A good ledger rod is central to the all-round angler’s basic equipment. Making your own will save you money and you can choose the specifications to suit your personal needs.
With an everincreasing variety of hollow-glass rod blanks available, a certain amount of thought is ad-visable before purchase. How long a ledger rod do you want? What should the action be—all-through, medium-fast, or fasttaper?
The construction of hollow-glass rods is far easier than that of the traditional built-cane models, because, first, blanks are now pro-duced with the spigot-fitting ferrules glued in as part of the blank, and, second, good tackle-dealers will, at extra cost, supply the blank with a handle fitted.
If your fishing requires a ledger rod for both swingtipping and quivertipping in addition to rod-topping, a length of 9-10ft is ideal. The action needs to be between all-through and medium-fast, with the taper running from the butt right to the tip. For swingtipping alone, an all-through blank is better for a smooth follow-through on the strike and for tangle-free casting.
Conversely, a fasttaper blank is needed if you use the rod for quivertipping only in fast currents. Then, with the quivertip screwed into the top ring (increasing the rod’s length but diminishing its power because the end is now much finer) it is still fairly rigid. Some tackle dealers will even glue a quivertip into the top joint of your blank so that it becomes an integral part of the rod. It then becomes a specialized rod for quivertipping only, but is excellent in design because there are no joins at the tip ring. This is a junction where snap-offs are common when a weak quivertip is screwed into a powerful rod.
Striking without snapping
Progressing from the basic ledger rod, longer, more specialized tools (for distance ledgering, for example) have a fasttaper blank to pick up maximum line on the strike. If you fish close in, you need an all-through action or you may snap the rod when setting the hook. But, when casting 50 yards or more, a fasttaper blank is needed to pick up the line and leave enough power to set the hook. Ledger rods for distance casting vary between 9lA and lift (although your holdall may dictate the length) and your choice depends on the distances at which you regularly fish. A longer rod will pick up more line, and it is therefore wise to choose accordingly.
The virtues of hollow-glass blanks—particularly fasttaper blanks with fine tips—are lightness and versatility. You can detect the faintest bite when rod-topping, yet have enough strength in the butt to control the most powerful fish. Their flexibility also allows a wide range of b.s. To be used. Many manufacturers quote the test curves of their blanks, but if there is any doubt, ask a tackle dealer the best breaking strain for any blank.
In most cases the basic two-piece blank will have the spigot joint already fitted. Some may have integral ferruleless joints instead of spigots. These joints are made by an extra wrap or two of the glass matting around the mandrel during the manufacturing process.
With both spigot-jointed and ferruleless blanks, home rod construe-
Tion starts with the handle. Handle length can be estimated by holding the blank as if fishing with it, with a couple of inches extending behind your elbow. Then mark a point 2-4in in front of your hand position, in pencil. Manufacturers often make handles far too long, and too many corks in front of the reel grip are unnecessary and a waste of money when making your own rod.
Bored cork handles
Corks can be bought as single rings, often of 5sin depth, or as segments up to 3in deep. There is a variety of bores and external diameters, but common sizes for the latter are lin or lVfcin. Single rings need shaping, but segments are simpler to use because they are machined to an even external diameter. Buy enough segments with internal diameters to match the taper of the blank.
Glue them into position with Araldite or a similar glue. Ensure that the corks are not too tight or they may split as you ease them down the blank. A round file will rasp out excess cork where the fit is too tight. When the corks are in place, remove the glue which 0 ozes from between them. When dry, gently smooth with fine sandpaper.
Don’t overdo it!
With single cork rings, the process is exactly the same except that, after gluing, the whole handle needs to be taken down to a smooth, round finish, slightly less in diameter than the bore of the winch fittings. So if you buy winch fittings with an inside bore of lin, you will need corks with an outside diameter of 1 Vein to allow for sanding. This first fitting should be tight, as cork will be lost in sandpapering to a smooth finish. Progress from medium-coarse sandpaper, to medium, to fine. Use one of the winch fittings to ensure the handle is kept round. Don’t worry if any small imperfections in the cork fall out, as this can be rectified by adding a mixture of a little glue and cork dust as a filler.
Next, glue on the butt cap (usually plastic), slide on the winch fittings and, to finish, glue on two large single corks at the top of the handle. These are shaped to match the rest of the handle with a fine file and then sandpapered smooth.
Some anglers prefer the traditional chrome butt cap with a screw thread which takes a rubber button. For this, taper the end of the handle so that the cap can be glued on and leave it upside down to dry, or the glue may run and clog the thread.
There is a variety of plastic and rubber butt caps available in bores to match any handle diameter, but for cheapness and durability a simple black plastic cap is best. For a shaped, cork bottom to the handle, repeat the process used for the top of the handle, and plug the end with a bottlecork, rounding off the butt to a smooth finish with sandpaper. Next, gently rub down the entire blank with very fine sandpaper to provide a matt surface to take the varnish. If you wish to change the colour of the blank, now is the time. Two coats of paint are sufficient, but leave it to dry for 24 hours. Aerosol paints are good, but costly; however, with a soft brush, a small tin used sparingly will easily cover one rod.
Rod-rings in the rain
Choose between low-set or stand-off rod rings—both have their advantages. The author prefers stand-off rings because when freelining a bait in rain the line is less likely to stick to the rod.
With either kind of ring, the struc-ture is important. Check for imperfections—burrs, cracks, or other faults might chafe the line. Buy hard-chrome rings if possible, for they wear better than the bright chrome variety. If the price is unimportant, you will do best with the Fuji-type rings, which have centres of aluminium oxide. They are particularly hard-wearing and offer little friction to the line, which can be an aid when casting.
You must position the rings on the rod before whipping. Look along the assembled rod for the slight curve or set that most blanks have, and compensate accordingly when positioning the rings. Lay the rod on the floor and secure each ring to the blank with a strip of adhesive tape on each leg where you think it should go. Start with the butt ring, about 16in from the handle. With all-through-action rods the rings can be fairly evenly spaced, but closer together near the tip. But with fasttaper blanks, which bend acutely at the tip, the rings need to be very close to avoid line friction.
Now, fix on your reel, thread the line through the rings, and tie the end to a door handle. Slowly pull the rod into a curve so that the line follows the curve but does not touch the rod at any point along it. Slight adjustments will give a progressive decrease in distance between rings from butt to tip. Take the tape from one leg of the butt ring and you are ready to whip that side.
There are many ways to achieve good results when whipping, depending on which kind of thread you use. With the standard nylon whipping thread in the lighter colours, you will need to retain the colour, because if varnish is applied without first sealing-in the nylon’s colour it will darken. Some nylon thread, especially in light colours, can even adopt a sickly, translucent shade. Whatever the kind of thread, be sure that you have the right gauge—a size 30 is correct.
For the professional look
If sealer is needed, apply it evenly over the whipping with a brush. When dry, varnish the whipping, brushing between the legs of the rings. For the professional look, apply several coats of varnish to the whippings only, to fill in the tiny gaps between each thread, and then two coats all over—whippings and blank. Hollow glass does not need varnish, being a resin itself, but looks better for it. For a flat appearance, the last two coats should be of matt varnish.
Don’t varnish the rod in a warm room and then take it out into the cold to dry, or vice versa. The whole operation should be done in a dust free room where the temperature is fairly even, away from children or pets, who can knock the rod over. If you take your time and use a good quality brush and a polyurethane or a copal varnish, the result should match anything from your tackle dealer. For a really smooth finish, apply varnish to the blank with your little finger, smoothing it on, completely eradicating the air bubbles which brushes sometimes leave. But avoid thick coats; several light ones will reward your patience with far better results.
Lastly, don’t use the rod for at least a week after the final coat, and never wax or grease the spigot joints. Once twisted into position, spigots keep tightly together by friction and not suction, unlike metal ferrules. Pay attention to these points, and your home-made rod will give many years’ service, with a minimum of maintenance.