Bamboo Dialog

The New Year always brings me to a new visualization or the need for a fresh start of some kind. A personal ritual is always a new shipment of cane to start it off on the right foot. It's kind of like bringing in new visitors for an extended 3-5 year stay. After a new shipment of cane arrives checking occurs and the sounds of popping resonate throughout the house for weeks if not months. 

Like new visitors culms acclimate to their new environment at their own pace. The security alarm is set off by a single culm checking in the middle of the night. This goes on until ADT either fines me or I insulate the culms, usually the latter. Checking is a natural progression that a culm of bamboo goes through as it dries and adjusts to its given environment. The only time a fly rod will ever make an audible noise is before its split in the form of a culm. I always like to think of it as a time the bamboo speaks its mind before a maker binds and glues it into submission. 

I often imagine that the popping sounds translate into a kind of secret bamboo dialog amongst the resting culms. They chit chat in this secret morse code and have a lot of questions in regards to the sharpness of the makers planes, is it painful to be split?, and what's it like to grow up and be a fly rod? This all starts to sound a bit Jeppetto-esque but spending countless hours handling bamboo your imagination wanders into some strange places. In the wee hours of a dark and cold January evening I think of the Disney classic Pinocchio while hand planing strips;

 “Little puppet made of pine, awake. The gift of life is thine.”
~The Blue Fairy
“Little fly rod made of cane, awake. Before I go insane.”


Paintings by Don Hall

                                      “Seneca Creek”
Don Hall started painting at 33 and was inspired by the Hudson River School of painting. He concentrates primarily on landscape painting in oils. Don has a keen eye for natural light that in turn influences his paintbrush in extraordinary ways. He travels extensively throughout the United States and paints almost exclusively en plein air capturing rural points of view in an impressionist manner. 

                                        “Along Leading Creek”
I recently viewed a handful of his paintings and was mesmerized by their somewhat folklike point of view but could still recognize some very academic influences. Don wonderfully captures a sense of place and time with the use of a very vivid color palette. His paintings are definitely a testament to the rural beauty I've experienced in West Virginia trout fishing. Visit www.donhallart.com

      “Looking For Trout”


The Flared Wood Spacer

                 Mad River Rod Co. Spacer for the “Trails End” a 7' 4wt.

I consistently get questions in regards to my flared wood spacers and matching hardware and repeatedly get asked if I will make custom spacers and hardware for rod makers and hobbyists. Last year I stopped selling hardware and only sell rods, with my own hardware on them. Reason being my hardware is balanced and scaled proportionally for different sized rods, the bores are all custom, along with matching ringsets, etc. The nickel buts have a pronounced domed profile and fit like a fine machined part into the eliptical recess. All of these parts are made one at a time and are not popped out of a CNC machine like many manufacturers do. The double slide bands interiors are bored using a chamfering jig that allows them to seat themselves securely to the reel foot. So to make a long story short there is much more to these pieces of hardware than meets the eye. The wood spacer is not turned from a standard pen blank or from a supplier, these spacers are from very expensive select pieces of hardwood and spalted maple and sent to a stabilizer. They are turned from 2.0” x 6.0” blocks that are cut down to get the best figuring lined up with the geometry of the spacer. If I was to sell these pieces individually, the customer would then need to make the diameters, bores, chamfering, mortises, ect. of of all matching hardware and components correctly or the reel would not seat itself correctly along with a multitude of other obvious fitting problems. So it’s a bit of a headache to sell these pieces individually and spend half of the day on the phone explaining to a customer how to use a boring bar on a lathe correctly. It’s simply not economical or practical for me as a craftsman. 

Mad River Rod Co. hardware detail for the “Trapper”

Recently a component manufacturer tried to emulate some of my hardware patterns. They have an uplocking slide band (not a double slide band set) with a flared spacer. It falls short in proportion, depth, and contouring, and of course with an up-locking seat you run into the age old problem of having to much spacer protruding behind your reel so you are constantly untangling line hanging up on your butt section. Further the manufacturer uses a flat nickel butt insert that does not contour as a dome shape to compliment the spacer profile. The stereotypical stabilized pen blank looking spacer is something I've always steered away from as well (see below some very unique figuring). The other down fall of the purchased component is the defaulted proportion, there are dozens of rod lengths and weights and to expect one or two sized seats within a series to cover such a range is unrealistic. I feel pretty strong about everything singing on the same song sheet when it comes to rod componentry. The proportion of the components should match it's given rod down to .125" in length. The variables are simply too limited I feel with the selections from manufacturers. I suppose this is why I make all my reel seat components, I'm just picky that way.

                  Mad River Rod Co. various spalted maple spacers

I guess what I’m really trying to say here is that there is no easy way to make a really beautiful component that works pefectly for everyone’s bamboo blank. Every piece of hardware has to sing in tandem with it’s given rod. It’s kind of like putting a pair of dragon fly wings on a mayfly, some things have to be created as a single thought in order to fly right.

                         ~Clint Joseph Bova