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High Desert Bamboo Fly Rods

Scott Nilsson

6020 Arapahoe ST.Pocatello ID 83204 US

208 841 6562

 Scott Nilsson - Master Bamboo fly rod maker 

Scott Nilsson is a true bamboo craftsman, a warm knowledgeable tutor, a lifelong mentor and always a friend.
I enjoyed the bamboo fly rod learning and building experience with Scott and was never left wanting for more instruction in the many diverse skills he teaches. At the end of the class you will have the learning tools you need to continue refining the bamboo fly rod construction craft.
Practicing the skills he teaches you will bring you to the master craftsmanship level making split cane fly rods that Scott has attained, and maybe beyond.
If you are attentive and want to learn this time honored skill, you, too, will 'become one with the boo...'.
Don Smith  Missoula, MT

Why Fish Bamboo?       

My customers say it all


I just realized I had not given you any feedback on my new bamboo rod,  I LOVE IT!!!  It has been my rod of choice on the San Juan throwing dry flies and it has performed effortlessly. I was in a fishing tournament last weekend as a fund raiser for the Wounded Warrior Project and our guide was using my bamboo with dry fly since we had both nymph and dry fly rigs. He said it was the best feeling bamboo he had ever cast with, that made me feel really good to hear him sing its praises also.
Thank you so much for the rod, it has been an absolute dream to fish with.

I hope you are busy giving other anglers the pleasure of enjoying one of your custom bamboos, they are missing a delight if not!!!
Thanks again,

Terry Weaver

Why you should buy your bamboo fly rod from me... A few words about pricing...
My prices range from $1,000.00 to $1,200.00 for most trout rods. Special cosmetic requests and three piece rods can add a modest amount to the cost. Steelhead and other large fish rods start at $1,100.00

The cost of a truly fine bamboo fly rod most often puts people off. It is not until a prospective customer really has a grasp for what is involved making a fine rod until he can recognize why the rods are so expensive. My students pick up on this every time they build a rod with me. I put a minimum of 60 hours into one rod, so you can see that my hourly wage is quite low when you subtract the material cost of approximately $150.00.

When looking at the sites of many builders you will find price ranges from about $500.00 up to $3500.00. The low end rods are either Chinese or made by makers who really don’t put out that great of a product. The high end rods are usually priced that way because of the fame of the builder. The waiting time for these rods is usually a year or more. I would stack my rods up to any maker charging up to $2000.00 and I have a relatively quick delivery time which is usually three weeks. My prices range from $1,000.00 to $1,200.00 for most trout rods. Special cosmetic requests and three piece rods can add a modest amount to the cost. Steelhead and other large fish rods start at $1,100.00

Bamboo Fly Rods

High Desert Bamboo Fly Rods

 Keep in mind that one maker's rod of any given length or weight will differ considerably from that of another maker's rod. I happen to like faster action rods with plenty of power, but I can suit the rod's action to meet your needs.
    I would encourage you to contact me to discuss your bamboo fly rod.   Why wait a year or two to receive the rod you really want. I offer an excellent bamboo fly rod at a great price with a relatively short lead time.

My new book "Crafting A Bamboo Fly Rod" is out.A comprehensive guide on making a bamboo fly rod. Buy a copy.

The High Desert Bamboo Fly Rod should look great, but more importantly, it should be a pleasure to cast

Evolution of a bamboo fly rod

                                Fishing tools, not museum pieces

Providing beautiful, affordable bamboo fly rods. I also offer private classes on bamboo fly rod building. I am among one of the finest  bamboo fly rod makers.

A bamboo fly rod that I donated to the Henry's fork Foundation.

My rods ready to drift the Madison

I pride myself in customer satisfaction, which includes prompt responses to your questions and great advice and communication.

When you place an order, you will receive photos of most of the steps that your rod is going through. My customers enjoy this and that way they are never guessing about completion dates that are promised.


Also Offering Private Bamboo Rod Making Classes

Aloha Scott,

Just wanted to drop you a line and thank you for a great time!  High Desert Cane Rods produces not only quality bamboo fly rods, but also offers personalized classes in the art of bamboo rod building.  

You welcomed a complete stranger into your home and instructed him in the art of bamboo rod building.  The step-by-step approach simplified an otherwise difficult process resulting in a personalized rod that will last a lifetime, I only wish I had did taken this class earlier.

I would recommend anyone contemplating a bamboo rod take your personalized class.  Not only do you take the student through a bewildering process step-by-step but eliminate a lot of trial and error associated with the OJT method.  As a novice rod builder you also gain an appreciation of the time and effort taken to construct a fly rod.

At times the rod builder is dealing with thousands of an inch and any slip up can cause problems, but you provide adequate practice, always knowing when a student can perform a task successfully while ensuring the novice doesn't fall flat on his face.  As me how I know.

I found the after hours "fire-side" chats helpful in not only understanding the art of bamboo rod making but a glimpse into the rod maker himself.  The time you took to teach a novice the art of fly tying, casting a rod and many other aspects of fly fishing helped me immeasurably.

You are truly a craftsman and I thank you for sharing your love for this time honored art.


Chief Ed


My new friend David Bucko. He loves the 2 fly rods I made for him

I make a variety of trout rods, and also fly rods for larger fish. My tapers are extremely popular with my customers. My specialty, though, Is to make any rod that you may feel suit you better than my standard bamboo fly rods. An example would be a customer in NJ., David Bucko, who wanted a small rod for small streams. I made him a 6'6" 3 wt. He was extremely pleased. Another customer in CT wanted a 5'6"2 wt.  I liked both rods so much that I immediately made those rods for myself.

About Scott



My name is Scott Nilsson and I have fly fished since 1972. As many of you, know, this sport can reward an individual in a variety of ways. As does a river, the rewards of fly fishing change in many ways over the years and always offer different opportunities. In my case, this sport gave it’s greatest gift by allowing me to make new friends and offering me the opportunity  to grow through experimentation. I no longer center my attention on catching the biggest fish, most fish, nor anymore, do I frequently visit blue ribbon waters. I have decided that I do not want to be somewhere doing something I love and having it ruined competing with hundreds of people who subscribe to dozens of fly fishing magazines and buy nearly every item advertised within them that claim to employ the latest technology that will help catch fish. This includes fly rods. I enjoy enticing trout with new fly patterns, studying special circumstances which make trout take a fly and most importantly, maximizing my pleasure while out on the water. That’s where my discovery of the bamboo fly rod has been the most pleasurable event in fly my fishing life, scenery not withstanding. It was this discovery that led me to build bamboo fly rods.

I graduated from the University of California with a degree in economics in 1970. I  had never been satisfied working in the corporate world with which this background could provide. I sought a more meaningful contribution that would leave a legacy on my behalf to others. This would satisfy my desire to fulfill the long burning creative desire I had within me.

I now am a bamboo fly rod maker.  Thanks to the encouragement of a retired fish biologist friend of mine, I pursued this endeavor. I also owe many thanks to the encouraging and non selfish help that I received from numerous bamboo fly rod craftsmen that have already achieved the fame that I will someday have.

I have concentrated on making bamboo fly rods, that first of all, are pleasures to cast, and can be proud to be owned by their recipients  Cosmetically my rods are excellent, but I do not concentrate on cosmetic  appointments such as engravings, inlays and the like. I feel that these appointments, although having  superb aesthetic value, tend to create a fear within their owner to put such a fly rod to practical use.

I would be proud to make a bamboo fly rod for you. You will find that doing business with me is a straight forward experience with an emphasis
on cooperation  as well as a spirit of honest interchange to make sure you get what you want in choosing a beautiful and functional bamboo fly rod.

Expensive? Relatively speaking, yes, however, you do not buy a quality bamboo fly rod from a shelf or catalogue.
It is hand crafted for you, personally, with your name on it and, with my help, is built to your specifications. It is a
fly rod that you can treasure , have fun with, be proud of, and will provide a lifetime of enjoyment.
In addition, this meaningful fishing instrument can be passed down in your family for generations.

I cannot, for the life of me, understand the misconceptions out there about bamboo fly rods. 90 percent of the critics I have talked with have never cast a well made split cane rod. They attribute their dislikes to their experiences with rods that are absolutely inferior to the kind of bamboo fly rod I am talking about. Unfortunately for them, They close their minds, and in fact, even get hostile, about accepting the opportunity to try the kind of rod I make. I have been told that my rods nearly cast themselves. When attending seminars I hear comments such as "they will break" I have had far more failures with graphite rods personally. Most folks equate bamboo fly rods with the ones their fathers or grandfathers owned. Many of these were mass produced, incorrectly heat treated, and inferior glues and ferrules were used in their production, thus failure in these rods was common place. In addition, many of them cast like pool cues because of their length and weight. The finer rods made today are a different breed. They are light, responsive, and durable. They have a feel that cannot be described. That feel is mostly detected in the way a split cane rod loads and in the pressure felt on the forward cast. The accuracy is exceptional. Some of the finest certified casting instructors will often give one of their difficult students a bamboo fly rod to get them on track because they can feel the loading, which is so detectable in a good bamboo fly rod. If your back cast is poor, your forward cast will be poor as well.

Another belief of the misled, is that bamboo fly rods are toys and only to be taken out fishing occasionally to have a little fun with. This belief is a bit right because those who are uninformed mention fun. This is the key word. Bamboo fly rods are great fun and when I have fun, I want more of it. Don’t you? Toys? Yes, they could be called toys, however more suitable words would be a beautiful tool for the precise pursuit of fish.

The best advice I could give, if you want to take fly fishing to another level, is to keep an open mind and ask questions from a competent bamboo fly rod builder. That is to say, one that has built at least 50 to 100 bamboo fly rods and understands tapers to the extent that he understands how to manipulate those tapers in order to arrive at a rod that acts as you wish. There are some builders out there that simply download tapers from the Internet and try to fit those tapers to their customers needs. Also, beware of purchasing bamboo fly rods offered by folks who sell Chinese rods from fancy web sites. They won't tell you up front that the rods are from China. Periodically I will purchase some imported blanks and supplies to check and see how this competition from China is progressing. Recently I have seen products on the Internet (eBay) that advertise their products to be as good as those produced by domestic builders. I have purchased some of these products to check their quality. Believe me, they are very mediocre. Blanks advertised as straight and well heat treated are neither. Agate  guides have wrong sizing and extremely thick and irregular feet. Ferrules advertised as fitting well do not and their sizing is wrong. Cap and band sets that look good in pictures really look like they came out of a Cracker Jack box when you receive them. Products from China are improving, however I would say that they are at least 10 or 12 years from catching up with domestic products. If possible, the better choice would be to visit or speak with a quality builder. Discuss with him your requirements and choose a rod that suits your style
High Desert Bamboo Fly Rods
Bamboo fly rod maker
Scott Nilsson
208 841 6562


Elegance Through Simplicity

Many of the attributes of split bamboo fly rods are subjective and subtle. Many folks who have only fished with carbon fiber rods base their attitudes of bamboo rods on experiences with an old rod which a relative owned. An example of such a rod would be a South Bend or like manufacture. Another example would be a custom rod made by someone who had a taper which resulted in a casting experience which did not suit it’s user. A 7 ft. 5 wt. made by one maker can act very differently than one of the same length and weight made by someone else.

More objective pleasures, at least for me, are the aesthetics of the bamboo rod vs. carbon fiber. You can Google Wabi Sabi. This refers to beauty perceived due to slight imperfections and then beauty created after the object acquires a patina of use. Another objective fact is that it gives great pleasure to fish with something that you have created. This is why I offer rod making classes.

Once I developed a taper that pleased me, I noticed much more feeling when the rod loaded. I also found that playing fish was more fun due to the fact that the tip section had more flexibility over it’s length. I experienced losing less fish during the fight.

In conclusion then, one must appreciate things made by hand. One must be a person who notices and appreciates subtle differences and one must realize that bamboo fly rods can have a wide variety of casting actions. I consider my rods as having a faster action than most bamboo rods. They have a butt section that provides a lot of power (very minimal oscillation) to a flexible tip. I have converted many skeptics to appreciate the pleasure of a fine bamboo fly rod.

My bamboo fly rods for sale

I use the finest Tonkin cane from The Bamboo Broker  and   The Charles Demarest Company. I hand plane all rods. I use the finest nickel silver fittings available and naturally, silk wraps. I can work with you on the cosmetics such as blond, flamed, or an appealing blend of blond and flaming. Colors of your wraps, reel seat configuration and hardwood used, will be discussed.
Unlike many builders, my delivery time on a custom rod is relatively short. I stop taking orders when the waiting time for a rod is ludicrous, i.e. 2 to 5 years. My price range is very reasonable since I don't create museum pieces with engraving, etc., which usually translates into the customer being fearful about fishing the rod. I don't want that, nor should you. I don't want to bring along a velvet cushion to place on the ground while I string up my rod. After all, this is all about fun, not fear!

Trout rod Price ranges are from $1000.00 (rods with one tip) to $1200.00 (rods with two matched tips) with the exception of negotiated cosmetic extras, 3 piece rods and the larger rods with a fighting butt

Products :   A variety of rod sizes, hardware, cork grips, wrap colors and bamboo color can be provided

Here are some examples

Typical screw lock seat for larger rods with fighting butt.

Isn't it time to begin a new stage in your angling life? I would enjoy discussing and demonstrating bamboo fly rods with you. I assure you that you will not want to put the rod down once you start casting it.




I would be proud to make a bamboo fly rod for you. You will find that doing business with me is a straight forward experience with an emphasis
on cooperation  as well as a spirit of honest interchange to make sure you get what you want in choosing a beautiful and functional bamboo fly rod.

                                                 Pricing on my bamboo fly rods

Trout rod Price ranges are from $1000.00 (rods with one tip) to $1200.00(rods with two matched tips) with the exception of negotiated cosmetic extras, 3 piece rods and the larger rods with a fighting butt.

A beautiful Landmark case with solid brass end caps can be provided at a nominal cost. Hand sewn rod sock provided.


High Desert Bamboo Fly Rods Teach Classes How To Make Bamboo Fly Rods

In 1954 for my twelfth birthday my father gave me his old steel pull-out fly rod and ever since fly-fishing has been one of my passions.

My friend’s father who would often invite me to fish with them had a bamboo fly rod that he could cast further than any other fly-fisher person I knew at that time and I promised myself back then that one day I would own such a fine rod.

Many decades later having an arsenal of steel, fiber-glass and carbon fiber rods I decided that it was now time to acquire a bamboo fly rod, but I not only wanted to own one, I wanted to build it my self.

Having retired two years ago in 2005 I thought the time was now right for me to take up my desire to build a cane rod. I started searching the internet for bamboo fly rod builders who would be prepared to teach me the rudiments of this fine art. Having read a number of books on the restoration and the fundamentals of building a bamboo fly rod from scratch, I had a fair idea of what I was letting myself in for.

So what made me choose ‘High Desert Fly rods’ for this experience?

Maybe it was the promptness that Scott Nilsson came back to me, or just his straight talk on the phone that made me want to go with High Desert Fly Rods. Well, what ever it was I believe I made the right choice to go all the way out to Boise in Idaho from Philadelphia to spend time with Scott building a superb cane rod.

From the minute I arrived at Scott’s home it was down to business. He came out with a dozen or so bamboo fly rods for me to cast out on the lawn. From the second I cast one I was convinced that bamboo was now the only way to fly-fish. After much deliberation I eventually decided that I would like to build a 7 ft 4wt two piece bamboo fly rod as this rod felt like an extension to my arm.

Although having read quite a bit about bamboo fly rods I had not realized the amount of work and attention to detail that is needed in building such a masterpiece, and a masterpiece it certainly is as every one is unique, no two bamboo rods can ever be exactly the same and that’s what makes them so special.

During the time I spent with Scott building my rod I found him to be attentive and helpful in all respects and a stickler for detail. “If it’s not done correctly then it’s not done right” and you start again. I now know why these rods cost so much and I can now appreciate that fact.

Working with Scott was a pleasure and I found him to be very open and more than willing to share his experiences and rod building know-how with me. I took loads of pictures and made half a book of notes and sketches.

It was a proud moment when I finally took the finished product it in my hand and cast it out on the lawn. I believe that in building it yourself it means so much more to you and you will treasure it for years to come as you have put part of your heart and soul into it and it becomes almost a living thing, one day maybe it will become an heirloom.

Yours truly,

Terry F. Grills... PA


Why Fish Bamboo?

Unlike its distant, mass produced city cousin...
Bamboo is just more fun to cast. You feel it in your soul.

Whether or not you have fly fished for a long time or you have just started out, you owe it to yourself to own a fine bamboo fly rod. There is a feeling while casting one that can simply not be described. Over the years I have encouraged many fly fishers, who have never fished with a bamboo fly rod, to do so. The comments from these folks have been overwhelmingly positive. In addition to being extremely pleased with the performance of my rods, they are proud to be seen fishing with such a beautiful instrument. Many of them, including John Ellsworth pictured below, now choose their bamboo rod as the rod they want  to use when going out on their favorite water.

A cane rod has a slower casting stroke and forgives minor casting errors                                     

A bamboo rod stops energy after the fly extends over the water
and drops the fly on target like a thistle seed.                                           

A more flexible tip protects the tippet and results in landing
more and larger fish

Why Bamboo?  .... Check out the comments from this satisfied customer

Dear Scott,
I got my 7 ft 4 wt rod in the mail today. I took it out of the packaging and was immediately impressed with the fit and finish of the rod. It's a thing of beauty. You really downplayed how gorgeous this little baby is.
I was excited to get home with it so I could strap on a reel with 5 wt forward line as you instructed. You told me that this was a little casting devil. I said "sure" to myself. All 7 foot rods are little casting devils.
Well, I never imagined that a 7 foot bamboo fly rod could sling a 5 wt. line with such authority. I hate to admit this but that little rod can definitely stay with or outcast any Rod in my arsenal including my Orvis Zero G 9 foot 5 weight. I just couldn't believe the ease at which that Rod loaded and threw line.
I found that even from the first cast I didn't need to look behind me to watch the line unfurl. I could feel the Rod load up and I just moved the Rod to the forward stop position and watched the line roll out in front of me with the best looking loops I've ever thrown. All I could say was "Damm" ,"Wow", "Holy Trout Turds" This can't be real.......
Well, I guess you can say that I like the Rod, Scott....!!
As I was going back into the house after casting for  20 minutes I was thinking to myself, "the other rods in my closet are going to be seeing more closet time that they will like because I will be fishing  "Little Scottie" as I have affectionately named him already.
As soon as I can save up some more money I will have you build a 8 foot that I can use a 6 weight line for those windy days.
Scott, your website doesn't do your work justice. Pictures don't convey the handiwork that goes into a Nilsson Fly Rod. I am proud to own one of your Rods and I guess you will have to suffer with me as a customer for the rest of our natural lives.
Thank you for the wonderful rod at such a ridiculous price. Maybe others are getting more money for their rods but I assure you they aren't buying better fly rods. You may be the very best value in our cottage industry of bamboo craftsman. A secret to a few of us but as things go....not for long...... as it should be.
Good health to you, my friend.....thank you so much for such a lovely piece that I will enjoy and then pass on to my heirs. That's the way it should be and that's the way I know you want it to be.......
Let me know when you think you have the right taper for that 6 weight. We have some talkin to do.
Let's fish the Dolores this coming summer together. I also would like to come to Idaho to fish and to see you and your son. I had a nice conversation with him today. Sounds like a great boy!
Well, Scott man...use any part of this note to you for a testimonial and feel free to give me out as a reference. The experience of doing business with you has been like the sweet dream of a 16 year old....
Take care pal,


The Founders

The Fruits of labor are paying off. Some finishing touches, another tip section to complete, and another proud moment will be mine when I ship this rod.

Heat treating the old fashioned way to drive out the native oils
and strengthen the bamboo strips

The planing form allows the desired taper to be achieved

There are no short cuts in a quality, hand crafted, bamboo fly rod

Tolerances are checked hundreds of times

All rods are planed from the finest Tonkin cane


Testimonials: Responses From My Customers

I had to tell you that I took my bamboo rod to Chile for a two week fly fishing trip in Patagonia with a friend and it performed handsomely, was fun to catch and play fish with, handled the Chilean Pampa wind with ease and was able to play big browns with no problems.  I love it.  Thanks for your craftsmanship.  It has now replaced my Sage XP as my now rod of choice.


 Hi Scott,
Just want to say thank you for the Bamboo Fly Rod, it looks great.  I'll be on the stream tomorrow morning testing it out.  I've been looking for two years to have someone build me a bamboo fly rod.  I'm glad I came to you.
Thank You Very Much  
Michael L. Davis, Reading, PA
Follow up:

Hi Scott,
This is truly the best Fly Rod that I ever fished with.  It shoots the fly line out like a laser, and I never had so much fun playing the fish.  I caught a bunch of native browns today, and I can honestly say that this is the best action fly rod that I have ever used.   I was able to feel everything when I was nymphing or dry fishing.  It was a great time today.
Thank You,

Scott, I've been fishing the hand crafted bamboo fly rod you built me since it arrived last April. It shoots a line accurately, and it handles everything from small bluegills to good sized bass. I am thoroughly enjoying my time on the water with this work of art. Nice work! You are a true craftsman."

Joe Barbara, Willis TX
I am late writing this to you. Since taking your bamboo fly rod making class this winter I have been thinking and planning how to continue with the lessons that you provided.
First and foremost, the bamboo fly rod class was great! I learned a tremendous amount by having the hands on work combined with your experience that you shared so clearly.
With the foundation from the class and some further guidance from you I have gone on to build a spare tip for my bamboo rod that I own ( that you had built ) and I have a 2nd fly rod started.
Again, thank you very much for sharing so much information and putting up with my continued questions about making bamboo fly rods. Anyone who has questions about bamboo fly rods I point in your direction and suggest they take your class.

Rollie Shields
This year Scott made me a 7'6'' 5wt.It is not only beautiful but a joy to fish.I have always loved fly fishing but now casting and playing a fish are even more special.I am proud of my Tonkin Cane rod and just wish I had done this sooner.
The photos of the construction were also nice,and I have a book on my fly rod,start to finish.
Thanks again Scott
Mike McRobbie
Hi Scott,

I am not waiting any more.  The rod arrived safely yesterday. The rod is a remarkable work of art, and your ability to work the cane is superb.

Thanks again for the great job making my rod.

Jack ...Alameda,CA
My Favorite rod:
 Scott,  Two years have passed and I believe that is sufficient time to comment  on the rod you built for me.   I simply wish to state that I use my 8' above all other rods I own.
 The rod finish has held up extremely well given that I have used it as a brushwacking tool on many occasion fishing small New England Brookie streams. The action of the rod is not surpassed by any of the other rods I own in terms of overall casting performance, ability to handle larger fish, and highly sensitive feel. My only complaint is that Mike Clark’s six and one half foot Payne along with my Baginski, Orvis, Leonard, Gary Lacey, and others do not get used much since I received your High Desert. It is this first rod I look for as I head out each day and I will spend the necessary time to find it as opposed to selecting another should it be difficult to find. I proudly show your rod to all who express interest and highly recommend your rod building services.  Thanks so much for my favorite and most used rod.  

John Palumbo
Rec'd the rod this afternoon.  As luck would have it, I got it just as we started a staff meeting so it was unboxed in front of the entire group.  They were very impressed ( you need to understand that most of these folks aren't fisherman and were a little skeptical about  a fishing rod that I wanted to pay $900 for) with the quality of the workmanship and artistic beauty of the rod.  I was impressed with that as well, but I also loved the balance and feel!  I am sure Paul will be very happy!!!

Thank you very much



Soon will be available through other sources with ISBN

My comprehensive book on making bamboo fly rods is available on Amazon. It includespictures, illustrations and some tapers.