Bamboo Bonzai

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Baby's First Fly Rod

By Ray Du Bois

I had a surprise Jack and Jill shower for my wife Carla in October of 2004, we were expecting a baby girl in early December so naturally I had to buy a baby fly vest from the local Orvis shop as my gift. Everyone thought it was a perfect gift coming from me. Well the vest got me to thinking, what about a fly rod for her too? My first thought was of course bamboo. So naturally my first phone call was to master bamboo rod builder and friend Ron Kusse.

I own a couple or Ron's rods and we usually chat on the phone at least twice a week. So I gave Ron a call the next day to see if he had an old tip and mid section laying around I could put a reel seat on and make a little rod.

Well, Ron would have no part of that. He offered to build her a rod as his gift to her. I was stunned. Ron's rods cost well over $2000.00 and there is a waiting list of three year plus for a rod. Not only that but he wanted to build a one of a kind special rod, not just use a tip and mid section. He wanted to design a custom taper for a rod less then four feet long. So the journey began.

Ron spent the next ten months designing a 42" two piece rod that was able to easily cast a 1wt line over 30 feet. I don't know how many blanks he cut and tried before he hit upon one he liked but he was finally ready to begin building the rod. His first step was to a corner of his workshop where he keeps a number of pre-embargo culms of bamboo. This is Ron's special cane he rarely uses and when he does it's usually for a Magnum Opus, Ron's elite rod. The building process had begun.

Ron spent the next two month's building and finishing baby Jordan's rod. The ferrules are so small it took him two days fit them to the tiny rod. The ferrules are a mere 7/64's of an inch. A reel seat large enough to fit a small 2" reel, a cork grip only 3 3/8" long, seven guides and a tip-top. The hardware looks like those on a classic Leonard from a time long past, even down to the tiniest knurling on the check, cap and band, all of which Ron hand turned out of bright nickel silver. Finally he wrapped the rod with red silk he had from the original Leonard shop. He then made a custom rod bag out of bright yellow canvas with a dowel in the center to protect it from breaking. The waiting was finally over.

I anxiously drove to Ron's to accept the rod. The time was here to see it for the first time. As Ron greeted me at the door he was talking to my wife Carla on the phone checking to see when I left and when she thought I would get there and telling her about the rod too. As I walked into the shop he handed me the little rod, the first thing I noticed was the Kusse bag tag. Next to "Model" on the tag was printed "Jordan", and for the serial number "12-7-05", the date of Jordan's first birthday. As I removed the rod from the bag I couldn't believe how tiny all the hardware was.

The bamboo where it entered the grip was smaller then one quarter of an inch. I joined the rod together and the tiny ferrules fit perfectly. No doubt it was a Kusse, laser straight, glass-like varnish, just absolutely perfect! A Kusse rod is easy to recognize; they are flawless in every way.

The time to check the action was finally here. I was shocked as I waved the tiny rod back and forth to find that it had a crisp, tight action. Ron insisted I should not only cast the rod but also fish the rod, not just put it on display in a shadow box as I had planned to do. I have yet to cast the rod; I'm still waiting on the reel I ordered. When I first mentioned doing this, bamboo rod dealer Ron Shanaver sent me an old 2 5/8" skeleton reel for it. However it's too big, so I ordered a 2" Avon reel from J. Austin Forbes (we live in Avon, the town the reel was named after).

Ron asked Peachy (his better half) if she would like to give her new camera some work, she gladly volunteered to take some photos of the rod. Her photos are beautiful. She also positioned the rod next to a nickel to show just how small the rod was.

Then Ron had a great idea, he asked me to hold a Payne 96 in my hand along with Jordan's rod. (A Payne 96 is a small 6 ' 4wt rod). The Little Payne dwarfed Jordan's rod by comparison. Lastly, she took a few pictures on me holding the rod in Ron's workshop. Thanks Peachy!

I brought the rod home; my wife thought it was the coolest rod she's ever seen. As I told her Ron wanted me to catch a few fish on it her response was "break it and you're a dead man!" So naturally I plan on fishing it as soon as the reel arrives! Thanks Ron, for a job better then well done. ~ Ray Du Bois

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