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Fishing/Identify bamboo fly rod by thread color


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I recently bought a vintage 9 foot bamboo fly rod, but can not determine who made it or when.  The attached photo shows the thread colors just above the handle.  In the 2 inch space is the number 47-9' and farther up is the signature Don E. Baxter.  It is quite heavy and seems to throw 7 weight line ok.

Hello Don,

Thank you for the question.

If you have read my bio, you will notice that I do NOT claim to be an expert on antique rods in and of themselves. However, I have arrived at an expert level with repair, refurbishment and the tune of about 700 rods and have repaired, as well assembled and wrapped many, many split cane rods (somewhere around 90 or so).

With that said, I did do some research on Don E. Baxter... and while it is "possible" that this is the same Donald E. Baxter that founded the Baxter pharmaceutical company, It is somewhat doubtful...wealth would have likely gotten him the best of the best from the day...

Please remember; If you love this rod, nothing else matters! And if she is not delaminating and the guides are sound (so line is not damaged) then take her fishing! I also want you to know that without actually holding and examining this rod first hand, I can only judge by the photos I have seen...and that can be difficult at best.

Here are my observations:

- The rod does not appear to be professionally wrapped...(although your pics were quite fuzzy,I found the identical rod on Ebay as having sold for around 71 bucks and the pics matched and were very clear). The inscription either indicates that this rod was wrapped BY or perhaps re-wrapped FOR this gentleman by a crafter. Most crafters or rodsmiths start somewhere and this may be an early example of someone that eventually became very skilled and mastered not only construction but the ability to inscribe the rods beautifully to compliment the work they have done...(that inscription is a bit inexperienced)... so my hunch is staying with a re-wrap, most likely by a novice. The cork is unusually clean in the pics as though sanded...and does not match the wear on the reel seat. The finish is either flaking off, (which could indicate the age of the rod and hence more reason for the cork to be aged), was breaking down and re-coated, or the rod was not finished by someone of experience. If you note the decorative wrap just before the name, it appears to have a high-build, epoxy finish on the wrap...another indication of refurbishment or re-wrap because epoxies have only been used since the late seventies. That same wrap, if silk or regular nylon (looks like size C) would allow the cane to show through once it was applied...the wrapper may have used color preserver.

-If the rod sock was original with the rod, that might indicate that it was a South Bend rod to begin with. They (South Bend split cane rods) were mass produced (and affordable) both domestically and in Japan...mainly in the 1950's through the early 1970's, before they became cost prohibitive against the new "fiberglass" rods that were all the rage.

If I had the rod in hand, I would do a few things:

Determine if the seat is of aluminum (it appears to be in the auctiva auction photos) and check the butt of the reel seat for any engraving or identifying marks then determine the type of metal the guides are made of (many high-end,vintage cane rods also had agate ring inserts in the stripper guide).

If any of the wraps were beginning to fail or unwind, I would burn a tiny piece to see if the wraps were nylon or silk...nylon has a very distinctive odor that is quite different from silk (silk is more of a burning hair type odor).

As for the line weight that may be best...hard to say. The tips seem to be very close in diameter...typically, one would be lighter to handle the lighter of two line sizes. (Some manufacturers simply included a second tip section because breakage was very common).

That is about all I can tell you based on the photos. I certainly hope it at least gives you a starting point in determining the actual origin or the rod. And like I mentioned; if you love the rod and it is not showing signs of delaminating, take her fishing and enjoy it! Cane rods (Split bamboo) while weighty, are fun to fish and allow a very nice presentation!

Thanks again for the question-



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Mark Rimmer


I have been actively fishing for forty-five years! For nearly 15 of those years I was able to fish nearly 200 days per year. Those wonderful days have left me with a plethora of knowledge to share. I have fished from the Marianas of the Pacific to the quiet tidewaters of Virginia and North Carolina, Antigua the gulf coast of Texas and many places in between. My home waters are those of the west. I am passionate about bass fishing, tournament as well as recreational. In addition, I am well versed in fishing for most other species...(Okay, although interesting, I'm not an expert on British or European style competitive carp fishing...chumming with a slingshot anyone?). I am intimately acquainted with the San Diego County Lakes, Diamond Valley reservoir in Riverside County California and numerous other exciting fishing waters from Texas (Travis County) to the Pacific Coast and south to Cabo San Lucas. I have many years of experience in blue-water as well as inshore angling of all types in Southern California with both artificial and live baits; high country fishing in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of my beloved Golden State with nothing but a backpack and a fly-rod. There are still a lifetime of adventures to undertake, together with my lovely wife, Christine. I am an expert rod smith and have vast experience with both the construction and repair all types of rods including split bamboo (new or vintage) and hickory as well as graphite, boron composites and all types of fiberglass. I spent 20 years in the retail business of which 6 were spent owning and operating a successful tackle shop, specializing in custom rod making, rod and reel repairs and a full scale tackle selection. Uncommon topics I love to discuss: Fisheries Management; Tackle Shop/ retail management; Ethics and responsibilities of anglers; Repair and maintenance of rods/reels; "How to"...any topic in fishing.


I took a few years off,(5 to be exact) from answering questions for but I'm back now! My experience? Forty-Five years of bio-observation, fishing numerous types of waters with virtually every type of tackle: Casting, Fly, Spinning, Offshore/blue-water, Coastal, Surf, Tournaments: ( Bass, Local Saltwater), Alpine lakes/streams, ditches, canals, sloughs, marshes, creeks and swamps; if there is water, I usually throw a cast or two. Tackle Shop ownership and management, Expert Custom Rod Construction and repair (Big-game, Long-range stand-up, Live bait, jig sticks, Casting, Spinning and fly- including split-cane). I have personally constructed over 700 custom rods of all types...nearly half of the rods the shop turned out. I also have performed hundreds of reel repairs of all types- antique to modern. I do not typically offer valuation of tackle. This is very difficult without inspecting the tackle first hand and leaving valuation far to subjective. I will be happy to offer other experts for placing a value on your tackle.

NRA forever...(Gun rights...Guns and fishing rods belong together right?), belonged to BASS for most of my life but keep forgetting to renew. I like Trout Unlimited but again, keep forgetting to renew...gotta more tank of gas and some fresh line...or memberships? Hmmm.

None yet...why aren't they chasing me?

"Roads" Scholar. Life-long independent study of fisheries biology, ichthyology, aquatic/marine biology, ecosystems, angling techniques and observations of animals, fish and humans: both smart guys and knuckleheads.

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Self-Proclaimed tackleshop of the year! The California Tackle Box- Oceanside, Ca.

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