Talking Rods With Richard Frank

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Talking Rods With Richard Frank

Richard has been a long time friend to all of us on the Fly Fish List. He is no longer subscribed to the List but continues to correspond with many of us. Recently he contacted me about some differences in the reel seats I use on my rods and his thoughts on changing the seat on a cane rod he has to one that will work with an older Hardy St. George reel. Here is the first email he sent along:

Hi Dave,

Hope this email finds you & Mary Lu well and warm. The cold is settling in around here...finally, and the hot tea is getting a good workout these days. WY & MT seem ages ago, but the memories are bright and my screensaver of Zander riding at the ranch is a constant reminder of what a great time we had. You are very lucky to have a return ticket every summer.

I'm writing you specifically to ask a technical question about the Venneri reelseats you mounted on the last two rods you made for me. You used Bob's uplocking seat.

Do you typically use a full length spacer, or do you trim? I ask because I recently purchased a 5wt cane rod with a long Struble uplocking seat (U8). I'm fine with the long seat because I plan to pair the rod with some vintage Hardy reels which I'm sure you know have feet in a wide variety of sizes. The U8 is long enough for any of them and the cupped band at the bottom is fine. The problem is the shallow hooded gap at the top - the part under the cork hood. My plan is to remove the seat and replace it. A D8 might solve the problem, or it might just reverse it.  :-) I checked all my existing reelseats and the Venneri offers the most clearance - even the uplocking version works with a stepped, brass hardy foot. I guess the mortise makes a big difference. The only issue is length. The seats on your rods are too short for some older reel feet, so I'm curious if that is because you trimmed them, or if that is the original spacer length? Bob doesn't provide specs on length on his site, so I can't get the info there.

Thanks in advance for any info.


Here is my response:

Great to hear from you, Richard. Glad you sound well and happy for a warm winter turned cold at last. I was figuring on your coming west again most years. You best fit it into your schedule.

Bob Venneri isn't doing any seats any more. I can't get him to answer his emails or his phone but word has it he is having some personal problems that are difficult for him. It puts me in a bind, but I'm still living with a few of his seats left in my inventory and filling the voids with Struble and Bellinger. The Bellinger seats are the ones he used as suggestions in his designs. They are nicely machined and finished, but nearly as hard to get as his since the company changed hands a year ago.

Concerning lengths, I tell folks to pair a reel with the rod that fits. Kind of blind siding on my end I guess. I like a small rod to have things small including a small reel with a small foot. Hopefully you aren't terribly cramped with that, though, and have just the perfect reel that won't work. On screw lock seats, I like the retainer to not go up on the wood, so I cut the wood short enough so the retainer will lock on most reels with a bit of threads showing in front of it. I cut all the Struble inserts to length too and they do indeed measure their stuff.

Nice to hear from you, Richard. Our best to all of you.

Richard tried altering the seat on his can rod so it would allow the reel foot of the old Hardy to go in far enough to be secure, but he was unable to do much good with careful use of a small file, so he ordered a seat from REC and did the job on it.

Here is the final email he sent me the other day with some pictures of the final results:

Hi Dave,

Here are a few pics of the new REC reel seat on the Hoffhines cane rod. As you can see the seat securely grabs a stepped Hardy St. George reel foot. Ideally it could be a bit deeper, but the reel is snug. It's not going anywhere. Turning the recessed cork ring was fun. I made a short mandrel for my drill press and wedged the recessed ring between two solid rings. I sanded the three down until the recessed ring was about a millimeter larger than the bottom seat ring and completed the fit by hand sanding. Seems to have worked out reasonably well.