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Build A Rod Scabbard For Your Pontoon Boat!

Photos and Article By Jim Stuard

 

 

When my friend Tom Gribble asked me if I could work in PVC, I told him "Plastic plumbing's easy, dude...". Little did I know he was looking for a fishing specific use of PVC pipe. An engineering/fishing friend of Tom's had designed a rod scabbard that could be attached to a pontoon boat.  The scabbard would protect delicate fly rods from damage while floating a river. What you see below is my input as a technician and interpreter.   I'm just standing on the shoulders of these creative giants and documenting the process. This step-by-step was originally published on Tom's blog and is republished here with full permission.

 

Most pontoon boats are 8 to 9-feet long and attaching a fly rod to one can be a dicey proposition. Problems arise quickly when landing the boat, dealing with overhanging branches and protruding rocks, or under adverse river conditions. It's easy to snap off a rod tip, or worse, lose an entire outfit to the river gods. With that in mind, a protective scabbard of PVC pipe, with a loose cap on one end, purpose-cut on the other, and designed to accept a 2-piece or 4pc. rod (half assembled), is a great way to traverse and fish a river. The cap is loose on the end so when you get water in the tube it's easy to remove. Keep in mind that you are putting an assembled rod into the tube indexed by the slots cut. This will have a tendency to force the stripping guide against the tube as well forcing the back handle to lever up at the end. For rods with fighting butts and for two-hander switch and spey rods you'll need to make adjustments after the initial cuts. Use this overview as a guide, not a 'by the numbers' how-to and make a custom scabbard that works precisely with your gear selection!

 

Materials:

1 length of pvc pipe either 1 1/2" diameter for regular sized fly rods or 2" for spey/switch sized rods.

1 cap per tube being built.

1 roll of velcro tape sections. The kind with a wrapping hole on one end of each piece.

 

Tools:

Tape Measure or ruler

Sharpie marker

Jigsaw, preferably with adjustable speeds

Pliers for trimming the saw blade

Selection of rasps, files and flat bladed screwdrivers for finish scraping.

Hacksaw

Drill and bits sized to line slot (see captions for more on line slot widths)

 

 

Begin by placing your rod in the way you want to carry it, next to the PVC tubing. In this case, we have a 4pc. spey outfit with a flared butt on the handle that will have to be accommodated.

Next, mark the end of the scabbard with a sharpie. Allow about an inch of extra space for the scabbard to fully protect the rod handle.
Mark the end of the smaller slot where the fly line will protrude. This is a nominal measurement but a good guide is about half to a third of the way from the reel to the stripping guide.
Mark where the line slot ends and widens out to accommodate the handle and reel. Mark between the reel seat and reel body, as shown.
Once you're satisfied with your layout measurements, begin by cutting the tube to length. I used a hacksaw but any fine toothed saw capable of cutting a material as soft as PVC is fine. You're going for a square cut here but honestly, it doesn't matter.
Begin the layout for the double-slot system by placing a centerline up the pipe to the farthest mark for the small slot. This will give you a better idea of how far to each side you want to make your layout lines for the slots. The easiest way to do this is to lay your knuckles to the side of the pipe and just sweep the line forward, away from you. An old Architects trick for drawing a perfectly straight line is to simply draw two points and then while watching only the finish point, start drawing. Works nearly every time and with practice, you can do it with great accuracy.
With a ruler, mark a line to either side of the centerline that will give you about a 1 1/4" wide slot for the handle/reel. This is for a spey outfit so smaller fly rods will require a smaller slot. In the past, I've found that anywhere from 7/8" to 1" works. Same for the line slot. For the heavy spey line, I went wider, starting around 3/8" but 1/4" will handle most regular fly lines.
Connect the two slots by arbitrarily forming a gentle 'S' curve between them.
As you can see, I've broken off the tip of the jigsaw blade. This keeps it from hitting the other side of the PVC pipe. Just a pair of pliers and some elbow grease and you bend it back and forth till it snaps off. Set the break point by pulliing the jig saw blade all the way out of the saw to it's maximum amount of travel. Place it on the tube to see where that is and give yourself about a 1/4" of room. Make a mark and break the blade there.
Begin the cutting process by cutting a relief hole at the end of the small slot. Keep in mind that the entire slot will compress down towards the end of the tube because of a tension release in the PVC. You'll have to account for that with subsequent trimming but that's why they call it 'fine tuning'.
Here's the completely laid out series of slots.
If your saw has a speed control, slow it way down. You'll actually melt the PVC if it gets too hot. It won't do any harm but, trust me, you'd much rather cut a solid material, than gravy. Run the saw with the guides indexed on the tube. Be careful of the tube collapsing and grabbing the blad. What most likely will happen is it will bounce you out of the channel with great force but it's not very dangerous. Take it slow and steady.
Upon placing the rod pieces into the scabbard, I discovered that I'd need a secondary, wider cut to the tube, to accommodate the end of the spey handle. Check the outfit for binds or other fitting problems and get them out of the way now. Your next step is to cut the fastening strap slot so you'll need to be done with your fitting before marking that out.
The fastening strap slot is around 1/8" by just a little wider than the velcro tape you're using. I just used a 1/8" drill bit and drilled a series of holes along the marked slot. By gently running the drill and moving it back and forth, you can actually cut sideways with the bit. Be careful, as a bit this small is easy to snap. Once again, slow and steady. Once you get the slot cut, slowly run the bit back and forth to smooth it out.
Check once more for a good final fit. On this scabbard, I had to do some extra relief trimming of all the slots from it coming together afterwards.
The next three photos cover finishing the cut edges on the inside of the slots. The PVC is soft so files, edges of file handles, four-way rasps and screwdrivers all work to scrape down the sharp edges. You don't want to go damaging your fly line before you ever get it wet!
 
 
Attach the fastening strap and test to see that it securely keeps the rod in place. It doesn't have to be tight. A little loose is ok. You just don't want your outfit sliding out in rough water. For this tube, I had to cut and attach an extra section of velcro tape so the strap would reach all the way around.
Here you see the finished product. Close examination will reveal that I've put a full roundover on both sides of the PVC in the slot.

 

 

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