I built my first rod over 20 years ago under the supervision of a Guild Certified Professional Rod Builder. The fascination of rod building evolved to refurbishing vintage bamboo rods and then custom making bamboo fly rods. These rods were done mostly for friends and fishing acquaintances.
Bamboo as a material has some great features. Its responsive, sensitive and beautiful to behold. At one time it was the material of choice and was latter superseded by technology - fibreglass and graphite, synthetic materials. So can bamboo compete with these modern materials? The answer it is it has a place where it can compete quite nicely. Through hollowing and design bamboo spey rods in the shorter lengths,13 and under, are right in there. I would think of a bamboo rod as not a rod that does everything ,but as an arrow in your quiver. Its part of your arsenal. That is not to say that the longer bamboo rods are not worth having. Sure they are heavier and slower, but some people groove on this. I offer this type of rod a well. See then speycaster series.
These modern bamboo spey rods are light and responsive. Being shorter the best suited lines are the shorter Scandinavian floating lines that are now made in shooting head form or with an integrated running line. A 12 foot mono leader compliments these lines. You can cast a moderate fly, say up to 2 inches well. For bigger flys pull out a rod that can cast a bigger line. Remember it's not the rod that casts the fly, it's the line. You may also use a shorter Skagit type line with these rods with sinking tips. make sure the tips match the line and do not overload your rod by casting T14 OR LC 13. There is just too much weight in these lines and they will overload your rod whatever the material is. During years of guiding I have seen many, mostly graphite rods break from over loading. All sink tips are bad this way as you also get a water load imposed on your rod especially, when the line is deeply sunk in slow water. Roll your line to the surface before casting. Whatever the material the rod is made from, it is a lot like us. It wears out. Overloading a rod shortens its life.
Larry P. Donahe owner and maker of Donahe Split Cane Rods, is dedicated to building the finest handcrafted bamboo fly rods, using only the highest quality materials and components.