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Why Bamboo?
by Wayne Cattanach

March 30th, 1998

It doesn't take a feature story in the Wall Street Journal to alert folks of the renewed interest in bamboo fly rods. If you fly fish, you are aware of it, just as you are when the fog settles on a stream at dusk. It's there, but perhaps never close enough to touch. Seeing it from the supplier side of things business couldn't be better. Most known makers will take your name and tell you to expect the rod around the turn of the century.

But why is the interest so great? Here some 45 years after the popularity of fiberglass, bamboo rods are still considered by many the pinnacle of the sport. Well, the answer to that question obviously depends a good deal on who you ask. A fair segment of flyfishers could care less about bamboo. This group usually fishes for non-trout species. They use big rods, heavy lines, and flies that go 'kerplunk.' For them graphite is the answer. In truth, bamboo would be out of place in their world.

The real resurgence in bamboo is among trout fishers, especially those who cast dry flies. This is the group that I hang with. It is with this group that more and more bamboo is being spoken and fished. Unfortunately, for years, an image that many have held of those that fish bamboo was that of being elitist. That word often brings to mind the A.R. type individual. That vision, in most cases, is just not true.

John Gierach has shared in his writings what a representative cross section of those who fish bamboo is like. That is, long term flyfishers that are mature in the sport. Some like to call themselves troutbums. These are the folks that can appreciate the added advantage and mystique that bamboo offers. That segment of flyfishing is growing.

So what is the attractor? Perhaps the greatest asset of a quality bamboo fly rod is its ability to locate even the smallest of dry flies on perfectly still water without the slightest hint of disruption. In other words, the ultimate presentation.

Several years ago, a nationally know flyfisher introduced me to another of his friends. The friend was the image of one of the better known graphite rod manufactures and displayed that name across the front of his shirt. It seems the next question that came up was, why I still fished bamboo. This appeared to be one of those buzzsaw situations and so an appropriate but softened answer was in order. I simply pointed to the casting pond and pointed out that when the line from a graphite rod contacts the water, a 'plunge pool' is formed. This is caused by excess energy in the line that can't transmit through the line leader connection fast enough and the reserve energy dampens itself by causing the pool. I further said that in most cases this may be a non-issue. In normal fishing the pool is created downstream of the fish and is usually in broken water. The exception is fishing those tough slack water pools to very sensitive fish. To my great relief Mr. Graphite looked up at me and shared; when he fished the spring creeks of the west he used bamboo for just that reason.

Besides the presentation issue there is a lengthy list of other reasons to fish bamboo. That list ranges from the better retained value of investment dollars to the support of the artisans who craft the rods. Agree or disagree bamboo, fly rods are here to stay.

Fly Angler's OnLine has asked me to host a 2 hour session of the Chat Room. So if you have any questions or comments about using or making bamboo fly rods why not join in on Thursday nights from 9 to 11 Eastern Time (6 to 8 Pacific). Pour a cup and join me. Wayne Cattanach

The family name Cattanach desends from the Scottish clan of Chattan, which may or may not explain how Wayne came to be the fifth generation living on the family farm outside of Casnovia, Michigan. Professionally a mechanical contractor, Wayne currently works for Forest Hills Schools.

Flyfishing and rod building (after losing the rod he was given) since 13, Wayne has stayed with the passion for 16 years, or for at least 100 rods. Whether writing, doing, demonstrating or teaching, Wayne is extremely involved in keeping the art and craftsmanship of hand made bamboo rods alive ... though he handles his skill and reputation with great humility. When Wyoming rodmaker, Jon Parker noted there is a good chance of Wayne being the next Everett Garrison, Wayne replied, "I laugh - knowing that I won't be around to know if that prediction comes true or not. Instead I think of myself as a modest and casual person somehow being allowed to hang around with a group of highly skilled craftspeople - having fun and watching the adventure unfold."

While with The Planing Form Wayne helped organize the first eastern rod makers get together which over the years migrated its way to Grayling, Mi and is now known as Rodmakers at Grayrock. The TTBBQ is the social ending. Last year Wayne came up with the idea for The Makers Rod.

The Makers Rod will be a 7 foot 6 inch, 4 weight, 3 piece, 2 tipped rod. What makes the rod special is that it will be made by 28 rodmakers from across the United States.
The special cause will be stream restoration on the AuSable and Manistee rivers of Michigan.
For the rodmakers it is a chance to show their love for the craft and their concern for our resources.
For some lucky individual it is a chance to own perhaps the most unique bamboo fly rod ever made.

To find out more on the Maker's Rod, including how to enter the raffle to win, click here.

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