"You never miss what you never had." Bull! My main problem was I
didn't know what I was missing, while I was missing it. I was living
life, enjoying things, learning, fly-fishing, meeting a few people
of note and making my way in the fly-fishing world. Now I miss a
lot of things I didn't do and places I didn't go to. If you have
as many moons behind you as I, you may understand, if not, you may
be able to benefit.
Oh yes, I could go to some of the rivers I didn't get to in the past,
but, they all have changed today. The folks who were fishing them
and writing about them then are gone now. The attitudes have changed
too. The attitudes about fly rods, reels, lines and fly-fishing in
general. An era is gone and I only lived on the edge of it. Kind
of like peeking through the window, watching it go by.
We are in a new era, it's going on right now, all around us. One
which touts the high tech rods, large arbor reels, synthetic fly
lines, catch and release and planted fish. Contrast that to my
learning years. Inexpensive cane rods, single-action reels, silk
fly lines, catch and cook and wild trout.
The revolution came with fiberglass developed for radio antennas
for the second world war and then evolving into fishing rods. Most
who spent much time fly-fishing used cane rods of varying value,
some costing a couple hours pay, some a weeks pay. The advent of
graphite brought with it fly rods that were mass produced and the
masses were gobbling them up.
The era of cane for the average Joe was doomed. It's death struggles
can be seen a bit yet today, but it is doomed. And it can never be
born again. Just as our society evolves, so does our recreation.
We move on, on from walking to horses to cars to Leer jets; from
sticks to split-bamboo to fiberglass to graphite.
I lived during the transition, it was magnificent. And a funny thing
about it. When the new graphite rods came out many folks bought and
used them. They were, as I said, all mass produced, all that is
except from a guy in California (there may have been others, but
he became famous), Russ Peak. He made his own rod blanks and designed
the shape of the materials that went into them, they were wonderful.
One person continues his legacy only, C.F. Burkheimer of Washuagal,
Washington. In the 'hey-day' of the galloping-graphite, Russ alone
stood out as having something different, something better, something
to possess if you could. Anyone who owned one was held in respect,
both for having the rod and knowing the difference.
His rods were respected, he was respected. Today we are offered
great casting tools, technology has produced the finest fly rods
ever in the history of the sport. How are we supposed to become
emotional about a graphite rod? Who made it? Did Wes Jordan select
it from hundreds produced because it just seemed a little bit better
than the 'run of the mill'? Who really designed the taper? An
adaptation from some other rod, by whom, when, why, on a computer?
I like my fly rods, but I have no emotional involvement with any
of them. If they break, I can get another one just like it. If I
(had) a Ron Kusse cane rod and broke it, could I get another one
'exactly' like it? Darn close, but, it would not be the same.
All cane rods are one of a kind; I can get involved with something
I (my wife included) were some of the last to convert from cane
to graphite. We went kicking and screaming all the way, swearing
that we would "never fish a fly rod that not been alive." But, she
was given a rod by Don Owens of Orvis, a 'Far and Fine' 5wt.
We never looked back.
During that time our friends were using, Paynes, Leonards, Powells
and Youngs. We used Orvis Battenkills, twin 5 wts, consecutive
serial numbers. I never owned an Payne, Leonard, Powell or a
Young, I wish I had. I miss not owning one then and fishing it
then; that's point, fishing it then. In time we did acquire a
couple of Charlie Ritz rods, nice but a bit odd casting,
eventually sold the things. No, I miss going thru the transition
and not becoming as much a part of it as I should have. I didn't
have it, and I miss it. Some of the richness of the era escaped us.
So, what now? Well, we are faced with a sport that demands a fly
rod be guaranteed against everything. If you break it, so what,
they send you a new one, free. With one of these I no longer am
responsible for what may happen to it, Not my fault, it must be
the companies. How in hell am I supposed to respect a rod like
that? Right now I am having a rod custom made and I can tell you
this, if I break it, I pay for a new one. Sure it is covered for
material and workmanship, but, if I didn't figure that the
workmanship and material were top notch, I wouldn't be ordering
it in the first place.
Will it have the same value as a classic cane heirloom hand forged
by someone like Ron Kusse? Of course not. But it will be one damn
fine stick and I will take excellent care of it and be proud to
show it to anyone who would like to see it. It will have a 'history'
built into it, one forged by those who developed the tapers and
designed the materials. Not exactly as cane, but, unique to its
own style. It will be a Burkheimer and to me that means plenty.
Is there yet time for me? I think so, I suppose I have a few more
years to fly fish and I also think I would like to sport a good
cane for some of it too, maybe wear a tie and argyle socks, perhaps
I may, who knows. I still prefer single action reels and silk lines,
I have not gone all the way towards bad, only part way. I still like
a dry fly tied sparse and fished upstream, and good rods too.
~ James Castwell