Custom Split Bamboo Fly Rods

New Custom Rods, Repairs and Restorations

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The Snake Rod and other stories from the rodmaker's bench

Just Click on the Book to go to "The Snake Rod" Page

Welcome to the website of RL "Bob" Nunley, Rodmaker.

I've written this site in hopes that you will both enjoy my work and get a glimpse into my life as a rodmaker and flyfisher. Enjoy your visit and if you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please email them to me at the link at the bottom of each page.

Bob with a nice Rainbow caught on his personal Signature rod in the White River.

Below, the grave of Hiram L. Leonard, the founder of the HL Leonard Rod Company in Highland Mills, New York.

Beneath this stone, lies the man who was the foundation of American Rodmaking, Hiram L. Leonard. Mr. Leonard began making rods around 1869 and his company continued operation, for many decades after his death, finally closing in 1985. Many of our past great rodmakers got their start there. Many of our living great rodmakers got their start there. I was not fortunate enough to live in a place like Central Valley, NY or I surely would have ended up in the Leonard Rod Shop. I am fortunate, however to have some of the former Leonard Employees as friends and as teachers.

The H.L. Leonard Rod Compmany was, in it's time, among the best of the bamboo rodmaking companies. It's biggest rival, the Payne Company, was just a few blocks away in the same town. Rivals? Yes, but in many ways, comrades. The employees of the Payne Rod Company and the Leonard Rod Company gathered on Friday evenings in town, brought their musical instruments and entertained the crowds underneath a stone pavillion near the center of Central Valley. They may not talk about business, or share methods, but they did share friendship and a few laughs.

This is the last building of the H.L. Leonard Rod Company. When I was there in June of 2008, the old cane shed was still standing across the street. Behind the shop, there's a small stream teeming with Brook Trout. Just to the left of this building is where the original Highland Mills Leonard Shop was located. When you hear the term "Pre Fire Leonard", those were rods made in the two story brick building that once stood on this same lot.

Many say that the Golden Era of Bamboo has long past, but as the rodmakers and cane fishers of today can tell you, it's just begun. There are probably more "quality" bamboo rods being produced today than at any other time in history. The rodmakers are more plentiful and the new age of bamboo has brought an attitude of sharing of information that didn't exist in the past. Even in the old HL Leonard shop, most employees never saw the bamboo beveller and they certainly never got a look at how it worked.

My good friend, Ron Kusse told me a little story about the beveller. It seems that those that ran the saw beveller in the H.L. Leonard Shop were even secretive about it's operation. The story goes that the beveller was located upstairs in the factory and that if you needed strips to glue up a section, that you knocked on the door, which was locked from the inside. You could hear rustling and the obvious hiding of tools and covering of machines going on in the room, then someone would come to the door and open a small flap on the door, look through the "Peekie Hole" and ask you what you wanted. They would get what you wanted, quickly open the door and hand it to you, then close and lock the door behind them, making sure the "Peekie Hole" was completely closed so you couldn't see inside the cutting room.

Today, most shops and their methods are an open book to anyone who wants to learn. Of course, every maker has his own way of doing certain things and they may want to keep a few little secrets, but for the most part, the making of bamboo rods is more out in the open than it ever has been.

This "open" attitude leaves me indebted to many rodmakers. One in particular, the one who has helped me more than any other, is Ron Kusse. Ron, pictured above with me in the Catskills in the Summer of 2008, was at one time in the late 70's and early 80's, the vice president of the H.L. Leonard Rod Company. His vast knowledge of the art of turning a pole of bamboo into a fine fishing instrument in almost beyond comprehension.  Ron has been kind enough to, over the past few years, share many secrets of the "old way" of making rods with me, and for that, I will ever be in his debt.

Thanks for visiting and Tight Lines...



If you have any questions, please feel free to call or email.

Machines à Sous

Copyright © 2007-2014
R.L. Nunley, Rodmaker

Bob Nunley
PO Box 1842 
Mountain Home, Arkansas 72654