6/19/2009

Bed Bugs & Ballyhoo

I suppose there really is not a mutual understanding between critters when it comes to rural life in North America. It still is everything goes, as it should, and like anywhere else location means nothing when it comes to making sense of our own mortality let alone other creatures. While walking on somebody else’s farmland to get to a favorite piece of water I often rubberneck every few hundred yards.  It never ceases to amaze me the likelihood of finding something interesting poking out of the freshly tilled soil. Early this season while tromping along in a half dazed sleep deprived state wearing baggy waders I came across a big leg. It was severed from the socket in the hip and partially eaten mid-thigh, hoof still attached. I stopped abruptly and just stared at it for a few minutes. I was both mortified and curious. “Where’s the rest of the body?”, I said to myself. I imagined David Caruso showing up on the scene with aviator glasses and a sidling bra-less wonder toting an expensive Nikon with a ringlight. Forensics probably were not in the budget on this one. My imagination wanders aimlessly until it lands on the notion that it had to have been a hungry “meadow yeti” handling this 40 pound hind quarter like a drummy. “Where the hell is the rest of the deer!”, probably in it’s underground yeti lair with all of the rest of the missing person’s that I see up on the entrance walls of the local Walmart. Not a fox, not a dog, it’s too heavy, maybe a hungry fisherman? Nope, too domesticated, would have had to properly dress it first with some kind of cool gadget from Cabela’s. 

Later that night I pulled the sheets over my head and wondered where this three legged deer was roaming, see page 13 of Maurice Sendak's book 
“Where the Wild Things Are”

The next day I returned to the same spot and the severed half eaten leg was gone. These are the things that frustrate me most in life, when you experience things in isolation nobody but you can ever rationalize it, and having a very active imagination makes it even more difficult. I suppose an ongoing open-ended narrative in our minds is a healthy thing, and as a fly fisherman it helps me discover and rediscover how it is I wish to experience the outdoors. So I decided to put up on the message board at the local Walmart; 
“Lost, three quarters of a large deer, or...Lost one left hindquarter of a large deer. Please contact clint at....”

6/15/2009

Epoxy Talk

            Recently I had a old client complement me on the durability of my bamboo fly rods so I thought I would take the time to write a little on polyepoxides. If you are interested in the stuff that actually holds bamboo fly rods together for a very very long time you may find this compelling.

My old work colleagues who were employed by GE Polymer Solutions, use to call me “Chemical Joey” (Joseph is my middle name) because my obsessive interest in epoxies. In my past life I was fortunate enough to live side by side with chemical engineers that could give me some very hard and detailed facts about epoxies also known as polyepoxides. Epoxy is a copolymer that is formed by the mixing of two parts. Unlike many traditional glues and water based glues epoxy has a very high tolerance to temperature variables, can be virtually unaffected by moisture or water, and can be subjected to such abuses as extreme flexural strength, impact strength, shear strengths, and peel strengths. Epoxy is definitely the hero in the rod makers world. It solves most if not all of the age old problems rod builders ran into using hide glues, Resorcinol, and water based glues in the past. Epoxy is a beautiful thing because it has both low and high viscosity mixtures which is critical in the construction of a bamboo fly rod and it's different components. Ultimately you want the very best adhesives that will last well over a hundred years and sustain an immeasurable amount of use. 

Like anything else there is a vast amount of variables when considering the right epoxy for the right application. The levels of flexural strength, lap shear strength, and peel ratio vary greatly. For the purposes of rod making my quest for the “majic three” as I often refer to them, are three types of epoxy that fall into three different use buckets: laminating bamboo strips, bonding hardware, and gluing cork. There are similar and dissimilar materials being bonded here such as nickel silver to wood, wood to cane, cork to cork, and cork to cane. So it can get quite complex when considering which epoxy is used for which application. None of the epoxies I use are “off the shelf” because nothing bought in a hardware store can really do the job up to my level of scrutiny. It’s simply a matter of peace of mind. I have never had a ferrule come off, nor delamination, or even loose hardware. 

The first epoxy that is very important is the epoxy that can tolerate high temperature, flexural strength, is waterproof, high peel ratio, and has a very low viscosity so as not to leave a visible glue joint, this is the epoxy used to laminate bamboo splines. It has a slow cure time and needs to eliminate any possibilities of creep, which means the bond does not shift between both surface planes. If it does you will get a set that really cannot be eliminated. Wood glues have this creep problem and really should never be used for anything to do with rod building period. It simply is an inferior glue altogether because of it’s low tolerance to heat and poor peel ratio with similar and non similar media. You would also have to have rocks in your head to think it’s bond can tolerate heat. I have fixed too many other builders rods and seen the havoc wood glue causes.

The second epoxy we use is for bonding is for ferrules and reel seat hardware, it has extreme high impact strength, no shrinkage or expansion, has a slow cure, and most importantly can be used to bond dissimilar media (alloy to wood). Zinc is a difficult property to deal with as far as bonding hardware, and as we know Nickel Silver contains around 60% zinc. Most off the shelf epoxies do not have proper peel ratios to bond properly with the zinc combination. Most off the shelf epoxy, even the really good ones, simply say “metal” which is fairly misleading. Zinc is the culprit here, it needs a slow cure epoxy with a lap sheer of about 4,000 PSI and a peel ratio of about 3.6 PLI, typically this kind of epoxy is used for attaching sledge hammer heads to fiberglass or hickory handles. Typically these epoxies are opaque and do not dry clear. 

The third epoxy is for gluing cork. It needs to have flexural strength, dries clear, waterproof, and has a low viscosity so as not to leave a glue line. Most importantly it needs an extended pot life, why?, because if you’ve ever seen grips with glue lines its because the glue sets up before it can spill out of the ring seams. Bonding strength is not as critical here, but I still use a structural epoxy adhesive. Many people use wood glue for cork, again my one concern is that it sets up too quick and leaves a visible glue line. Many years ago I worked with the glue division at Elmers here in Columbus and had riveting conversations with chemists. I also got to tour their testing lab, I was like a pig in shit. I got into a discussion with a chemist and discussed the properties of white glue compared to wood glue and it comes down to a higher ratio of resin to solvent thus making the working time longer in wood glue neither of which should be used for gluing cork. Sweat from your hands contain chlorides and some urea compounds which will compromise wood glue (PVA) over time. So wood glue really is not the best glue to use for cork even the newer Crosslinking PVA’s that are waterproof. As a side note urethane glues simply do not stack up to epoxies overall strength and desired attributes. Urethanes generally are harder to control, and chemists that I've worked with still consider them more of an “all purpose household glue for specific low risk tasks”.

I have refrained from using any recommended brand names here because like any business I have my own trade secrets but I can leave you a very informative trail of bread crumbs.
        ~Clint Joseph Bova

6/04/2009

Little Rods & Lessons From Jack

                 24" Brown caught on a “Little Mecoche” 6'9" 4wt. 2pc.
                       fly used~ #18 Parachute Ant seen in upper jaw


At age thirteen I was a diehard ultralight fanatic armed with a wee Abu Garcia spinning reel spooled with four pound Maxima mono and a cork handled 5’6” fiberglass Shakespeare rod. Growing up on the South Shore of Oahu was an incredible classroom for playing very aggressive saltwater fish on light tackle. I caught my first Marlin at age eleven which dwarfed my smallish frame as well as the 9/0 reel that I caught it on. When I caught my first Mahi Mahi at age eleven on very light tackle I got the fever for life. The O’io, or bonefish was not the fiercest or most popular of quarry’s, the Papio, or Juvenile Jack Trevalle and the Ulua, or adult Jack Trevalle are really the signature sporting fish of the islands. Open any “Hawaii Fishing News” publication (www.hawaiifishingnews.com) and you will realize the fanatical clubs that revolve around this particular species. However small or large these fish will leave you weak in the knees after stripping your reel clean and making off with four weeks of your allowance money in the form of monofillament.


We loved and honored all these fish and actually in the valley we grew up in, Niu Valley, every one of our streets was named after a fish. There was Mahi Mahi street (dorado), Nenue street (rudderfish), Opakapaka street (red snapper), Aku street (skipjack tuna, Ono street (Wahoo), Malolo Street (flying fish) etc... So I actually learned the Hawaiian names for fish before I knew what the English names were. Today I still make reference to this day by their Hawaiian names. The take away from growing up in Hawaii’s saltwater environment and moving later in life to a fresh water world is that in saltwater you experience pound for pound some of the most sporting fish in the world. It really cannot be argued until you have actually fought either an 8 lb. or 80 lb. Jack Trevalle. Both are simply terrifying on light tackle. I watched a friend of mine in the flats in front of my neighborhood fight a large Papio (probably no more than seventeen inches in length) it made two violent runs at break neck speed and snapped his rod like a toothpick. My friend started crying, he was shaking like a leaf and being boys of only thirteen years old at the time we simply felt defeated by these beasts time and time again. It became a regular occurrence to either have your reel stripped clean or rod broken. As we grew older we learned how to play the fish more efficiently and prepare ourselves emotionally for sudden bouts of these piscatorial meltdowns. I was lucky enough to have a mother and father that allowed me to go out for days at a time and fish in some very dangerous waters off of Molokai and Oahu at such a young age. If you asked my father what I looked like when he handed me my first fishing rod he would probably laugh. We were taking a long weekend off to go out to Pats at Punaluu a small Kamaaina motel back in the early 70’s. It was on the winward side of Oahu and the area was prime Papio (juvenile jack trevalle) and O’io fishing  (bonefish). He handed me my first fiberglass rod on the beach and I was so excited I could barely thread the mono through the guides and work the skirted reel. I remember I was about nine years old at the time and I was casting like I was batting in the World Series.


At age 43 monofilament has long given way to fly lines and bamboo rods with fairly traditional light reels. Lures have transcended into hackled dry fly’s no bigger than a fingernail, and emotionally, well let’s just say I still cry if I lose a twenty inch Brown trout. Having an extensive background in saltwater fishing has helped me later in life. I often shudder when I read or hear other fly fisherman talking about smallish fly rods as being “dangerous” to fish. I think if you took this opinion to the late great Lee Wulff or even Vince Marinaro they would dress you down pretty quick, and as I recall they both were fairly environmentally conscious men that loved smallish rods. The fact of the matter is that it takes no longer to bring in a fish on a 6’ rod as it does on a 8’ or 9’ rod of the same weight and tippet diameters. If the fish is played correctly you can bring it in as quickly as you want. If you walk a St. Bernard or a Shitzu both can give you equally a hard time on a leash, it’s how you lead them and hold the leash that matters. I always use the dog walking metaphor because it really holds true in regards to playing the head of the fish not the body. With a small 6’ or 7’ bamboo rod you can leverage a large fish with the right leading language. The Jack Trevalle will teach this lesson very quickly, on any tackle. Having been punished time and time again by such aggressive saltwater fish growing up made me go down an internal list of criteria in my head when I’m playing a large Trout or Salmon on light tackle. I would definitely say being from the islands that the Brown trout is a formidable fighter. Like the smallmouth bass (hold my tung and wait) the Browns personality is pretty aggressive at 15” and up. After landing a large fiesty Brown trout I often murmer under my breath, “wow, your a Jack in Brown trout clothes”

                      ~Clint