For those who have inquired about my custom extended dome cap and ring sets (Fred Divine inspired) The geometry for these little gems balance well with my 7'6", 7'9", and 8' 4 and 5 wts.
Most of my cap and ring sets are slightly reminiscent of Divines “Classic Reel Seat”. The cap is slightly elongated, a pronounced taper, with an even more pronounced domed butt. The rings are chamfered and banded (Knurled banding is also an option) and echo some of the trim detailing not only on the cap and rings but also adapting on the cork check and winding checks as well. Generally speaking Divines hardware is very elegant and simple. When I glance at the few Divine rods that I own I break into a Cheshire Cat grin, these old rods have always been inspirational for me.
Thank you for all of the kind complements out of the Mohawk Valley once again
I get a lot of interest in spalted seats and I usually ask clients if they like a dark chocolate spalted seat or a lighter maple seat with distinct black figuring. The darker of the two is much harder to find. Both look great with blued or bright nickel hardware. Above is a shot of the two maple blanks that look distinctly different. Both have been stabilized so the color deepens slightly but not much. I carry spalted Tupelo, spalted Koa, and spalted Maple. Below are two finished seats, one is the lighter maple, the other is the darker shade of maple.
above: ring core removed and a nickel plug fitted with cork
above: the finished blued ferrule plug for a
model 7'6" 4wt. “Shawnee Rose”
All of my rods come with a ferrule plug that complements the hardware of it's given rod type. Every ferrule plug comes from the inner core of it's given nickel ring set or threaded barrel down locking hardware... “Waste not want not”
For many years I have been tying a Caddis pattern for spooky Browns in slow, shallow, and very clear water. I use this pattern when the odds are stacked up against me and the typical bushy Caddis patterns are not even an option. The biot winged Caddis that I tie is from a medium dusky warm gray to a dark gray color. I tie it with both a gray and green abdomen with an occasional pair of antenna. Typically I tie this pattern small from sizes #18-#22. Biots make for a great winging material they are waxy looking like the naturals, are translucent, and dye easily to the color that best suits your stream naturals. Caddisflies are actually very streamline when at rest. Their wing cases create a long delta pitch and their legs splay only a minimal amount on the surface film. Creating a Caddis pattern for slow, clear, and shallow water is a never ending creative visualization that always seems to have room for improvement. This is a very easy no frills guide pattern. Once you get the winging technique dialed in you can crank out dozens of these very quickly.
~Using a TMC 531 hook, #18-#22, dub a carrot shaped
abdomen using gray or green. The TMC 531 is a
great hook with a shorter shank but proportionally
larger gape that hook sets well with the slashing
rises that these flies most often induce.
Note: the TMC 531 is a difficult hook to find
here in the USA so call around to your local
fly shops to locate a box or two.
~Use Coq de Leon feathers for the underwing material.
These are very stiff fibers that help with flotation.
I get my feathers from the Leon District of Spain
in light pardo, medium pardo, and dark pardo.
~Using biots from left and right wings of a turkey feather
place both biots together between your index finger and
thumb so the convex sides face out and away from each other.
Using fine tipped scissors snip a delta wing profile. Make
sure the spline of the biot is oriented on the top portion of the
wing the thinner translucent edge is on the bottom.
Tye these in like you are tying in a turkey
flat parachute post. Lean the pair of biots in towards you
and as you wrap twist it away from you with a few secure
wraps. I put a drop of head cement on these at this point
because they tend to be a bit slippery.
Tie in a hackle collar using a light,
medium, or a dark dun feather. You can snip away
the bottom portion of the collar flush with the
abdomen or leave it as is.
This is a very simple, productive small fly that pays dividends in quiet spookey water. (photos: Clint Bova)
Inspired by A.K. Best for nearly twenty years I now look back at all of my dying and bleaching notes in various drawers and files and I still am able to fuel my affinity for dying all of my own natural materials. For the last 15 or so years I have been dying and bleaching my own materials, quills, necks, deer hair, furs, dubbing silks, and biots. A.K. Best’s Book Dying and Bleaching Natural Fly-Tying Materials set my course on the right foot. My old place of residence looked more like a scene out of Silence of the Lambs than a bachelor pad. Industrial cafeteria equipment riddled my living room, hotplates, and 10 gallon buckets filled with bleach made for some interesting visits from the landlords as well.
I honestly felt the need to get better results from the natural materials that I used to tie flies. I learned all of the mistakes from what was, and still is, currently out in the marketplace. One example was the poor quality of quills. Due to excessive bleaching pre-packaged quills cracked constantly due to over-bleaching and the colors were not to my liking. I am not a production fly tyer but just another obsessive compulsive vice rat. I simply want my color close to what the naturals color represents.
above: The Biot on the left was dyed to “med-dun” by myself,
the one deemed “med-dun” on right by supplier.
Notice the white streak down the middle of the one on
the right where the dye did not take.
Biots are typically dyed as a whole feather by the suppliers and the dye never really soaks into the inside portion of the turkey or goose feather. What you end up with is a biot that has coloration on both outer edges but fades into an anemic color towards the center of the biot (see above photo). Eventually back in 1995 out of frustration I broke down and started dying my own biots among other materials. I tye lots of flies with both biot bodies and wings, it is a great medium that has a waxy sheen much like the naturals (Caddis, and Mayfly patterns).
above: These biots I dyed to a warm medium dun color that I most
often use for Hendrickson patterns and Sedge patterns. This is accomplished by first
dying grey, then over dying with Rit Tan.
Dying Biots: I have managed to create recipees for smaller and more color fast batches of biots using a large tea infuser and some simple paired down techniques.
1~ I remove all of the longest biots from two matching undyed turkey feathers. The left feather biots go in one bag, the right go in another, this way if I am tying biot wings I have a left and right orientation. Biots have the same geometry as an airplane wing. If you turn one side of an airplane wing in the opposite direction than the other the damn thing is not going to fly right nor look symmetrical.
2~ Using a large tea infuser ball (above) I separate the compartments using a paper towel and place the undyed biots, right and left, in their own compartments.
3~ Find a 5 cup Pyrex measuring cup fill it with 4 cups of water and put it into the microwave for about 30 seconds. Make sure the temperature does not exceed 150 degrees. Remove the now heated water from the microwave.
4~ Mix in one tablespoon of distilled white vinegar and one tablespoon of your desired liquid Rit color. I mix all of my Rit Dyes to get my desired color palettes. I mix a concentrate of powder Pearl Gray #39 because Rit does not manufacture this dye in liquid form, they never have.
5~ Mix the contents thoroughly and place your infuser filled with the biots into the mixture and agitate it for several minutes. (above photo)
6~ After several minutes immerse the infuser in cold water (below), this acts as a stop bath for the dyed biots.
7~ Repeat this process with different colors, over dye as needed to get the desired results for very subtle coloration. I typically never dye with “out of the tube color” it defeats the purpose of dying. If your going to spend the time dying materials, and tying flies to your liking then you better like the colors and not just settle for someone else’s defaulted color palettes.
This is a quick and easy way to dye limited quantities of biots with great results. Again I am not a production tyer so I have managed to pair down time and cost expenditure greatly. Its simple and somewhat relaxing to do in my down time during the winter months. ~Clint Joseph Bova
Counting blessings is kind of like counting fish, quantity is never really a qualifier when it comes to meaning, expertise, and experience. I feel very lucky to have mingled and worked alongside with the few men and women that have led me down an adventurous and sometimes tumultuous path since I was very young. These were all people that exercised a keen form of restraint when it came to guiding and inspiring me. Using ones hands in a spirited way to make a living in this day and age is fairly daunting and even often forgotten when it comes to present day academia. To pass on craft knowledge it takes a light touch on a young persons heart, it takes accessibility of tools and mediums, and inevitably it takes time, patience, and courage.
Using ones hands is a kind of flattery to the Gods, by this I mean we are all gifted with opposable thumbs, a sense of reason and causality, and the ability to creatively visualize something before it actually comes to fruition. If we choose to experience these traits and put them in action, we need surround ourselves with others that inspire us on a deeper level so we can further ignite an insatiable desire to use our hands in a spirited way. The very act of doing and making is exponentially becoming an extinct ritual, ethos, and requisite in our educational institutions.
The art of doing and making be it a yo-yo, guitar, a braided leader, a landscape painting, a leather bag, a gunstock, or even a bamboo fly rod can be done with such tenacity and drive that irregardless of what it is, it delivers a powerful message. Defining characteristics between art and craft is much like comparing the intellects of dolphins to primates, it’s a slippery slope. A much debated topic among gunsmiths, painters, potters, leathersmiths, graphic designers, bow and arrow makers, blacksmiths, and yes even bamboo rod makers. The divisions between “art” and “craft” occurred after the Renaissance Period and well into the 19th century. Unfortunately they are most embraced currently in western culture.
“Art” from the Renaissance to modern day has been described as a free and unadulterated activity, and unique with no restraint which grants it with an obscure soul. “Craft” has been evaluated as a very physical realm, functional, traditional, repetitive, and a much more constrained activity.
This description has granted “craft” a lower status not only from the 1400’s to the 1600’s but to present day in western culture. Yet in Asian culture exists the notion that the “crafts” actually keep the culture, spiritual and otherwise, in tact thus making craft a constant priority and of utmost importance. Crafts are treated more as ritual that exercise our sense of meaning, existence, and spirituality. I repeatedly understood this craft spirit growing up in Hawaii in a primarily Asian world. I was exposed to the meaning of the Shoji screen, the landscape paintings licked with the sumi-e brush, and even the often violent but lesson filled Japanese story telling. Distinctions between “art” and “craft” and even the chosen mediums were much more abstract in my upbringing.
Using our hands in a spirited way ultimately should be a non judgmental or highly categorized activity. Today we are surrounded by outstanding craftsmen and women thoughtfully and tenaciously moving forward with great momentum in pursuit of their given calling. Tomorrow we can only hope they inspire others to grow the craft forward. I have earned a wage for most of my life using my hands and will continue to do so. The most meaningful way I can live my life is to be a “spirited craftsman”, call it what you will, I am driven by the insatiable need to make something from nothing and then do it again and again. A simple mantra, for a passionate existence. It is meant to be a giving existence. I can only hope to help pass it on to the next generation and then some.
For many September 26 marks the official end of the fishing season. I typically stop my trout fishing by mid-November and go through my ritual of cleaning all of my equipment, most importantly my rods.
I pull my rods out one by one and wipe them down with a warm soapy mixture of water and Dove Soap. Wipe the rod dry and make sure the guides are clean. You can use a little bit of mineral spirits on a Q-Tip to get any additional residue off of the guides. Make sure you clean both the female and male parts of the ferrule. Again you can use a small amount of denatured alcohol or mineral spirits to clean them out using a Q-Tip. Many hang their rods in their given bags up in a cool dry closet, this is a good ritual. I just keep them in their given cases, take the cap off, and place them upright in my rod racks. I typically am very diligent about keeping a journal so I record the amount of use I put on any one particular rod, its kind of like keeping track of your mileage on your car. I do this primarily because I track and rotate my tips from one season to the next rather than throughout any one particular season. This allows me to keep track easier and its one less tip to clean in an entire quiver at the end of a season. A journal is also a great way to keep track of what rod needs some extra TLC, cleaning, or repairs. I recently received a rod from a past client that needed some refinishing work after a decade of hard use. He sent the rod back to me in the spring because he simply forgot about the task from the previous fall. He wanted to get his rod back for the Hendrickson Hatch in PA about a week later, needless to say he was able to use the rod at the tail end of the hatch. Its a lot easier to send the rod in the fall for a winter “face lift” if needed. Again a journal can prove to be helpful in many ways from season to season.
~Clint Joseph Bova
The fall brings typically low clear water, weary surface feeding trout, and lots of “boil rises”. My midge box is stocked with a favorite pattern that I have edited over the last ten years into a very no frills pupa design. After the chironomids larva stage the pupa develops a pronounced thorax and as it shucks in the surface film it begins to splay its legs and wings. A sparse horizontal hackle collar that appears translucent gives the impression of this shucking display. Using a dyed gray turkey T-base feather gives you an identifiable profile in the water but not as contrasty as a white post. White posts breaking the trouts cone of vision will scare a shallow spookey pool full of browns. Hence the name “Fall Ghost Pupa”. I have used D-rib and turkey biots for the body but have found that dyed quills add extra flotation for the TMC 2487 hook. The slightly canted wing post works great with the geometry of this hook and hangs it in the surface film imitating the natural very well.
The natural breaking the surface film(Photo: NGIS)
Sometimes I bring back a fox or two from the River
to keep me company while I plane strips and let them
flutter around me. Stenonema Vicarium are muscular
enough that you can tie a strand of 8/0 silk to one of
their legs and fly them around the room like little kites
They seem to like to land on my bamboo shavings
and are curious and somewhat more
athletic than other mayfly's.
A Mayfly's Life
by Mary Ann Hoberman ~Named Children's Poet Laureate
Think how fast a year flies by
A month flies by
A week flies by
Think how fast a day flies by
A Mayfly’s life lasts but a day
A single day
To live and die
A single day
How fast it goes
Both of those.
A Mayfly flies a single day
The daylight dies and darkness grows
A single day
How fast it flies
A Mayfly’s life
How fast it goes.
A logging road often becomes the one and only artery to a piece of water that you know more than likely will bring you the biggest dividends. The repeated likelihood of siltation at certain times of the year create a gnawing anxiousness that is magnified when you look down on both sides of your truck and cannot see the dirt or gravel. Nahalem County Oregon holds many secrets or at least did when I lived there. Black bears unfortunately haunted the same woods I lurked quietly around in looking for coastal cutthroats. Some evenings my legs could not move fast enough when a nearby tree started shaking which is always terrifying to me.
It was on cool calm early evening that I was working my way back upstream in the Cascades. Earlier the same day I had seen a mountain goat dead on the side of the stream, maybe only a few days old. Hours later the carcass was gone when I came up on the same spot. I dismissed it for all of about ten seconds when across the river a medium sized Douglas fir started shaking like a molested houseplant. My boots were moving before my upper half was...cartoon-like. The clattering of my boots were noisy and awkward because I had just screwed in new sheet metal screws into the heels, and because the front screws had been worn down almost completely I was losing grip as I lunged from boulder to boulder. I did not dare look back until I was fifty or so yards away, when I eventually looked back there was a very emaciated mangy looking black bear probably about 400 or so pounds standing in the middle of the river. Many people do not realize these animals are not so cuddly looking when they happen upon them. They often smell really foul. I felt like a kind of human glazed doughnut that day in the eyes and nose of that bear. I was covered in fish slime after being out there for over eleven hours and smelled pretty rank with sweat. I’m sure he was a bit preoccupied with the goat but I was so scared I lost a box of flies that must have worked its way out of my vest. I have scared up coons, turkeys, pigs, and even hunters, but the sight of that tree shaking made the hair on the backof my head stand up.
Nahalem County locals are used to seeing elk and bears lurking about in the streets and trash bins. Sometimes when I woke up early in my little studio on the top floor of the Manzanita News Coffee House I would see elk towering over vehicles and hear the clacking of their hoofs down near the carport. These animals really were part of the local charm. I was walking to the video store one evening and took a quick detour down a side street because an elk was standing in the middle of the alley. The sheer mass of these animals are an intimidating sight. Armed only with a tattered copy of The Dirty Dozen video did not make me exactly a hostile looking contender. In my little world these animals were the neighborhood bully’s. I suppose this is Mother Natures way telling me “it’s your turn fish boy” after seemingly molesting countless cutthroat, and returning them to the river. Although molesting is a bit heavy handed, I like to think of it as an elaborate game of “tag... your it”. I miss my old neighbors dearly as well as my routine Cutthroat fishing. ~Clint
After writing my entry called “Driven by Process” I received several e-mails in regards to “Production rods” and differences with hand planed rods. Another much discussed and heated topic among cane enthusiasts and makers. Quite simply a skilled craftsmen with a milling machine can put out a very fine rod that is very very accurate based on its given taper. A maker that uses simply a traditional block plane and a set of forms can also put out a very very accurate taper. Cosmetically speaking can you tell the difference? In many cases yes based on what is called “grain run-out”. Depending on the skill of the maker using the milling machine he is going to have a cutter running the length of the strip on the enamel side of the cane at some point. Some do not. Depending on their skill you may see grain run-out you may not. The question arises how deep is too deep when it comes to biting into the power fibers after the enamel is removed. Inevitably this will affect the performance of the taper based on the depth of the cut into the power fibers. If you look at the quintessential “production rods” of past eras using a Montague rod as an example you will see “grain run-out” on many of these rods. You will see what I call a lack of nodal contrast because the cutters feather the nodes out very wide into the top layer of the power fibers. In other words the cutters are set a wee bit too deep. Can you spot such a rod out in a line up of rod blanks? Yes, easily after a simple inspection. Does this affect the action of the rod? It would be very hard to make a sweeping generalization on this one. This is where the debate escalates. This again all depends on the skill of the craftsman and his level of skill using his chosen power tools.
I make rods in a more traditional manner so prior to tapering I address and dress nodes one by one. I do not “level a node” using a cutter I use a bastard file and press the nodes. Prior to final planing I remove the enamel side till the fibers “ghost” then make the final passes with my plane to achieve the final taper dimension on the two opposing surfaces of the strips. If the enamel is not removed prior to the final passes the tendency is “an over-built” final dimension. This methodology was practiced religiously by makers such as Vince Marinaro. Again there's many ways to skin a cat when it comes to the final planing process. Many makers have their own proven practices. Many work very well. Getting back to the original question what are the differences in “production (milled) rods” and hand planed rods? There are noticeably differences cosmetically and to some degree quality depending on the skill of the craftsman using either a milling machine or block plane. Be observant, open minded, and cast a lot of different rods constructed using different processes and you can decipher some of the fine nuances within this fascinating craft. ~Clint Bova
the Trico hatch August 2010 on the “Johnny Logan” 7' 4wt.
I recently had an inquiry about this particular rod and I thought I would elaborate a little on it. I started developing this taper back in 2004 specifically for tight stream situations and tiny fly's. It has served me well over the years as a frequently used rod throughout the season. It also is one of my more popular selling rods. I also use it as a go-to rod for Trico hatches and midging. It has a very smooth “true” 4wt. action. It loads great for in close casts and out to the 40 foot mark. It is definitely a rod that I use for smaller drys for fussy Browns. The picture above is a Brown caught on a #22 Trico using the “Johnny Logan” at about 5:30 am in the morning. When the Trico hatch is on this rod pulls through for me every time. I have a few PA clients that love fishing this rod on the Letort and Penn's Creek for the same reasons I do. The rod casts like a gem and puts the fly exactly where you want it... in front of big fussy Brown Trout very delicately.
I often get asked what is your favorite part of making bamboo fly rods? I typically respond by saying “fishing them”. My follow up response is simply “handling the cane”. There are many ways to experience the process of making a fly rod I choose to experience it without the use of tapering bevelers, gang saws, and a crew of craftsmen. The final result is typically a great rod of some kind either way. I just choose to experience the process in a more intimate way when it involves splitting, straightening, and planing. I have used all of the above mentioned equipment at one time or another but I feel when I do I have missed out on the real joy of making a cane rod. I always have accepted the merits of using more machinery but I don’t experience the same level of intimacy with the cane when I do. Experiencing every inch of a spline and its given nodes track around in my head at night like an endless ticker tape. After all we are not fighting cane monsters we are simply manipulating a raw medium to create a very useful artifact. The level of peer pressure I get to use more machinery is somewhat daunting but I suppose if it came to that I would probably stop selling rods altogether and just make rods for myself and friends. I will probably be eating my words when my orthopedic surgeon tells me my hands and arms are no longer operable. Oh well if the process brings me to my ultimate demise so be it. The words of Friedrich Nietzsche echo in my head often.
Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you. ~Friedrich Nietzsche
There's a dreamy river flowing Down the street from my house I walk down there after work But I paddle my way home
There's a dreamy river flowing On every street corner in the world And if that young moon is in the sky She'll wink at you and let you pass by
There's a dreamy river flowing From my refrigerator into my mouth It only costs a few dollars To keep those shelves stocked
There's a dreamy river flowing From my mouth into my gut There's a dreamy river flowing From my wank into the street There's a dreamy river flowing In my mind as I lay to sleep
There's a dreamy river flowing From a town I've never been to Across this great country And also from overseas Sometimes from people's kitchens Transversing time and space I float down this river Every night and day
There's a dreamy river flowing From the hops and the malts and sugar I call it my brother, I call it my wife I call it my true friend
Let me float upon you dreamy river And drown all these sorrows That call to me from pasts I've severed
There are often moments within a fishing season where time is better spent walking with a youngster down to your favorite piece of water. Simplicity is always better, just handing him or her a few fly’s will make their day that much more memorable. Find a knot that they are comfortable with and find a fish that they can remember for years to come. Sounds a bit sentimental but honestly it really does make a difference especially if the youngster has no father to speak of. His father may have been shipped off to Afghanistan and has nobody to drive him to a stream let alone have someone to go fishing with. It is a simple act of kindness that goes a very long way. It may be your next door neighbors kid, it may be a single mothers child, or it may even be your own son or daughter. Sharing your time is a God given gift and fishing’s “fine simplicity” accounts for many priceless moments of discovery. Take a little one to the river its never too late in the season.
Fishing is much more than fish. It is the great occasion when
we may return to the fine simplicity of our forefathers.
The dog days of summer can prove to be frustrating and tedious to say the least especially if your efforts are put to the test with the dry fly. Early bird catches the trout, long leaders with 6x and 7x tippet, and size 20 and smaller Trico patterns will prove to pay big dividends. The saying “adversity introduces a man to himself” is the moment to moment mantra especially if you happen to see a surface pecking 20 inch brown. Chunky Browns sipping Tricos in 10 inches of clear water in a slow and spooky pool is what gets my heart pumping. This is usually during daybreak so the shadows and contrast are a bit deceiving adding to the level of difficulty. Taking a downstream position with a trico spinner at this time of year early in the morning proves successful, but drop a #16 something or another can clear out an entire pool. Hoppers are a crap shoot because you only have one chance and the big ones are easily spooked in slow shallow meandering runs.
Green Quilled Trico Spinner #22, dun wings,
crisscross dun hackle around thorax, coq de leon tail,
great for visibility in the wee hours
I avoid using white hen wings on my Trico spinner patterns because the flash of white will spook the trout if a false cast happens to break his cone of vision. So I opt for medium dun pullet wings. I also use a parachute pattern for Trico spinners again using a medium dun hackle and a dun turkey flat post for the above reasons. I also like using black or green dyed quill patterns (AK Best Inspired) these seem to give ample flotation for visibility as well as a couple of turns of hackle around the thorax crisscross like the technique Vince Marinaro uses on his Thorax Duns. These simple variations of the Trico can prove deadly especially in low light conditions. Tying these patterns test my patience as much as presenting them but the principle part of catching fish in faith is patience.
“The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.”
Tripoli otherwise known as rottenstone I have found is my tried and true method of polishing bamboo fly rods. A mixture of boiled linseed oil and tripoli seems to always bring a smile to my face when I first mix it up. It is a bit archaic I suppose but I'm funny that way especially when it comes to finishes. I connect the smell of linseed and tripoli to a sense of completion and when the new owner pulls the rod out of the case he or she can actually smell the level of detail as well. Many rods are finished with satin type varnishes (silica imbued matting agents) but the act of polishing a rod using traditional methods gives me a deeper layered finish. I find that I can spot the silica finishes and they look somewhat artificial even though they are a time saver for many rod makers. Then again I mix my own spar concoction so my process already is a bit more labor intensive.There are many ways to skin a cat but the tripoli treatment just rings true for me.
I have spent my life up till now earning a modest wage using my hands. I don't care if you make yo-yo's, knives, smoking pipes, illustrations, or furniture. If it comes from your bench, drawing board, or cave and it is handled by your hands from natural materials of earth origin and you transform the raw into something “usable” or “artful” it is one of a kind. This has been a topic of heated discussion since Robert Henri wrote “The Art Spirit”. He took a lot of heat in the 1920's and his students questioned and pondered many of his excerpts.
Wabi-Sabi refers to natures fingerprint on natural earth born materials. The persona of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asperity, simplicity, modesty, intimacy, genuineness, and the suggestion of natural processes. Craftsman have made peace with their chosen medium's natural state. My motto has always been~“we cannot control Mother Nature but we can complement her best intentions”. That's complement spelled with an “e”. Ultimately it is this “natural state” that brings a certain genuineness and value to the artifact. The craftsman takes a difficult journey with not a lot of pay days or pay raises. This journey does not prove to be glamorous or even profitable much of the time. It is quite simply a path one takes because they feel a primal need... in the words of Robert Henri “the need to do and make”
The general lack of awareness in America that results from too much digital information obliterating our neocortex is killing Japettos Workshop. The tolerance for “natural processes” in America's marketplace or process in general is foundering like a newly constructed ship with no keel sliding out of drydock. The inevitable has already happened before our eyes. Everybody needs to back away from their Amazon accounts and their overnight shipping expectations and see where this is all leading. If you want the loving fingerprint of a craftsperson on your chosen artifact then pour yourself a glass of Scotch, sit down in an uncomfortable chair, pick up a pen with your comatose bluetooth mouse contorted fingers and write a note on real rag linen paper. Go out of your way to scrounge up some stamps you need to actually lick. Fold the note avoiding a paper cut so you do not bleed out and ruin your melamine end table with arterial spray. Drive your ass down to the post office, smile at the postmaster and hand him your letter.You now have become part of the “natural process”
I suppose I can identify with den building critters because of their insatiable urge to sleep, eat, build, and socialize within the confines of a studio-type environment. Years ago as a young rod maker I slept in an apartment filled with all kinds of strange contraptions, odors, and sounds. My friends and family understood that I probably would never change and that a conventional household was very far off if not completely out of the picture. Blowing circuits, and waking up neighbors in the middle of the night was a given. The chirping and whining of boring bars and router bits was getting me in trouble. Odors of oven baked bamboo and varnish made for a suspicious existence in a small tenant house.
Needless to say I did not get married until I was 42. Dating was hit and miss to say the least, actually more misses than hits. I was deemed undateable by most of my friends. Having two lathes, a cane oven that looks like an ICBM, and rolling tool carts in the middle of your living room is not really a conventional decor motif. It does not shout stability and basic social norms, actually this visualization falls just short of the beginning few minutes of Silence of the Lambs. Dates went flying out the door, and cab drivers may as well have regularly showed up at my house shortly after dinner, because they did. I pretty much slept on top of my equipment, and unfortunately it took a toll on my health and possibilities of having a relationship of any kind. I should have issued organic vapor respirators at the door but I knew that pancake makeup, lipstick, and perfume would somehow end up infiltrating my rod finishing tubes. I finally decided that my home was deemed a date free zone, and it remained that way for quite some time. I soon mastered the fine art of dissuasion “lets go to your place, mine is being fumigated” or “my sister with terets is staying for the weekend and the expletives are flying”
Years passed and I fell into a troll-like existence, I was passionate but becoming a little insane. I had a reputation at the local coffee shop for showing up a little dazed and confused, and murmuring things under my breath about new two part emollients and stabilizing agents. My card playing friends nicknamed me “Chemical Joey” (my middle name is Joseph). The day of the 911 tragedy I was going to leave to Camden Maine for a new chapter of my life. My move came to a huge screeching halt the day of this disaster. It was definitely a stop sign. I got a phone call from a pretty young lady a few days later that I had dated for a short period time who lived in Manhattan. We talked briefly and caught up for a few minutes. Soon thereafter I hurt my shoulder very badly in an accident.
I awoke in the hospital throwing up into a plastic tray and there was the girl from Manhattan sitting there right next to me! I was confused and a bit surprised. Once again I was not exactly casting a great light for a next date as I was repeatedly dry heaving into a pink tray. The combination of percocet and her face was a bit surreal.
Jenny was a graduate from Pratt Institute in Queens where she studied industrial design and it was there where she eventually got her masters degree. She was very use to the studio environment lifestyle and shop-like mentality. My apartment and lifestyle was more of a curious draw than a turnoff for her. It echoed familiar sounds and smells of her days at Pratt. We both loved the habits and ritual of doing and making.
After being married for a while Jenny and I still laugh about my old place, and honestly nothing really has changed at all. She practices her craft along side of me and we engage in conversations about conducive workspaces and how to fuse the living environment into a creative work space. Now I am fortunate to have an entire structure dedicated to rod making. There is no “normal” way to live in a space, you just need to feel creative freedom in the space you occupy daily.
Spalted maple is maple wood with dark veins caused by a pattern of rot or bacteria in the wood. Once stabilized, this wood is very striking as it often looks like a pen and ink drawing through the wood. Good spalted maple is hard to find with intricate veins. I frequently walk through the woods with my wife and am distracted by fallen maple timber that is either in it’s spalted prime to be cut and stabilized or past it’s prime and decomposing. Turning spalted wood also is quite challenging because you are looking for the best figuring in a very small surface area (being the seat itself), I usually explain that it is a bit like unearthing a fossil. Sometimes the planets are aligned and something magnificent shows up that has the perfect hue, symmetry, and figuring for the intended rod. Stabilizing is a must if you are to work with spalted maple. There is a kind of poetry involved when crafting spalted wood because one has actually rescued the wood and put it into stasis, you literally have stopped it from rotting and made it indelible.
Rod Crossman was raised in Upstate New York and now lives in Indiana. “He makes his living creating paintings, as a professor, an artist in residence at Indiana Wesleyan University. Other vocations have included life-guarding, sacking groceries, factory work, and graphic design”
Rod has two boys who share a common interest with him, an affinity for moving water. This thankfully brings them all together on occasion to go fly fishing. Rod has a keen eye for capturing wonderful moments when it comes to lighting, spacial relationships, and natures most awesome raw medium, water.
Rod’s artwork has been published in some of the best sporting magazines, books and journals. His paintings have been shown world wide, including the Smithsonian, Chicago Art Institute, Woodson Art Museum, Ward Museum, and the High Museum. Rod has designed Trout, Turkey, Upland bird, and Duck stamps for several states with his design skills.
“Checking the Fly”
“Rod has a keen affinity for moments of what he calls wonder and awe. The magical state of being that leaves us vulnerable to the idea there is something more important in universe than ourselves”
The rarity of finding old rods in truly “mint” condition these days is infrequent to say the least. Rods of this nature always stop me in my tracks. I was contacted by Ed Kitchen who literally lives about five minutes from me claiming that he had in his possession what I call a “mintage” Heddon Black Beauty. This is what I refer to as a rod that is not only very old but has remained untouched, unfished, and has literally been in cryostasis for many many years. Apparently this rod was Ed's Grandfather's and was handled with such infrequency that the grip had no soiling whatsoever.
I soon was invited over to his house and he unveiled the rod. All of the labels were in incredible condition. The rod bag looked like it had just been sewn. The finish on the rod was immaculate. The guides looked as though they were freshly coated from the previous week. The black Pyaralin reel seat glistened. Probably the most well preserved Heddon let alone fly rod of this age I have ever seen. Ed, his father, and grandfather all seemed to have been Heddon enthusiasts which I thought was especially heartwarming. He had a few other Heddon rods that he showed me one of which I offered my services to revive a bit. The 9' Heddon #17 was his personal rod that he currently fishes with.
Ed loves these rods and it shows when you talk with him, a little glint in his eye beams when he recalls different fishing experiences with his father and grandfather. Meeting fishermen like Ed really brings genuine meaning to the bamboo legacy. This is especially true when considering the memories that revolve, and still evolve from rods from one generation to the next.
The slogan:"Made by Heddon and Well Made" lives on...
Occasionally the Spring brings little if any rainfall during some of the first Mayfly hatches. This can make for some interesting fishing conditions especially when deja vu whispers and I have visions of the previous fall with typically low and clear water conditions. Ultimately early spring fishing can pay big dividends with Hendrickson hatches sporadically popping up. Timing and temperature is everything but with low and clear water conditions another frustrating factor can turn a potentially awesome day into a wash. Tying small can save the day in many conditions, this year was no exception. I was able to catch some great mayfly hatches in Western PA and some of my home waters this year. I have a stash of special dry fly boxes I put together over the winter that are my everyday patterns that I tie smaller than normal. By smaller than normal I mean I go down one or two hook sizes. This year I was armed with a box of Hendrickson patterns tied in the small that really pulled through for me. Most of my successful spring fly's this year consisted of mayfly patterns tied on #16 hooks down to #20's. The fished seemed fussier and my standard size Hendrickson patterns unfortunately did not get wet this year. I guess sometimes good things happen when you present small packages.
Every so often I come across tools that just seem to make life all that much more easier. Short of purchasing dental tools at a premium price, Pro'sKit (www.proskit.com) makes a selection of small tools that work excellent for fixing old reels, cleaning and restoring old hardware, taking grime out of pawl springs, sweeping or picking grime out of spools, and generally great for getting in tight spaces. I use some of these tools to clean my string binder as well as cleaning grime out of guide feet when overhauling and refinishing rods.
Having little tools such as these in the face of all the adversities rod making dishes up is priceless, and for 10 bucks you can't beat it!
Sometimes the big Grandaddies get particular in the feeding lane. I caught this Brown in about 12" of clear water on the Mad River earlier this week. This picture shows a #18 dry Midge pattern in this Browns jaw. He was refusing “the naturals”, Hendricksons, in the feeding lane. I watched him for a few minutes from downstream. I kept seeing a big orange flash, sucking in the invisible something, while larger mayflies just floated right over him. I resisted the urge to float a dun near his head so I grabbed my old faithful little down wing Caddis pattern, aka my “Little DWC”. Tied small doubles as an effective midge pattern as well. Whomp! It's always nice to open a season up with a fish like this. The Rod in the picture on top: 7'3" 4wt. “Moluntha”
“Little DWC” (Down Wing Caddis) doubles as an
old standby midge pattern this particular one tied on a #20 hook
not a “pretty fly” but very effective for fussy Browns
Hook: TMC 101 #18-#24
Thread: Pearsall's silk winding thread~Gray
Hackle: Light or dark dun
Body: Dubbed with medium dun, dyed silk from a raw hank
Both chrome nickel hardware and blued nickel hardware hardware can keep its integrity and finish indefinitely. Nickel for fly rod hardware is either machined from 18% nickel or 12% nickel. Nickel is highly corrosion resistant and certain grades when polished have a more bronzy luster to a more highly chrome luster. Nickel silver is named for its silvery appearance, but contains no elemental silver unless plated. Other common names for this alloy are German silver, paktong, new silver and alpacca (or alpaca). A form of German silver was invented in Birmingham, England in 1832.
Nickel Silver was (and still is) widely used for the commercial production of industrial components, marine grade hardware, housewares, flatware and cutlery, and as the metal substrate for silver-plated goods, hence the term EPNS = Electro-Plated Nickel Silver.
Nickel Silver was formerly widely used in costume jewelry and as the substrate for silver and gold plated jewelry. Due to the high propensity of nickel to induce dermatology problems and allergy, recent legislation in the EU has restricted the use of nickel in jewelry (probably due to the copper formulation).
There are many different formulations of alloys which fall within the general term of "Nickel Silver". All contain copper, nickel and zinc, while some formulations may additionally include antimony, tin, lead or cadmium. A representative formulation (Alloy No.752 Nickel pretty common) is 65% copper, 18% nickel, 17% zinc. If all this is kind of boring it’s probably due to the fact that I spend a lot of time looking for the perfect numerical alloy of Nickel to machine my hardware from. It does make a difference in regards to how well it machines, cleans up, blues, etc.
When blued certain nickel alloys react differently. Some bronze a bit more than others, some take on a gun metal cool blue, others mottle and look a little like a custom blued turn of the century firearm. All bluing will eventually wear and scratch if not protected. Some clients like the look of bronzy blued hardware others like it jet black. I prefer a more typical custom gunsmith finish. Never rest the butt of your rod on asphalt or concrete it will scuff and scratch. If you put a fine shotgun or firearm on such a surface expect the same outcome. Common sense is the mantra. If you bang your rod into a rock it’s guaranteed it’s going to scratch. Normal wear of bluing is not a bad thing I love to see rods with a weathered worn blued appearance because I know immediately they have been used for what they were intended for, fishing. I personally own rods that I would never refinish for that very reason. All of my rods have a thin layer of a “foundry protectant” that coat all my blued hardware. It is very durable and lasts for a very long time. ~Clint Bova