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 21st, 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)
"The Perfecting of Prototypes: essential conditions and methods of work"

"Perhaps I amy be forgiven if I mention my own rods but, to be in a position to perfect fly rods as I concieve them, one must know the whole basis of manufacture, the mechanism of casting and be an experienced fisherman into the bargain. One must spend all one's time between fishing and the factory and two continents. One must avoid at all costs becoming too individual: devote a great part of one's time to studying fishermen in action, so as to grasp the general basis of their technique of casting and also examine their principal faults. One must keep up to date with every novelty, every new trend, and be on intimate terms with the very rare specialists. And, finally, one must have at one's disposal a practical experimental ground of the first order: a river highly populated with trout. I acquired this last adventage thanks to the generosity of Edouard Vernes, President of the Casting Club of France, on his fishing on the Risle, and during my numerious stays on the Traun, in Austria. Finally, I was able to find partners who were passionately concerned with the question as I was: Edouard Plantet, works manager at the factory at Amboise, and my friend, the casting champion of the world, Pierre Creusevaut. I think Creusevaut is one of the greatest judges of fly rods in the world. In an average year, he casts for six hundred hours.

In the same way that Weatherby, the great American armourer, has proved that for sporting rifles the methods of the artisan can no longer stand up to modern mechanisation, so it is with the manufacturer of split bamboo. It is an identical problem and I am positive on the point. The tempering, the cutting of the sections and the glueing are mechanical operations; but it was necessary to await the birth of perfected machines invented by professional engineers. The great artisans of the past were no more than ingenious handicraftsmen, without any real mechanical knowledge. They improvised their machines as best they could, and succeeded in making them work thanks to their cleverness and dexterity. For instance, one of the artists in split bamboo cuts his triangular sections with two minute circular saws which move along a sliding carriage to which is fixed the length of split bamboo. They are pulled forward by the hand of the operator with the aid of band. It is the machine for cutting sections which has superseded the artisan's methods: it turns up to 1,200 revolutions a minute.

The precision and uniformity of result reaches almost the exactness of working in metal. There is, however, one part of the process that depends entirely on the experience and acumen of a specialist: the choice of the raw wood and the selection of the sections once they are glued." ~ Charles Ritz

Next time,"My methods of trial and perfecting."


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