A friend of mine asked an interesting question recently that has got me thinking. As fly anglers, is it just a matter of time before we are drawn to casting bamboo as a brook trout is drawn to a fat size 6 slumpbuster? This is a great question to think about, because as of late, I have been bitten hard by the boo bug. I think there is something to it. After fishing for a while (10 years for me) I think you start thinking about not just the act of casting a fly and catching fish, but also how you go about doing this.
Is it aesthetics? For me the answer is yes, that’s part of it. There is something that is just so naturally beautiful about a cane rod. The way it feels in your hand. Not cold like graphite and epoxy, but warm likes it’s living.
Is it history? Yes, I think this is part of it also. Especially so when we’re referring to vintage rods. You almost get a sense that the rod has a story to tell. Maybe about it’s owner. Maybe about it’s maker. Just maybe about the leviathan that got away. The funny thing is, you want to hear all of it, because of the passion you share with the maker and the owner.
Maybe you know the rods story, because you were present for a portion of it while a family member or close friend was still writing it. If one is lucky enough to posses such a cane rod after the owner has passed, you will never fish alone. That person will always be right in the palm of your hand as you’re blissfully casting, and writing a new story.
Lastly, are they just plain old cool? Absolutely! I once ran into a seasoned angler at one of my usual haunts who was wielding a bamboo rod. Very friendly fellow, we struck up a conversation quickly. I was admiring his cane rod after which he said “what, this old thing? I just threw it together. It’s nothing special” I nodded and again complimented the rod. I’m standing there on the bank looking like I just stepped out of an Orvis catalog, and he proceeds to walk across the foot bridge wearing jeans and a coat, and starts casting into a deep pool. Sure enough after a few casts he was tight. He calmly walked to the end of the bridge, and down a snowy bank, playing the fish the whole time. Gets right to the edge of the river and lands a beautiful Brown like nothing. I would have ended up on my backside for sure just trying to walk down the bank (and I actually did end up on my backside a few weeks later in that same spot) He walks back up the bank, opens his fly box, and hands me one of the flies the he just caught the fish on. Now, that is cool personified. I knew right then and there that I had to get me some boo, and someday I wanted to be that guy.
I’m in the process of restoring my first bamboo rod. It was given to me by the friend who asked the question that inspired me to make this entry. The rod will have meaning to me forever for that reason alone. I think ultimately that’s what draws us to bamboo. Every rod has a story, and it means something. I can’t wait to start writing mine.