Attaching the reel seat parts, cork handle and fighting butt to your fly rod

Attaching the reel seat parts is what I consider the first step to really building your fly rod. What I like most about what we’re about to do is that when completed you’ll actually be holding a section of the fly rod that is nearly complete.

First up – is gathering all the fly rod components and rod building supplies.

Get the following from your Epic Fly Rod Kit.

  • Bottom section of fly rod blank.
  • Reel seat parts which would include the end cap.
  • Cork handle
  • Fighting Butt
  • Trim Ring or winding check

Types of Reel Seats – Reel Seats come in three basic configurations: Up locking, Down Locking and Sliding ring.  The most popular is an up locking reel seat, which is shown.

The rod building supplies need:

Sand paper

Masking tape

  • Epoxy 5 or 15 minute
  • Mixing cup and stick
  • China marker or grease pencil
  • Fly Reel – optional
  • Clean up rag and acetone for cleaning up spills

Now it’s time to test fit everything.  Fight butt on the bottom, reel seat,  handle and last the winding check.  The reel seat and fighting butt are probably going to be sloppy loose.  The cork handle and trim ring should fit about right straight from the fly rod kit.  Disassemble everything and using our favorite roll of masking tape, we’re going to build up a three tape bushings on the bottom of the rod blank.  My Epic rod will have a fighting butt so start the first tape bushing a 1/8” or so up from the bottom of the rod blank. Wrap tape around the blank until it will fit inside the fighting butt.

You want it to be just tight enough to barely stay on without falling off.  Before wrapping the next two bushings onto the blank, slide the reel seat on and mark the blank in front of the reel seat. You don’t want to wrap tape forward of this mark. Add the two tape bushings evenly spaced between the fighting butt and your mark.

With your three tape bushings on the blank test fit everything again.   The fighting butt and reels seat parts should stay in place at this point and the handle and trim ring are fitting.

What is really nice about the Epic Kit is that the cork handle should fit straight out of the box.   The handle should slide into position with a pound or so of pressure. If you need instructions for fitting the handle see my post -> FITTING THE FLY ROD CORK HANDLE

Rod Building Tip – dry fit everything a bunch of times. This is perfect practice for when you’re gluing everything in place.

At this point I like attaching a fly reel to the reel seat. It gives me a general feel for how everything is going to work. Now remove the trim ring and Mark the blank at the forward edge of the handle.

TIP Make sure the trim ring / winding check fits nice and flush to the handle.  Flatten the handle with sand paper if it doesn’t fit flush.

Pictures before and after fitting winding check

Winding check gap

Winding check gap

Remove the cork handle and keep the reel seat with your reel installed. Now we’re going to align the reel seat with the rod blank. With the reel on the seat resting on a table, simply twist the blank until the LOGO is straight up.

Mark the hood of the reel seat and mark the rod blank.

With all these markings on the blank dis-assemble everything and lay out the fly rod components so you’ll be ready to glue.

I recommend scuff sanding the rod blank UNDER the cork handle. DO NOT SAND ABOVE THE HANDLE MARK. A gentle sanding is all that’s needed you’re just removing a little bit of the shine. This gives the epoxy something to adhere too. Wipe off the dust with your clean-up rag.

Smile and take a little break before we get into gluing on the fighting butt next.

I won’t go into the details of mixing epoxy here, but full instructions can be found at my post Attaching The Reel Seat – Step 2

Rod Building TIP – If at any point the glue seems to be thickening or is getting tacky THROW IT OUT and mix a new batch. It is just easier to work with the epoxy when it flows easily. Plus cleaning up is easier when the glue hasn’t started to harden.

Step 1 Attaching the Fighting Butt

Apply a light coating of epoxy to the masking tape and a coating to the inside of the fighting butt. You want to use enough to full adhere the blank to the butt and to seal the bottom of the rod blank. If possible clean up any drips, spills or globs as you see them.  Cleaning up now is a lot easier than when the epoxy starts to harden.

Step 2 Attaching the Reel Seat

Take another deep breath – now it’s time to glue the reel seat. Remember the reel seat needs to align with the marks. Just to repeat this again, the rod blank logo will be straight up and the reel will hang straight down.

If needed mix a new batch of epoxy. Liberally spread a coating of epoxy onto the blank.   I like to make sure I get epoxy on the edges of the tape to seal it from moisture. With the epoxy on the rod blank slide the seat into place slowly. I wipe/clean excess epoxy as I slide the reel seat into position. Once the reel seat is touching the fighting butt and everything is clean, align it to the rod blank. (Reel hangs straight down, rod blank logo is straight up)

Okay now we’re in the home stretch.

Step 3 Attaching the Cork Handle

You probably need a new batch of epoxy to attach the cork handle, so clean off your mixing stick and toss out the mixing cup.

The plan here is to apply a LIGHT coating over all of the rod blank BELOW the mark you made at the front of the cork handle. Don’t do crazy putting globs of epoxy on because the handle is going to push most of it off. The trick is slowly twist the handle as you push it into position. You want a good bond over between the cork and blank.

The handle has a rabbet to accept the hood on the reel seat (check out the hood description here -> Attaching the reel seat step-2) Put a light coating of epoxy around the perimeter of the hood. Finish by sliding the handle all the way home.   Clean up any drips of epoxy.

Set everything to the side for a couple hours for the epoxy to harden. BAM done!tools-to-build-a-fly-rod