SLT rod build

 

I have been wanting a Sage SLT rod ever since I saw the fine work by Dave Lewis of Performance Fly Rods. I was in awe of his craftsmanship and had tried the SLT rods in the past and loved the action. Just soft enough to make roll casting a breeze and stiff enough to punch the fly through the air for some decent distance. All while providing a wonderful feel and sensitivity. I usually spend the colder months tying and rod building and decided that this would be the year that I would build my own SLT. I was prompted to do this by a terrible accident that left my 9' 5wt unusable. This had been my early Spring high-stick nymphing tool and it had to be replaced before the early season started up so I gathered the components (I am on a first name basis with the delivery guy now) and rolled up my sleeves. I noticed that photographing every step of a fly tying project made me a better tier. Lets see if the same thing happens when building a rod.

 

instructions

Materials List

  • blank: Sage SLT 590 2 piece
  • guides: PAC-BAY chrome two foot set
  • handle: PAC-BAY western grip with nickel steel and burled rosewood inset
  • winding check: knurled nickel steel .360"
  • thread: Gudebrod Gold (340) and Goldenrod(209)

Instructions

Reaming out the handle to fit the blank with a tapered reamer. This can take some force and requires a great deal of patience. If you don't take away enough material you won't be able to get the handle down to it's final position. If you take away too much, you may wind up with play in your handle. Take your time. Notice my handle has a plastic shrink-wrap. Nice if you can get it. It really keeps the cork clean while you work.

Before I attempt to place the handle on the rod, I always like to ream it a bit with a chain saw file. This loosens any abrasives that may have come loose from the reamer and prevents me from scratching the blank when I slide the handle down. I use a rusty old file because that is the only one I have in my toolbox.

Once the handle is reamed and cleared of all abrasives I do a test fitting to make sure everything measures out properly.

The inside diameter of my reel seat insert isn't exactly the diameter of the butt of my rod so I use some masking tape to make an arbor. This can also be done with prefab arbors but I find the tape works great. I measure the size of the insert and make sure the tape fits it in both length and diameter. It is best to overwrap the tape and then come back and remove layers until you have a snug fit.

Here is the completed tape arbor. I use fairly wide tape so I have more contact area between the insert, the tape and the blank. We are now ready to position and epoxy the handle.

NOTE: I use 60 minute epoxy for my handle sets. This gives me some margin for error and time to adjust everything. Takes a little more time but I am not a production rod builder and already stressed out over working with such an expensive blank.

One final check and then I epoxy the handle in place. A few notes here. The reel seat must be aligned to the spine! This rod uses a inset reel seat that must be aligned before glueing. I place guides along the spine with tape and line up the reel seat holder to the guides by actually placing a reel in the reel seat and sighting down the length of the rod section. The guide placement on this rod was marked with white dots at the factory so I could skip the step of spining the blank.

Now that the handle is completed and the epoxy is cured, I use calipers to measure the size of the winding check. I see that measurement is .304". A .306" winding check should work perfectly. You can also use rubber winding checks that are much less expensive and don't need to be as precise. Of course they don't look as snazzy though. Be careful not to scratch the blank as you slide the winding check into place. The metal edges can scrape the blank. The winding check does not need to be glued in place. The hook holder thread wraps and rod finish will keep it where it belongs.

 

The winding check is in place and I begin to tape off the blank. This first tape marks the end of my footer wrap. I am trying to center all hook keeper and decorative wraps around the Sage logo.

 

I always like to add a reference wrap to my rods so I can photograph fish next to the rod and see how long the fish is. As you can see I am setting this wrap to accurately measure an 18" fish. (if you don't get it, you need to hang out with more fisherman)

 

 

Now I prep the hook keeper with a jewelers file. I want the ends to be well tapered and the bottom smooth so it doesn't damage the blank. The components I purchased for this rod where just about perfect right out of the package so they only needed minor work.

I place the hook keeper to the side of the rod using electrical tape on one side. I like to use electrical tape because it is stretchy and easy to cajole the hook keeper and guides in place.

 

 

Here the gold thread is started and the hook keeper is wrapped down.

The first half of the hook keeper is secured.

Now I start off the second half of he hook keeper using more painters tape to keep the loose ends out of the way.

 

Wrap to the point where the interwraps will start.

 

Goldenrod thread is tied in place next to the gold thread.

 

The goldendrod thread is interwrapped with the gold thread. I will wrap this 5 times to show that this is a 5 weight rod.

Finished wrapping on hook holder.

Now I wrap the decorative wrap above the logo on the rod in a similar fashion.

Finished measure wrap with 5 stripes.

The guides are attached using just flat thread. I don't get too fancy on my guides, choosing to only use multiple threads on the hook keeper, the decorative measure wrap, and the ferrule wraps.

A loop of kevlar is wrapped down. This will be used to pull the tag end under the wraps.

First half of stripper guide wrap is finished.

Starting the second half. Notice how I use the kevlar again to give me a clean tuck for the first few wraps.

Second wrap finished off in a similar fashion. All subsequent wraps are done in this fashion. I didn't photograph every guide being wrapped as it is pretty tedious.

Now I am ready to apply the epoxy to the wraps. I mount the rod on a rotating motor with some more non-marking painters tape. Be certain that is secure as it will be rotating for many hours. There are chucks available for this but I find that my tape works fine.

Evenly apply the epoxy to the threads. They will soak a lot of it up. I usually apply 2 to 3 thin coats rather than one thick coat. It takes longer but the results are worth it.

Epoxy applied to hook holder...

...and measure wrap. Once the epoxy is cured I mount the tip top with some fast cure epoxy or hot melt and the rod is ready to fish.

completed Sage SLT

Here is the finished rod after one use. I paired it with an Orvis Mid Arbor reel. Sweet combo!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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