Czech Nymphing with Bamboo on the East Walker River

I got the chance to meet up with my “San Jose Fishing Buddies” in Eastern California for a few days last week to fish Crowley Lake.  They have been talking with me about joining them at Crowley for the past few years, with stories of lots of big fish.  While fishing on Crowley was rather slow for us, on the way down there I stopped and fished the East Walker River for a couple of hours.  I’ve read a lot about the East Walker for several years as being a great trout fishery, but I really didn’t know what to expect.  The weather was cold, about 45 degrees, but the overcast conditions were a good sign for some fish activity.  What I found was what seemed to be relatively high and off-color water, with the banks heavily lined with trees and brush.  Take a look:

East Walker River

East Walker River

The only bugs I saw flying were midges and a few small blue-winged olives.  No rising fish were seen.  But, there was a lot of great pocket water that screamed nymphing, and although the water was on the high side, it was fairly easy to move along the river’s edge to hit the good “fishy looking spots”.  I used my 9′  0″  3 wt Bamboo Czech Nymphing rod, and started with several variations of small mayfly and midge imitations.  I picked up a few smaller brown trout on a #18 Psycho Mayfly pattern, but was a little discouraged that I wasn’t picking up more fish since the water looked so good.

A 10″ brown that took a #18 Psycho Mayfly Pattern.

After going through my standard Go-To flies that usually work for me, I finally put on a #16 Prince Nymph just to see if any fish were interested.  That was the ticket, and the fishing, or should I say catching turned on.  In the next hour, I caught 8 fish on the Prince Nymph…6 browns and 2 rainbows…ranging in size from 12″ to 18″.  I sort of pride myself in being able to “match the hatch” with my small nymph selections, but on that day, it was the Prince Nymph.  I’m not sure why the fish liked it or what it was imitating, but what a great day.  Here are a couple of the nicer fish I caught:

A nice 18″ Rainbow

A beautiful 17″ Brown

For any of you who are looking for an interesting fishery with some large rainbows and browns in eastern California, I would highly recommend the East Walker River.  It was definitely not water for the beginning fisherman as it required strong wading skills, and it was very important to be able to put the fly in precise spots with little to no backcast room.  But, with the right fly in the right spot, the fishing was great.



Some Bamboo Facts….

I just received a new shipment of bamboo from my supplier in Seattle and thought a good post might be to talk a little about the bamboo we purchase for our bamboo fly rods.

The bamboo we use is a particular species that comes from a small region in China…it’s not your garden variety of bamboo that we use.  There is a supplier  in Seattle (the Bamboo Broker) who travels to China and hand selects the bamboo we use in our fly rods.  The choice bamboo we use has some particular characteristics that I’ll get into later.

A piece of bamboo is referred to as “a culm”.  When we order bamboo, it comes in 12 ft. lengths, and each piece is about 2 1/2 inches in diameter.  It comes in bundles of 10 culms/bundle, and I usually order 3 or 4 bundles at a time.  Including shipping costs, the cost for a single culm of bamboo ends up being about $40 each.

Three bundles of bamboo that I just ordered.

I’ll get quite a few rods from these 3 bundles of bamboo.

After we unpack the bamboo, the first thing we need to do is to put a “stress relief crack down the entire length of the bamboo culm.  This is to relieve internal stresses that exist in the bamboo that could lead to excessive cracking later on.  Sometimes a crack already exists when we receive the bamboo, and you see that in the two culms in the right of this photo.  Because the bamboo fibers run the entire length of the culm, it’s pretty easy to make the stress relief crack.  I accomplish this with large screw driver and hammer…banging the screw driver hard with the hammer will open the crack and then twisting the screw driver walks the crack down the length of the culm.

Putting a stress relief crack in a bamboo culm.

For quality bamboo, we’re looking for the following characteristics:

  1. The bamboo should be relatively straight.
  2. Fairly uniform color.
  3. Minimal surface discoloration/anomalies.
  4. Good spacing between the growth rings (nodes).
  5. Thick walls.

Also, one of the most important aspects in the bamboo is that each piece have a high concentration of “power fibers” at the outer surface of the bamboo.  The power fibers are seen as the darker region towards the outer surface of the bamboo.  It’s these power fibers that give the bamboo strength, and having a high concentration of power fibers is a good thing in bamboo fly rods.  The white region visible at the inner surface of the bamboo is called the “pith”, and it has a spongy characteristic that isn’t desirable in bamboo fly rods.

Bamboo cross section showing good wall thickness and high concentration of the dark power fibers at the outer surface of the bamboo.

In starting a bamboo fly rod, the 12 ft. long culm is first cut to the length of the individual rod sections (plus a few extra inches).  Next, that culm is split into approximately 20 thin sections…but the details of that are for another post!

I now have a good supply of bamboo culms that should last me for a couple of years.

All my new bamboo stacked in my wood rack.


Fly Fishing on Whychus Creek Today.

I took a break from rod building today and ventured out on Whychus Creek below our house here in Sisters, Oregon.  It’s about 400 feet down a steep canyon to get to the water, but rather than climb down the hillside from my house, I drove over to a nice trailhead on the other side of the creek just across from our house.  It’s about a mile hike from the trailhead down a nice trail to the creek.  This area get’s almost no people fishing these waters so I was pretty excited to see how I would do.  The creek is a nice water level this time of the summer, and the water temperature was still nice and cool.  Because it’s small water and quite overgrown with trees, I selected my 7′  0″  4 wt Signature Series bamboo fly rod for the day.  Some of the smaller fish were willing to take dry flies but it wasn’t until I changed over to nymphs that I got into half a dozen  nicer fish in the 11″ to 12″ range.  I had the creek to myself and loved my time searching the creek for “fishy water”.  And…I also donated quite a few flies in the tree branches along the stream edge.  Here are a few photos of my morning adventure:

Here I am at the edge of Whychus Creek with my 7′ 0″ 4 wt bamboo fly rod.

Some nice pocket water where I picked up several good fish on nymphs.

Several little rainbows showed interest in my dry flies.

A beautiful 12″ rainbow that took a #16 Pheasant Tail Nymph.

Yep, there is my house about 400 ft. up from the creek at the top of the canyon.

Tipping your Fly Fishing Guide

Since my wife, Mary Ann, is a fly fishing guide, I hear a lot from her and her fellow guides about tips they do or don’t get from their clients they’ve taken on the river.  Occasionally, they get no tip, and we all like to think that their clients just weren’t aware that tipping guides is a common practice in the fly fishing community.  Other times, they get very nice tips for working hard to help make their clients day an enjoyable experience.

While this post has nothing to do with bamboo fly rods, I wanted to share a few aspects about “tipping your guide”.  The fee you pay your outfitter/fly shop to hire a guide, somewhere between $400 and $550/day, does not all go to the guide.  Actually, the guide usually gets paid about 50% of that fee, and the outfitter gets about 50%.  The outfitter typically has costs for insurance, meals, permits, and flies, while the guide has costs like gas, guide insurance, and their own “special flies” that they tie themselves.  The distribution of these costs vary from outfitter-to-outfitter, as well as state-to-state.  The rule-of-thumb for tipping is to give somewhere between 10% and 20% of the total cost of your guided day if you feel your guide has worked hard and you’ve had a good day.

Your guides work very hard to make your day enjoyable.  Their day usually starts an hour or two before they meet you to get setup for the day, and ends another hour or two after they drop you off back at the fly shop.  So, the guide’s day is often 10 or 12 hours long.  Sometimes fishing is slow and they have to work extra hard just to get you into a few fish.  Other times, the fish just seem to “jump into your net” and the guide’s day is easier.  But, their main goal is to make your day as enjoyable as possible, get you into fish, and pass on helpful information if you need it to improve your overall fly fishing skills.  I recently read a great article in Mid-Current that talks about Tipping Your Guide.  Check it out if you’re more interested at:

New 9 ft. 0 in. 3 and 4 wt. Czech Nymphing Bamboo Rods

I recently redesigned my tapers for my Czech Nymphing Bamboo Fly Rods and I can’t tell you how great they’ve come out.  First, as a Czech Nymphing rod, I want the rods to be a light line wt rods, have a slow action to them, and have a very soft tip to detect subtle takes.  And, I also want the rods to cast dry flies well in the event you’re out on the stream nymphing and a hatch happens.  These new tapers in 3 wt and 4 wt rods do just that.  I build these rods with Custom Engraved Reel Seat Hardware, Figured English Walnut Reel Seats, and Olive Wraps with Straw and Black Tipping.

Earlier this week I tested out the new 9 ft. 0″  3 wt. rod on the Owyhee River in Eastern Oregon.  For Czech Nymphing, it roll/lob casts small to medium sized weighted nymphs great.  And, at 9 feet in length, it lets you get further out in the stream than traditional bamboo fly rods.  The soft tip is super-sensitive and light takes are easily felt.  I then put on a standard 3 wt floating fly line with a 10 ft. 5 wt dry fly leader.  The rod did well at casting large #8 Hopper patterns, as well as #20 PMD dries.  The slow action of this rod wants you to slow your dry fly casts down, but once you do, the rod loads deeply and turns over flies nicely with very little power put into the cast.  These rods will prove to be great longer, lighter line wt. bamboo fly rods for those anglers who utilize Czech Nymping in their fly fishing adventures.

My 9′ 0″ 3 wt Czech Nymphing Rod.

My 9′ 0″ 3 wt Czech Nymphing Rod