This article covers everything you need to know about how to build your own Epic fly rod from Swift Fly Fishing. In it, we’ll run through the critical thoughts behind building your own rod, show you what the ready-to-wrap kit includes, and take you through every step.
Those of you that tie your own flies will know the great satisfaction it gives you when you catch a fish with your own creation. If you’re ready to take the next step in your fly fishing journey, why don’t you build your own rod?
Table of Contents
- Fly Rods
- Epic Rod Kits Available
- Watch the Building an Epic Fly Rod (Start to Finish)
- Skill Level Required
- Box Contents
- Watch the Epic Rod Build Part 1
- Fly Tying Materials
- Additional Components Needed
- Fly Tying Tools
- Finding the Spine of the Blank
- Watch the Building The Butt Section
- Measure the Placement of the Line Guides
- Prepare the Grip and Reel Seat Area
- Secure the Reel Seat
- Secure the Grip
- Winding Check and End Cap
- Prepare the Wrapping Stand
- Securing the Line Guides and Wrapping the Ferrules
- Mounting the Tip Top
- Applying the Clear Coat
- Finishing the Butt Section
- Watch the Finishing The Build
The guys over at Swift Fly Fishing sent me this ready-to-wrap kit, and I want to show you just how easy and fun it is to build your own fly fishing rod.
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Epic Rod Kits Available
Epic rods come in a wide variety of materials and line weights. They’re probably best known for their high-quality modern fiberglass rods, but don’t take their carbon rods for granted. These are premium rods that compete with all the big boys in the business.
The specific rod model I’m building is the 590G, a brand new 5 weight 9-foot rod made from a material called Graphene. The blank just oozes next-level quality. One of the main reasons why I love building my own rods is that you get access to these near $1000 rods at almost half the price.
Watch the Building an Epic Fly Rod (Start to Finish)
Skill Level Required
Now you might ask, “Is it possible to build a fly rod if I don’t have much technical knowledge?” If you’re looking to build your first rod, I might discourage you from turning the grip and reel seat and selecting the correct guides and spacing yourself.
Although there’s a ton of information about this on the internet, small mistakes can have a massive impact on how the fly rod performs. This is where Epic rod kits come in.
Swift Fly Fishing has taken out all the guesswork and provides all the correct components and materials you need to build your own rod. Think of this as a great introduction to the world of rod building.
When you order an Epic rod kit, Swift Fly Fishing touches base with you via a private email to make sure that the build is going well. There’s also a very informative Epic Rod Building Facebook page where you can ask for advice should you run into problems.
So, all of the components come shipped in this neatly designed box. When you open the box, there’s a warranty card and a checklist from the person who packed it.
The first thing that catches your eye is the rod tube that holds the sock, the 5 weight 9-foot graphene blank, and a cleaning cloth. Swift ships this rod model, the 590G, with a slim wells grip, which is almost like a fine full-wells. The kit also includes a complete reel seat.
There’s also a complete sticker pack that comes with the kit, including the identification stickers that come on the rod.
One of the things that impressed me the most about this rod building kit is the detailed instruction that comes with it. It’s a 55-page document that takes you through every step. This is your bible for the build. Don’t attempt to build the rod without going through it thoroughly, multiple times.
The rest of the components and consumables come in one pack and include the line guides, tip-top, winding check, rod building thread, clear coat and epoxy, and a couple of other items you’ll need.
The final item that comes with the kit is the box itself, which converts into a clever thread wrapping stand.
Watch the Epic Rod Build Part 1
Additional Components Needed
Some other additional items that Swift recommends for the build but couldn’t ship with the kit include:
- Drying motor, bought separately from Swift Fly Fishing
- Craft knife or blades
- Masking tape
- Rag or kitchen towel
- Denatured alcohol
- Fly tying scissors
- Fly tying bobbin
- Medium grit sandpaper
- Drinking straw
- Tape measure
- And last but certainly not least, good tunes and some scotch.
Finding the Spine of the Blank
The first step in building a rod is to find the spine of the blank. Let’s look at what the spine is and how to proceed.
What Is the Spine of a Blank?
The first step when building any rod of any material is to find its spine. When carbon material is rolled around a mandrel during the manufacturing process, there’s an overlap of material which results in a stiffer line.
The rod builder can use this slightly stiffer spine to their advantage. For instance, when the line guides are positioned on the inside of the spine, as I did in the video, you’ll end up with a slightly stiffer rod on the forward cast.
On the flip side, when the line guides are positioned on the opposite side, you’ll have a softer rod on the forward cast and a stiffer rod on the back. I hope that makes sense? If you’re looking to build a rod with a good balance between the forward and backcast, position the line guides 90 degrees to the spine.
How to Spine a Blank
Each section of the rod is spined individually, and in the end, the spines will be aligned when the sections are put together.
The butt section is so stiff on most rods that it doesn’t make sense to go through the process. However, if you have a rod that bends deep into the butt section, it might be worth it to spine that too.
Step 1 – Position the Section
Place the thickest part of the blank section on a hard surface and angle it at about 45 degrees. Support the thin top part of the rod with one hand.
Step 2 – Place Pressure on the Section
Put your free hand in the middle of the section and press down with even pressure so that there’s a slight curve.
Step 3 – Rotate the Blank Section
Rotate the blank section between your fingers while maintaining a good steady curve. You’ll notice that the rod tends to pop into a certain position.
Hold the rod still in the position it popped into. Technically, the spine is on the opposite side of the curve. Take a China marker and mark the inside position of the spine.
Repeat this process for all the required sections.
Watch the Building The Butt Section
Measure the Placement of the Line Guides
The guide spacing is one of the most crucial topics when it comes to building a rod. This is what controls the curvature of the blank while you cast and fight a fish. Incorrect spacing can have a major impact on how the rod feels and performs. It can also cause your rod to break more easily than it’s supposed to.
Luckily, Swift made it pretty easy with the ready-to-wrap kit, as all the line guides have been very well marked. Ensure to use the correct guide spacing chart for the rod model you’re building and triple-check your measurements before securing the guides.
Step 1- Lay the Rod Down
Assemble the rod and align the spines of all the sections. Find a solid flat surface long enough for the entire rod and lay the rod onto it with the spine markings facing upward.
Tape the blank to the surface with a couple of pieces of masking tape. This will make your life a lot easier.
Step 2 – Measure the Line Guide
All measurements on the guide spacing chart are made from the tip of the rod. Place the end of a tape measure at the tip and measure the correct distance to your first guide.
Remember to reference the chart continuously.
Step 3 – Mark the Position of the Line Guide
Mark the position of this line guide with a China marker and repeat the process for all the line guides.
Step 4 – Double Check the Measurements
Repeat the entire measuring process to make 100% sure all the guides are correctly placed. Also, double-check that you used the correct chart for your rod model. You can then disassemble the rod pieces and put them aside.
Prepare the Grip and Reel Seat Area
The grip and reel seat is secured to the butt section of the rod. Before we glue them into place, we have to prepare the area to ensure that the epoxy properly bonds to the blank.
Step 1 – Slide the Reel Seat onto the Blank
Hold the butt section of the blank vertical with the bottom end resting on a hard surface. Next, slide the reel seat onto the blank until it’s flush with the bottom of the blank.
Step 2 – Slide the Grip onto the Blank
The ready-to-wrap kit comes with a cork grip that sits perfectly on the reel seat. Slide the grip from the top of the blank, making sure the reel seat fits snugly into the recess pre-formed for it.
Now make sure that the reel seat is still flush with the bottom of the blank.
Step 3 – Mark the Top of the Grip
Mark the top of the grip with a China marker. This position indicates the uppermost point where we’re going to sand the blank and apply epoxy.
Now remove both the grip and the reel seat from the section.
Step 4 – Masking Tape Limit
Wrap some masking tape around the upper limit you marked in the previous step, which will help protect the blank from sanding.
Step 5 – Sand the Grip and Reel Seat Area
Take a piece of medium-grit sandpaper and lightly sand the grip and the reel seat area, which should be under the area you marked.
You don’t have to overdo it; just make sure you’re getting an even surface.
Step 6 – Clean Off the Blank
Before securing the grip and reel seat, take some denatured alcohol and a cloth and remove all the dust accumulated from the sanding process.
Set it aside so that the alcohol dries properly.
Secure the Reel Seat
There’s a very good chance that the reel seat won’t fit snugly around its position on the blank. In the process of securing the reel seat, we’ll mitigate this, which will ensure a solid snug fit that won’t come loose.
Step 1 – Slide the Reel Seat onto the Blank
Slide the reel seat onto the blank again, just like you did in the previous steps. It’s very important now that you make sure that the bottom of the reel seat is level with the bottom of the blank.
If you’re building a rod with a fighting butt, please refer to the manual for this placement.
Step 2 – Mark the Top of the Reel Seat
Mark the absolute top of the reel seat with a China marker and remove the reel seat from the blank.
Step 3 – Build Masking Tape Arbors
Build arbors of masking tape to fill the gap between the blank and the inside of the reel seat. Start the first one right below the mark you made in the step above.
Then, make the second arbor at the bottom of the blank, but leave a small gap for the end cap we’re going to secure later on.
Leave gaps in between the arbors, which we’ll fill with epoxy.
Step 4 – Test the Seating
Slide the reel seat onto the arbors with no glue present to ensure that it sits snugly into position. Once again, make sure that the reel seat is flush with the bottom of the blank. Add or remove masking tape as needed until the fit is snug.
Step 5 – Apply Epoxy
Mix the Pro Paste epoxy that comes with the ready-to-wrap kit, according to the instructions, and apply it liberally to and between the masking tape arbors.
Step 6 – Slide the Reel Seat into Position
Finally, slide the reel seat onto the blank again and over the epoxied masking tape arbors, rotating it constantly.
Wipe off any excess epoxy with a rag soaked with denatured alcohol. Make sure that the reel seat is flush with the bottom of the blank.
Note that we’re not yet aligning the reel seat with the description on the rod blank; we’ll do that after we secure the grip too.
Secure the Grip
We need to secure the grip while the epoxy on the reel seat is still wet. You don’t have to rush through this process, as the epoxy takes some time to dry.
Step 1 – Apply Epoxy to Grip Area
Mix some more Pro Paste if needed and apply a thin coat onto the blank where the grip will be positioned.
This area should be below the masking tape on the grip you made while preparing the blank and above the reel seat.
Step 2 – Apply Epoxy to the Inside of the Reel Seat Recess
Apply a thin coating of epoxy into the grip’s recess for the reel seat.
Be sure not to get any epoxy on the inside of the grip’s bore, as this will cause an ugly smudge when we slide it over the blank.
Step 3 – Position the Grip
Slide the grip over the blank and, as you hit the epoxy, rotate it from side to side to evenly distribute the epoxy.
Next, push the grip into position so that the reel seat sits snugly into its position.
Step 4 – Rotate the Reel Seat
If your rod has a description already printed onto it, now is the time to align the reel seat.
Step 5 – Clean Excess Epoxy
Clean any excess epoxy off with a rag and denatured alcohol. It’s worth the effort to take your time now, as once the glue is set, it’s very hard to get off.
Winding Check and End Cap
As the last step for this part of the build, we’ll secure both the winding check and the end cap before we let the butt section rest for a day.
Step 1 – Dry-fit the Winding Check
Remove the winding check from the packet you received in the building kit and slide it onto the butt section of the rod. The winding check should sit snugly around the blank and right up against the top of the grip. Then, remove the winding check again.
Step 2 – Apply Winding Check Epoxy
Apply a tiny amount of epoxy at the meeting surface of the blank and the top of the grip. Spread it around the diameter of the blank.
Step 3 – Secure the Winding Check
Slide the winding check over the blank again and secure it up against the blank. Remove any excess epoxy with a rag and denatured alcohol.
Step 4 – Dry-fit the End Cap
Place the end cap into the reel seat’s recess to cover up the butt section of the rod. Make sure that it will sit nice and snugly before going on to the next step.
Step 5 – Apply Epoxy to the End Cap
Apply a good amount of epoxy both to the inside of the reel seat and the end cap.
Step 6 – Secure the End Cap
Place the end cap in position and rotate it to align with the reel seal and ultimate reel position.
Clean off any excess epoxy with a rag and some denatured alcohol. Now that the butt section has seen a lot of action, set it aside so that all the epoxy cures overnight.
Prepare the Wrapping Stand
Before we can attach the line guides, we need to assemble the wrapping stand. The box which the Epic ready-to-wrap kit came in converts into a decent enough wrapping stand.
To do this, lift the stand out of the box, fold their feet at 90 degrees, and then insert the tabs into the slots at the bottom of the box. Finally, tape these feet into place for a more stable platform.
Now your wrapping stand is ready.
Securing the Line Guides and Wrapping the Ferrules
You must keep the guide spacing chart next to you at this stage. Position the blank section that you’ll be working on in front of you and select the first relevant guide. Make sure this is the correct guide at the correct spacing; once again, reference the chart.
Step 1 – Secure the Line Guides with Masking Tape
Place the middle point of the snake, or stripper, guide right over the mark you made when you measured the line guides (in the previous article), and secure one foot with masking tape.
Attach the remaining guides on the section in the same manner. Be sure to check the alignment of the guides.
Step 2 – Place the Blank onto the Wrapping Stand
Place the blank onto the wrapping stand and position it so that none of the guides will catch onto anything when the blank is rotated.
Step 3 – Insert the Guide Thread into a Bobbin Holder
Attach the spool of line guide thread you received with the building kit to a fly tying bobbin and pull the end of the thread through the barrel.
Step 4 – Attach the Bobbin Holder to the Box
Poke a hole into the side of the box that aligns with the line guide you’re planning to wrap. Next, push the barrel of the bobbin holder through it and pull through the thread.
Now, pull out enough thread from the bobbin holder to extends about 3 inches past the blank.
Step 5 – Start the Wrap
Place the thread over the top of the blank about 1/4 inch off the side of the guide’s foot, which gives us enough space to secure the thread to the blank before we secure the guide to the blank.
Wrap the thread over the blank once and trap the thread by guiding it over itself. Make sure your bobbin holder isn’t applying too much tension, or you’ll find that the thread will slip on the blank all the time.
Once the thread is trapped, place your finger over the overlapping part and rotate the blank. Remember to keep pressure on the wrap with your finger and trap the tag end again with another. Do this a couple of times, and the thread should be secure.
Step 6 – Secure the Line Guide Foot
Now trim off the tag end and keep making wraps until you reach the guide’s foot. Sometimes the thread jumps right onto the foot, which makes it super easy, and other times you have to guide it onto there with your finger.
Continue making wraps until you’re about 1/8 inch from the end.
Step 7 – Finish the Wrap
Now cut another section of thread from the extra spool you received, in this case, white, and double it over to form a loop. Now trap this loop under your thread and continue making the last five to eight wraps.
Once you reach the end, place a finger on the last thread wraps to retain the tension and cut off the thread, leaving about 2 inches of tag end. Now, place the loose end through the loop and pull the tag end through, basically creating a nail knot.
Trim off the excess thread with a very sharp blade and avoid leaving any fluff behind.
Repeat this process on all the line guides. I do recommend checking the alignment of all guides after each wrap. When you see they’re slightly off, press them into position.
I also chose to wrap the female ferrules and the bottom part of the male ferrules purely for aesthetics. Also, make a couple of thread wraps in front of the winding check.
Mounting the Tip Top
Mix a small amount of the Pro Paste epoxy and apply a tiny bead of it into the barrel of the tip top. Slide the tip top onto the blank and rotate it to align with the rest of the guides.
Be sure to wipe off and clean any excess paste.
Applying the Clear Coat
Before applying the clear coat, make sure that your work surface is clean. Keep some paper towels and earbuds at hand with a small amount of the denatured alcohol, just in case.
Step 1 – Attach the Section to a Drying Motor
Once you have made all the thread wraps on a section, place it on top of the supports of a drying motor.
Next, attach the end of the section to a drying motor and switch it on.
Step 2 – Mix the Epoxy
Mix an equal amount of the clear coat epoxy you received in the kit. Don’t use everything at once; a little goes a very long way.
Be sure to mix it very slowly and delicately to prevent the introduction of any air.
Step 3 – Cover the Threadwraps
Once the epoxy has turned completely clear, apply a small amount on a brush and lightly coat the thread wrap. Once again, a little goes a long way here.
Carefully spread the clear coat over the wraps. You’ll see that the action of the drying motor spreads it around very nicely.
Make sure to get some of the resin to disperse under the guide foot too, especially if you’re building a saltwater rod. This prevents the ingress of water and hence will prevent any corrosion.
Step 4 – Repeat for All Guides
Repeat this process for all the guides on the section and allow the rod to rotate and dry overnight.
Step 5 – Apply a Second Coat
Once the first coat is dry, apply a second, thinner coat to the thread wraps and allow it to dry overnight again.
Finishing the Butt Section
The rod I’m building doesn’t have the details pre-printed on it. Instead, Epic sent a couple of decals that you can apply yourself.
Lay a clearcoat base where you plan to apply the decal and allow it to dry for at least 6 hours. After this, apply the decal on top of the clearcoat and peel off the clear film. Now, apply a layer of clearcoat on top of the decal and let it dry overnight.
Watch the Finishing The Build
As you can see, Swift put together a great package with their ready-to-wrap kit. Barring a couple of standard items you can buy from a drugstore or have lying around at home, the kit comes with everything you’ll need to build your own rod.
Now that we have the entire rod built, cure the clearcoat properly before going fishing. Also, rest the rod in the sun for a couple of hours to ensure the coat cures dry and tack-free.
I hope that you found our Epic rod building series inspiring and that you’re now planning on building your very own rod. As you saw in these articles, it’s not that complicated, and it’s something anyone can do.
I surely enjoyed building it and can’t wait to take it out on the water. We’ll be doing an in-depth review on the rod as soon as we’ve caught some fish on it.
Until next time!