DIY Pushpoles

sandandbrokenshellsmall2.jpgPushpoles are most commonly associated with flats fishing–and for good reason. Modern graphite or fiberglass poles are the bread and butter of flats guides in the Florida Keys and the lagoons of Texas. But did you know pushpoles have a history of being used as canoe controls in Maine?
While fishing in the Bahamas and Mexico, I noticed that none of the native guides have access to the high-end carbon or fiberglass pushpoles we are used to here in the States. Instead, they make do with heavy hardwood poles–light tree trunks, really. I recently needed to make myself a pushpole for carp fishing Atlanta’s Chattahoochee river out of my canoe. Remembering the guides I saw in Mexico (but not wanting to haul that much weight) I hit on a very acceptable solution: bamboo.
My bamboo pole is about 18′ long and around two and a half inches thick at the base. It’s seen a couple hundred hours on the water both in my hands and as a redfish pole in a friend’s custom Gheenoe (more about that in a later post). Because it is naturally made of hollow sections, it is lightweight but still strong, and it floats (a plus if you drop it). While certainly not a substitute for a Stiffy or even one of TFO‘s excellent graphite multi-piece poles, it has got the job done for us, and opened up a whole new fishing environment. We’ve even caught a few carp.
Do you DIY your way through fly-fishing? Share your innovations in the Comments section!

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  • Aaron

    Great idea. Where does one find an 18′ section of bamboo? An easy-to-find alternative is a wooden pole from Lowe’s or Home Depot. They come in lengths to 20′, and various diameters (they are really just giant wooden dowels). Although a bit heavier than bamboo, they are considerably lighter than the ‘native’ poles in the Caribbean, and are durable.

  • Hey Aaron –
    I found mine in some landscaping by the side of the highway. Bamboo’s not especially common in the U.S. but it has been planted for decoration in many places, especially in the South. Look for runaway older stands that are no longer being groomed. I used a battery-powered reciprocating saw to harvest my pole, and a sharp knife to carefully remove the branches. Finally, sand any branch stubs smooth so you don’t cut up your hands. I wouldn’t sand the pole itself; bamboo is naturally waterproof.

  • Bill Smith

    Plenty of long bamboo in Maryland – grows in stands along the road. Use it for flag poles.
    Bill – Annapolis

  • It’s not entirely true to say that Mexican and Bahamian guides do not have access to modern pushpoles. I find that almost all the guides these days, whether independent or on staff at lodges, on Andros Island have modern poles. So do almost all the guides working out of Boca Paila, Casa Blanca, and similar lodges in Mexico. I don’t doubt if you get to the extreme outer islands in the Bahamas, like Long, Cat, Crooked, and Acklins, that modern poles are quite scarce. That probably has as much to do with how expensive it would be to get them there as anything other reason.

  • Aaron

    A lot of guides in The Bahamas choose to not use graphite push poles. They claim (and I can see their point) that the hollow graphite poles make too much noise when used on coral or rocky bottom, whereas the solid wooden pushpoles are much quieter.