Hook Keeper

$5–$10

Winding Thread

$5–$10

Epoxy

$13–$18

Other Tools and Items

The items below you may already have in your home or garage.

  • Single edge razor blade or nail clippers 

  • Pencil or felt tip for marking

  • Medium grit sandpaper

  • Clean rags or tissue paper

  • Aluminum foil

  • Small rat tail file

  • Denatured alcohol

  • Tape measure

  • Plastic stirs or sticks

  • Matches

Photo Credit: SwiftFlyFishing.com

Fly Rod Building 101 - The Complete Guide

Like fly fishing, this project is a one-person job. There are five necessary steps to follow before you’re holding a completed rod to enjoy fishing. 

1. Find the Spline or Spine

An essential part of building a fly rod is locating the blank’s stiff side, called the spine or spline. The spline is longitudinal, and it runs through each segment of the blank. The rod’s best performance depends on the reel seat’s alignment, tip-top, and guides along the spine or opposite of the spine. 

To find the spline, put the butt part on a table or lightly on the tip of your shoe. Press on the top-end of the blank and gently allow it to find its natural curve. You can either mark the convex or concave part of the curve. Just remember that the alignment will follow one or the other. 

A great tip is to have masking tape at either end of the blanks so you can mark the spline easily to see.

Photo Credit: In-Fisherman.com

2. Install The Grips and Reel Seat

If you’re purchasing a kit, then it will come with a preformed grip. However, you may still need to ream it to fit perfectly above the reel steel on the butt part. The blank diameter decreases as you go from butt to tip, so we must account for this when you ream the grip.

To prepare the reel seat for installation, wrap about two-thirds of the area covered by the reel seat with masking tape. The masking tape acts as a shim. It’s a good idea to wrap the reel seat areas with masking tape; the epoxy may affect that through the gluing step. 

Preassemble both grip and the reel seat on the blank to ensure it fits snugly. 

Mix the two parts epoxy on the foil with a plastic stick. The foil helps the epoxy not to thicken because you have on average fifteen minutes to work with it. 

Photo Credit: Mudhole.com

Working from the butt part up, apply the epoxy on where the grip will be and install grip. 

Apply epoxy over the area you used masking tape to shim for the reel seat. Slide the reel seat into place on top of the grip. 

Clean out the access epoxy from the rod with denatured alcohol.

3. Placement of Guide

Depending on whether you chose the concave or convex alignment, you’d place the guides accordingly. Mark the guide spacings to specifications on the blank. 

Suppose there are any rough edges on the guide feet, sandpaper to smooth it out. Apply a little guide adhesive on the guides and place it on the marked area. 

Photo credit: georgiafoothills.org

4. Wrapping the Guide

Set the Workstation for Wrapping

Use a medium-sized shoe box, and cut ‘V’s on the top, short sides, directly opposite from each other. Place your blank across the ‘V’ cuts so you can work with it. It makes your wrapping process more manageable. 

Cut several 6 inches of thread and keep aside. 

Take your wrapping thread spool, place it in a cup, and run the thread through a hardcover book. To get the tension you want, adjust the line to be higher or lower in the book. Good tension is firm enough to hold the guide in place, resulting in a tremendous smooth wrap.

Wrapping

Place the thread about 3/16 inches from the guide foot. The tag end of the thread should face towards the center of the guide. Wrap the line by rotating the blank moving towards the center. After about 5–6 wrap-around, the tag end should be secure so that you can trim it with a razor blade or clipper. 

Continue wrapping until you’re 3/16 of an inch from the start of the vertical section of the guide foot. Take one of the 6-inch threads and form a loop facing the direction of wrapping opposite the guide, making sure the two free ends of the loop are sticking out in the opposite direction.

Photo Credit: OnTheWater.com

Finishing the Wrap

Keep wrapping over the loop till you reach the vertical part of the guide. Cut the thread, leaving a couple of inches of tag end. Take the tag end and pull it through the loop you just made. Pull the loop ends and draw the tag end under the wrap and out. 

Now that your wrap is smooth and secure, take the clipper or razor blade and trim the thread as close as possible without cutting the wrapped thread. You can use the match to burn out loose ends. Just take care not to burn the wrapped thread. 

Adjust the guides to align

Use the same method to wrap the ferrules, trim, and hook keepers. 

5. To Completion

Now that you’ve done the fun bit, it’s time to finish and go fishing. 

Apply epoxy on the threads with a small enough brush to finish. Go slightly over the threads onto the blank to seal the wrap properly. 

A great tip is to give the rod a half turn every fifteen minutes for about two hours. 

After six to eight hours, apply a second coat of epoxy. Allow it to cure for 24 hours. 

Here is a video to help you see the steps.

Tips and Safety Considerations When Putting Together a Fly Rod

Building a fly rod is pretty simple. However, it’s always good to have some tips and safety considerations in mind when implementing the project. 

Working With Epoxy

  • Make sure you measure out the resin and hardener for the epoxy mix accurately.

  • Mix in the cup slowly and gently to avoid air bubbles.

  • Aluminum foil slows down the thickening process of epoxy.

  • It helps to heat parts A and B of the epoxy before mixing to prevent air bubbles.

  • Avoid contamination of epoxy with silicon.

Wrapping Tips

  • Before wrapping on the blank, practice on a pencil to get used to the grip.

  • If you’re not satisfied with the wrapping after applying epoxy, remove it by cutting through the epoxy with a razor blade.

  • Take care not to cut the blank when doing the step above.

  • Take your time with wrapping.

  • Don’t forget to adjust guide alignments after wrapping and before applying the epoxy.

Personal Safety

  • Wear protective eye gear whenever necessary, such as using a drill to ream the grip.

  • Take care when using razor blades to cut threads, as it can be finicky to work with.

  • Keep denatured alcohol ready to remove any epoxy from your hand.

Conclusion 

Fly fishing is a relaxing sport, but it’s also fun to build your own fly rod. The steps are easy to follow, and with some practice, you can master the process in no time. There are some great tips to help you with the slightly more challenging parts of working with epoxy and wrapping.

People Also Ask

Building a fly rod entails putting on components that make a rod from blanks. It includes installing the handle and reel seat, wrapping the guides in the correct place, and aligning it to make a cohesive finished product. These steps are easy. However, there’re relevant queries to making a fly rod. 

Photo credit: thewadinglist.com

How Much Does It Cost To Build a Fly Rod? 

Making a fly rod is relatively cheaper than buying a ready-made rod. However, customizing a rod can become expensive depending on the brand make and quality. For lower-end brands, it can cost you approximately $119–$185.

How Long Will a Fly Rod Last If Properly Cared For?

There is no specific timeline on how long your rod will last, even if you correctly care for it. There are several factors to consider, such as build quality, material quality, environmental pressures when fishing, and how often you fly fish.



My name is Jeff and I have been hunting and fishing for over 40 years. I am an avid archery lover, bass fisherman, and all-around outdoorsman. Currently, I'm obsessed with elk hunting but I'm sure I'll move onto a different favorite soon. You gotta love hunting for that reason :) If you have any questions, or just want chat about your latest hunting score or big catch, you can reach me at admin@biggamelogic.com. Read more about Big Game Logic.