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 last few 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 a selection of Mike Mcfarland's blanks and can usually find one to suit any task. I also have access to the Epic blanks from New Zealand, Ijuin Blanks from Japan, Livingston Blanks from Montana and other high quality off the shelf blanks (such as Sage, Kabuto or CTS). 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. If you have your own rod bag and tube, then I can deduct accordingly.
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 6 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.
Up-locking or down-locking Lemke/Struble reel seats, in either bright silver, Dk Titanium, Earth titanium or black anodized with select Ray Lee inserts an extra £25.
1" Fighting butts with REC RSLS black all-metal saltwater proof seats £35 (For builds that might see some saltwater action).
Some of my favourite blanks, which suit different tasks and are the ones I recommend:
My own Design, McFarland Freestone 7’9” 4pc: This is a 5wt Allrounder that will deal with any weather conditions, streamers, nymphs as well as being optimised for Dryfly presentations. It’s a deceptively powerful rod that can deal with Big Fish as well as making even the smaller ones feel like they are far more fun. This is possibly one of the easiest transition rods for anyone used to carbon. Great fun on any size of river and available in Clear glass as well as Yellow.
McFarland 7’9” 3pc: This is the 4wt Spruce Creek rod and is the sweetest dedicated dryfly rod you will cast in any material. It is crisp, light and very smooth. Its laser accurate at all fishing distances. Suits Small to medium rivers, it will cast just the leader with aplomb yet still drop a fly 60’ away like thistledown.
McFarland 6’9” 3pc: I can get this as the 3wt Spruce creek which is the perfect small stream rod for casts up to 30’ in tight brushy surroundings. Amazingly fast action and pin point precise. Or as a Classic 3wt which is supremely smooth and just a delightful dryfly rod. A chalkstream dream for laying out a line up to 50’ and putting dries in a tea cup.
McFarland 7’3” 3pc: The Classic 4wt is like a shorter version of the spruce 794. A small water rod for windy days or even throwing streamers, but still able to lay out a lovely smooth line with a change in casting stroke. The Spruce creek version is a 3wt and is very quick, light and just amazing for those slightly bigger waters when you still want to fish small flies and need to be accurate.
McFarland 8’6” 4pc: This GTX blank comes in Black or clear and a range of line weights from 5wt - 8wt. This is a proper cannon for big flies, on big waters, chasing big fish or dealing with strong winds. Articulated streamers, Saltwater Bonefish, even carp and Pike fishing.
Spruce Creek and Classic blanks are generally unpainted sunshine yellow in colour, but sometimes they can be available in translucent painted finishes such as emerald green and Sepia brown
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.