I began my journey as a rod maker nearly seven decades ago. My first rods were “glass.” Then I moved on to the challenges of building with composition materials. About 15 years ago, I made my first cane rod, picking up materials, tools and technique on the fly, as it were. And it is there that I found my focus, not as in the end of the journey, but as the beginning of a certain direction of travel. The more I worked with bamboo and the more I fished with it—my rod building has always followed my passion for fishing the fly--the more I learned about how cane responds, what tapers bamboo rod-makers have developed over the years and which suited my purposes, different binding and finishing technologies, and aesthetic selection of rod elements.

Why bamboo? There are several answers that satisfy me and, in my experience, are satisfying to those who have become cane-fishermen.

• Bamboo is beautiful, organic, and it lends itself to personalization. It is not “one size fits all” material. It bends to personality. It creates personality.

• Bamboo is humbling. It behaves and it defies. It cooperates with our best efforts, and it laughs at our imperfections. I have completed and inspected more than one rod, and then broken them over my knee because the material and I simply did not agree.  

• Bamboo is slow and it asks something of its builder or fisher. Making a rod well takes time and effort. Casting bamboo is slower than other materials—one must learn to give up control to the rod before it becomes effortless. A good cane rod responds without you having to think about it—to try and over-control it. You intuitively, by casting a few times learn what the rod wants and you give it to the rod. When you are casting a fly rod and you strip off a few more feet of line your response to the action of the rod must change. Timing is different and I like to say you have a different rod every time you lengthen or shorten your line. Picking up that special rod and casting with it, and you know right away that something unique is happening.

• Bamboo is warm in texture, appearance, feel and smell. This perhaps means more to us who are from Minnesota or the Northeast than others, but who wouldn’t choose warmth over cold, feeling over object, journey over a quick destination?

• Bamboo is human connection and human connection is legacy. People use cane rods and pass them on. People are connected by cane. Perhaps the most gratifying thing about my cane-making career is the friendship it has afforded me, friendship that crosses generational and international boundaries.

  bamboo cross-section

rod and fly


Bamboo is a wonderful material to make rods with. When casting a cane rod I am still amazed as to how far a rod can cast a line with such a minimal amount of work (arm movement) I do a lot of lawn casting just because it is fun as well as the fact that I need the practice. I still find myself thinking  “I can’t believe the rod can do all this work with such minimal involvement from me” all I have to do is stop my arm and let the rod unload and it does the rest. It is truly a remarkable material!

I invite you to visit my workshop on this web site, to visit my rods, to visit with my family, and to visit with my thoughts. When you are done, I’m confident that the question, “Why bamboo?” will be answered. If something resonates in the answer, contact me.  We’ll decide if we want to make a rod together.

Dave Sr 612.618.1248  davidrobertnorling@gmail.com
Dave Jr 612.839.3947  fish.norling@gmail.com
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