Sunday, July 22, 2012

Gone Bamboo

Several months back the Outdoor Blogger Network announced Fall River Fly Rods had built a bamboo rod for OBN, or more precisely, for 15 OBN members to test, fish, and blog about. At the end of this nation-wide circuit, one of the bloggers will be drawn to win the package. I am one of the privileged few. It arrived yesterday. This is our story.


They say you can't judge a book by its cover (though that certainly hasn't stopped publishers now has it). I think I can judge this package by its cover. It's a black six inch tube well over 5 feet long, festooned with canceled stamps and postal tape, and best of all, stickers. Stickers of fish and flies, from Vermont, and New Mexico and Virginia. There is a fly rod in this tube, I just know it.

It was kind of like Christmas in July opening this thing up. It held not only the rod and a reel from Montana Fly Company, but when I carefully removed these out fluttered a pile of other things it had accumulated along the way. Flies tied by the users. A journal. More stickers. Storms were piling up on Lake Michigan and so I carefully delved in.

The instructions, oh the instructions. "Do not leave the rod in a hot car as this can soften the glue and ruin the rod". I'm paraphrasing. I tend to be rough on gear, I broke most of my rod tips last year, and the tip on this rod looks like a toothpick. A very beautiful toothpick. Don't worry, being that the rod isn't mine and worth more than all my other rods put together, I will be very careful. No riding around with the rod set up. No bringing the rod to work so I can fish on the way home (it's too hot). I've memorized the assembly and dis-assembly instructions. I'll hang it in my closet. I got to hang out with my friend and bamboo rod builder Lou Burhart last week for a couple of hours. He assures me that if anything, bamboo rods, being solid and not hollow like graphite, are the tougher of the two materials.


I took the rod down to Crooked River for a test cast. It has some considerable heft. I'm not laying the casts out quite like I'd like. A big late breakfast is laying heavily on me and the rumble of thunder is negating the thought of a trip. A nap is definitely in order. What greater luxury is there than a Saturday afternoon nap?

I woke after a couple of hours feeling refreshed. One look at the sky and a glance at the radar confirmed what I needed to know. It was time to go bamboo.

I made the 5 minute drive to the Maple river trying to drill the assembly instructions into my sleep-addled mind. "Hands together together, hands apart apart". It appears that half my gear is missing, the result of having to switch back to my spare waders. This rod is beautiful, the wraps are perfect. Tip O the hat to Mr. Zicha. I arrived at the input only to find another vehicle there, but after I wadered up and started walking to the bridge I see two young women in bikinis on the banks, swimming in the heat of the day. Ah, summer.



The water is woefully low, I haven't seen it this low and clear since 1988, when it almost stopped flowing entirely. Fortunately it's not that low, and it feels cold to the touch, assuring me I won't over-stress the fish. Recent rains and cool days and nights have helped.

At first I find this rod a little intimidating. It's expensive. It's a little heavier than I'm used to, though not heavier than my 8 weights. I'm not getting the rhythm. It's bamboo. Fish are scattering as I approach, and I see more scatter as my line flops on the water. Soon enough I reach a braided section of stream. The pool below the confluence always holds a pod of brook trout. I concentrate hard on laying out a gentle forty foot cast. Sure enough, I get a slashing rise and a miss. Two casts later I have a small but lovely brook trout in hand. Then another.



I make my way upstream. Things are starting to fall into line. I catch about a dozen small fish, and later, an 8 inch brown and some small rainbows, baby steelhead actually, the Maple river slam. The conditions are tough, the light glary, and the water low, but after awhile I realize that I am no longer fishing bamboo. I am merely fishing.



Bamboo rods are about traditions. The Maple river is my tradition. My grandparents lived on and watched after the land that is now a golf course, with about a mile of river flowing through it. We had exclusive access to this water back then and rarely saw other anglers here. I learned to fish and fly fish from my grandfather here. I learned about the Hex hatch. I swam with my brothers and cousins in the holes. I did my first night fishing here. I caught my first trout on a fly just up stream and in sight of the restaurant. It is my tradition. My grandfathers ashes rest here. Somehow, being here in this changed but familiar place with this rod brings me back. It's pleasant to spend a leisurely afternoon, catching dinks, thinking of my grandfather, enjoying the feel and rhythm of a fine rod, catching fish.

I've gone bamboo, and you can't save me.





21 comments:

  1. Beautiful ... welcome to the dark side and regarding those "toothpick" tips, I wouldn't worry too, too much: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jRBbsOJQrSE

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    1. Hey, thanks for the comment and the link. I watched it. Very impressive. Still, I'm not taking any chances. I will fish it with a little more confidence, seeing how durable it is. So far so good!

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  2. Jason, another great write up about this rod..
    Regardless of who ultimately ends up with this rod, it will be a part of many traditions now and in the years that follow.
    Brian

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    1. Yeah, it's kind of cool just to be a part of this. The journal with it is really neat, lots of personal touches. I tell you, it has opened my eyes a little.

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  3. Great job J! Almost as if I was fishing it.

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    1. Thanks Howard. I'll try to keep it that way.

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  4. Awesome. THanks for sharing another chapter in the story.

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    1. I'm going to try to fish it hard and take you all with me. We had a tough day today- one fish, many miles of new water covered. It was a good day.

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  5. Right on. And Mr. Burhart is right. :)

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    1. You would know wouldn't you? After jealously following your build this winter, It has been nice to actually touch some grass myself and see what it can do.

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  6. Makes me look forward even more to when this beauty arrives on my front porch, sometime in September...

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    1. Or November. It may ahem, be delayed a little. Joking aside, it will be worth the wait- the package has a lot of character already, and I'm a little jealous of the people toward the end who will get to read all the journal entries and who knows what will also be with it by then.

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    2. I am hoping to have it the week of Labor Day, I have sometime off and it's my birthday!

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    3. I hope it works out. You'll love the rod.

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  7. Very nicely done. Another chapter added to an incredible journey.

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    1. Jay- I really enjoyed your journal entry. I feel privileged to have shared this experience with you. JT

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  8. Schweet JT! I would so love to read the Journal when this was all said and done. Those entries would be worth a contest of their own I'm thinking...

    glad to see you're out having fun, fish or no~ mike

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    1. I know. I hope it somehow gets printed and circulated among the alumni.

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  9. Printed and circulated to the alumni...
    Excellent idea and one I can make happen!

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    1. Thanks OBN- except I'm not sure what you'referring to. Thanks for sharing though.

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    2. Just got the email- that will be cool to read. Good luck decoding my handwriting.

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