Thursday, May 21, 2009


If you Googled cannabis, Rastafarian, bud, stink weed, Bob Marley, Indiana ditchweed, Ziggy Marley, hippies, ganja, zombie weed, Acapulco gold, hemp, bambalacha, dope, chronic, fry daddy, Panama red, spliff, skunk, Mary Jane, sweet Lucy, blunts, KGB, herb, 4:20, Birkenstocks or William Jefferson Clinton then I am sorry to say you've landed in the wrong place. You'll want to navigate away from this page as there is likely nothing here for you. If you're a flyflinger, however, then pull up a chair.

Let's take a moment to talk about grass. I mean the type of grass with which some of us fish, and not the swag that Vermont college-students grow under hydroponic lamps in the basements of their 93 year-old grandmothers' homes. I'm talking about bamboo baby. Tonkin cane. Arundinaria amabalis.

What is it about rods made from culms of Chinese grass that so enthrall so many flyfishers? I'm sure some readers will take umbrage with the notion that modern graphite and boron rods are far superior fishing tools, but it's difficult to argue the other way. Generally, rods made from contemporary materials are lighter and more responsive. They track straighter, and allow an angler to cast farther (in the right hands). Modern plastic sticks go a long way toward making relative neophyte flychuckers seem like twenty-year veterans. And yet ...

A Payne 202, in good condition but not cherry by any means, just sold on Ebay for over $5000.00. Somebody desperately wanted that rod. A year or two ago, an excellent Payne 98 (7' for a 4#) sold on the very same cyber flea-market for over $8000.00. If you find a Gillum for sale, expect the price tag to be somewhere over the $10,000.00 mark. Check out the websites of Len Codella, Bob Selb and any number of other classic tackle dealers, and you'll find similarly priced rods available for sale. If demand drives market prices then we have to assume someone wants all of those rods. What is it about bamboo?

I can't be sure why, but truth be told I've got the bug. I've often thought that maybe it's the history I find so appealing. All but one of my bamboo rods is at least 30 years old. When I fish with them, I find myself wondering who fished the rod before me. Was he or she an avid angler or a weekend warrior? What rivers did he or she frequent, and by extension where has this rod been? I'm connected to the past in a way that just isn't possible with any of my plastic sticks. Maybe it sounds hackneyed or trite, but with a bamboo rod in my hand, fishing isn't just about fishing. With bamboo I leave my imprint on the rod; I become part of the rod's history.

I suppose that is why I find myself stringing up bamboo rods more and more often. It's just one of those things I do to ensure that fishing isn't just about fishing.

1 comment:

Colorado Angler said...

I think it's a combination of nostalgia, history, and romanticism, which all combine to make the experience more rewarding.

The same passion that drives auto enthusiasts to restore old cars, and collectors to antiques - there's something to be said for having (and maintaining) a bit of history while keeping a tradition alive.

Finally, while I know that most of the allure is in collecting older rods, here's a link to a friend's brother that hand-crafts some fine 'grass'