Bamboo Bonzai

The Split Cane Fly Rod
(Excert from Part III: Research and Technique)
A Fly Fisher's Life (1959)
By Charles Ritz
Our sincere thanks to Crown Publishing Company

September 14th, 1998

Publishers note: Since this publisher is older than dirt, it occured to me that some may never have seen many of the older books. From time to time, we hope to excerpt interesting segments from our personal library to enlighten, entertain and perhaps amaze our rod building friends. Some things are older than you might think. Most of these books are long out of print, and if we spark an interest in you, check out the used book stores, or one of the mail-order book sellers. Armchair Angler in Hillburn, NY is one we particularly like. We previously ran a series on bamboo from Ring of the Rise, (check the archives) which I understand is now available in reprint. Your suggestions and comments are always welcome.~DB

The Split Cane Fly Rod, Part Four
(Excerpt from Part III: Research and Technique)
"How I Began Working With Split Bamboo"

"I began working with split bamboo at the Ritz-Carlton in New York in 1917. I was on duty every night in the Manager's department and spent most of my time in a little office in the entresol. I visited daily the great sports shop of Abercrombie and Fitch, some fifty yards from the hotel. The salesmen always seemed to be busy when I appeared, but nothing could discourage me and, in a very short while, I knew better than they did what the departments contained.

My salary of a hundred dollars a month prevented my being an important client of theirs and obligated me to slum by frequenting the pawnshops on Fourth Avenue where, for two dollars, ten at most, I was able to gratify my passion for fishing rods! For a few cents, I could proudly buy from Abercrombie and Fitch rod varnish, silk for whippings and cement for ferrules. Then, in my little office, which I had transformed into a workshop to the considerable disapprobation of the manager of the hotel, who only put up with my impudence because I was my father's son, I devoted myself to renovating my finds. I scraped them, I took the ferrules to pieces, I shortened the weak joints and strengthened my 'new' rods throughout with extra fine white silk that became invisible when varnished. I then showed my masterpieces to the salesmen in the big shop, who were astonished but interested! My rods had taken on a new life.

Pierre Creusevaut and Charles Ritz,(right) One evening, the manager invited me to fish with him on the following Sunday. The result was that one of my rods was approved and accepted by him! From that day, I became supplier of rods of all kinds to the hotel clients! Finally, my stock at Abercrombie's rose for I was no longer satisfied with bargins from the pawnshops. The salesmen got me in the end and sold me unfinished sections as well as all the fittings. The lathe in the locksmith's shop, in the basement of the Ritz-Carlton, supplied my cork handles. Finally, I acquired a stock of dollars which permitted me to realise my great ambition: my first fishing journey to Canada. Unhappily, this virus was the cause of my abandoning a career which should have been solely concentrated on the hotel business, for I had to maintain the independence that is so indispensable to a self-respecting fisherman!

In 1927, after living for ten years in America, I returned to Europe, where I continued to work with split bamboo. Roger Pujo, of the Bord de I'Eau magazine, suggested that I should go and see Pezon and Michel in Amboise, near Tours, and visit their split bamboo workshops. A month later, I became their Technical Adviser." ~Charles Ritz

Next time,"The perfecting of prototypes:
essential conditions and methods of work."


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