Book of the bamboo builders
Casting a Spell: The Bamboo Fly Rod and the American Pursuit of Perfection, by George Black. 235 pages; Random House; 2006
This book is a fascinating, if somewhat somber, history of the great, or good, men who turned the split bamboo fly rod into an iconic totem of American sport. It is in no way a how-to-do-it manual. Rather, it's an accounting of the waxing, waning, serial resignation, reorganization, branding, deaths, and reemergence of individuals, families, companies and crews, of which the reconstituting of the Winston bamboo shop into Sweetgrass Rods is just the latest iteration. The lesson seems to be that it's practically impossible to do better than eake out a modest living as a bamboo rod builder; still less to do it for a lifetime. Strangely, these very different men didn't seem to worship at the alter of bamboo rods, theirs or their peers; but all were determined to keep improving their craft (never call it an art).
I agree with you, this is a very good read. My wife found it at the local library here in Mount Vernon a few months back and checked it out for me to read. Black does an excellent job of recounting the history of bamboo rod making in the US.
Interestingly, all the great fiberglass, graphite, and boron fly rod makers and designers have also just wanted to make enough to stay in business while making a modest living too. All we have to do is take a look at folks like Meiser, Burkheimer, Noburo or the high end fly rod companies to see this in operation in graphite in our time. Just like the top bamboo guys, the best in graphite face a lot of compitition from mass produced rods built with cheap labor along with pressure to increase their output.
another good one...
I bought a book about 15 years ago, "The Master's Guide To Building a Bamboo Flyrod" By Everett Garrison, and Hoagy Carmichael. (meadow run press, 1994 ed.)
It was originally published in 1977, when some of these old timers like Pinky Gillium, Everett Garrison, and RL Winston, were still alive. I guess Hoagy is now also passed on to "better waters". This book isn't as big on History but more a document which shows the difficulty involved in building a bamboo flyrod, complete with mathematical tables, and painstacking information on tapers, etc. It was soon after I purchased this book that I decided it would be better to just save my money and buy a bamboo flyrod, then to make one...( take the normal 100 hrs it takes, and double or triple it and you're looking at what it would take for me to build one!:redface: )
Before this book there was a book in the Michigan State Library called Master Rods and Rodmakers" or something to that effect which I borrowed quite a bit and would read about these guys who in the twenties, thirties, forties and fifties were bringing the craft into the light. I inherited a bamboo rod from my grandfather, still useable, which I heard he purchased at a garage sale for 5$. I did some research on it in the above named book and found that it was a circa 1927-29 Goodwin Granger 8 ft rod with extra 8 and a half foot tip. there were many stories told to me over the years of this rod and the piscetorial divinations it conjured. I subsequently stuck a Martin reel with an "autoretrieve" and managed to rip the guide eye almost completely off the rod, and decided to stop there and place it in my collectibles. It will someday go in a case in my fantasy flyshop which I hope you will all visit..:D
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