The Outdoor Blogger Network announced on March 1st that Fall River Flyrods was building a custom bamboo rod to be fished by 15 anglers over the course of the season, with one of the 15 owning that rod when all was said and done. The lucky 15 were chosen at random from over 100 interested anglers, which worked out well for me because I am much better at random chance than well-developed skill.
Montana Fly Company provided a 5/6 wt Madison II reel, with a beautiful “River Rock” finish, and RIO Products chipped in with their Trout LT DT5F fly line to complete the outfit. I would like to thank Fall River Flyrods, Montana Fly Company and RIO Products for giving me and 14 other anglers the opportunity to play with this rig, and I would especially like to thank Joe and Rebecca for all the hard work and dedication they have put into making The Outdoor Blogger Network the great place it has become. Over 1000 Outdoor Bloggers, all connected together for your reading pleasure. Imagine that.
I would also like to point out that I have no connections with Fall River Fly Rods, Montana Fly Company, or RIO Products. Except for the chance to fish with this rod, reel, and line, I received nothing other than a great time, good memories, and a chance to connect with a wonderful bunch of outdoor bloggers.
There was a time when fly rods were made from glued strips of wood, such as ash and lancewood. Exceptionally long, and requiring two hands to cast, those rods were heavy and cumbersome. Rods made from split cane bamboo were shorter and lighter, bamboo was relatively plentiful, and in 1874, H.L. Leonard began making bamboo rods exclusively. A trade embargo on Chinese imports in 1950, along with the development of modern synthetic materials, pretty much ended large-scale bamboo rod production but a number of makers continue the tradition, producing custom rods that are not only beautiful but also make use of the best qualities of the long fibers of bamboo.
An entire generation or more has learned to fly fish using synthetics, and the trend has been toward lighter, faster rods, especially of graphite and boron, that load and have most of their power in the upper third of their length. Traditional bamboo rods are heavier, slower, and flex deeply, well into their lower third. Hand a bamboo rod to someone used to fishing rods made of modern materials and, at the very least, you will get a funny, puzzled look as they try to figure out what the heck just happened to their cast. Most will eventually catch on and settle into the rhythm of bamboo but they will more than likely say it is much too heavy and slow for them.
Jason Zicha, of Fall River Rods in Pocatello, Idaho, has created tapers for the rods he makes that more closely mimic the action of graphite, loading quickly and flexing toward the tip, like the “South Fork” model currently making its way around the country as part of a project put together by the Outdoor Blogger Network. Fifteen anglers will be giving this rod a workout (and a history) through the season and writing about it on their blogs, as well as adding their thoughts to the journal that is travelling with it. This is Part One of my experience with that rod. Continue reading