Wrapping guides on a fly rod in 5 easy steps

Placing and wrapping guides on a fly rod shouldn’t be intimidating.  Remember the guides aren’t permanently attached until the finish is applied.  If it doesn’t look right just take the thread off and do it again.  If this is your first time wrapping guides after 2 or 3 wraps you’ll have the techniques figured out.

Okay – Really guide wrapping can be done in 4 steps.  I’m not sure “repeat” is a step.  I completely understand if this seems a little intimidating, you’ve got a pile of guides, a long fly rod blank and it’s time to figure out how to put the two together.

First let’s gather up the fly rod building supplies needed for this step.

Here’s where working in a well lighted area pays dividends.  I know my +50 year old eyes are tested when looking at threads, do yourself a favor and get a little desk light to shine on the work area.

With your tools and materials gathered and a coffee or other favorite beverage close, it’s time to your stick look like a fishing pole.

5 Steps to wrapping guides on a fly rod

  1. Measure the rod blank and mark the guide locations
  2. Taping the guides in place and marking the wrap starting point
  3. Starting the wrap using a FLY ROD WRAPPING JIG
  4. Laying in the pull thread and ending the wrap
  5. Repeat

Measuring and marking the guide locations

Fully assemble the fly rod blank aligning the spine marks in the process.  Starting at the tip of the blank using a guide spacing chart mark the rod blank along the spine using the china marker.  These marks will become the guide positions.

Repeating – the guides will be placed along the spine, so your marks should be along the fly rod spine.

You can a download .PDF for the Epic 686 here -> 686-epic-guide-spacing-chart.pdf (245 downloads)

I’ve also put together a general Fly Rod Guide Spacing building tips article.

With all the guide positions marked it’s time to move to the next step.

Taping the guides in place and marking the wrap starting point

I like starting at the bottom of the rod and work toward the tip.  Disassemble the fly rod blanks and place one section onto the Fly Rod Wrapping Jig.  Cut some strips of masking tape approximately 3/8 inch wide.  Temporarily stick the tape strips onto the wrapping jig.

wrap guides on fly rod

wrap guides on fly rod

Place the guide loop directly above the mark with the center of the loop aligned with the spine.  Once in position tape one of the guide feet down to the blank.  Look at how the guide sits on the blank.  It should be nice and flat, with no gap between the foot and the rod blank.  If you see a gap, remove the guide and bend the guide slightly so it fits flush.

To keep the thread wraps a consistent length I make a template out of card stock.  I base the size of the template off the smallest snake guide foot.  There’s no hard and fast rule about how big the wrap should be, if you’re going to make decorative wraps you probably want the wrap length a little longer.

Fly Rod Tools Page

Fly Rod Tools Page

Starting the fly rod wrap using a FLY ROD WRAPPING JIG

The fun begins!!  With the wrapping thread loaded into the wrapping jig, ADJUST THE THREAD TENSION to about 4-6 oz pull.  I loosely wrap the tag end of the thread toward the guide in big spirals, because this is a three handed operation I use a little masking tape.  With the slack taken out of the thread begin the wrap at the mark.  Wrap over those big spiral wraps you made earlier.  Usually 4 or 5 turns will hold everything in place.   Trim the tag end close to the wrap.

Your finger nail will become your favored tool; your objective is to lay the thread down one next to the other.  If you get a little gap between threads use your finger nail to push it into position.  With the wrapping jig positioned correctly spinning on the thread will go quickly.

When the thread is about 1/8 inch from the bend on the guide foot stop and lay the thread puller into position.

Continue wrapping up to the bend, I in fact wrap a turn or two onto the bend knowing that the when I’m tightening the wraps the thread will move down onto the base of the guide foot.

With a finger holding the wrap together cut the wrapping thread about 6 inches long.  Thread this thru the thread puller loop and pull the lose end under the wrap.

Trim this as close as possible without nicking the wrap or the blank.  A little bit of “fuzz” can be cleaned up later with a flash of flame heat.  Congratulations you’ve finished your first wrap.  Take sip of coffee and….