Semi dry willow soaking times & tips

12 October 2021

As the name suggests, semi dry willow is at a stage between green (fresh cut) and brown (dry). The need to soak the willow may change daily. If you are planning to store semi dry willow, be sure to read our handy guide.

How to soak semi dry willow

Soaking isn’t an exact science. It can be tricky to get right as there are so many variables to take into consideration. The weather, water temperature and the length of time that the willow has been stored will all play a part.

Tips for soaking semi dry willow

Willow takes longer to soak on a cold winter’s day than on a hot summer one. Willow is usually soaked in cold (clean) water. Using warm or hot water will shorten the soaking time. A soaking bag has the advantage of being easy to empty and the willow can then mellow in the bag.  Our heavy duty soaking bags are available in a range of lengths and widths and are supplied with simple instructions.

Alternatively, willow can be soaked in a bath, trough or old paddling pool. Always ensure that the water is clean! The willow will need to be weighed down to keep it submerged. Be wary of soaking willow in your finest bathtub. You may end up with tannin stains.

Once soaked, drain the water and leave the willow to mellow in the soaking bag overnight. Hessian, a damp blanket or plastic sheeting do the job equally well. Mellowing is a really important part of the soaking process as it enables the inner parts of the rod to become fully pliable.

As previously mentioned, the need to soak semi dry willow may change daily. Try soaking semi dry willow for half the time of brown (dry) willow. The times below are only a guide.

Guide soaking times for semi dry willow

Length of rod Black Maul Dicky Meadows Flanders Red Brittany Green Caledendron Whissender
3ft 1.5 days 1 days 2-3 days 1.5 days 2.5-3 days 2 days
4ft 2 days 1.5 days 3-4 days 2 days 3-3.5 days 2.5 days
5ft 2.5 days 2 days 4-5 days 2.5 days 3.5-4 days 3 days
6ft 3 days 2.5 days 5-6 days 3 days 4-4.5 days 3.5 days
7ft 3.5 days 3 days 6-7 days 3.5 days 4.5-5 days 4 days
8ft 4 days 3.5 days 7-8 days 4 days 5-5.5 days 4.5 days
9ft 4.5 days 4 days 8-9 days 4.5 days 5.5-6 days 5 days

***Rod cracks when bending – Indication that rods need to soak for longer***

***Skin comes off when bending – Indication that rods have been soaked for too long. Thoroughly dry the willow and re-soak for a shorter time***


When working with willow, do keep it covered to prevent the rods from drying out. Leftover willow can be kept covered for up to a week and still be used. After this time, the willow will need to be dried thoroughly before being stored.

Things to watch out for

Keep semi dry willow damp for too long (especially in warm weather) and the willow will turn greasy and/or mouldy and the bark will shred. The rods may also squash if used. At this stage, it may be possible to thoroughly dry the willow out before re-soaking. The mould will need to be wiped off first.

Repeated re-soaking will cause the willow rod to lose its colour. If a rod starts to get black spots, it is no longer usable. However, if only a few rods are affected, pull these out to stop the mould spreading. The rest of the rods should still be useable.



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