Rod Specs & Thoughts

rod specs

What we have learnt so far

Selecting a Spey rod  - this is a difficult issue.  The first thing to decide is if you want an allarounder or a rod for a specific use.   The allarounder does everything well, but generally speaking  does not do a particular task as well as a rod built for a specific use.  In the old days everybody had an allarounder, It was your only rod.  Today most fisherman have more than one rod, so when we look at rods I think you must perceive it as an arrow in your quiver.  What do you really want this rod for?

Bamboo rods are heavier than plastic  rods, so weight is a factor.  Even though we hollow them and use all the tricks we know you still need  a certain amount of material to make rod  work. As in singlehanded rods, where rods under 8 feet compete well with graphite rods, a bamboo speyrod of under 12 feet also competes favourably with graphite spey rods.  This is not to say you are not going to enjoy a bigger bamboo rod, it just will be a different experience.  A 12 foot 8/9 will handle tips as well as a dry line quite well. A nice rod to cast.  A 12 foot 7/8 will handle a dry line and light tips plus be lighter in the hand.  Now here is where length comes in. Longer rods will almost cast themselves. But they are, because of their length and weight, a bit slower than a shorter, say, an 11 foot rod is.  Lighter and because its shorter, the recovery of the stroke is faster.  Drawback - Your timing has to be a little more on.  The more competent the caster the shorter the rod he can handle.

In the days past all rods were longer, they did not have the short scandi and skagit lines we have now.  The modern bamboo spey rod did not exist.  Times have changed.  A bamboo rod of today does not have to be long, slow and heavy.  If you need more info, feel free to give me a call.

The River Series Spey Rods 

These modern bamboo spey rods are light and responsive. Being shorter the best suited lines are the shorter Scandinavian floating lines that are now made in shooting head form or with an integrated running line.    A 12 foot mono leader compliments these lines.  You can cast a moderate fly, say up to 2 inches well.  For bigger flys pull out a rod that can cast a bigger line.  Remember it's not the rod that casts the fly, it's the line.  You may also use a shorter Skagit type line with these rods with sinking tips.  make sure the tips match the line and do not overload your rod by casting T14 OR LC 13.  There is just too much weight in these lines and they will overload your rod whatever the material is.  During years of guiding I have seen many, mostly graphite rods break from over loading.  All sink tips are bad this way as you also get a water load imposed on your rod especially, when the line is deeply sunk in slow water.  Roll your line to the surface before casting. Whatever the material the rod is made from, it is a lot like us.  It wears out. Overloading a rod shortens its life.

What the numbers mean in line selection

  Rods are loaded by weight. We measure these in grains.   So a rod that takes a particular line weight it  has a corresponding grain weight. The higher the line weight  the stouter the rod must be to cast it.  This a handy thing to know when fighting a fish or casting a big fly or sinking line. Big line weights can do some things smaller lines cannot do.  But then again if it is stealth you are after and you are using small flies, a smaller weight rod will do the trick.  Pretty straight forward.  The trouble is we now have been trained to associate certain numbers with certain tasks.  All well and good until the powers that be change the rules.
IE - Spey designation.  Again we use the same numbers, but the corresponding grain weights have been changed. Here's an example: Steelhead weight singled handed-  Line weights 8-10, 200 to 300 grains.  Spey designation line weights 8-10 - 450-650 grains.  Here lies the trouble and when a person asks me whether a 5-6 spey rod  can handle a steelhead. We must remember that rod will handle a line of over 350 grains.  That in single handed terms is about a 11-12 weight.  In the end think in terms of grains, instead of line designation, as  the weight we are casting and a rod that can cast 350 grains will have to  a certain amount of stiffness to do so.

So why do we even need the bigger sizes in spey rods? Certainly not to land the fish, but to be able to cast a line that will turn over very large articulated flies and or heavy sinking tips.  Different strokes for different blokes.

Spliced  ferrules

spliceThe spliced joint is the most superior way to ferrule a rod. It makes it as one piece so the stress is transferred smoothly to a stronger portion of the rod. Many rods have been broken above or below the ferrule, as the ferrule can stop the transfer of stress. We often wonder why it broke there, when it could have broken in a much thinner part of the rod. The splice joint also has the feature of always coming apart. I routinely leave my rod up for the season when fishing home waters or at a camp.

Click here to see how to tape a spliced joint with Bob on YouTube.

Update on Composite Ferrule

Over the past few years I have been working on the composite ferrule for bamboo spey rods.  Although the spliced ferrule is as about as good as it gets there is a need for a rod with a ferrule system that allows easy take down and assembly.  For when your bushwacking or lucky enough to be in one of those magic machines-the helicopter there is a need such a rod.  The composite ferrule is more flexible than the nickel silver ferrule.  It has been my experience that the nickel silver ferrule will not last on a spey rod. The stiffness created at the joint leads to failure in the enjoining bamboo.  The composite ferrule is formed on the rod and thus will not the rotate and loosen as a on many round ferrule systems.  When they loosen, they become vulnerable to breakage.  The drawback has been till now, as with any ferrule on a bamboo rod that will swell and you have trouble getting it apart.  We are happy to say we have found a way around this problem. Floating the Babine this year, I left my composite ferrule rod done up for the whole trip.  The rods were soaked every morning by heavy condensation and latter rain.  At the end of the trip the rod came apart as it should.

composite ferrule


All models available in splice and composite ferules in 3 and 4 piece configurations

10 1/2 5/6
11, 11'3", 11'6" in 5/6, 6/7 and 7/8
12, 12'3", 12'6" in 7/8, 8/9 and 9/10
13 in 7/8, 8/9 and 9/10
14 in 8/9 and 9/10
Spliced models recommended for dry and wet line fishing and composite ferruled rods for dry line only.

quad rod

Rod construction

All Riverwatch bamboo rods are of semi hollow construction in the spirit of E.C. Powell. We make 4, 5 and 6 sided rods, specializing 5 sided rods.

This year we have added rods of the Tri hex construction. This is a rod that has 6 sides 3 big and 3 small giving it a somewhat triangluar appearance. Each rod has its attributes and by consulting with you, we will find which model fits you.


Single handed rods

Over the years I have had the pleasure of casting some great rods.  Its all about evaluation, picking and choosing.  Tweaking a bit here and there, adding the hollowing technique. Keep improving what's been there before us.  It's what the builders before us did.  It's  about the journey that does not have an end.

Some models worth your consideration:
7'6'LF 4-5  light and quick
8'PB  3 Long and light- makes a 16 incher into a steelhead
8'3" PB 4-5  Fast and long
8'MK 5    3 piece smoothness
8'6"MK 5   The distance rod
8'6'CCR 7  3 piece Alaskan trout rod
8'9"GB 7-8  Single handed steelhead rod
9" P 4  Long line delicate presentation
9'P 7-8  Penta steelhead

I have a lot of other models too numerous to mention in nickel silver, composite and spliced ferrule arrangements.    Call for a talk.


I like a flamed rod.  Flaming is tempering.  Too much can make it it brittle and not enough can make it wimpy.  In the past rods that were not flamed or adequately heat treated toke a set easily.  At Riverwatch, we flame lightly and heat treat as well in an oven.  It has been said that flaming a rod will shorten its lifespan.  Everything in life is a trade-off.  Would you rather fish a responsive  flamed rod or a longer lasting,  soft, easily setting rod?

Reel seats: We have two looks.  Bright and dark in nickel silver and aluminum.  Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Aluminum  -light and does not easily loosen  available in bright or anodised dark blue.   Nickel silver - It has an elegance ,but is considerably heavier and can loosen when fishing . It is very durable and attractive in bright or plated dark nickel.  Styles in singles  sliding band or down locking or uplocking.

Spey rod seats: Again same choices except in aluminum we have an especially made up seat from Lemke that is wide and long enough to accommodate the reels of yesteryear.  Will also fit the newer reels, so this seat is truly universal.

Wraps:  Double handed colours available: tan, Engish tan, green, medium brown, brick, burgandy and blue
Colours:  tan, medium brown, brick-red brown in spey rods
Single handed colours:  Honey brown -red- green   in silk

Guides:  Chrome or darker titanium to match reel seats

Finish:   Singles - hand rubbed matt finish
Spey rods -  matt-hand rubbed varnish finish.  Oil finish on request. The hand rubbed finish looks like oil and is almost maintenance free.

All rod come with two tips, cloth bag and a powder coated aluminum tube with a Riverwatch logo unless specified.


*all prices in USD

Single handed rods 2 tip 2 piece. $1600
Single handed rods. 2 tips 3 piece. $1800
All double handed rods. 2 tips 3 piece $2500
All double handed rods 2 tips 4 piece $3000

25% deposit required -*all prices in US dollars- non-refundable - Orders can be changed up to 3 months before delivery date. it.
If you wish to pay for your order using Paypal please add 4%.
spey butt

Please Note: Hand crafted Riverwatch Rods are only available from Bob Clay.
Riverwatch rods have been sent to Great Britain, Germany , Italy and the United States.

Waiting time: Rods built in order of deposit. Waiting time varies. Please contact Riverwatch for details.

Warranty:   Lifetime for the original owner
You be the judge.  Failure due to the rod - repair free
Failure due to operator error- we would ask you to chip in to my retirement fund

Repairs: Please notify me by email before mailing. Send by parcel post in Canada or USPS in the US. Please print on the parcel: Returning to Manufacturer for Repair - No Value