It started Saturday night and it hasn't stopped.
Thunderstorms and planing.
That's right, the weather has prevented us from fishing and so, Jacob started planing a bamboo rod.
I haven't seen him very much the past few days and I don't expect to for a while. The obsession has begun and it won't end until the rod is completed.
I'm going to hear endless rants about node spacing, angles, silk, and possibly shimmers.
Oh, the dreaded shimmers. But, that's ok.
It's always an interesting process to watch, seeing pieces of bamboo go from seemingly mismatches pieces of sticks to a completed work of art.
It's going to thunderstorm again today, so there won't be any fishing. The sky has changed from a muted sunrise to dark and menacing in just a few short hours.
I hear that the planing should be completed today.
Next up, gluing.
For quite some time now I've been surrounded and, by association, completely immersed in the world of bamboo rods.
Many, if not most, of Jacob's friends are also builders or at least bamboo collectors and aficionados. Thus, I hear about this craft a lot. A LOT!
This week Jacob and I attended the Carolina Cane Gathering which gathers once a year to talk, fish, cast etc... bamboo.
One of the presenters, a good friend of ours, Aaron, spoke about a mill that he's spent a good portion of his time over the past year building and perfecting. He asked me if I would take some photos for the talk as it is far too large to move and in far too small of a room to gather a group of people.
Since the presentation has been made and the event was over I found it appropriate to share a few of these photos as well as a short video of the mll operating.
I am by no means a builder, have no desire to be, but I'm still amazed by the craftsmanship that goes into creating a fly rod, grass or glass.
I highly encourage anyone who is able to purchase a fly rod from and independent builder. The time, effort and artistry that's put into these rods are unparalleled by any mass produced company.
You wake up, it's still pitch black out. You can hear the rain pouring down outside.
Drink coffee. Grab fishing gear. Bundle up. Make sure you are as waterproof as you can be.
You leave the house and head out. Sure it's wet and cold, but the fish are already wet and cold, so it really doesn't matter.
You arrive at a soft, still, run; bubbling from what appears to be rain. The closer you get, the subtle differences between a raindrop hitting the surface and trout feeding on the surface becomes apparent. Every so often you can see bright, yellow tails break the surface, taunting you and making you even more aware of their presence.
Every cast is an effort in futility. Size 24 dry flys are no match for the mighty raindrop.
It's an excruciating process, one you only participate in if you are truly, certifiably crazy. But you will be rewarded for your mad routine, with gold, in the form of a brown trout or two. So, you continue this crazy pattern until your hands are so cold and wet you can no longer set the hook. You warm yourself with good conversation and beer and go at it again, only to repeat this pattern as well.
Eventually, you decide that you're soaked and good conversation can only go so far to warm you, the car heater does a much better job. You make your sojourn back to the car, soaked and tired and slightly buzzed. You may look broken down and smell like a wet dog, but you leave knowing that you are worth your weight in gold.
I woke up this morning to air filled with smoke, so thick you could hardly see what was right in front of you. It hits your lungs hard and weakens your body almost instantly. We decided that for today, the trout would have to wait. There was plenty to accomplish in the workshop.
And so, we set to our tasks.
It's good to sit down an create. It's good to make something out of nothing. It's good to restore something to its original glory. There is work to do, and it is as important and meaningful as exploring the hills.
I spent my day in front of my machine, sewing away, wondering why in the hell a rod sock would possibly need pockets. But, the rod sock got pockets.
Jacob completed one restoration and began a second build. The workshop smells of varnish, warm bamboo and pipe tobacco. It's a good smell.
Yesterday I noticed the details. I often get wrapped up with the end result, the goal, so much so that I forget to pay attention to the little things along the journey.
When fishing I often get so consumed with getting the "money shot" of a fish that I neglect all the artistry that's found in between. I often don't notice how delicately beautiful a dry fly is on a strand of fly line, the eruption of a release, or the peaceful water droplets that appear when a trout is feeding on the surface. I get caught up, as a lot of us do, with catching the fish that's "slurping" and not notice how beautiful that act is, in and of itself.
We overlook so much, not just in fishing, but in life when we become all consumed with an outcome.
I've been consumed. So focused on one thing that I've overlooked all of the amazing things that are happening all around me. And, when I started paying attention, the journey became that much sweeter.
So here's to watching that fish, not just trying to catch it.
The first time I ever heard about Eddie Pinkston was probably my second date with Jacob. My conclusion was that this man is probably part god, part degenerate. Seriously. My first time meeting Eddie, I had the same conclusion. I spent the better part of two hours listening to this man, swinging a Bud Light can around, trying to convince me that he had “spoken” a 32-inch brown trout into swimming right into his hands. Oh, and where he wanted his ashes spread. But, this was Eddie, for better or worse, he was who he was.
I was given the opportunity to work for Eddie’s family for the better part of three years, and it was a true privilege. There was never a shortage of Eddie stories around the plant, from his mother to daughter to other employees. As soon as anyone at work found out that I fly fished, a story was soon to follow, and they were always welcome, especially the ones concerning carp. Amazingly, the stories continued from every fly fisherman in the Western North Carolina area as soon as they found out I worked for the Pinkston’s. You see, Eddie was a bit of a “local hero” around here, or at the very least he was incredibly infamous.
My journey of fishing with Eddie started about five months ago, well sort of. You see, Eddie passed away winter of last year. He was cremated and parts of him went here there and yonder. One of his daughters sent a little piece of Ed our way so that he could continue fishing, even after he had left our world. And so, Eddie goes fishing every time Jacob and I do.
To say that my perspective on fishing changed a little when I started fishing with Eddie is a bit of an understatement. If I was going to fish with the man’s ashes, I was certainly going to learn about him, to know him as best I could. I read books written about him, got even more stories and tried to replay the so few conversations I’d ever had with him. And slowly, I think I’m starting to grasp him, and not him the world saw, but the angler.
I hope to one day take Eddie back to Pennsylvania to catch much more steelhead. I hope to return him to the Henry’s Fork and catch so many trout that my right arm won’t work. I hope that on our journey I’ll be able to take him to Patagonia again and see that wonderful country through his eyes. But for now, we’ll keep on going to the Davidson, the place where Avery’s creek comes into it, and we’ll keep fishing it. And just maybe, one day, I’ll be able to coax a 32-inch brown into my hands, too.
Photo courtesy of John Crane - 2007
As many of you know, Jacob and I have been involved in a local organization known as Casting Carolinas. It’s purpose is to help women battling and healing from cancer escape from that world for a little while through fly fishing. The group of women that head this up are truly amazing, spending their own time and resources selflessly. There are two retreats and year and one amazing tournament, know as
Tie One On for Casting Carolinas.
This year I was unable to attended the tournament, due to a bug that snuck into my body and left me binge watching Netflix with a bucket and ginger ale. Not fun. Last year, I was graciously able to photograph the event and I truly missed being able to do that again this year. Jacob, however, had a full rich day! Between guiding an alumni team, “judging” a pro team and being an overall helper, he got to participate to the fullest extent.
I am most proud of the beautiful bamboo rod that Jacob and his mentor, Charlie Downs, of Yallerhammer Rods, built and donated to the organization for a drawing that will be held after the 100th ticket is sold. This is the second rod the two have made together and it is beyond beautiful! Being able to witness the process of student and mentor coming together and creating is something that words cannot describe.
The details of the rod are as follows:
This year’s collaboration is based on the
classic E.F. Payne “100” taper.
A smooth medium action 7’6”, 4Wt
that’s perfectly suited for high mountain streams.
E.F. Payne 100 Taper. 7’ 6” 4Dt
Hand Split, Hand Planed, “Blond Cane”
3X3 Node Spacing
Orange Silk Windings with Chocolate Brown Tipping
Nickel Silver “Swiss” StyleFerrules
Amber Agate Stripping Guide with Nickel Silver Frame and Bezel
Spalted Maple Burl Reel Seat with Nickel Silver Cap & Ring
Ratan Wrapped, Full Wells Grip with Orange Silk Windings
Four Dipped Coats Spar Varnish
If you're interested in purchasing a raffle ticket, Casting Carolinas will have a booth at several of the South East's Fly Fishing Shows, including the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Expo.
Tickets are $20.00.
You'll also get a chance to look at this piece of art and learn more about what CC does as will as meet the wonderful team of women and several participants.
Jacob is a fly fishing guide with a passion for conservation and brook trout. He is an accomplished rod builder and restorationist.
Jillian is an outdoor photographer and blogger, using her voice for Public Lands and Cold Water Conservation. She specializes in trying to out fish jacob whenever she puts the camera down.