I read that, at his death, northwest fly fishing legend Mike Kennedy was cremated with his favorite bamboo fly rod and I thought that was one of the coolest things I had ever heard of. Most certainly he must have loved that rod and his family found it fitting that the rod should not ever be used again by anyone else.
Can an angler form such an attachment to an inanimate such as a fishing rod like that? Yes they can and I am living proof of it.
Back in 2005 I was generously offered an opportunity to build my own bamboo rod by a local rod maker. I would do most of the "grunt" work and he would finish it. I jumped on the idea.
We took a single culm, the name of a Tonkin cane "stalk" and with a mallet and special tool split it in six sections. The sections were planed down to very close specifications for the type of rod I wanted with extremely close tolerances as little as .0001" and then glued together. The uncured rod was straightened with heat and planed some more until the tapers were perfect. After curing in an oven and varnished with a marine spar varnish, the guides were tied on and the Portuguese cork was shaped by hand. The rod was coated with another coast of varnish and buffed to a mirror sheen. It was perfect! I had taken a living stalk of bamboo and turn it into a fly rod....a labor of love for sure.
Yes I love my handcrafted bamboo fly rod. I think it must be like a musician who loves his violin or guitar. Blues legend Stevie Ray Vaughan even named a couple of his guitars he loved them so much. Now I am not talking about the kind of love one feels for his family but the kind of love that makes you feel happy and enjoy life. My cane rod cannot return the love but then again by providing me so much angling pleasure maybe it does. After a day on the river I loving wipe it down with a micro-fleece towel and leave it out of it's case for a few days so it can "breathe" and to air dry any moisture from fishing with it.When the season is over I apply a coat of carnauba wax and briwax. Obviously this the type of rod that needs special care and I do all the things necessary to protect my lovely reed.
It all must sound silly but it really is necessary to take care of a bamboo rod in this manner. These rods cannot be mass produced like ones made of graphite. They are each made by hand and , like a finger print,no two are alike. If I were to buy a bamboo rod crafted by a well known builder I could expect to pay more than $1500.
I will probably never make another of these rods and hopefully this wonderful friend will remain in the family many years after I am gone. Maybe my grandson will love it as I do....I sure hope so