Each year my wife and I select what we feel are
the most deserving items for 'Best of Show' at
the annual gathering of the manufacturers and
retailers; this last week it was in Denver, Colorado
from Thursday through Saturday. Over the next few weeks
we will try to bring you information about some of the
things we found for all of to play with in future seasons.
The art of inventing and developing new goodies is alive
and well in the fly-fishing world.
But let me explain why I picked the Lee Wulff six-foot,
five weight cane rod. This is the same rod we (FAOL and
Wulff) gave away during the month of November of '02 on
Many years ago we fished with Lee and Joan in Montana
and also attended a large gathering with them in West
Yellowstone. The picture of Lee with that rod on their
page on here now is one I took at that event.
The Ladyfisher and I came both started our serious
fly-fishing using cane and actually got a bit stuck on
the things. An expression we often used was, "If a rod
was never alive, I don't want to fish it." It is not
just the feeling and warmth of a cane rod, but all
that goes with it; fly-fishing with cane makes the game
complete. We came kicking and screaming to graphite only
in later years when Don Owens of Orvis gave her a graphite
Far and Fine and Rod Towsley of Scientific Anglers gave
me a System six.
Over the past years I have lamented the demise, if not the
death, of what I referred to as a 'production' cane rod. Oh
sure, there are a few custom makers cranking out rods in
fairly large numbers, but I meant more like in the older
days. I wanted to find a company producing reasonably
affordable rods that did not have some quirky taper
developed and improved by today's maker. The old tapers
The Lee Wulff six-foot five weight rod is such a rod. It
has not been changed. This is the rod Lee wanted and used,
in fact he had several. Although we gave one away in
November, I had not had a chance to cast it other than
that day thirty years ago. As I recalled, I , of course,
liked it. I also watched Lee fish it on the Upper Yellowstone
when the four of us went after Cutthroat trout.
But, this last Thursday, when the Denver show opened, I
made a bee-line for the Royal Wulff booth, I wanted to
cast that rod. Doug Cummings, general manager, already
had a small light weight Hardy reel loaded with a Joan
Wulff Signature five WF line. Off I went, the Ladyfisher
in lock step, directly to the closest of the two hundred
foot long casting pond areas. I stepped up onto the raised
casting platform giving me a hundred feet in front and
equal amount behind for my back-cast.
Holding the line under the fingers of my casting hand
I shook out a few feet of line and leader. Short casts,
no double-hauling, watching the loops, how the rod bends
and where and how much, any vibration, any kick-back
during the stroke, any extra whip of the tip after the
stop, a million little things all at once. I was
cataloging. I desperately wanted to let out more line
but held back until I had completed my short cast
observations. It passed with flying colors, I was
starting to feel just a bit giddy, damn, this is
I let the line out until I felt where the head stops
and the running line starts. Foot-by-foot I fed the
eager cane stick the food it wanted and with each
increase it responded without any urging or encouragement.
It seemed to be enjoying the game as much as I. That
is how you cast cane, you let it show you what it likes
to do. If you will only listen closely, it will tell you
many things. Again, I studied all the facets of performance
and again it passed with the same flying colors. I started
adding a bit of double-haul for line speed and loop shape.
Perfect control...perfect loop shape...It cast from a full
circle to a hard J wedge. Perfect.
Like the old cattle drivers would holler, "Head 'em up and
let 'em out!" So I did. Forty, fifty, sixty, seventy,
eighty... No, I did not even try for more, but am sure
that little powerhouse would have been happy to blow one
out the end of the pond if I would have let it. By this
time I was half silly with joy. Sure, I have cast other
rods with great characteristics, but not in this price
range and not production rods. But, this gets better.
My wife could not be restrained any longer and could tell
I was having way too much fun. She looked like a kid
hopping from foot to foot at a cotton-candy machine.
That always works, I stepped down and gladly gave her
Now, that often draws a crowd (so does a little cane
rod ripping eighty-foot loops) and this was no exception.
She was at least as pleased as I, maybe even more; she
was grinning like a skunk discovering a new garbage dump.
One of our friends who is the designer of the rods for a
very major company could not stand it any longer and joined
in the fun. As he used to be the designer for a major cane
company he had a great deal of knowledge at this stuff. He
agreed fully, he loved it. Now, it just so happens that
the very first F.F.F. Master Certified Casting Instructor
is also a buddy of ours and could not help noticing my wife,
me and a big tall guy having a grand old time with a little
six foot cane stick and a whole lot of fly line.
He too was impressed, very impressed. We all were.
So, no, this is not a product review, I have not fished
it. (Like I need to? Lee fished it for years.) This is
our opportunity to publicly express our sincere gratitude
and appreciation. This is our way of saying to Doug and
all the rest at Royal Wulff, "Well done my friends. This
is a product that has been far too long absent. The
fly-fishing world should welcome you with not only open
arms, but wallets as well. You have done a service to our
sport and for that we at FAOL not only thank you but, select
the Lee Wulff six-foot,
five weight Cane rod as 'Best of Show'
~ James Castwell