Putting Bamboo Within Reach

Most trout anglers fish only a few years before they begin to wonder what casting a bamboo rod is all about. Bamboo not the earliest material used by fly anglers — that designation would probably go to hazel or some other flexible wood — but it is considered the most “classic,” if only because it dominated fly fishing’s recent history up until the introduction of fiberglass. And for its devotees, bamboo provides an experience that no man-made rod can match.
The “mass production” of cane rods ended with the arrival of plastics and a Chinese embargo on bamboo, and as manufacturers turned away from cane, the prices of bamboo fly rods rose steadily. Nowadays, most anglers expect to pay well over $1000 for a cane rod. $2000 is not an unreasonable price, given the craftsmanship evidenced in most custom rods. And waiting more than a year for a $3000 rod is not unheard of. But a few years ago a handful of enterprising people began to wonder if bamboo shouldn’t be more affordable and more available. One of these folks was David Rogers, who started Headwaters Bamboo Rod Company in Hillsboro, Oregon in 2002.
Rogers’s infatuation with bamboo began like that of most cane rod owners: “I came into bamboo later in life, scouring flea markets. That first bamboo rod sent a chill down my spine. I was holding a little of my own heritage. My grandfather was a fly fisherman and died before I could tag along. His was a hard scrabble existence, working leased fruit orchards. But wetting a fly with a bamboo rod in the Logan River was his occasional diversion, as fishing coastal rivers in the northwest is for me. Bamboo brings me closer to his memory.”
The idea behind Headwaters is that you should be able to fish bamboo for under $300, and get it tomorrow. They do have more expensive rods, but even their more affordable rods are built of six hand-planed Tonkin strips — quite a notion when you consider the craftsmanship required. They’ll even let you fish a rod for 30 days before deciding to keep it.
So find yourself a copy of the DVD “Trout Grass,” if you need inspiration, or George Black’s book Casting a Spell (excerpted here).
For a limited time, Headwaters is giving MidCurrent readers a special discount on a classic fly reel to match their bamboo rods. Read the details here.

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  • Kentucky Jim

    I purchased the cheapest model of the headwaters rod. I’m afraid I’m not impressed with it.
    Although there is something to be said for accessible bamboo rods; there is also something to be said for supporting local craftsmen, and keeping the market standards high. Right now, there are about three different bamboo rod makers from whom I’d love to buy a rod, if only I could justify owning nine or ten rods, five of which would be bamboo.

  • Nick

    And while there is something to be said for supporting local craftsmen I wouldn’t say that importing chinese made blanks and simply wrapping them is either a) supporting local craftsmen or b) giving an example of the best of the craft. The problems with these imported blanks has been well documented elsewhere.
    Node spacings, glue lines etc a re all common problems

  • Problems with node spacing or glue lines are extremely rare.
    We stand behind our rods. If you are not satisfied we will replace it or refund your money. We offer a great opportunity for fly anglers to fish a quality bamboo rod.
    I’d be happy to talk if you have questions or would like to look at one of our rods. We allow 30 days to fish it and then you may still return it for full refund.
    David Rogers
    Headwaters Bamboo Rod Company
    503.640.5447
    david@headwatersbamboo.com

  • I’ve had one of David’s rods for over a year. I love this delicate little tool. I’ve got plenty of high end graphite but I find myself pulling out the cane, especially on our small mountain streams here in New Mexico. In addition their service is superb, when I took a fall and broke my rod, David accepted the parts and made me a very equitable replacement deal.

  • Jere Houser

    I purchased a headwaters rod about 2 years or so ago. I own 2 other custom made cane rods, but find the Headwaters a very nice rod, especially for the money. It has the action I prefer in a cane rod probably because it’s the action the rod I broke into fly fishing almost 50 years ago with had. I highly recommend it for someone wishing to fish a cane rod without a major investment.

  • skip lawrence

    I purchased my very first bamboo rod from headwaters 5 years ago and it has never failed. I simply love it and I will not go back to the graphite from orvis………thank you David, super rod great feel and action I am hooked.

  • greg spanidis

    hi guys,i ordered a rod from headwaters bamboo seven weeks ago!! and i still havent received it. i have tried to contact dave rogers numerous times and can never get hold of him or anyone at haedwaters bamboo.ive also sent numerous emails with no reply.can anybody tell me what is going on? i would tell anybody of thinking of purchasing from them to be very carefull. can somebody help?
    greg spanidis

  • mike

    I just have to say I had just the oposite experiance, that Greg reports. I called Dave to see if he might extend a discount period that I had been offerd by mail. I got him on the very first try and found him very helpful and informative. My subsequent order was filled quickly and the 30 day trail period allowed my son time to decide if he liked the rod or not since it was his suprise birthday gift. I’m pleasd to report he loves the rod and is happily double hauling the thing all over central New Hampshire waters. I did order the rod in May so maybe things have changed….. best Mike