Fly fishing is a sport that has been enjoyed for several hundred years. Early bamboo fly rods can be very valuable. With care many antique fly rods are still usable, as bamboo is a very resilient, long lasting material. Collecting vintage rods, reels, flys and lures is a hobby with a enthusiastic following. Modern craftsmen still make custom bamboo rods for fly fishing today. This makes it important for a collector to learn to identify rod makers and tell vintage from modern.
Educate yourself on what companies made vintage bamboo fly rods and what those rods look like. Join online forums and fishing clubs. Handle as many vintage bamboo rods as you can. Become familiar with length of rods, and materials used by different companies to finish a rod blank. View collections of other fishing enthusiasts. The more you handle vintage fly rods, the more comfortable you will be determining a maker and the approximate age of a vintage rods.
Inspect the guides on the rod. Modern bamboo fly rods have newer high tech material on the interior of the guide loops. Custom rod makers cannot easily find the vintage porcelain used in high end guides. Cheaper vintage metal guides are avoided because of wear on the fly line. New materials used also cut resistance to help cast farther and more acurately. Look for age on cork handles. Check for any other signs of wear that indicates use.
Look for rod makers' tags. Some better vintage rods have brass or alluminum tags with the craftsman's name and rod model clearly marked. Tags can be glued or pinned in the cork handle or even wraped on the base of the bamboo rod length. If there is no tag, look for evidence one was there and has fallen off or been removed.
Inspect any accessories. Vintage rods often came in canvas carrying cases or hard-sided tubes. These may be marked with a rod maker's name or be identifiable by an expert. Often vintage rods have extra tips of varying strength or length. Experience can help with identifying number of tips and length made by certain rod makers.