"Fly Fishing Bamboo: It's For You Too" - by Doug Macnair
Fly Fishing with Doug Macnair
“Fly Fishing Bamboo: It’s for You, Too”©
Some years ago I wrote an article focused on the magic and mystique of fly fishing – specifically, the beauty and artistry of cane or bamboo fly rods. Simply stated, they are not only beautiful but the soul of fly fishing. Whether better suited for display as a lovely piece of art or in the hands of a fly fisher actively pursuing Friend Fish is a matter for discussion. However, there is little debate that the mystique of these lovely tools, and for that matter price, continues to escalate.
Go online to http://www.codella.com and you will find mint condition fly rods that are classic examples of their makers’ art. An Eden Cane for $2,100.00; several Leonard’s from $1,395.00 to $1,595.00; a Winston for $3,500.00; a Thramer for $1,295.00; an Ed Payne for $1,950, and a bevy of Orvis rods as well as others in the price range of $800.00 to $1,000.00. You can also usually find a few handyman specials in the $150.00 to $200.00 range, a few fishable right out of the box. By the way, you will find Lens’ descriptions of each listed rod extraordinarily accurate.
There may be a better way to enter the world of bamboo. Did you ever stop to wonder just how many old fly rods were stored in some closet somewhere in some state? I hadn’t! Then one day not so long ago, I let my better judgment get overridden by my curiosity and went wandering in eBay. There I found several rod builders who were into taking old South Bend, H-I, Montigue, and other rods and remaking the salvageable parts into lovely little rods with mostly new components. On this particular day, I bid and won an “ultralight” 2-piece, 2-tip, 2-weight that’s about 5-ft, 1-in in length. The cost for this delightful little panfish killer? $125.00! I’m rather certain you folks can afford that … With 40 years experience, I recommend the builder: he is Earl Taylor, look for him on eBay as sierragv.
Importantly, my further wanderings led me to meet Tom Scrichfield of Pillar Rock Rods, a gentleman I now consider a friend. I’ll bet you never heard of him before; I certainly had not. It turns out he is a master craftsman, an accomplished fly fisher, and a man deeply in love with bamboo rods. After 26 years in the industrial world, he went back to college and subsequently turned his hobby, rod building, into a full time business. I couldn’t be more delighted. The name, Pillar Rock, stems from a Columbia River landmark as well as an old cannery name. I think it makes for a great logo…
To make a long story short, I asked Tom to build me a rod. He did. It’s a 6-ft, 9-in 2-piece of art with 2-tips. Tom tells me he built it from a 1930 vintage (oval label) South Bend #13, 9-ft., 3-piece with 2-tips. As I sit here in 2005, the piece of art I hold in my lap is brand new … 1930? Glowing with its new wrappings, varnish, and components, it is hard to imagine … and castability? I asked for a 5/6 and that’s exactly what I got.
In my opinion it’s absolutely lovely. Where else could you pick up a work of art like this in the $350.00 range with 2-tips? I know of nowhere in this day and time. Pretty isn’t it? And it casts like a dream.
From me to you, please understand that shorter bamboo rods actually perform better than they did in their original length of 8.5 to 9-feet. Shortened to 5.5 to 7-feet, they are lighter, faster, and easier to handle. In other words, the typical rod casts better that it ever did in the “good old days.” At least that’s my opinion. Perhaps this begins to explain Lee Wullf’s abiding love for shorter bamboos as he pursued his favorite adversary, the mighty Atlantic salmon.
By now I am certain you’ve noticed the lovely fitted wooden case. I simply don’t know a better tribute to the maker’s art…
I do know one thing … this rod will be fished hard, given loving care, and handed down to someone who (1) appreciates fine things, and (2) who is smitten by the art and majesty of fly fishing.
Tom can do most anything you want, and do it for an affordable price: (1) A full restoration, (2) build a rod built from scratch, (3) or remake a good rod from yesterday into a great rod for today. Whatever your choice, I have confidence that you will have nothing but accolades for the work done.
Tell you what: once you fish a bamboo and play your fish to the net, I will be willing to bet that you become a new convert to a very old way of fly fishing … I don’t think you will ever look back. And I think it is a move you will never regret.
Tom Scrichfield can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by visiting his site at http://www.pillar-rock.com, or by writing to him at 29157 Thistle Hill Rd., Rainier, OR 97048, USA.
© Copyright: Douglas G. Macnair, 2005.