This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

December 6th, 2004

And Now, For the Rest of the Story

I received my wonderful Kusse cane rod this week - and some of you may have already read my husbands JC's article or Bulletin Board posting on it. Before I continue, I must say the rod is absolutely unique and perfect. I am thrilled to have it. I will cherish it. Not just because it is a superb casting tool, but because it was made by Ron Kusse especially for me.

8ft Quad

But there is more to the story.

A few years ago, Ron Kusse offered to build a cane rod for me. I turned him down. The rod was to be a gift from Ron and I frankly was embarrassed. Not for the reasons you might expect.

Having lived through tough times, I was not able to accept such a gift from someone who earns his living by building fine rods. Just not a nice, proper thing to do. It would have been taking advantage of Ron and our friendship. The other part of my refusing his very kind offer may seem even stranger.

When JC and I were growing up, cheap cane rods were 'normal.' They were sold in hardware stores, Montgomery Ward and even the Sears and Roebuck catalogs. It was what there was until the 'modern' steel telescopic rods came out. They may have been modern, but they were heavy and terrible. But it was what there was!

By the time I was an accomplished caster, fiberglass was a big deal, and some really nice rods were built from it. There were some real dogs too, but that's the way progress weeds out the good from the bad. How can one tell something is really good if you've never cast or fished something really bad?

Eventually I did own a couple of modestly priced cane rods, Orvis and Pezon Michelle - and I really enjoyed them. The Pezon (PM) more, it was a 3 wt., and I fished it a lot. The fiberglass rods were pretty much retired. As JC tells in his article, there was also a one-piece six-footer which our friend Neil built for him, and I adopted it as my own.

The first graphite rod I ever used was in the mid-70's when the late Don Owen of Orvis sent me a 5 wt Far and Fine as a gift. I had not fished - or cast for that matter - any rods other than cane for a long time. I had written an article, I believe for the now defunct Anglers Journal on why I didn't like graphite and practically swore I would never own one. The reason? Ah, here's the catch.

For at least that period in my life I felt it was just plain wrong to fish for living, breathing trout with anything which was not or had not been a living thing itself. Graphite was simply a fake, plastic imitation of cane. In fact, the early fiberglass rods literally were imitations of the best of the cane rods. Graphite rods felt dead. They had no character, no life.

There was another good reason, at least in my mind, not to have a really good cane rod. I have no where to fish it. I am not a collector, nor can I afford to be one. To have a really, really fine rod and not fish it is a sin. They are designed, and lovingly built to be fished. Not stuck in a closet or a rod hack or hung over the mantle.

Our closest good trout fishing is a three hour one-way trip. There are some local lakes, but we don't have a boat and I am not much of a lake fisher anyway.

Spending as much time as we do on FAOL, we just don't take much time off to fish - not enough actually, but that's another story. It may change; I hope so.

So having a fine cane rod just didn't make logical sense. JC is the logical one, and even he had trouble understanding my thinking on this, but it is how I felt.

If you have read his article, About Magnum Opus, you know about how this rod came about. You also know the rod was not a gift from Ron, but indeed ordered by JC for me.

I'm a pretty private person, but I'll let you in on a secret. I'm pretty much overwhelmed by JC's gift of the rod to me. Overwhelmed by the wonderful craftsmanship our friend Ron put into this rod for me. It is a thing of real beauty.

Accepting a fine gift graciously is something which perhaps takes practice, or a better upbringing than I had. I'm not good at it.

But with what grace I can muster, my sincere thanks to Ron Kusse for a very special rod, and to my darling JC, there is no way I can thank you... ~ DLB

If you would like to comment on this or any other article please feel free to post your views on the FAOL Bulletin Board!

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