The rods used by champion beachcasters are hand-built master-pieces, tailored to the requirements of physique and technique. Now yours too can be individually styled to your needs.
With the ever-increasing price of beachcasters, more and more anglers make their own. There is more to it than cost, for you can equip yourself with a rod which suits your individual requirements in every detail. Building a rod is not as difficult as many imagine.
The tools required are not expensive and most people will own some of them already. Tools and materials consist of two files, one rough, one smooth; sandpaper – medium and very fine; whipping silk in the colour of your choice; a single-edged razor blade; adhesive tape; and two types of glue: Araldite Rapid and Cascamite Waterproof Wood Glue, for example, both from DIY shops.
Choosing a blank
When choosing your rod blank you must be sure of where the rod is to be used and for what type of fishing. There are some first class glassfibre blanks on the market. An ideal length is 12ft x 6ft sections.
Do not be tempted to buy a blank that the makers claim will cast 2-8oz weights, because a rod that casts a 2oz weight successfully from the beach usually displays a pretty soft action. The same blank will feel very floppy with an 8oz weight attached, and will not cast with much success.
Buy a spigotted blank, rather than fitting ferrules yourself, and you will get better casting action. Taper is partly a matter of taste, but a rapid-taper blank is recommended, as a thinner tip shows bites better and does not blow about in the wind like a thicker, less-tapered tip.
If you require a much stiffer butt action than can be achieved with a glass or carbon blank, a 3ft length of Duralumin can be substituted for the glass in the butt section. The blank is cut through and then carefully reamed out to take the metal tubing – obviously it must be almost of the same diameter to achieve an extremely tight fit. At least 4in must intrude into the blank and be sealed with Araldite if it is to stand up to use: a very considerable pressure is placed on the front sec-tion during casting. When com-pleted the Duralumin can be given several coats of paint and then var-nished. With the right blank, such a rod can be expected to cast 6-9oz. A carbon or mixed carbonglass blank is preferable to conventional glass-fibre. A rod for heavy work should have a substantial reel seating. An expanding ring which can be tightened with a knurled nut is perhaps the most positive of all. Once locked down, the reel cannot slip about, another essential factor for successful long casting.
Home-made rods allow you to use the rod rings of your choice, and there is a large selection available. When you have decided between a fixed-spool or a multiplier reel, select rod rings accordingly. A fixed-spool calls for a larger first ring – 2£-3in diameter – which can accommodate the loops of line as they come off the reel during casting. With a multiplier, a first ring of about l£in is ideal. The other rings should be progressively smaller in both cases.
Buy the best quality top ring you can afford, as this ring takes the most wear and, with constant use, is very prone to take a groove from the line. It pays to buy stainless steel rings. The ‘bridged’ type are strong and stand up to the knocks incurred only too often by beachcasters.
The very latest ring for a beachcaster is the Fuji HSG Series, silicon with a carbide centre. It allows a line to shoot smoothly through, which adds considerably to casting distance. The high thermal conductivity of the material dissip-ates the heat generated when the line passes over the ring’s lining at great speed. This type of ring is being used by many of Britain’s top casters who are achieving distances in excess of 200 yards.
Rings can be bought individually, the number needed depending on the type of blank used. As a rough guide, the butt section will probably require one, and the top section six, plus a tip ring.
The Fuji whip-on reel seat is a very good reel-fitting, and probably the easiest for a novice to fit. With this, it is very easy to adjust the distance from the butt-end to the reel-fitting, and so suit your own casting position. If you fit it in the wrong position, simply cut through the whippings and rewhip. Distance from the butt-end obviously depends on the length of your arms, but for a man of about 6ft, it should be 33-36in. Only home-made rods allow you to position the reel-fitting to suit your requirements.
Tape the reel-fitting and rod rings
To the blank. You can then get a good idea of their correct position by putting on a reel and passing the line through the rings. Weight the end of the line, allowing the rod to bend, and it should follow the natural curve of the rod. Mark the position on your blank in pencil, untape the rings, and start whipping.
It pays to file down the feet of the rod rings so as to keep the whipping even. Take care not to leave sharp edges on the feet, for nothing is worse than damaging the thread and having to start all over again. Hold the whipping silk in one hand across the rod and tape the end in position. Then start to rotate the rod, laying even turns of silk side by side, not overlapping, until almost all of the ring-foot is covered.
The final six or seven turns will make a whip finish. Take another foot of whipping silk and lay it on the blank in a loop. Bind down the middle section of the loop with these last turns – not too tightly, though, as it will be necessary to pull the loop free of the whipping.
Cut the whipping silk, not too short, and pass the end through the loop. Pull the loop and the cut end of silk out from the whipping by pulling the loose ends of the loop. Trim off the end of the silk and discard the loop. Repeat for the rest of the rings, being careful to align them before whipping by looking along the rod, and re-taping them where necessary.
The end ring on the top joint is glued in position with a small blob of glue, and pushed over the tip of the rod. If you use a tip ring with two legs, these also have to be whipped down after gluing.
To stop the thick end of the top section from splitting with repeated use, whip about lin at the very end.
Cork grips can be purchased in drilled sections and may be used above and below the reel-fitting. If the holes are not large enough for the blank, ream them with a round file. Twelve corks above the reel, 12 below, and 12 for the butt-end are enough. Glue them into position, and remember that it is better to use too much glue than not enough, for the surplus that squeezes out between the corks can be filed and sand-papered smooth when dry. Both Cascamite and Araldite dry overnight, so the final shaping of the handles can be done the next day.
When filing the corks to suit your grip, start with the rough file, but do not take off too much at a time. Remember, you cannot put it back on! Follow with the smooth file and then with medium sandpaper. Finally, the very fine sandpaper achieves a really smooth handle.
An alternative to cork handles is the plasty rod grip supplied by tackle dealers and glued in position. Alternatively, shrink-tube can be purchased cheaply in several different diameters. Shrink-tube is favoured by many beach anglers because it is easy to mount and can be kept clean with a damp rag. It is sold by the metre, and 1 metres is quite enough. Having whipped on the reel-fitting in the desired position, cut about 9in of the tube and slide it down from the top of the butt joint to just touch the reel-fitting. Warm the tube – over a very low flame on the gas cooker, for instance. Be careful not to overheat it, or it will split. Starting at one end and rotating the rod all the time, work the shrink-tube along the blank. It will, as its name suggests, shrink tight, providing a good grip. Measure from right under the reel-fitting to the bottom of the butt, and cut the appropriate length of tube. Slide over the butt and fit as before.
All that remains is to seal the whippings and to varnish the rod. Until recently, it was very difficult to retain the colour in whipping silk as the varnish made the silk either go transparent or completely change colour. It is now possible to purchase cheap proprietary sealer and varnish in clearly marked bottles.
Apply two coats of sealer to the whippings only, using a small art brush. It is white when first applied, but goes clear when dry. Varnish can be applied with the fingers. This leaves no air bubbles on the rod, but you may prefer to use a small brush. Allowing each coat to dry overnight, apply two or three coats.