As I write this column, there is a lot of excitement at the shop as we are awaiting the arrival of a new little angler. About an hour ago, we got a call from our son saying he was on the way to the birthing center with his wife and she was having contractions.
The other day, I had the good fortune of spending the day with Fred Kretchman, one the best bamboo rod makers in New England. I say the day as what started off to be an hour-long interview stretched from 10 a.m. to around 3 p.m. It is a trait of those of us who love bamboo rods to spend a lot of time talking about them.
Fred lives in Maine now, but for many years he was a resident of New Hampshire, where he first began building bamboo fly rods. In 1999 Fred represented New Hampshire at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C. Later that year he was recognized by Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who was then governor, along with Stan Bogdan and Sam Carlson. Sam Carlson was perhaps one of the greatest bamboo fly rod makers in recent times and of course Bogdan fly reels are world famous.
Fred gave me a tour of his shop and explained some of the intricacies of making bamboo rods. I took advantage of his hospitality and had him look over some of my recent purchases of bamboo rods. Fred is a well know appraiser of fly rods and writes the descriptions for the famous Lang's Auction House. Turns out I had made some pretty good trades and have managed to acquire a few decent rods.
One of the more fascinating things that came up in the course of our conversation was Fred's collection of bamboo. Who knew that there was a black bamboo, not to mention a green and yellow striped bamboo and a tortoise bamboo, as well? One interesting piece was a pre-embargo culm from the work shop of Sam Carlson. It was a great day and I can't thank Fred enough for his hospitality.
Bamboo rods and old fishing tackle has been the theme at the shop the past few weeks. I had a call from a lady in Fryeburg a few days ago. She asked if I was interested in old tackle and if I would take some off her hands. One of the most difficult tasks that we are all faced with at some point in our lives is cleaning out the contents of the home of a deceased relative. Slightly over a year ago, I went through the process with my mom's home. Those things that mean so much to us sometimes have little value to our children. I think the ancient Egyptians may have had it right when they tried to take their stuff with them when they crossed over. Building a pyramid can be pricey, though.
The call came late in the afternoon, so right after we got the shop closed we headed over. Most of the time when you get a call like this what you find is sadly nothing more than junk. This time, however, there was a lot of very good stuff. The lady was true to her word she just wanted someone who would appreciate the stuff to just haul it away. In the end we took the great majority of the lot as a donation to Saco Valley Angler's auction. And I did purchase a few things from her. All and all a "win win" for everyone. I am positive that her dad would have been proud to know that his fishing gear will continued to be loved.
Monday evening Janet and I journeyed over to South Paris to attend an auction. Several old fly rods were up for auction and we just had to go check them out. I love auctions, something that I no doubt inherited from my Mom. Attending an Auction with my Mother was always an adventure. Her spirit must have been with me as I came home with three new "old" fly rods. I don't need three new fly rods, but if you are a real fly fisherman you know why.
See you on the river.
Bill and Janet Thompson own North Country Angler in North Conway.