It is no secret that I have had a love affair with bamboo fly rods for years. There is something about bamboo rods that plastic rods will never have.
To begin with, they are made from an organic material with a feel all its own. I am fascinated by the craftsmanship that goes into the building of a bamboo rod. From start to finish, just about everything in a bamboo rod is handmade.
Bamboo rods cast different from glass or graphite rods. They have a strong powerful feel and load by themselves. And then there is the history and the lore. Each and every bamboo rod has a soul and a story.
Last week, a small knot of bamboo enthusiasts gathered at the North Country Angler to show off some of their prized bamboo rods and tell their stories. Hats off to Steve Angers for coming up with the idea and hosting the event. I wish I had thought of it years ago, and I hope that it becomes an annual event.
There were five of us in all, and each one of us had a couple of unique rods to share, ranging from Montaque to Orvis.
Angers had a nice Diamondback rod made in Vermont. Diamondback was best-known as a maker of graphite rods, but turned out a small amount of bamboo rods during the company’s history.
They were brought out by the Cortland Co. and continued to make rods under the name for a few years. However, in the transition Cortland dropped the bamboo line and sold them out the remaining stock at bargain prices. I remember we had a couple in the shop at the time. I am sorry, I didn’t pick one up for myself. Angers was smart enough to do so.
Another fellow had a lovely Granger that had been refurbished by Fred Kretchman of Kittery, Maine. Kretchman is one of the finest makers of bamboo rods in America today. All of us had a story about Kretchman and nothing but good things to say about him.
Granger rods were made in Denver Colorado and are often referred to as the “Denver Rod.” The popular outdoor writer John Gierach wrote a great deal about the virtues of Granger rods and single handily drove the collector price up on them.
There were three Orvis rods in attendance. One fellow had a nice Battenkill and the converted Flea model. The Flea is a 6 ½ foot made for a four weight line and is quite rare.
I had brought along a Battenkill Pace changer. The Pace Changer is a 7-foot rod with a second tip that makes it a seven-three. The two different tips allowed the rod to have two different actions. The rod was made for a six weight line, but casts a five weight nicely.
The second rod I brought along was a Heddon Featherweight Thorabred; an 8 footer for a five weight. I love this rod and fish it more often than any of my other bamboo rods. It is surprisingly fast for a cane rod made in the 1950s and is perfect for small stream work and right at home on larger water like the Saco.
I purchased this rod from a man who was trying to sell me a Heddon Black Beauty. The Black Beauty was one of the best bamboo rods sold by Heddon and commands a good price on today’s market.
The Beauty had some condition issues, and I didn’t think it was worth the asking price. I just wasn’t all that interested in it and then the man went out to his truck and came back with the Thorabred. He offered to throw in the second rod for the price of the first and the deal was struck. I sold that Black Beauty years ago for less than what I paid for it, but I still have the Thorabred and feel I got the better of the deal.
The interesting thing is that no one came in with a high-priced collector rod. Every one of us brought a rod that you could fish and not feel all that bad if you busted it (at least pricewise). And fish is just what we did.
At the end of the show and tell, we all went fishing together. I asked a friend once why he fished bamboo rods. His answer was: “Because life is to short.” He was right.
See you on the river.