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Bamboo

History of Bamboo Rod Makers, Part 2
Our thanks to Centen tenial Publications for use permission.

April 27th, 1998

William Taylor was the type of rodmaker every fisherman wishes he could have known. He not only built fine bamboo rods, he was also a fly caster of championship caliber an d an outstanding teacher of the art of casting. Taylor lived most of his adult life in Paterson, New Jersey, where he and his wife ran a small confectionery business, in fact, his wife ran the business whenever Billy could sneak off to go fishing and test another of his latest rods. Taylor was an avid fisherman and a charter member of the famous Paterson Casting Club, a competitive group of casters who represented their hometown proudly at tournaments around the country for many years. His Club involvemen t created a keen desire to build his own rods for both fishing and casting.

About 1920 Taylor bought a copy of The Idyll of the Split Bamboo, a brand new book by Dr.George Parker Holden, which became his inspiration for a lifetime of rod making and castin g. In 1925 Taylor rode his beloved motorcycle with a sidecar up to Highland Mills, New York, to buy some bamboo from the E. F. Payne Rod Co. so he could try his hand at building his own rod. The image of a young man on a motorcycle evidently did not set well with Jim Payne and he refused to show Billy around the shop or sell him any supplies. Luckily, Frank Oram had just joined Payne as a partner and he was a bit more gregarious than Jim. After Payne left for the day Oram gathered several culms of cane a nd other supplies for Taylor and sent him happily on his way back to New Jersey. Imagine the sight it must have been in 1925; a young man on a motorcycle zipping down Route 17 with stalks of bamboo sticking out of the sidecar.

This unlikely series of events resulted in Billy Taylor's first handmade bamboo rod two years later. He christened this rod by catching a trout on his first outing to the Wallkill River on the same day that Charles Lindberg took off from Roosevelt Field for Paris, May 20, 1927. This rod spawned a full-time hobby for Taylor and resulted in more rods ranging from delicate seven-foot trout rods to huge, distance casting monsters. The hallmark of all Taylor rods is their exceptional power and accuracy Taylor's unique ability to create powerful rods and his excellent casting skills invoIved him deeply in tournament casting. He became the coach for many well-known competitive casters, including Johnny Diekman and Gene Andregg, but his most famous student was Joan Salvato Wulff, who took the casting world by storm when she still in her teens. All of these champions used Taylor tournament rods, as did Jon Tarantino, the sensational caster from California. Later, Taylor's rods were used as patterns for the rods designed by Charles Ritz and made by Pezon et Michel in France.

After his wife's death when Taylor was 84, he moved to Apalachin, New York. There he met Walt Carpenter and the two spent many days during the next two years before Billy died discussing and casting bamboo rods. Taylor's concept of how to get the most out of the bamboo itself is a legacy that still lives in Carpenter's rods.

Billy's rods are easy to identify. The are marked Taylor Made with a rubber stamp just ahead of the grip. The cane is generally a natural straw color and most rods have Super Z type ferrules and a lightweight aluminum screwlock reel seat. A Wells-style grip is most common, often with the thumb rest so popular with tournament casters.


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