Bonefish On Bamboo

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If loving you is wrong, I don't want to be right Photo by Kent Klewein

If loving you is wrong, I don’t want to be right Photo by Kent Klewein

I’ll be honest, when Brower Moffit put this beautiful, flamed, Thomas and Thomas nine weight saltwater prototype cane rod in my hand my expectations were limited.

Saltwater bamboo? This has got to be a gimmick, I thought. A rod designed to separate some wealthy fellow from a sizable chunk of cash rather than connect him to a fish. After a day fishing it, I’m ashamed of that thought. I loved this rod the first time I cast it. The second time I cast it, it brought me a bonefish. Now, I’m not only prepared to tell you it’s no gimmick, I’m prepared to tell you how it’s better than graphite.

Before you assume that I’ve lost my mind, I’ll offer you this disclaimer: if you are only going to own one saltwater rod, this is not it. The T&T saltwater bamboo is a special purpose rod. On those days when you are out on the flats and the wind is blowing 30, hell 15, this is not the rod you need. Anyone who fishes the salt can tell you, there are a whole lot more of those days than calm ones. On the other hand, anyone who’s fished those calm days can tell you what a challenge they are. A windless day on the flats will redefine the word spooky.

As fate would have it, the day I fished the saltwater prototype was just such a day. Calm and clear after a week of tough weather. The fish were spooky. Long casts and delicate presentations were what was needed if we were going to feed some fish. Luckily, I had the right stick in my hand.

If you’re not used to bamboo, it will take you a minute to get the feel of this rod. It’s fast for cane, but the action is glacial when compared to high performance graphite. Again, a different tool. You can not rush a bamboo rod. If you do the cast will collapse and you will use some unflattering vocabulary. If, however, you trust the rod and cast at its pace, you’ll grin ear to ear when you see that loop turn over in slow motion and land your saltwater pattern like a number twenty Adams. It’s a thing of scenic beauty.

I quickly discovered that the saltwater boo was not only delicate but powerful. Hundred foot casts we’re no problem and the amount of line it would shoot was impressive. When I hooked a seven pound fish and needed to keep him out of the mangroves, I had plenty of wood to show him. Delicacy and power, what more can you ask for? I’ll tell you, accuracy. Again the T&T delivers. This thing was Seal Team Six accurate.

I had a brand new Thomas and Thomas TNT graphite and my beloved Scott S4s on the boat and I chose to fish the boo all day. Not just because it was fun to fish, and it was, but because, under the circumstances, it was better. I put over thirty bonefish on it that day. That’s enough proof for me.

Now for some brass tacks.


Delicate presentation. This rod is a great tool for spooky fish on calm days. Definitely superior to graphite in that regard.

Accuracy. The cast is remarkably controllable. It’s a tack driver. That combined with the soft presentation should make this an awesome rod for tailing permit on those calm evenings in the Keys.

Craftsmanship. Troy Jaques at Thomas and Thomas is a gifted rod maker. When you buy one of his bamboo rods you’re getting a one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted piece of art. The materials and components on the saltwater rods are hand selected for the rigors of saltwater fishing. Fuji guides and anodized hardware are resistant to corrosion and the impregnated bamboo promises many years of faithful service. Troy personally selects the cane with the densest power fiber for these rods to ensure strength. The signature T&T swell in the butt terminates the action at the grip for absolute control and power transfer. The fit and finish is lovely. Every detail has been seen to.

Intangible pleasure. This is a little airy fairy but if you fish bamboo you know what I mean. In the day, guys fished bamboo because it was the new best thing. They fished it because it out performed the the green heart or lacewood rods that came before. Today we often fish it for the feel, the connection it gives us to a simpler time. All of that amounts to a bunch of horse shit if it comes between you and a fish, but in this case it doesn’t. I have to confess, I felt a little like Hemingway fishing this rod and I liked it.


Weight. Bamboo is heavy and even though this rod is hollow built, it’s a handful. It gets a bit tiring standing in the ready position but casting is not a problem. It’s well balanced and since you are not casting as hard it doesn’t wear you out.

Care. Bamboo requires some extra care that graphite does not. This is especially true of the nickel silver ferrules. This is a topic for another article but I’ll leave it at this, expect to spend a little more time caring for a bamboo rod.

Cost. Let’s face it, if you want nice stuff it’s going to cost you. Bamboo rods are not cheap and the reason is, they are incredibly labor intensive. Making them requires immense skill and years of training. If you’ve ever made one you realize what a bargain they are. The T&T nine weight Saltwater is available this year for $3500.

This may not be the rod for every day or for every angler but I had one of the best days of bonefishing I’ve ever enjoyed with it. I caught a lot of fish and I caught some nice fish but there’s more to a great day of fishing than that. I really felt like I was experiencing something special. Like I could feel all of those hours of work in that rod. I could feel the care that had gone into it and I could see the vision of the man who designed it. In this day of Chinese imports that’s worth a lot. Whether it’s worth $3500, I’ll leave that up to you.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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3 thoughts on “Bonefish On Bamboo

  1. Awhile back I had the pleasure of spending the day fishing with my brother. We spent the day on a small Virginia Steam catching native brookies. It was a day off for me but a day of “WORK” for Louis. He had two rods manufactures had sent for him to evaluate so we agreed, I would leave my gear in the truck and we would swap back and forth while he formed his opinion. After a couple of hours I sat down on a big rock and pulled out my sandwich. As Louis sat down beside me I announced more than questioned “I guess this rod is mine.” He grinned, “Is it that obvious?” We swapped a couple of more times during the day but never for long. It’s a beautiful thing to watch him fall in love with a new rod but when he fishes one all day, that’s “True Love”.

  2. Louis, you’ve touched on a number of reasons I really do like bamboo rods – but the “intangible pleasure” comments really hit home. I’ve got a Thomas & Thomas 7wt Grilse that is just a pure work of art. Yes, it’s heavy compared to graphite, yes, it takes more care than graphite but man, what a wonderful fly rod.

    The main drawback is fishing with a rod that’s worth that much. I confess I wanted to use it salmon fishing last year but after breaking a graphite 8wt the year before (yes, on a 40+ inch fresh salmon!) but just didn’t want to risk the T&T.

    But the pleasure of fishing this masterpiece is wonderful.

    Thank you for a great article.


  3. One of the first articles I ever read about fly fishing bonefish was in the 70’s and was reprinted from an original 1950’s article and of course they used bamboo rods and silk lines back then. Those early saltwater fly rodders were true pioneers. A few are Lefty Kreh, Joe Brooks, Homer rhodes, A.J. McLane, Lee Wulff and Billy Pate, among others. Bamboo finally relented to cheaper, more durable fiberglass, which nearly went away with the advent of graphite, but all now have their rightful place in our current sport and each has their respective fans.

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