I have never had a rod eye break, but last weekend I had not one, but two fail. The first, not surprisingly, was on my old Sage TCR while tussling a 7lb brown from the depths. Then a leg of the titanium recoil guide broke on my Hardy Zenith. I still cannot work out why this one snapped. I decided to try repair them myself, rather than sending them off.
I thought I would share the process and some tips. Overall I am very happy with the results and would do it again. I may revamp the entire TCR, which I love for streamer fishing despite its age.
Matching the thread is difficult
Most rod building thread, unless it is treated with a colour preserver, will get ‘wet’ with epoxy and go dark. And usually, with this wet translucency, the colour of the rod also comes through. On forums and the web I could track down that the Sage used Gudebrod Rust colour thread, but could not source this. Hardy wrap thread information was nowhere to be found. However, once I had taken the epoxy off, it was a nice olive colour. Online, the FishHawk Nylon 257 (Rust) and ProWrap Nylon 558 (Olive) thread looked about right. For the eye sizes, Sage provides details online. I measured the Hardy eye, but it was one size smaller it arrived. Next time I will order a size up and down to be safe. This would be cheaper than repeat postage.
Removing the old eye
The glue on the old eyes will be either an epoxy or UV cured glue. There are a number of YouTube videos and most apply a flame or use a hair dryer first. I dislike heating up the blank and tried without heat. It was fairly straight forward:
1) Slice away the epoxy on top of the eye foot. This prevents any chance of nicking the blank.
2) With your finger nail or a plastic edge peel away the thread and glue. The Hardy uses a UV glue which was much harder than Sage epoxy, but it does peel away from the blank more cleanly.
3) Find the leading thread and simply unravel the wraps. I did not want to have to redo the decorative wraps, so lightly scored the epoxy with a razor blade so that these would remain in place.
4) Use a plastic or wooden implement to scrape away any remaining epoxy. The UV glue on the Hardy was far tougher to remove and I did need to use the blade occasionally.
Preparing the new eye
Use a bit of light sandpaper to smooth down the base of the eye feet (if needed). I had a fine burr. Also sand the edge of the foot into a sharp ‘wedge’. This makes wrapping up the thread over the ‘bump’ of the foot far simpler.
Line up the eye on the blank (you can do some fine adjustments once wrapped) and secure in place with two fine slivers of masking tape.
You do not need a fancy rod wrap device. A box with two nicks works fine. However, you do not want to handle the thread with your fingers (oils can mess up the finish) and you do not need a way to maintain tension.
A constant tension makes this wrapping a piece of cake. I use a Rite Bobbin holder taped to have big fishing sinker. This works perfectly as I can position the angle and adjust the tension.
How much tension? Too tight and you could damage your blank. My rule of thumb is a tension that still allows me to ‘work’ the eye into final alignment position once it is tied on.
I would recommend YouTube for live demos of thread wrapping. Before starting the wraps, I wipe down the area with isopropanol to remove any fats or silicones. Starting the thread is very similar to fly tying, wrapping the thread over itself and then trimming the tag. You can use your fingernail or wooden/plastic implement to push the thread flush with the decoration. Wrap forward and compress wraps together lightly if needed. Once you have 5-8 wraps remaining before completing, put a loop of thread, or 6x tippet under the wraps. Finish the wraps and similar to a nail knot, pull the tag end through. Trim with a sharp razor blade.
If the thread has any ‘fluff’ you can singe this off with a flame. If you epoxy over these, they will stick up. However, you can trim these ‘nibs’ off between epoxy coats.
I use a two part Flex Coat epoxy and have gleaned a few tips to get a bubble free, glossy finish. Cold epoxy is a thick gloop that is almost impossible to dispense accurately.
Placing the bottles in hot water for 5 min helps tremendously. I suck up 2 mL in each syringe and then squirt out 0.5 mL from each into a mixing container. This ‘reverse’ dispensing is more accurate than trying to get the last bit out of the tip of the syringe. I add one small thinning drop of isopropanol to the mixing container.
Stir with a smooth implement. Rough surfaces like wooden tooth picks introduce air bubbles. Stir slowly to avoid bubbles. After stirring for about a minute I pour the mix onto the dull side of tin foil. Tin foil slows down the curing process and gives you more time. Also, by spreading it out, the bubbles escape more easily. If it is cold, I heat up a dish plate in hot water and wrap the tin foil over this. It works a treat to have a nice flowing epoxy.
I use a modified fly drying wheel and a wire stand to have the rod rotating on a level plane. A kebab stick wrapped with masking tape connects the rod section to the wheel. Make sure that you wrap the rod or the stand in masking tape to avoid scratching.
You can use a stiff paint brush to apply the epoxy. I prefer to avoid dropped fibres by using a strip of plastic cut from a beverage bottle. Before applying epoxy check that there is no fluff or dust on the wraps. If so, use a puff of air or a lint free cloth to give it a quick wipe.
I like applying multiple thin layers of epoxy. Thin layers make it easier for any bubbles to come out and it is simper to create a neat shape. However, you can apply one thicker coat to save time.
Once you have applied the epoxy, you can get it to flow and level better by applying heat. A tea light candle, held next to the epoxy is a good source of indirect heat. It is not advisable to hold the candle directly underneath the rod as this creates an intense heat that may compromise the rod blank integrity. I have seen a heat gun and a hair dryer used, but I worry that dust will be blown about.
A cover can be put over the top to keep out dust while it dries.
Is it worth the effort?
It took a few hours, excluding drying time to fix the two eyes. I am pretty happy with the outcome. If you can tie flies, you can definitely change an eye. The thread and eyes are inexpensive. The thread wrapping is fairly straight forward. If you have a fly turning wheel and some appropriate epoxy, then definitely worth the effort.
Now I debating whether or not to restore the whole TCR…