The River Spey

Building The Two Handed Rod, Part 3
by Bob Meiser


Part Three

Two Handed Fly Rods, and their applications have become very popular worldwide. Up until only a few years ago, double handers would normally be found only on the coastal rivers of Scandinavia, the British Isles, and Canada, utilizing two handed techniques while pursuing Atlantic Salmon and Coastal Trout. Today, the two handed rod has become the tool of choice for many anglers pursuing not only anadromous species, but for an extremely wide variety of both salt and fresh water gamefish as well. Today's double hander has not just limited their rods to coastal rivers, they can now be found fishing over the surf and flats, big stillwaters, and interior river systems.

Having a few of these rods in your own arsenal may be to your benefit, and I hope that this article will help you build them.


Building the Two Handed Rod


Guides

The style of guides used by the builder on the two handed rod is again an issue of personal preference, and practicality. As always, the important issues to consider are the rods applications and aesthetics, with the priority issue being the size of the guides and the number of guides needed to maximize the rods potentials.

The angler is accustomed to seeing classic components on the Traditional two handed rods. Snake running guide systems are totally functional for the Traditional Spy rod styles, and the use of ceramics for the strippers and tip top are not only practical, but accepted. On these rods the use of the standard profile strippers would be the norm. Ceramic strippers by Hopkins and Holloway, and the NSG SICs by Fuji work very well. Snake guides by Hopkins and Holloway and Snake Brand are excellent.

Rods that are specifically built to be used as two handed overhead rods are a bit of a different breed. With them, there is a real advantage to using full ceramic guide systems. These rods are designed to throw a wide variety of shooting head, and advanced weight forward line systems. These specialized lines will often utilize braided mono, or even braided spectra running lines. Most of the time, the running line is what will be in contact with the guide system, not the heads. Braided mono, and especially braided Spectra can wear through non-ceramic guides quite easily. The full use of ceramics for this application now becomes quite practical. I prefer the Fuji LSG-SICs or the CLAG Alconites for the runners, and the higher standing SVSG SICs or standard height CLNAG Alconites for the strippers. The solid Titanium framed ceramics have excellent applications in salt water environments. They are not only absolutely functional, but look beautiful on these sleek, thoroughbred two handed rods. The Fuji TSGs single foot's and the TSVSGs double leg strippers are excellent.

Guide sizing for the two handed rod family are comparable to what would be required for mid-size salt water fly rods. The larger stripper for line sizes of 12 to 15 weights would be 16, the smaller 12. Line weights from 8 to12, would require stripper sizes of 12 then 10. The running guides should also be up-sized to accommodate the larger diameter lines required. Try to avoid the use of ceramic running guides smaller then 5.5. The smallest snake should not be less then size 1. The largest running guides should start at one hoop size down from the smallest stripper. Keep in mind that these rods will start at 8 and go to 15 weight. By nature, the lines that will make these rods function properly will inherently have larger diameters then what the average single hand flyfisher may be used to.

Static testing for guide placement on these long rods are the same as would be required for any fly rod, although static testing a 16 foot rod can become somewhat of a challenge for those with a limited rod building area. Often times, the blank manufacturer will have a base guide placement sheet. This information can be obtained upon request. Some manufacturers will even state that if their guide placement recommendations deviate beyond recommended peramaters, they will not warranty the blank. This should be of consideration to the builder.

I static test all blanks that come through my shop, regardless of their source. I use the following system: The horizontal siding on the side of my shop has an even 4 inch profile. I use these evenly spaced horizontal lines as increments to determine my guide spacing. The bottom most siding line becomes 0, the second being 1, third being 2 etc. on up. I have set up a moveable, vertically tracked platform that clamps the rod into a plane parallel to the siding increments. Each 4 inch increment represents one guide on the rod. A 12 foot rod would require the rod to be mounted on the track at siding line number 12. The rod has the seat, grip, and tip-top built in place. The rod is spine aligned, and the grip is secured to the platform. With a cord attached through the tip top, the rod is pulled down the face of the wall, and secured to point "0." With a china marker, I will mark all occurring siding line intersections directly onto the blank. These points will then be my base guide lay-out. Adjustments may still need to be made, but this system does allow the rod to tell you quite accurately where the guides may be placed. I will generally start the first guide at 3.5 to 4 inches up from the tip top. This distance will vary somewhat, depending on how slow or fast the tip is. When statically placed as defined, the slower tip will create a radius more acute then a faster action rod. This, then would require the first guide to be closer to the tip top. The opposite true for the faster action tip.

The number of guides one uses is again determined by the rods action, but as rule of thumb, one guide per foot can be a good base start.

When wrapping the guides, it will also be the time to address the ferrule wraps. Although nearly all blank manufacturers will strengthen the critical ferrule areas with additional graphite lay-ups, it is important for the builder to realize that these areas should be also reinforced with thread wraps and epoxy. This is especially true of the two handed rod. The tip-over-butt female ferrule should be wrapped the full depth of the male ferrule; even a ¼" or so beyond. The spigot ferrule system will require the same, and in addition the male plug of the spigot system should also be wrapped it's full depth into the male section.

I cannot stress how important this issue is… It will make the difference between your ferrules failing or not! I do not find it necessary to double wrap these areas, it is more important to wrap and epoxy the full penetration. If guides conveniently fall on the ferrules, all the better. Simply tie them into the total length of the ferrule/guide wrap.

A small note concerning keepers. Hook keepers for these rods will often hold heavy wired hooks to 4 or 5 ought, with long feathered, Spey hackled architecture. The use of larger keepers should be considered to hold these fly patterns.

You may consider using the above suggestions as a guide, but ultimately, the finalization of all the factors within each rods unique guide/spine relationship will be determined by the outcome of you test casting your results. Bottom line, build your rod the way it casts best for you!

Building in Rod Balance

The two handed presentations are very efficient. They will allow the angler to cover the maximum amount water, while expending a minimum amount of energy. But. . .the rods can be long, with blanks alone weighing in excess of 6 0z.s. This factor alone may make the weight shy Trout rod purist run for cover, but then, strap on a large capacity reel loaded with a line system that may exceed 1200 grains. This can get HEAVY! Balancing the rod is very important. In fact, if properly distributed, weight becomes a factor that will actually enhance many of the various two handed casting presentations.

For most double hand casters, the ideal casting balance point is located within a hands grip width at the top of the upper handle. This is your "pivot point," while performing all of the Traditional Spey cast presentations. It is important that this balance point be determined with the reel and line in place. This balance point can be off set rather easily, and therefore can be adjusted just as easily! Often times the use of a down-lock seat arrangement rather then an up-lock seat will be enough to balance things out. The materials used for the lower grip can also make up the difference. I will often make the lower grip either totally or partially of wood, rather then cork. This not only adds a lot of class to the look of the rod, but will balance it out very well. Wood species can vary a lot in weight. Mango, although quite hard can be nearly as light as burl cork, Vera or Olive for example, can be much heavier. Burl, or rubberized corks are substantially heavier then normal rings, and can be utilized on the lower grip to the rods advantage. I try to avoid point weighting the immediate butt end of the blank with lead shot, metal washers etc. This technique seems to off-set the rods overall balance rather then enhancing it.

Another technique I use to balance the lower end of the blank is to slip a determined length of solid fiberglass shaft into the butt section. For this I will use solid fiberglass electric fence post material. It is dense, relatively heavy for it's volume, and flexible. I will fill the blank I.D. diameter void by wrapping the shaft with fiberglass sheetrock tape, saturate it with builders epoxy and slide it in place. Make sure that you swab the I.D. of the butt section with alcohol to clean out all the mandrel release agents prior to insertion, or the epoxy may not grab. The length of the plug should not exceed the length of the lower handle. If longer, it could create a hinge point, and weaken the blank.

Always keep in mind that these rods are primarily meant to be cast utilizing two hands, and while casting, the weight distribution of these seemingly heavy rods, is distributed over the casters entire upper torso, not just the wrist, forearm, and shoulder. When the rod is held at the casting stance, the right hander will have the left hand holding near the bottom of the lower grip, and the right will be holding near the top of the upper. With this stance, a well balanced rod of 4 to 12 oz. will feel nearly weightless, and will cast effectively with very little effort.

Summary

    1. Application - What size of waters, and species will you be fishing, and is the rod to be used primarily as a two handed overhead, Spey, or combination of both? These factors will determine the length and action of the blank you will want to use.

    2. Components - Choose the components carefully. They will need to be sized to match the line systems and reels best suited for your applications.

    3. Rod Balance - Try to do maintain that "Pivot Point" balance. It will make your rod a much more effective, and enjoyable fishing tool. ~ Bob Meiser

    Good Building ~ and Good Fishing!

    About Bob:

    Bob is a custom rod builder who builds special purpose fly rods and spey rods. He is the owner of R.B. Meiser Fly Rods, Ashland, Oregon. You can reach Bob through his website at: www.meiserflyrods.com

More Spey Rod Articles
Part One
Part Two

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