Cane Care

Cane rods are tough.  I have had them fly off the top of a car going 60 mph.  I have run over them with a car.  Both those rods remain in service with no apparent difficulties (watch Oyster bamboo rod durability test here).   Cane rods are vulnerable to the same sharp stresses that harm any rod.  In addition, cane rods are susceptible to moisture and temperature extremes.  
A few precautions to protect your rod will prolong its life across generations.

It usually makes sense to send a rod that needs repair or straightening to its maker when you can.  The maker will know the glues and any unique production techniques used in its crafting.  There may also be a piece of the original culm in the shop inventory if a section needs replacement.  Always talk with the maker about the different approaches to repair. Many cane rods can be repaired without replacing the section.

  • Storage.  
    • Store your cane rod in its rod bag and tube in a place where it is not exposed to temperature and humidity extremes.
    • Break down a ferruled rod after a day's use in order to prevent the ferrules from becoming excessively tight from slight oxidation.  Splice-joint rods do not have such a problem.  It's a good idea to break them down, too, if you plan to transport them.
    • Dry your rod before placing it in its bag and tube.
    • Protect the rod from banging against the opening of the tube by forming a circle with your thumb and forefinger smaller than the tube opening and passing the rod in its bag through this opening.
  • Jointing and Disjointing.
    • Put your reel on the rod after jointing and remove it before disjointing.
    • Place your hands close to the ferrules when jointing a ferruled rod and far apart when disjointing a ferruled rod.  Do not twist the ferrule when jointing or disjointing.  Push it together straight and pull it apart straight.
    • Clean the male slide with a soft, dry cloth before seating the ferrule.  Polish the normal oxidation from inside female ferrules and the male ferrule slides with 0000 steel wool after swabbing with denatured alcohol.  
    • Resist the temptation to put any form of grease on the ferrule, whether from the side of your nose or any other source. Sometimes a bit of parafin or ivory soap on the ferrule slide will ease a tight fit; bees wax can tighten a loose fit.
    • If a ferrule is stuck, rest it a few minutes and try again.  You can also cool the ferrule with water and try pulling it apart again.  You can try grasping the rod behind your knees, using your legs as leverage to push the two sections apart. Sometimes two people with hands over-locked on either side of the ferrule can dislodge a particularly tight ferrule. Be careful to pull straight.
    • The tape for spliced joints can be used several times.  You can leave it on the rod section. To joint a splice joint, start the tape on the bottom section and wrap it in overlapping spirals over the matched splice sections to the top of the joint under enough pressure to stretch slightly the tape.  Run the tape back over the joint in an open spiral to where you began. There's a video of Bob Clay wrapping a splice joint under the Favorites tab. Wrapping a scarf joint. With some practice most people can tape a joint in about a minute and untape it in about 30 seconds. Compare this to the times when a metal ferrule is completely stuck! The splices on my rods are designed to overlap so that the end of the splice on upper sections touches the brown wrap at the top of lower sections.
  • Ferrule Care.
    • I machine my ferrules from aluminum silicon bronze. They are approximately 60% smaller and 50% lighter than standard nickel silver ferrules. I machine the fit to very tight tolerances and a vacuum fit. Polishing the male slide and the inside of the female ferrule with 0000 steel wool is the best maintenance. Remove any residue from the inside of the female ferrule with denatured alcohol on a swab.
    • If a ferrule is too tight, it's often best to ask the maker to ease the fit.
    • If a ferrule is too loose, the maker can frequently tighten it.
    • If the ferrule's connection to the rod becomes loose, the maker can reseat the ferrule.  This sometimes occurs through use, but more usually results from temperature extremes that break down the glue that bonds the ferrule to rod.  Cold temperatures (below freezing) cause problems with some epoxies that perform fine in warmer temperatures. 
  • Breaks.
    • Most breaks occur because of a sudden stress on the rod.  Examples include unwittingly catching your fly on a backcast just as you power the forward cast, jerking the rod when your fly is caught on an obstruction, closing it in a car or house door, stepping on it, banging it against a rock or tree when walking, closing the car window on it, hitting it with a weighted fly or line weight, and carrying more line in the air than the rod can hold.  Try to avoid such stresses.
    • Hollow-built cane rods (such as mine) can also shear (rare, but it occurs) at one of the scallops when under a heavy load, such as putting too much of a bend in the rod when fighting a fish or jerking the rod sharply when the fly is stuck.  Try to keep the rod in a moderate bend rather than bending in a circle when playing a fish. Accomplishing this takes some thought and practice when playing a large fish when it is close to you at the time of landing.  The natural inclination is to lift the rod upwards and away from the fish to shorten the distance between you and it as you bring to hand, net, or beach.  
    • Many breaks in cane rods are completely repairable.  It's possible to repair delaminations, shatters, and shears. If your rod should delaminate or shatter, leave the section as is -- don't cut it off -- and return it to the maker.  If it shears, keep both pieces and return them to the maker.  Like most cane rod makers, I like to see the breaks that occur in my rods to assess how to reduce their likelihood.  It's also probable that I can repair the section or make a new section that you might prefer to the old.
  • Sets.
    • The most common set in cane rods comes from the bend placed in the rod when its left leaning overnight in a corner, when transported in a car with the tip against the roof, or when left in a warm car with the tip against the roof or front window.  The best defense against this type of set is to take the three to five minutes required to take down your rod,  wipe it dry, and place it in its bag and tube.  If this type of set occurs, it's often possible to simply bend it back to a straight position while the rod is still warm from the interior of the car .  Otherwise, heat will be needed to make the rod pliable enough to be straightened. It doesn't take much heat, so be wary if this is new to you.
    • A set can also arise in a rod when an angler plays a large fish a long time without turning the rod over to equalize the stress from multiple angles.
    • Some casters swoop the tip of the rod outside-in by rolling their wrist or forearm, rather than casting in a single plane, which over time can cause a slight swooping set in the tip, known as a casting set.  If you're such a caster, you might consider having the maker periodically straighten your rod if the set bothers you. 
    • If your rod develops a set, you can try to remove it yourself using a source of heat or you can return it to the maker for straightening.  If you do it yourself, be very cautious and sparing in the application heat.  It doesn't take much!
  • Waxing.
    • Some cane rod enthusiasts wax their rods to provide an extra layer of protection and to buff their rod to a glossy finish. Pure bees' wax, perhaps mixed with some citrus oil to give it a pleasant scent and to soften it, is a traditional choice, along with bowling alley wax.  Imagine opening your rod tube to the slight aroma of citrus coming from warm wax!  
  • Casting Cane Rods
    • Cane rods generally load more readily than graphite rods. The rod "snap" commonly taught for use with graphite rods also works for cane, but the power of the "snap" is considerably less. A properly tapered cane rod will load and unload itself without much of a snap or even a haul. 
    • Colson Spey rods are designed for Spey casting rather than Swedish-style casting. Swedish (as well as Skagit) casting relies on a short stroke with the hands relatively close together, with lots of power coming from the quick pull of the lower hand. A cane Spey rod will load and unload itself relatively easily once a caster has mastered the timing of that rod (the unique casting qualities of each rod is part of the cane mystique). There is no need for a hard lower-hand snap with a Colson Cane Spey rod. They actually cast better with a short, soft pull of the lower hand at the appropriate time.
    • Colson Cane Spey rods will cast a long way, well over 100 feet in the hands of a good Spey caster. The Spey L and Spey XL are designed to cast effortlessly in normal fishing distances, which for most Atlantic salmon and steelhead angers is 65' to 85'. Continuously pushing the Spey L and Spey XL to longer distances stresses the upper part of the mid-section, which is the very area where the taper is such to make casting at normal, fishing distances a pure pleasure. If you must fish at 100' away from yourself, please consider the Spey and Spey H. Over-lining a rod will also stress it at distances where the entire head is being cast.
  • Fighting Fish with Cane Rods
    • Make very effort to fight large fish from the butt of the rod rather than from the tip, which is also the rule of thumb for all rods. To transfer the weight of the fish from the tip of the rod to the butt of the rod, keep the rod tip low rather than high, so the rod bends in the butt rather than in the tip- or mid-section. Most anglers instinctively raise the rod when a fish comes close to them in order to net it or otherwise land it. Make every effort to manage this instinct, especially on larger fish.
    • When fighting a fish on a Colson Cane Spey rod, the challenge of landing it demands special consideration. Side pressure and a low rod work extremely well. The angle of the rod to the fish should never be more than about 45 degrees. The bottom of the rod butt should never be pointed at the fish with a Colson Cane Spey rod.
Subpages (1): Wrapping a splice joint