Reviewed by Deanna Birkholm
Splitting Cane, Conversations with Bamboo Rodmakers,
frankly is a disappointment to me.
There are interview-type conversations with a number of cane
rodmakers, most of which were done some years ago as a column
for the now defunct Anglers's Journal. The column,
'Cane Currents', first written for the Anglers's Journal
by Ardith Morgan was picked up by Ed Engle when Ardith ran into
'artistic differences' with the then publisher and editor of the
'Journal', Bob Auger and Neil Travis, both of Livingston, Montana.
The Anglers's Journal was probably the best
over-all fly fishing magazine published in the U.S. in the
past fifty years. For those who subscribed to the 'Journal'
nothing in Splitting Cane is new, with the
exception of some updates on the rodmakers, some of whom
are no longer making rods, and some conversations with John
Gierach who fancies himself the latest guru of cane.
What it really is however, is an interesting commentary on
one personal view of what a cane rod should be, or how it should
cast. For Engle, consistency of production and cosmetics are
not as important as how a particular rod fits a particular fishing
situation. Most of us aren't that fortunate, we don't have the
bucks to build an arsenal of cane rods for each fishing situation,
much less each species of fish.
To the makers immortalized forever in Engle's book, I suspect they
were/are able to raise their prices now that they are so well known.
It is also of particular interest to me that each of the rodmakers
listed produce rods each of which have Engle glowing with delight.
There is not one word of criticism on any of the rods. Unfortunately,
at least a couple of the makers listed do not produce quality rods,
'tho the prices they charge certainly would indicate they are
"master rodbuilders." The same old song, "traditional hand-planned
rods" is sung in each chorus by Engle, who certainly ought to know
better. He does include a couple of rodmakers who are using bevelers.
To be fair, there are 'conversations' with a couple rodmakers whose
work is really good and very well known, but for the most part,
Engle is not throwing the reader a rope, but an anchor in the
muddy world of cane rodbuilders.
I know it's old age creeping up on me, but a guy who has made
twenty rods is not, and cannot be a "master." That is just crap.
If by chance you've received this book as a gift, do read the
various adventures with each rod as Engle fishes. They are
neat stories, Engle can write, but I'd take the magic of the
rods with a grain of salt.
If you collect cane, this book will not help. It is misleading
to say the least, unless you are interested in what color wraps a
particular rodmakers used at the time the articles were written.
By the way, the Anglers's Journal was sold to, among
others, Rod Walinchus who promptly turned it into a 'slick'
touting the wonderful world of fine wines and cigar and where
to eat in Paradise Valley. What a waste. If I seem a bit
biased, I am, I wrote for the original Anglers's Journal,
and was honored to do so.
Splitting CanePrevious Reviews
Hardcover 212 pages, black and white photos.