January 3rd, 2004

Pride of Ownership
By James Castwell


Pretend you have just heard this comment. You build the scene around it, probably on a stream somewhere.

"Ya, got that beauty on my 3wt with a 7x tippet!"

Ok, now think about what you were able to build around it. What pictures could you come up with? Don't cheat and keep reading. Stop and think a minute. What did the statement convey to you? Anything about the fish? Sure, I guess it was large for it's kind. How about the rod? Well, it was a 3wt, but what brand? Is he proud of that brand? Custom made? No, nothing about any of that. The tippet now. 7x, mighty thin, the guy must be a really good fly-fisher or the fish is small. Need more info on this.

Roughly this is about it. He got a nice fish on a light rod and leader. He is good. Now let's take another comment. Rather similar situation.

"Yes, took her on my 7ft Payne Perfection."

Whoa, this is different. Well, go ahead and build the scene again anyhow. Put the guys on a stream bank someplace. Ok, now, got it? Let's see what you came up with. Let's start with the rod first. A seven foot Payne Perfection is a fine tool. Light, delicate, rather expensive. Not the rod of a beginner nor a ham-handed fly flogger. The tool of tradesman. The fish? Well it was worth commenting on, right? Therefore a worthy contestant. The leader and tippet? Do you need to know? Obviously they were light enough to do the job and strong enough not to break. Ok, Castwell, is there a point to all of this? I sure hope so. If so it may be something like this.

News Bulletin: Mr. Leonard did not make all of the Leonard rods. Nor did Mr. Orvis make all of those. Or Mr. Payne make all of his either. These were companies which produced rods on a production basis. No one person actually made any of them. Assembly line fashion was how it was done. It kind of destroys some warm and fuzzy mental pictures, but it is fact.

However, those who bought and fished those rods were more inclined to give credit to their rods than themselves. For instance, he didn't say, "my 3wt Payne" (showing how great he was), but giving the name of the rod instead. Sorry (perhaps) to say, there was more pride in equipment half a century ago. Even as rods were constructed on an assembly line the pride of workmanship and the skill of the artisan were important. Not to diminish the rods of today, masterpieces for sure, but more machine made than man made. Was that a good thing? Well, back then it was.

Now coming into the new millennium of fly fishing what do we have? Some good, some not so good and the others. The good? For sure the major rod makers of today have achieved the zenith of the casters dream. Rods built for and which function any way a caster might wish. Pricy some of them yes, but they will do the job as expected perfectly. For a few dollars less rods can still be had that are better casters than anything our ancestors ever dreamed of. And carry a lifetime guarantee as well. You bust it, they replace it.

Now looking at cane (bamboo to some of you) we see a different picture. The heyday of the major companies pounding out volumes of rods daily to keep up with the demand is gone, over, done. No more will it exist. However it has given way to another, just as will always happen in our sport. The era of the cane rod maker, still making rods about as fast as he can. But now, when you get a cane rod, guess what? If it's a Kusse, Mr. (Ron) Kusse did make it, the whole darn thing. And if it says Sommers, well, Mr. (Bob) Sommers made it, that's what. This is not a bad thing. The major makers still are using assembly-line methods, but he does all the parts himself. This is, in fact, great. I feel there is a strong trend moving among the shadows of our fraternity where the names of the rod makers are being heard. Not just whispers, but names are surfacing from all corners of our country, some build one at a time, some a bit more production oriented.

It is true, many of them use a taper of some of the past masters, but most can not resist tweaking them a bit. The name on the rod is often the name of the original taper. If I bought a rod and something was written on the butt section, I would prefer it was the name of guy who made the thing, not the taper.

The pride of our equipment. I think there was some attempt to try to convince us it was wrong to be prideful. That is not the same as having pride in something you can do or something you own. Why do you think the big rigs on the highway get washed so often? Pride in a Peterbuilt, that's why.

Pride of ownership is fine. Celebrate it. Buy yourself something real nice soon, something you can be proud of, and maybe pass on to your son. Make him proud of you. ~ JC

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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