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.
It happened I couldn't find in all my books
more than a picture and a few words concerning
the trout lily,
so I shut my eyes.
And let the darkness come in
and roll my back.
The old creek
began to sing in my ears
as it rolled along, like the hair of spring,
and the young girl I used to be
heard it also,
as she came swinging into the woods,
taunt from everything as usual
except the clear globe of the day, and its
Then she stopped,
where the first trout lilies of the year
had sprung from the ground
with their spotted bodies
and their six-antlered bright faces,
and their many red tongues.
If she spoke to them, I don't remember what she said,
and if they kindly answered, it's a gift that can't be broken
by giving it away.
All I know is, there was a light that lingered, for hours,
under her eyelids-that made a difference
when she went back to a difficult house, at the end of the day.
-Mary Oliver, Why I Wake Early
I was starting to grow frustrated. I wanted to move on, hurry up, stop wasting time in holes where the fish weren't biting. You're not going to coax them into eating, we've been in this one hole for an hour. You caught the blind squirrel, now let's move on.
I knew that I needed content, photos, something, anything. And so far, I wasn't getting it. All I was doing was sitting around waiting.
Eventually, we started moving upstream, but nothing was going on up there either.
Another hour passed.
I was in desperate need of something to peak my imagination, some beautiful trout to get the creative juices flowing.
The day became all about catching something. Kind of like novice anglers are, the catch being more important than the experience.
With time spent on the water, you begin to figure out that it isn't all about catching that trophy trout or crazy amounts of fish that made it to the net.
You calm down, attain confidence and acceptance.
You learn that all days spent on the water are good days, 3o inch brown or not.
We moved up into a section of small wild water. I was sure that this was going to make the creative genius poor out of me, but as always, mother nature had other plans.
I saw so many feisty, wild rainbows jumping and splashing around I couldn't believe it. Spring had found them and they were enjoying every second of it.
A soon as your fly hit the water up popped a little trout just to roll all over it, jump right behind it or delicately execute any number of acrobatic tricks. And it wasn't just with our humble creations, but with the actual mayfly's that were swarming about everywhere.
It's as if they had filled themselves as much as they could stand and now it was time to play. They were truly enjoying every minute of the day.
So, why wasn't I?
At the end of this particular stretch, you reach a large waterfall, one that even I wouldn't want to venture to try to climb over.
The pool below is large and full of happy trout.
When we arrived it all finally hit me. My frustrations over not landing "enough" trout started to fade and I took in the comedy of these jumping four to eight-inch trout. Every cast, up popped a fish and out flew a fly, one that either ended up tangled around 6x fluoro (spider webbing) or one that you had to dodge out of the way to miss.
Comical is truly an understatement.
So there we stood, only a few trout under our belts for the day, but watching all these tiny trout literally play with their food.
I can't think of a more perfect day; thank god it finally hit me.
Dogwood winter. It's a thing here, happens every year. Just when you've really gotten geared up for spring, the sunshine welcomes your face every morning, those sweet little flowers make their appearance, and the dogwood trees begin to bloom. Bam! It's winter again, and it'll happen again when the blackberry bushes start to bloom.
This week has been filled with unproductive days on the water and busy days spent in the shop. Which means few moments spent with trouts, but I can't blame them, water levels and temperatures fluctuating to such extremes, I wouldn't want to play either.
Sunday we were able to escape for just a few hours. You see, the guiding season has also kicked into high gear here, which means less time spent on the water with my favorite angling model and therefore fewer photos. I'm not so into selfies.
For only a few hours, it was wildly productive, other than only silver fish being caught... Damn silver fish!
Jacob and I have had a longstanding rivalry, a house divided if you will.
Glass vs. Grass.
He's a diehard bamboo angler and I'm pretty partial to fiberglass. We've both retired all of our graphite rods into "the guide business" and moved on to more classy equipment.
We have this funny way of talking about our rods like they're doing the fishing.
"oh, looks like the glass beat out the grass today"
"Seems like the grass has more fish in her today"
Recently I purchased a new fiberglass rod. I'm not one to make purchases lightly, I have to research, reading and watching everything I can find on the product. I have to know all of the reviews, compare those reviews and specs in pie charts and diagrams. It's taken me months to commit to buying something. Even then, in the case of a fly rod, I have to cast it multiple times to find out if it "speaks" to me or not.
For being as free spirited as I am, I suppose this is my one grounding quality.
When I began looking for another glass rod, one that could hold more weight, but have a little more reach, I kept finding these incredible casting videos of a man, Tim Rajeff.
That's what put Echo Fly Fishing on my radar. I started the process, reading retailer reviews, looking up the threads on The Fiberglass Flyrodders, and finding an older post on The Fiberglass Manifesto.
Two months later, I was ready to commit.
The Echo Glass is truly an amazing rod! I love it!
I purchased the FG-690 (9', 6wt), as previously stated, for reach and larger nymph rigs/streamers. But, I've fished also used it for teeny, tiny midge fishing as well, when I need that extra length or when casting distance in the wind.
The first thing I noticed about this rod is that it is deadly accurate! In about every situation imaginable. I've chosen to underline it with a 5wt, Intouch Rio Perception line, for the smaller midge rigs and use the Royal Wulff - Bamboo Special 6wt for larger flies.
In addition to matching my casting style superbly, the rod also offers an incredibly sensitive tip, even in the 6wt. I fish primarily based on feel. I can't see indicators, so I don't even mess with them, rather spending my day's tight line nymphing when dry flies just aren't getting it done. This rod gives me the extra sensitivity that I desperately need, but with a strong butt section, handling a 20" brown I caught a few weeks ago with ease.
Almost everything about this rod is spectacular. It's an excellent price point, comes with a lifetime warranty, and is a lovely honey, orange color. Seriously, all around great! The only thing I dislike about it is the reel seat, but I'm sure that comes from living with a rod builder, which leads to my wish that this rod was available as a blank.
We've had some pretty bizarre weather here in the Southeast for the past few days. Summer one day, tornadoes the next and possibly snow tomorrow.
Mother Nature, I'm sick of your schizophrenia.
(I also fully accept that it's man kinds fault.)
We woke up yesterday morning in hopes of fishing ahead of the front and catching some wildly hungry browns.
It didn't happen.
As soon as we got to the river it started to thunderstorm. Rain, no problem. Struck by lightning, I think I'll pass.
And so, we headed home to work. There are rods that need built, restored, put back together and socks that need sewn.
Over the past few weeks I was able to collaborate with a bamboo rod builder out of Montana to create a sock with ferrule plug pockets that would not be overly bulky and not contain any buttons, clasps, or velcro.
I think what we came up with is pretty great and I couldn't have done it without him.
Thanks, Don for all your efforts and I'm so happy we came up with the product we did.
If you've never hear of Don, check out his site here.
Kind words from Don:
Rod socks, rod bags, fly rod under ware, whatever ya wanna call 'em came in the mail today, and they are quite nice! Love the first two you made for me, and I say 'first two' because there will be more...
I will be in touch!!!
Thanks, glad I found you!"
Here's an update on the socks I'm currently offering and a price list.
Standard, straight hemmed cotton twill sock
Standard, straight hemmed cotton twill sock with ferrule plug pockets
$25.00 + $5.00 per pocket
Standar, straight hemmed cotton twill sock with flannel lining
Straight hemmed solid color flannel sock
Cotton twill sock with flap
You should work here.
You should wear these clothes.
You should hang out with these people.
You should look this way.
Your hair should look like this.
You shouldn't wear those sandals.
You shouldn't have those tattoos.
You shouldn't be so loud.
You shouldn't wear those hiking shorts all the time.
You should be prettier.
You shouldn't care so much.
You should be this way.
Should, should, should, should...
Well, guess what, I'm not.
Thanks for continuing to call society out on their crap.
Thanks for letting me know I'm not alone and empowering all of us to be who we are, embrace it, and support each other's journeys.
And thanks for being a company I can truly believe it!
A Force of Nature
The thermostat read 78 degrees; we checked the water, it read 58 degrees. I'd already removed most of my layers and was regretting the choice of waders. The air felt heavy and wet.
It was the second day in April.
We'd made a choice to escape early and head into the wild in search of small trouts and no people, little did we know that this may be a necessity already.
My wrist watch read 3:30, and the water was getting dangerously close to being too warm.
It was the second day in April.
The warm smell of honeysuckle, pine, and decaying bark filled the air, only every so often could you smell the crisp, clean smell of wild water. The sun was high and bright, not a cloud in the sky, and the richest blue you've ever seen. We took turns crouching in the little shade the laurels provided. It felt like the dead of summer.
If we're lucky, we may get another month of trout fishing if the weather continues the way it has been.
I'm hoping for a long, wet spring. Today is dark and gray, rain falling and I feel hopeful.
I've already set my sights on bass bugs and a six weight, just in case.
Many people find comfort in the familiar, the routine, what's known. They enjoy feeling safe.
There's nothing wrong with this mindset; perhaps it's the smarter mindset to have. If you're like this, then you have a sense of what's ahead. You have a plan for the today and the tomorrow. You've even got a safety net, just in case something pops up.
I'm not like this.
I've felt a constant pull to seek out what's unknown to me. I want to be in the realm of unfamiliar and unsafe. I don't have any idea of what's ahead. I make my plans day by day, not year by year. Some would argue that this is risky and even possibly immature. They may be right.
If you're a genuine anger, you're always on the lookout for new water, a different species of fish, even new fishing companions.
This week Jacob and I had the opportunity to accomplish two-thirds of those goals. We set out up the mountain and then back down, searching out a piece of river that was completely foreign. We'd heard about it, but never really committed to the long drive until someone invited us along.
When you stumble upon these places, they remain with you. They invite you back and encourage you to keep searching.
Experiences keep drawing me towards the unknown, keep pushing me to live spontaneously and surround myself with the new and different. Every gamble rewards me with a memory far more precious than safety. So I believe I'll keep searching out that next mountain and trying to find that unknown path. Maybe one day I'll succumb to the know, but for now, I'll keep seeking out the unknown, it's far more rewarding.
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.