This is a simple fishing pole to make, not the classic bamboo fly rod. We used these when we were kids. Sometimes they were “store-bought” at a gas station/bait shop near the river. Other times we took string, hook, float, and pole and made our own. Finding free cane wasn’t easy, now I know it’s more common than most people realize. You just have to look!
Choosing a Bamboo Pole
Take a bamboo pole about 3/4 inch or a little larger on the base, about 8 to 10 feet long. This should be a dry pole. The traditional choice is Golden Bamboo (P.aurea) This bamboo is often called “fish pole bamboo”. It has canes about the right diameter and length. The canes taper nicely and the base ends are very thick-walled. Best of all, the base of P.aurea has distorted nodes giving the butt end a natural handhold. This thickened end near the base combined with a tapering, flexible tip make this an ideal rod. It’s easy to handle, and you can feel all the action. If you find a grove with canes that look something like these it is almost certainly Golden bamboo. It is a very common bamboo but others will do just as well. Just try to pick a cane about the right size and trim off the limbs.
My uncle used to take long, slender bamboo canes and attach a hook made of coat hanger wire on the base end and tie a brick onto the tip. He then hung them in tall pines and let the them dry. It didn’t take long in the summertime and they did seem to be nice and straight. I like to take a green pole and run a torch over it. The waxes and oils come to the surface and can be wiped off. If you apply the heat carfully you can get a dark, almost black color on the bamboo.
Another way to dry bamboo poles is tied up under the eaves of a house or garage. Just keep it somewhere dry and stored straight. When the bamboo is dry, lightly sand it with fine sandpaper. Clean the bamboo and let dry. Coat with a couple of coats of spar varnish. It will last a long time if you keep it out of the weather.
On the tip of the bamboo pole attach a piece of clear fish line just a few inches shorter than the pole. You can experiment with how thin you want the tip to be, about a quarter-inch in diameter. You can cut off as much of the base end as you want to make the pole just the right size for a child, or leave it long for yourself. Tie on a hook and place a small split shot a few inches up from the hook. Attach a sliding float above that. We used these mostly to fish for bream along the river bank. You could set the bait exactly where you wanted it. The water was fairly shallow and we could often see the fish. Other times we would paddle out to the mouth of the slough and fish in deeper water. Because the bamboo is flexible yet very strong, it was alway fun to fish with.