Thursday, June 28, 2012

True Love



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


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Cutthroat Trout Equals Simplicity




I recently watched a video that someone had posted on YouTube about fly fishing for cutthroat trout. It was a pretty good fly fishing action video with a jumping trout making some good runs. At the end of the video I noticed the angler had on a strike indicator! I was dumbfounded as to why anyone would need a strike indicator for perhaps the most aggressive trout that swims. These little pirates are ambush predators pure and simple. They savagely attack almost anything thrown their way. I have had them nearly jerk the rod out of my hand when hitting my fly so needless to say they are rarely selective and that is why I cannot see the need for a strike indicator.
I fish the typical wet fly swing for cutts and have had great success over the years fly fishing no other way. I sometimes use a bead head fly to get a little deeper in the early season but have found that cutthroat will definitely move to my fly. A deeper slot will usually find them near the edge of the drop off. Underwater structure is another excellent place to find the trout as is on the seam of the current.
I once took a friend to one of my favorite cutthroat trout haunts and he hauls out this elaborate indicator contraption with three flies! All I could do was laugh. He was making something simple into something way too complicated.
Some overly pretentious fly fishermen turn up their elitist nose at cutthroat trout and I just shake my head. After all you do have to find them and their numbers are not as large as the redsides on the Deschutes! These "harvest trout" are still pursued by the older timers who hold them near and dear from years past and I count myself as one of these old guys. I do not kill them as I do not see the need for it from my standpoint but I can hardly begrudge these elderly fellows a trout or two for the skillet as they reminisce about the old days of blue back fishing.
The younger anglers treat them as little more than nuisances and are more interested in salmon and steelhead and seldom bother with them.
To me tossing a wet fly at a cutthroat trout is my favorite way to fly fish. This is truly the joy of trout for me.The colors and sounds of the spring,summer and fall along with these precocious trout is more than fitting way to spend my days on the river. It really is a simple pleasure.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Are You Bamboo Worthy?

I can just hear the eyeballs rolling out there in cyberland but please save your judgement until after you read what I am trying to say.
I do know that those of you that own bamboo fly rods completely understand where I am coming from.
A bamboo fly rod is like nothing else in the outdoor pursuits. You hardly ever hear a hunter talk of their rifles or shotguns in such an affectionate way as we fly fishers talk about our "cane"

Why is that? Could it be that cane rods cannot be mass produced like firearms? I think that is part of it.Sure there is some automation involved but the final product is largely hand crafted. I don't think that is all of it though.
I think their is some sort of mystical connection an angler feels with his rod pursuing trout on a river like the Metolius or a small chalk stream somewhere distant.
Every bamboo rod is completely unique and every rod maker's personality is put into it. No two rods are alike just like a fingerprint.
You cannot just throw a cane rod into the back of your vehicle or simply put it away after a day on the river. You have to care for it like the finely crafted item it is.
I'm not saying they are so super fragile that you are taking a big risk in even using it. They are tough and in many ways more durable than graphite.
A relationship with a bamboo rod should not be a casual thing and you have to ask yourself if you are willing to commit yourself to the care of this handcrafted work of art.
Legendary northwest fly fisherman Mike Kennedy loved his bamboo rod so much that at his death his favorite bamboo rod was cremated with him and the ashes were scattered off Mott bridge on the North Umpqua. I think that is about the coolest thing I've ever heard a fly fisherman do.
I participated in the building of one of my rods. I straightened and filed down the nodes and I sliced my hands and fingers while hand planing the strips. It's a labor of true love and takes enormous patience from those that want something more from their fly rod.
The rods made from legendary rod makers like Glen Brackett or Bob Clay, whose rods are so high in demand that one has to wait for nearly a year or more to get his hands on one. Why would someone wait that long for a fly rod? The hours of labor involved make the costs of owning one of these rods very expensive but to me it's worth it and the first trout taken with one of these exquisite rods is memorable.
Does it help you catch more fish? I kind of doubt it. Does it make you a better caster? No, not at all. Is it practical to have one of these rods? Not even close. For me, however, it's feeling that I cannot find the words for. That familiar "pop" you hear as you take your rod apart or look of the agate guide or the slow loading of the rod as you cast, it's worth every cent.
So if you are contemplating a purchase of a cane rod then I would think you need to ask yourself if you are worthy of owning a fishing tool so filled with tradition and every thing that is right about this pursuit.
Enjoy a part of fly fishing lore and as you fish your new rod think of all the wonder that comes with owning a bamboo rod.