Monday, January 30, 2012

Hand-Me-Down Bamboo

In the world of bamboo fly rods, mine is nothing special.  It’s an 8’ South Bend with interchangeable tips that allow it to be used as a two-piece spinning rod or three-piece fly rod.  From what I've been told, it was mass produced in Japan during the 1940's and 50's.  In terms of aesthetics, it’s seen better days:  some of the wraps are beginning to unravel, the cork grip has taken on an unattractive patina, at least one of the ferrules have come loose, and there's a noticeable bend at the end of the middle section.  I  don't have much experience casting anything other than graphite, but I took it out the other day and made some casts in the backyard with my 5 wt line and reel, which was probably too heavy of a setup for this rod.  Overall, the rod had a very loose feel to it and casted better than I expected it to, but the butt section felt a bit heavy.  Perhaps with a lighter line and reel the casting would improve, assuming the rod stays in one piece. 

Despite these faults, I take great pleasure in this rod because it was a gift from my grandpa   The rod was given to him by a friend that served overseas in Japan, and it apparently has not seen water for at least forty years.  Once I began fly fishing, my grandpa decided it should be taken out of storage and passed on to his oldest granddaughter.

Grandpa Jerry, and the rest of my family for that matter, takes great pride in the fact that I fly fish.  Being a tomboy is a commendable attribute in my family, so they were not the least bit surprised when I took up the sport.  My grandpa likes to tell stories about taking my brother and me out fishing when we were very young.  I clearly remember sitting on a padded bucket on the ice, pulling up blue gills and trying very hard not to complain about the cold.  I also remember staring at panfish flopping in the bottom of metal pails while we cleaned them in my grandparents’ basement.  My grandma would be upstairs heating oil for the imminent fish dinner.  Apparently my grandpa also took us to the Kinnickinnic as young kids to fish for trout, but unfortunately I don’t remember those outings.
It's interesting to contemplate the rod's history, and I hope to learn more details in the future, but what I find really fascinating are the accessories found inside the rod's box.  The rod is in its original case, which has the look and feel of balsam, and inside the lid are several compartments covered by two sliding covers.  These compartments contain the original silk gut, wired hooks, wooden bobbers, and flies that were sold with the rod.  Though the flies have become a bit disheveled over the years, they look very pretty in their small, individual quadrants.

Since this rod came into my possession, I’ve been content to keep it tucked up high on a shelf out of harm's way, to be brought out and admired occasionally when the desire arises.  Lately, though, I’ve been thinking that this has been a disservice to the rod.  Lately I’ve been thinking this rod deserves to taste water from a spring fed creek.  It deserves to feel warm sunshine along its length.  It deserves to cast a dry fly to a riser and to feel the bounce of a healthy, Driftless trout through each of its fibers. 

For these reasons, I've decided to fish this rod next season and land a trout with it.  Though it makes me a bit nervous to do so, the worst that could happen isn’t as bad as never realizing the potential of the rod. 

It deserves a chance.


  1. What a wonderful piece. You're right, it definitely deserves a chance...and I bet it proves itself to boot!

  2. Thanks, Erin--and I'll take that bet!