Like most bamboo fly rod builders, Chris Raine is a bit of bamboo nerd; he never really stops messing with tapers.
Years ago he handed me a prototype 8’3″ 4/5 weight hollowbuilt rod — a slightly stronger, more progressive take on his popular 8’3″ 4wt. While it fished nicely with a 4wt at short ranges, when you really aired it out, it became clear the tips were too light for the mid section.
Just when the rest of the rod was getting going, the tips started flopping.
It was an experiment and experiments sometimes fail, though this one now seems to have a silver lining.
When all this happened Raine was finalizing his 8’3″ 5wt staggered ferrule “Simplicity” rod and didn’t really need another 8’3″ 5wt in the lineup, so he moved on to mucking about with other tapers, and I kept the rod, occasionally fishing it and ultimately breaking four inches off one of the tips.
Eventually — like a lot of bamboo fly rod builders — Raine let someone buy his own fly rod right out of his hands, and then realized he didn’t have anything to fish himself.
I’d returned the original prototype 8’3″ 4/5 to get get a new tip-top glued on the broken tip and have the grip turned down a bit, and — desperate for a fly rod to fish that night — he took it to the river and gave it a workout.
He called the next day and said “I know how to fix this.”
Over the next two weeks he built a slightly heavier tip for it on a flatter taper, and the first time I cast it, I suspected I’d finally found my all-around 5wt.
I’ll have to fish it a bunch to be sure (a trip to the river has ended a lot of love affairs that began on a casting lawn), but a powerful-but-supple 8’3″ 3-pc hollowbuilt 5wt sounds like just the all-around 5wt I’ve searched for the last 12 years.
Frankly, adding to the attraction is the rod’s status as a prototype — a simple test bed built with whatever was at hand.
There’s no tipping on the wraps, the simple reel seat is scarred (it was pulled off another prototype), and bamboo in the new tip section doesn’t come close to matching the bamboo in the butt section.
Frankly, I like stuff that’s clearly created for a purpose (I’ll never understand gloss-black, lowered pickup trucks), and a fly rod like this lacks any hint of the bling that reduces so many bamboo fly rods to fashion statements.
I suppose that’s why I mostly drive a 24 year-old basic Toyota pickup and mostly own bamboo fly rods from people like Raine, Thramer and Beasley.
See you on the river (testing my ugly prototype), Tom Chandler.