Forward to The Lovely Reed
By Glenn Brackett
December 14th, 1998
Publishers Note: Glenn Bracketts forward to The Lovely Reed,
will appear in three segments. And is as Glenn provided it to us,
the original, unedited text. A review of The Lovely Reed appeared
previously here on Fly Anglers on line. Click
here to read it.
Jack Howell has honored me with the opportunity to cast
the opening line about something we both share as very dear, the
craft of bamboo rod making. It has been long known, to those
who share this passion, that no book will ever be written that can
fully express what this craft is all about. However, Howell has
come as close as I feel you can, has tried to crack this impossible
"lovely reed" nut, and has done well in the effort. He lives up to
all my expectations in title and text. My associate, Jerry Kustich,
wrote, "I feel there is something built into a bamboo fly rod much
greater than what meets the eye - a blending of all the magical
elements of the sport itself. I build them because it is something
I love to do." And I do too - it constantly humbles me. You can't
learn enough from it, and about it.
Much has been written, and I hope will continue to, on this craft.
However, Howell has brought together all the past and present thinking
that makes this craft what it is today. This is a book that I'm pleased
with. I was struck by the realization from it that everything in print has
been written by the hobbyist. We have yet been enlightened by a Payne,
Leonard, Howells (Gary), etc. Also, the days of the quality production
rod shop are basically history. It's the hobbyist that's keeping the craft alive
today. Lost forever is the wealth of knowledge in Jim Payne and his
contemporaries. Now there would have been "the-book-of-books." But
we have their rods to keep us in awe.
I have found that most of the rods built, from the
beginning to present, are the results of craft procedures, long known
(i'ts technological peak was reached many years ago) and followed by
rod craftsmen, be they hobbyist or professional A practice that is
simple but demanding of your abilities and dedication. Jack Howell is
true to this principle. But it's more than a how-to manual, for he gives
us his passion along with the practice. To me that makes it a valued,
praiseworthy and most readable work. I can find no open glue seams
in Howell's masterfully written book.
We have seen, throughout this craft's history, simple quiet
beginnings, followed by a roaring industry and now a guild of artisan hobbyist.
Every imagineable aspect of design and technique have been put to the test.
But it's those simple quiet beginnings that we find ourselves coming back
home to, over and over again. Basement, one-man, weekend, hand planed
rod craftsmen. In this wonderfully written and illustrated book Jack Howell
dedicates himself to keeping the traditions of our unique craft alive. Those who
have taken part in this craft have wanted to do what Howell has done, but
we've all been too distracted at the rod bench, or fishing. Thanks to those
few, we have been blessed with some fine writings. Jack Howell is one of
those few. We all need to applaude his hard work that produced what will
become a classic in its own time. His book is a labor of love; it has
everything to make it possible for the crafting of a bamboo fly rod. His
handling of the myths, metaphors, mystery, means and methods are all
beautifully taught and presented. He will walk you through every aspect
with understanding and compassion, ie., "Keep the bandaides, and an
experienced fellow of the craft close at hand."
Man needs to do things with ritual in them. This craft,
above all else, demands that. Howell lives up to it through his
teaching, his rods. The rewards that the craft repays you for
taking part in the ritual can never be fully explained, intellectualized-
it becomes art, art poetry. It reaches beyond your mind. Levels
of awareness will unfold to you with each new rod you create.
This is assured through following and believing in the ritual, which
Howell has qualified and proven he can do. People would be
much better off if they would curb ambition, slow down the tempo
of life, and work with their hands.
Howell's well written book carries us into this
age with the right language, research, and experioence to help you,
better than any other book, make your first rod. That is the beauty
and purpose of his book. With his gifted, inspired way, you will
be expertly taught and sprited to become part of a unique fellowship.
He has sifted, refined, and clearly stated what is important, regarding
tools, technique and attitude. And I fully agree with it all, especially
the true essence of the crat, your own two hands - there are no
mechnical things that can substitute. No matter how great one's
enthusiasm and tools, the hand will ultimately be the deciding factor.
It's innately there, or not. It has become that simple a fact. He and
I stand together on that truth - it's in your hands, period.
~ Glenn Brackett
Next time, Part 2.