Bamboo Bonzai

Forward to The Lovely Reed,
Part 3 and conclusion.

By Glenn Brackett

December 28th, 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.

Glenn Brackett and son Bruce

I could only find one point of difference, Howell's finding that bamboo is more delicate (less durable) then graphite. Over the many years in this business I have come to see that bamboo is a more durable and forgiving material then any other I've worked with. The thin wall nature of graphite makes it very vulnerable when compared against the solid make up of bamboo. The personal experience that sold me involved a collection of rods (3 graphite and 1 bamboo, all assembled with reels and guides lined) returned to to me after a boating accident put them on the bottom of a river for two weeks. All four rods were recovered 1/8 mile downstream. The bamboo survived intact while only the handles with reels for the graphites [survived]. There are many more advantages with bamboo over plastic that could be cited. For myself I don't see a graphite rod outliving bamboo, and I make rods in all materials, so there is no partiality.

I echo Howell about turning pro. You need to think long and hard on this one. My advice (which you paid for) is don't turn your hobby into a business. It will kill your spirit, especially when you pay your taxes or get a disgruntled customer. It's just bad karma for our craft. I've seen too many good hobbyist craftsmen lose interest once they made it a business.

I found between the covers, not simply a well written presentation, but the spirit of a man deeply in touch with living. There has to be passion to rod making. That's what gives it character, history and soul - that is part of it too, and Howell has made this happen in the pages of his book. I am grateful to him for giving body and soul to our craft. Jack has bared his bamboo soul and shared something specal of himself. Throughout Harry Middleton's writing in " On the Spine of Time" that same spirit shine through, i.e. (Tewksbury speaks to Middleton at streamside) "I'm allergic to synthetics of any kind whether they be blended in my underwear or my fly rod. Dacron, polyester, nylon all those things are a danger to my health, happiness and peace of mind . . . Cane is an honest material, reliable. It is loyal in the same sense that a fine leather jacket is loyal. Both improve with the elements and passing time. (Middleton about Tewksbury the person) "Tewksbury and the cane rod had been together for many years. Once he admitted to me that actually the rod knew he was a pitiful trout angler and not suited for its great angling legacy, and yet it never tired of his company, the possibility that one day his skill might equal its craftsmanship."

There's a lot that can, has, and still should be written abut bamboo rod making, and Howell has eloquently stated and wonderfully illustrated what will become a revered work of works on the subject. Bravo Mr. Howell, I truely appreciate what you've accomplished and fully realize what a work of passion you've given us. His work will not be the last word on this subject but I will venture to say it has the substance to make it a classic in its own time. It deserves a place alongside of those time honored works we all love. But the greatest compliment to Jack Howell will be to dog ear, finger print, and fill his pages with bamboo dust. I suggest you get two copies, one for the library, the other for the rod bench.

Howell's book reflects what the craft has evolved into. This fine book has everything you need to complete the task. It's an honest, honorable work. He will guide you through the maze, but beyond that it's up to you to learn how to master it. The approach Howell has taken challenges you to complete the course, your first rod. And one of the great highs will be when you complete and fish your first rod. When you've finished call me and I'll personally welcome you into our fellowship, cheer your accomplishment.

Great care has been taken, words well chosen, message well spoken. The bumpy road of rod building much smoothed out with Howell's helpful book. One reading, as one rod, will never suffice to help you master technique or attitude. Howell's book forever will be a useful, important, reference to you and for the craft, the books by Holden and Herters can be shelved. In his book, Howell has given his heart and soul to us, and I'm grateful, and welcome it's presents. ~ Glenn Brackett


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