Amber’s Rod

Posted on May 17, 2018


Amber took her rod to a women’s fishing weekend in MT and it made the thumbnail for the NBC news story.

In I Want Teal Waders, I talked about some of the cool new rod designs I’ve gotten to do in the last year because women fly fishers want to, well, accessorize. This rod was particularly fun to work on because I didn’t design it, but just collaborated on it with the eventual owner. And, as usual, I obsessed over it, watching several 24-episode seasons of Elementary as I worked on it. How obsessed was I? Thread comes in 100-yard spool, and I used an entire spool of it wrapping and rewrapping this rod. If you assume an average rod diameter of 3/16″ (which is basically only on the butt end, but that is where I did most of the work), this “turns out” to be 6000 wraps around the rod! Some of which I covered in the Underwrap Tutorial.  I did 4-color wraps all the way up to the tip top where the rod is <2mm across.  I spent many nights unwrapping stuff at midnight I’d worked on since 8, redoing it until 2am. I like to punish myself for my failures.
Many of the images here are by Amber Mullen. I lost track.



The thing which I got into but which also slowed me down in rod building was making, and then turning my own handles. My friend wanted a custom split grip which I could not do on my drill-press-rod-lathe conversion, had several false starts, and finally 2 years later built a lathe to turn handles on. The whole time I was too guilty not finishing his rod to build any others.

But now that I have the lathe, I can turn them out pretty quickly. People seem to like coming over drinking beer and designing their handles, and it’s always more fun to collaborate than to create on your own. In fact, I got so good at it, I turned this one 3x. D’oh. But now I have a couple extras for my own rods.

I like fighting butts, even on 5 wts for several reasons. The first is that in the NW, you might get trout, you might get salmon. A fighting butt is over kill 95% of the time and super handy that last 5%. I’ve also kind of developed this “signature style” which includes coring out the base of the butt and setting a fly into it. In this case a “fantasy fly” based on the rod color. You, know, to match the wader accents. (This little detail set finishing the rod back 6 months easy as the first fly I embedded I stupidly forgot to color preserve the wing, so it went completely translucent. Amber then embarked on a many month relationship with a custom tyer to get all of the shapes and colors we wanted in the rod. I first “finished the rod before Christmas, I just inset the fly into the handle last night.)


Somehow, in my rush to publish, I got bubbles in the film. Ironically, the first time I did this, in my ignorance it went flawlessly. The simplest things can really become time sucks.

When you set the reel seat you also need to set the guide color and style. After buying and returning some reel seats for being, well, chinsy. We found these killer reel seats on eBay and I’ll never use another. This is buckeye burl and smoked titanium, so we got the smoked titanium guides.

Olive Wraps

The thing is, when you go on Pintrest, you get to see the best of the best. Filet Mignon. If you come to my wrapping table you get month-old hamburger. Sure, I have my aspirations, but usually they exceed my capabilities, especially since I build a rod about every two years. Nevertheless, this is pretty basic arts-and-crafts and I undertook the challenge.

So, unfortunately, Amber discovered olive wraps, which I’ve had some success with in the past. Here is one example she gave me.

Much later I figured out this was probably A-weight thread over silk. That seems like a recipe for success I might follow up on.

My last attempt at it.

I even thought I was pretty good at them.

Ha! What nobody mentions in any of the tutorials I’ve read/watched, and I’ve read/watched all of them, is that olive wraps really only depend on one thing: contrast. I never realized this because I’m a pretty contrasty guy, and fell into my first wraps by luck. I probably did 50 wraps using Amber’s slightly more subtle color scheme before I stumbled on to the contrast rule one night by using gold and black.  Amber was willing to quit long before I was. Hell, I’ve done partial differential equations, I’m not going to be undone by thread.


This was another learning experience where I had to figure out something I had never seen before. I extracted that to a separate blog to share with the rod building community.

Finished Rod