Individual taste in books varies as much as the favorite rod or fly.  With that in mind, we hope to review books and videos from the ever-growing fly fishing world, and share them with you.  Books will be the best of all worlds, new and old.  Many of the old books are now available in reprint, and the wisdom contained is timely today.  Others can be found in second-hand book stores, or by mail order dealers. As we find videos we feel are outstanding they will be included. Be assured, reviews are based on what we have actually read, and due to that fact, may not appear weekly.

October 7th, 2002

Splitting Cane

By Ed Engle
Published By The Stackpole Press

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 Cane
Ed Engle
Hardcover 212 pages, black and white photos.
Stackpole Books
$29.95 US
ISBN 0-8117-008-9 ~ DLB

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