Breac à linne, slat à coille is fiadh à fìreach – mèirle às nach do ghabh gàidheal riamh nàire.
a fish from the river, a rod from the woods and a stag from the mountain , thefts ne’er a Gael was ashamed

…an old gaelic proverb…
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                  .. this Gael enjoying a nice “Indian Summer” afternoon on the South Platte River, Colorado…
one of my special clients took this pic…after a nice lunch and an awesome day of angling I was invited to do some fishing with them…thanks to them…
~I enjoy helping my folks catch fish as much if not more than I love hearing my own reel scream!~

Every story has a beginning …

…welcome …here is a little about myself and how this passion became such an integral part of my life…

The pursuit of catching a fish on a fly began as a young boy, but when I was 18  I  started to actually fish with a proper fly rod. I have been a fly angler for over 40 years – officially starting out with my first fly rod, a Wright Mc Gill 7 & 1/2 foot “sweetheart”. It was actually acquired in a slightly different fashion than most folks might think…my best friend at the time wrecked my car, an old Volkswagen bus that I built from the ground up, my first engine rebuild and a paint job – the whole works! I wanted a hot rod, but my old man said no…he was OK with the VW…man was I proud of that rig! I let my friend drive it one day, and he backed it into a parking lot pole. He creased its backside into something that was unrecognizable…and gave me his only possession as some sort of payment to keep us from blows, a seven and a half foot fly rod. At the time I did not think it was quite as valuable as he thought (that is an understatement) but, in hindsight, (some 40 plus years later) I have a chuckle…and say we’re even.

            I used that rod for years until I could afford my next rod…a nice fiberglass Cortland and a few others similar. I caught everything from trout to largemouth bass, perch and crappie with my early rods in Western and Eastern States. It’s at that time that I also started to tie my own flies…and began the practice I still follow today of using as many materials as I could that were acquired from hunting pursuits, or working on farm’s and ranches.

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                   In the late 70s I bought my first bamboo trout rod, an Orvis 8’6″ Madison 5 weight with a Hardy lightweight reel…I remember the ivory- colored Scientific Anglers floating line I put on it…still a favorite color line if I can find it…what a combo! I fished that rod so much and was able to experience the magic of bamboo. That rod and reel were eventually sold in later years to pay rent or something,  they had accrued some serious value over the years… I always regretted parting with them…and promised myself to get another bamboo one day. I replaced that rig with various fiberglass and, later on, graphite rods , everything from more Wright & McGill’s, TFOs, and a Sage Z-Axis from my guiding days…and everything from Pflueger, Okuma, Sage, Hardy,Cortland, Wright & McGill and other various reels.

 

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                   This is a pic from the season after I got pretty broke up on the Buffalo ranch I managed…my right arm had been broken in three places, two cracked ribs & hip …rounding up Buffalo calves for the Denver stock show…that injury made it necessary to learn to fly fish left handed… this went on for a year before I regained the use of my right arm …leaving me now able to “switch hit”, which I found has somereal advantages…a blessing in disguise… a very good blessing and well disguised!!!

In the beginning there was a flowing stream… a feather , a hook…and a piece of cane…

            In reality my angling experiences go back much further than those with modern tackle and gear. I look back at my roots, very fondly, I might add, and see they were truly the beginning of it all. 50 years ago my best friend and I spent our free time pretending we were the “Huck Finn & Tom Sawyer” , characters from one of our favorite movies back then. We would make rafts and tree forts near the farmland areas close to my home, imagining that we were living in the wilderness … catching fish with our cane rods and hunting with bows and arrows we had made from materials we found in the woods or our father’s shops. Those rods and style of angling are really the same as what I have evolved into with fly fishing … not all that different from the gear I use and make today. We had bamboo poles about 8-9 feet long we cut down in local patches that grew nearby. We had our own special “knots” that we tied to about 10 feet of mono filament for a line…sometimes we even used a piece of cork for a “bobber.” We spent the money we made doing chores on hooks and spools of fishing line, and other necessities. Long before we were old enough to drive cars we used our bikes for all our travel. I remember my first rod rack on my old bike, and my tackle box strapped onto the back fender.

 

 

 

                 Our secret lure was made from cardinal and blue jay feathers we found and tied onto our next prized possession… “eagle-claw” hooks we got from the local gas station. Sometimes we even added a little piece of gray squirrel to really make them irresistible. My friend and I would look close at bugs and insects from around the stream and think…if we could only make something like that! And, yes! sometimes we would use them to catch fish too…an oldtrick to “juice up” the fly’s we tied…however using the feathers on hooks alone  seemed more noble…even for a 10 year old…

 

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…yours truly on the right helping a  “fellow angler” decide on the right “bug”…

                 We perfected the “dead drift” long before I even had a clue what that was… letting our “super flies” drift through the riffles and currents of our local streams and “cricks”…we found out that if we kept the line off the water and only let the fly float naturally with the current, we would catch way more fish. We also weighted down the flies sometimes with split shot and used a piece of cork for my first ever dropper rig with a strike indicator…in the fashion of the shows we watched back then like “Bold Journey” & “The Flying Fisherman”,where anglers would fish remote places in Alaska and Canada, we pretended to be making our own shows and knew we would one day be going to all those places too……

 

    “…ever since I was ten years old I have always loved tying up fly’s with materials I have found in nature…or even collected in harvests…50 years later, here is a favorite fly I tied with drake mallard chest feathers and some  Elk fur…both from a fall hunt…some things  never change!”

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                 My buddy and I swore an oath to one another that we would keep these tactics and special recipes for flies a secret forever…and maybe we would even end up on our other favorite TV show, Curt Gowdy’s “The American Sportsman”. It’s funny how, so many decades later, I still use those same tactics to fly fish today and yet, as youngsters, we were on to something we never even realized…

 

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…a “tied in hand” wet version of a favorite “flee” of mine…only a bobbin used…

…some elk and  mallard recycled materials…

                  My angling even led to a way of making a living later on in my life…working in various hunting and fishing shops, and guiding anglers for trout. I had the opportunity to fish waters with some incredible folks…everyone from regular folks to wealthy professional athletes & Judges, learning volumes along the way, learning to perfect my craft as an angler…Funny how one of my best tips I could ever give my trout fly fishing clients in present times was to do the same exact thing I had learned with my buddy almost 50 years earlier…keep that line off the water, and keep that rod tip up…

 

 

                 Eventually I began making and repairing some bamboo rods for my clients, tying more and more fly patterns. I also fashioned some of my own nets. I needed some that would withstand the rigors of daily use, but that would also be made with the artistic approach of all my other gear. Making rods and nets are something I still do today…dry fly to spey casting.

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Something I particularly enjoy, is helping others make their own rods etc…I  find a great amount of pleasure , and have made many friends not only making rods for folks, but also help out those that want to try and make their own too by getting in their hands a blank that is prepped and ready to go to finish…or even help learn to tie up their own fly to catch that trout with. The thought of fish being caught in far away places by others that I helped initiate in the cycle gives me a special satisfaction and fulfillment!

 

“art imitates life”…this can be pretty confusing at times…where do “life and art” actually meet or seperate? this manmade imitation of a May Fly “Dun”, has many roots that are directly from nature…

  There are a lot of things  happening here…the Drake Mallard that gave up a few feathers,  flew thousands  of miles on his migratory journey’s…the Bull Elk that traveled up and down lots of rugged mountains for about 7 or 8 years and probably even walked through & crossed the mountain streams that the trout I pursue inhabit …the Buffalo that roamed my Colorado ranch for a decade…what majestic beasts!…even the “bees wax” that I used to blend in the fur and feathers that came from an old bee hive from 30+ years ago …the connections and the reality that it all just keeps going “on & on” seems pretty appropriate to mention here…the “circle of life” does not really ever stop or start…we just get the oppurtunity to take part occasionally…the more often the better as far as I’m concerned!

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             Over the years I also became acquainted with Native American culture…researching and finding a lot of connetions in my failys past with the culture…even some bloodlines way back …I also learned to respect and search deeper creating a  new appreciation of the experiences of the nature I was (and have been) exposed to…having a few very close friends from those roots…learning that somehow so many things that were intuitive to me, were also deep seated beliefs from that culture…I have always believed like them ,in the way that the outdoors and creation should be respected and flowed with. Something that my approach to all those beliefs found me favor and deep friendships with them…

 

 

              My Native friends would always tell me I was not really a stranger, but a closely connected soul…something I carry with me every day of my existence…and try to use as a guideline for everything I do with my angling, outdoor and life pursuits..I also found out from my family tree that we have  had many close ties with Native Americans in times past …and I am quite sure there are deeper roots and reasons for my proclivity to such things and ways …my rods and other gear are a direct reflection of all these things…I hope they find interest for you as well…and I also hope to make your acquaintance …wm

 

…the angler’s story cont’d…

 

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… fishing a not so “secret spot”, but still a favorite…
…the “gin clear” waters of Cheesman Canyon tailwater during the springtime flow…
    note:  I don’t list bamboo rods  or blanks as to their “action” like is done commonly with graphite rods, email me and I can give better descriptions as to what style of angling I would pursue with any given rod or blank I make…dry fly, streamer rod etc…most people familiar with bamboo have an idea of what they are looking for…              WM does not , and will not copy proprietary tapers of other companies…or make “knock off’s” of classic or existing rods…~all of my own rod designs and tapers are based on practical and “real time” experience astream for diverse angling applications~
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~yours truly sitting at wandering monk’s mobile shop with one of my carvings I create~

 

  all photos and text are property of Wandering Monk Fly Rod Co.tm
 and can be only used with permission