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“What is the most difficult process to make a graphite rod?”

I asked Hiroki Ishikawa, who took over the business from Kiyoshi in 2014.

“Not like the bamboo rod, there are few processes that need craftsmanship to make a graphite rod. I know fly fishers love the handcrafted things. They feel comfortable knowing their rods were made one at a time. That is why people still acquire the bamboo rod. I understand that feeling, and we are making graphite rods almost the same manner as when make bamboo rods. But the good news is we don’t have to cut and plane the bamboo cane each time but roll the graphite sheet around the mandrel. It is more productive than bamboo rod making, but still far from calling it mass production.”

“Okay, then let me ask this way. Which process is the most time consuming in all the process?”

“No doubt when we design the taper. It takes forever.”

Campanella is one of a few Japanese fly rod makers that makes the rod blank from the very beginning; design the taper, cut the graphite sheet and roll that graphite sheet around the mandrel. Most of the other Japanese rod makers do not do this process by themselves but consign the production to a chemical maker or contractor.

Hiroki continued.

“I know it is easier to cosign the production of the rod blank to an outsourcer. But we are a fly rod company, I mean a true fly rod maker.”

I knew what Hiroki wanted to mention by “a true fly rod maker” but needed to know a bit further.

*This article was extracted from “Mostly Bamboo” by courtesy of the author.

Kiyoshi established Campanella for manufacturing graphite rods and added lineup of bamboo rods later. The only homework he left behind was fiberglass rods. In 2020 spring, Fagus started manufacturing fiberglass rod. The only other maker I know who makes fiberglass fly rods all by themselves (design, blueprint and manufacture) in Japan is Campanella which Kiyoshi founded and was succeeded by Hiroki Ishikawa.

Kiyoshi has finally accomplished the grand slam of fly rod building (graphite, bamboo, and fiberglass rod) after his retirement (I may have to say his “first” retirement). Kiyoshi and Yuta told me that it took almost a half year to find the exact prepreg (their term for a fiberglass sheet) which they needed. “Forest Bum”, the lighter color rod on the next page, is medium, and “Fine Loop”, the darker one, is a medium slow action glass rod. Both rods are surprisingly smooth. These rods do not use a normal prepreg that has cross fiber (like cotton shirts), but use only the prepreg that has fibers running only one direction (butt to top). This is why these rods are not fat, but slim like graphite rods. These glass rods shook me and have changed my thinking about fly rods. I had believed bamboo was the best material for light fly rods for a long time, but I realized it is not true after I tried these rods. There is no best material for fly rods, only good bamboo rods, good graphite rods, and good glass rods. It is that simple. I have to confess that I started thinking to change the title and contents of this book after casting these rods.

*This article was extracted from “Mostly Bamboo” by courtesy of the author.

Tadanobu’s Genius rod is designed to cast a size #12 fly to the distance of over 10 yards. He never uses long leaders such as over 15 feet.

“I did almost everything. I used to be a long leader believer, a cherry trout (sea-run yamame trout) chaser fishing with a Spey rod (if you catch one fish in a season, you are lucky), a headwater lover. I was even an owner of a fly shop. After all these crazy things, I found myself lost somewhere in the fly fishing world.”

It was eighteen years ago when Tadanobu decided to get off the fly fishing merry-go-round. He started making bamboo rods. At his very beginning, he decided to follow the concept of “High Speed, High Line,” which is, of course, Charles Ritz’s doctrine. As a natural consequence, he targeted Pezon et Michel.

There is no bamboo rod maker who started his career without copying the old famous makers’ rods, such as Leonard, Payne, and Garrison. Pezon et Michel is still popular in Japan though it might be in the minority if we look around the world.

*This article was extracted from “Mostly Bamboo” by courtesy of the author.

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