Sandy's Custom Fly Rods
My name is Sandy Nelson, I've been building Fly rods for over 30 years and for 10 of those I worked closely with Mike Barrio to produce the Barrio range of fly rods.
That opportunity furnished me with a wide experience of many materials and a variety of styles of fly fishing rods, from this I have established the ones that I like to work and fish with.
Mike's decision to no longer produce a range of fly rods presented me with the chance to take my hobby and use my favorite blanks to provide a bespoke service in small and exclusive numbers.
I like modern Glass-fiber rods, be it S-Glass or E-glass depending on purpose (Taper design and the required action drive which type of cloth is best). Glass-fiber best represents the features that I like and look for in a fishing rod, providing extremely smooth casting and powerful blanks that can easily cope with large selective trout and often breezy conditions. It is also an ideal material for saltwater rods and dealing with big powerful fish like Carp, Bonefish, Permit, Redfish, Dorado, Pike, Pollack and Bass.
They are robust in a way that carbon can't match, yet are still light enough for you to never notice the difference once fishing. They excel at presentation casts and when coupled with the correct fly line, have laser like accuracy. To me, they represent the best aspects of a high quality split cane rod, but are affordable and workmanlike enough to bring 'that' feeling to your everyday fishing.
They provide immense fun with fish of all sizes, allowing you to enjoy the fight of a smaller trout, yet still have the backbone to subdue a larger fish without tiring it unnecessarily. These really are rods for the fly-fishing bum, they are almost unbreakable, yet still remarkably sensitive. I aim to build them in an unpretentious way, with functional yet smart hardware that reflects the practicality and simplicity of the concept.
Over the years I have had the luxury of fishing and casting many of the glass fibre rods on the market and I have identified the characteristics that I believe make these rods special. I prefer to build with blanks that make a glass rod that casts in a more modern way, yet still has the super sensitive tip section for control and protecting tippets. The TroutSmiths and Steffen blanks rolled by Shane Gray in Michigan, McFarland Blanks rolled By Mike in Pennsylvania, Ijuin Blanks from Tomo in Japan and Livingston Blanks from Dusty in Montana all represent the best that are available and there is something in every range that will suit your needs. I can get other high quality off the shelf blanks (such as Epic, Kabuto, Sage or CTS) if you are after something specific. Given plenty of time, sourcing a blank to suit your needs should be achievable.
I want to build you the custom rod that you have really been looking for, so drop me a line to see what I have available, to discuss options and quotes on alternative blanks, or with any ideas that you may have.
I can build on customer supplied blanks too, please ask for a quote. As a general rule, a rod build is about £250 plus the blank, tube and rod bag.
Down-sliding Ray Lee solid nickel silver reel seats are standard on my rods. As additional options, I can use individually selected natural wooden inserts by Ray Lee, with custom Lemke LC or Struble U20 up-locking or down-locking reel seats.
The genuine flor grade cork that I source directly from Portugal is selected and then hand turned to form my preferred tapered ritz style, snub nose mini wells, or reversed half wells style grip, or any variation of plain cork grip that you prefer.
I use only the best Kimono, Pearsall's and Morus silks for whipping the guides and like to match the silk to the insert, or the look the customer is going for. This is finished with 3 thin coats of epoxy for a glasslike transparent finish. Ferrule detail wraps and signature wraps are standard and done to match the overall design.
I use Snake-brand lite guides in bright (ecolite) and smoked nickel, with the choice of Joe Arguello, Struble and Perfect agate strippers with a variety of inserts, all hand picked by me for colour and figuring. I can use Fuji SIC's or Mildrum style guides if requested.
I usually have the time to build up to 12 rods during the winter when I cannot get out fishing and sometimes 3-4 during the year when the weather stops play on the river. Receipt of your deposit, or a customer supplied blank confirms your place on the list, from there I aim to build not just a unique rod that reflects the owner's personality and preferences, but one that remains an everyday workhorse and will become your go-to rod. Along with the high quality finish, I would like to build you a 'fishing' rod not a museum piece.
I build from the end of October to March and the slots are on a first come, first served basis. I will take orders all year but need confirmations from July/August onwards with an aim to have the blank order in by the end of September. A £200 deposit confirms your order and once the blank has been started this is non refundable. I provide photographs of components for choosing the specification to make this a truly personal experience and together we can make you the rod you have been dreaming of.
Rods are supplied in a handmade rod bag by my good lady wife and a suitable rod tube in carbon or glass fibre.
Tippings to all wraps or multi-colour wraps £50.
Blue line adventures: This is 1wt, 2wt, sometimes even 3wt territory, where the perfect small stream rod is up for all sorts of off-axis and roll style casts up to 30' in tight brushy surroundings. The joy you can find in those wee fish is the perfect antidote to the bigger, better, faster, more mantra that is so often reinforced in our modern world. 6ft to 7ft is all you ever need, Many of the smaller blanks are even available as 4pc, which means it packs into a tube that can be loaded into any rucksack, perfect for the stunning wee burn that you find while hiking through the hills, or squirreled away for an hour or two's sanity during the family holiday.
Chalkstream dreams: On smaller, intimate waters where you are close to the fish, 2wt to 3wt is the ideal rod to present a classic unweighted nymph or dryfly. In 6ft 6” to 7ft 6” they will present with delicacy, but can reach out to the occasional rising fish at greater distance with a smoothly applied casting stroke. When you need the same sort of delicacy but are casting dries or single nymphs at medium ranges (up to 50ft) or on more open or larger streams, you can step up to a 3 or 4wt in 7ft 3” to 8ft size and you will have the stability and control you are searching for, but still retain the sensitivity.
Freestone hunters: On small to medium rivers, where you need the versatility to throw a small streamer or nymph rig on occasion but dry fly is your focus. 4wt rods in the 7ft to 8ft class is where you are looking, rod length is usually determined by the ability to wade and the bankside surroundings. For larger waters and most weather conditions, streamers, double nymphs, as well as being superb for dry fly presentations, stepping up to a 7ft 9” or 8ft 5wt, or even a 6wt, will give you the power and control you are looking for. Giving you the edge on those larger waters where you may need to cover a bit more water, and more than capable of dealing with any fish you might come across on the river.
Big waters, big flies, big fish: Focussed more for streamers and saltwater work, these are faster, more powerful rods, with amazing tip control for making those beasts swim, capable of punching a heavy sink tip through the air, yet equally, when the water stops raging, they can be used to present a dry with surprising delicacy. 6wt to 9wt depending on your quarry and 7ft 6” to 8ft 6” depending on how you intend to fish them.
TroutSmiths Nomad Glass is available in clear and amber, Livingston Glass is available in clear and black, Steffen Bros rods are chestnut brown. McFarland blanks in Classic and the faster Spruce Creek variations come in yellow, clear and occasionally green or black. Ijuin rods are available in Sakura (pink), Beni (red), Hard Para (black) and Yomogi (green). These are all products that have their own individual characters, contact me to discuss applications and actions and what might work best for you.
Prices: 4pce TroutSmiths and 3pc Livingston based rods are £495, 3pce McFarland Classic and Ijuin are £545 and the 3pc Spruce Creek and Steffen rods are £595. Some of the special colours can cost extra.
From time to time I will feel the urge to build a rod, usually on a special blank which I've discovered on my journey. The rods are often advertised on Instagram or Facebook, but it’s always worth asking to see what I have available.
I often have a demo rod (in some of my favourite sizes) available should you wish to try before you buy. I ask only that you put down a deposit as you would for a build, I send the rod for you to go and fish with for a couple of weeks ... and I do want you to go and fish with it, to see what the fuss is about. Then you pay the return postage and either your £200 becomes the deposit for your build, or I return it minus the cost of shipping the rod to you for the 2 weeks.
I look forward to hearing from you and discussing your own requirements for that unique and personal rod you have always promised yourself.
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A selection of rods built over the last few years.