Applying rod finish epoxy to your fly rod wraps

This is it the last step, APPLYING ROD FINISH to your fly rod wraps.  The only thing to do after this is finishing the rod is to rig it up and catch some fish.  Honestly my rod has been done for awhile, I got more excited about fishing than writing so I’ve been on the water flinging flies with my Epic 686.  But I’ve got to get this done and start building a present for my sister.  I’m calling it the WANGO TANGO….

I highly recommend reading through this whole process first, then act out the steps so your not surprised by not having a critical tool or not having a cleanup rag at a critical moment.

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

  • Wrapped rod blank sections
  • Two part finish
  • Rag and Acetone
  • Lighter
  • Brush
  • Mixing cup and stick – I’ll let you know my secret source for free cups.
  • Rod dryer recommended on TOOLS PAGE
  • Wipe up rag


As usual work on a well lighted long table.  It’s nice to spread out your tools and finish.  A 6 or 8 foot banquet table is perfect.  You can even get a cheap white plastic table cloth to protect it.  It’s also good to play with the drying motor before actually applying the finish.  Knowing how to attach the rod blank and turn it on helps.

5 Steps to finishing guide wraps

  1. Prepping the wraps and blank
  2. Double check guide alignment
  3. Wipe off the fly rod
  4. Mixing the epoxy finish
  5. Apply finish
  6. Let it turn

Prepping the guide wraps

Look over each and every wrap.  Inspect for tight wraps that are nice and flat and lying tight next to each other.  A little time pushing the wraps together with your finger nail is time well spent.  If the wrap is loose cut it off and re-wrap.

You’ll see folks using a “burnishing tool” this is a oval shaped hand tool that you rub across the threads to level and compress the wraps.  I use my finger nail.  The burnishing process is simple, just rub the back of your nail over the wrap and “squish” the threads together and smooth them.  This fills the gaps between the threads and levels the surface for the finish.

As careful as you may have been trimming the tag ends off during the wrapping process inevitably you will end up with “fuzzies”.  Fuzzies are stray threads that will be sticking up off the wrap.  The best way I’ve found to remove these is to apply a flame to the fuzz and burn it off.  ALL YOU NEED TO DO IS WAVE THE FLAME UNDER THE FUZZ.  Do this quickly, because it’s easy to burn the threads.

Double check the guide alignment

Put all sections of the blank together.  Now sight down the inside of the guides and insure everything is lined up.  This is the beauty of wrapping the guides they can usually be adjusted a little without loosening.  Check, double check, and then it doesn’t hurt to look again.  I’ll even sighted down from the tip top.

Wipe down the rod and wraps  

Now it’s time to clean the oils and other miscellaneous contamination off the rod and wraps.  I use acetone for this, but paint thinner is probably better.   If too much acetone is used, you can strip the finish off the blank.  So don’t saturate your cleaning rag with the stuff and quickly wipe the entire rod and blank.  Oil from your fingers will spoil the finish.

NOTE ABOUT CLEAR SILK WRAPS – NO Color Preserver Is Used.   For my rod the wraps will be clear, so I will not be using color preserver.

Mixing Up Your First Batch of Finish

Before mixing I warm the epoxy under some lamps.  The epoxy will mix easier, it helps reduce bubbles and penetrates into the threads better.   The mixing process will go in two steps for this job.  First I mix equal parts of the resins and slowly mix.  Don’t mix fast, you’ll only blend tiny bubbles into the finish which can be difficult to get out.  I count to 40 then count to 40 again.  Scrap the sides and bottom of you mixing cup to insure everything is blended together.  Now Mix in about 1/3 more Acetone. BE CAREFUL ACETONE IS FLAMMABLE!  Mix for a 40 count again.  The finish should have the consistency of water.

Applying the Rod Finish Epoxy

This is it – you can call it the end of the rod build or the start of the fishing season.   Slip one of the rod blank sections into the rod dryer.  Make sure everything is easy to reach and you can support your bush hand with something.  This can be part of the rod dryer or your other hand.  I mentioned before I love the American Tackle Rod Dryer (link to Amazon to read reviews and check the current prices)

rod dryer for fly rods

rod dryer for fly rods

Turn on the dryer and dip your brush into the finish.  Don’t scoop up a big load, just dip it in and transfer to the wrap.  Work the finish into the thread, because it’s thinned down it should “wick” into the threads.  Be sure to get the finish into the little gap around the guide foot.  This is easy to see on my rod because as the finish penetrates into the silk the thread becomes clear.

Don’t over work the finish into the threads.  It should flow easily and absorb.  If not the epoxy is setting up and it’s time to mix more.  Usually I can get three or four guides finished with one batch.  If you only wrap one or to guides before the finish starts to get “sticky” stop, toss it out and mix up some more.  I usually apply two coats of finish and I don’t thin the second coat.

With finish applied to one section – take a break!

Let it turn

Keep the rod blank in the dryer for 6 to 8 hours.  After the time has elapsed remove the blank and STAND IT UP to continue to set while you work on the other sections.

Video Applying Finish to Fly Rod


Here are some really helpful resources – You might want to look at before finishing your rod.