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Bamboo

Why?
by Wayne Cattanach

April 20th, 1998

One of the specialty lists that exists on the internet is the Rodmakers. Bamboo rod making is shared there. The list is subscribed to by some 400 from around the world. The 'threads' vary and are cyclic ranging from the how to's to the philosophic. Occasionally, the 'why ' question surfaces.

The short answer to why most make bamboo fly rods is that it is a useful extension of the fly fishing sport. Much like tying your own flies. Deeper than that, to some it is a casual past time. To others it is a passion. But for a few it is an escape.

When I was 13 my mother was diagnosed with cancer. That summer was when I started to fly fish. The fascination of watching a nymph become a mayfly and seeing the florescent coloration of a Brook trout all in a peaceful surrounding shifted my focus away from what was happening at home. Then, two years later my mother died. My escape was through that tranquil world.

I came to rod making as a result of another lose. That of the fly rod that I was given at 13. Because I was starting my own business the economics for purchasing a new Leonard wasn't there. However, by this point in life I had developed a positive "Do It Yourself" attitude. If I could build a beam & timber house from the ground up I could make a bamboo fly rod. In the end it was a year and a half before I fished again. I read and filed, and I read and planed as I went step by step. First I constructed the needed jig or fixture and then I did the work for that stage. As I made progress I also found that the work was intense enough and quiet enough that I could block out the world at 2:00 in the morning those nights I couldn't sleep.

Hour- wise a person's first bamboo fly rod will take in excess of 100 hours, so patience and foresight are good character traits to possess. Even with years of practice, the 50 hour barrier is hard to break. To those not familiar with bamboo this amount of time may be surprising.

To better understand the time requirement do this. Send a copy of this article to your printer. With a hard copy in hand look at and feel the thickness of the sheet of paper that it is printed on. Normal copy paper is .0025" - .003" thick. Now imagine for a minute that you, with a hand tool, divide the thickness of the paper into 5 equal parts. That is the accuracy that a rodmaker strives for. Understand, the added thickness of a sheet of paper to each of the strips of a bamboo fly rod will usually change a rod's character by one line weight.

In the process, as the strips of bamboo come closer to the targeted dimensions the slower the pace, to a point that after each pass with a hand scraper the dimensions are rechecked. That is why when you take a bamboo fly rod from the rack at the local shop and admire it's beauty and grace of action and then flip the price tag into view. The sticker shock reflects the fact that you are buying a part of a person's soul.

But if you think that money, or for that matter any attention, is a motivator for those that chose the craft you are mistaken. Nobody has ever made their fortune at it. And there are many hours of alone time in each rod. The real reward is personal satisfaction. As the poster says, it's that warm feeling you would get from peeing your pants in a dark suit, but yet no one notices.

Among the rewards for me personally is that our kids have come to enjoy both fly fishing and rodmaking as well. Each of them has a rod that dad made for them to launch their fly fishing days with. In fact, our daughter Lyndi's rod was specially tinted purple at her request. In my shop, on the wall that backs to my workbench there are several pictures and items special to me. Among the photos there are three that sum this all up.

The first is a photo taken at Detroit Metro Airport. My wife and I had problems having a second child. After three miscarriages the decision was made that we wouldn't try again. Over the period of a couple years we sought to adopt locally, but the waiting list was years long. Finally we had an opportunity to adopt a child from Korea. The photo is of my wife as she reaches to take our daughter for the first time. In it you can see the years of sorrow being wiped away. She claims that she sees that in me when we fly fish together.

The second was taken several years later. It's Lyndi as she lands her first solo trout with her purple bamboo fly rod. And lastly. For a couple of years our son, Matt, paid for college by making fly rods. 'Uncle Phil' Castleman let Matt display his rods at his booth at the big eastern show. During the show apparently Matt met and was talking to Joan Wulff. The picture is of Matt, at age 19, and Joan together at the casting pond as she is casting one of hi rods.

Do I really need to say more? WC

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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