bamboo, the incredible grass…

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        Many folks don’t realize it, but bamboo is a relative of corn or ” maize”, both members of the grass family…the bamboo used commonly today comes from the Soup River region in China is where “Tonkin” cane grows naturally. That area has the perfect climate, amount of moisture and growing season for this particular species of “cane” to grow…an area that has been totally off limits several times in history due to world politics etc, but nowadays with so much we use coming from China, its nice to see something so special to what I and others love to do be so readily available…
 
             “Angling” or fly fishing was considered a gentlemen’s sport in Europe, or in the case of the older records, the gentry or ruling class…where it had its more modern beginning, where rods from various woods were used…some over 16 feet in length. From alder,ash, hickory, just about any wood that could be worked and flexed…some rods were only used while they were green, just for that flexing ability…reels then were very primitive many homemade, horse hair braided lines were used……real gear development didn’t come about until mid 18th century, mostly in Ireland, England & Scotland..places the fishing for salmon and “grilse” or ocean grown rainbows , more commonly called steelhead here, were pursued . 
 
         The famous book or “treatise” by Sir Izaak Walton, “The Compleat Angler”from the early 1600’s  is given most of the credit for the pursuit we have today, and rightly so. The beginnings of angling had roots in the very old customs from Egypt, Libya,Spain, Morocco and many other places from antiquity…the use of feathers tied onto bone hooks dates back to times before Christ…in several cultures. Roman accounts from about 200 AD reported the practice in what is now Macedonia…a Roman writer described how people fished with flies in a river of Macedonia, he also noted it appeared they were fishing for a trout species with spots on it…Its most likely that through the path of the Roman Empire is how fly fishing as we know it was introduced to other areas of now Europe during medieval times …Swiss text’s from the 13-1400’s cite fishing w/ a fly in what is now Bavaria in Germany, and of course England…all places that had traces from its roman occupations and cultural transplanting. Like stone roads were a sign the romans were there, so it also appears that fishing w/ a fly was too…
 
          The beginning of using split cane rods, like those that are used today has its origin somewhere many are not aware of…It does not, as some have believed, originate in the far east as a result of the English Empire and its colonial development, or from Roman expansion ,but somewhere far more unpretentious…The first split cane rods were made by an angling violin maker from Pennsylvania in the 1840’s…as were many of the real functioning reels in modern angling…Of course there are also many accounts of English mastery in the area of making reels, lines, creels and other essentials…but the use of splitting and gluing Bamboo sections resulting in a very efficient fly rod is an American invention. Also the first quality reels came from America as well…dating a bit before  bamboo use began. Eventually the technology of operating reels was on both sides of the Ocean…once silversmiths and clock makers started to get involved…
 
         Bamboo is really an exceptional material… it has some very strong intrinsic value for sure … actually its characteristics are pretty “high tech” in a purely organic way…the longitudinal design by nature of the way the fibers and grains flow through it, is something actually copied my modern technology in the way that fiberglass and graphite are made…the fibers of bamboo are easily seen with the naked eye…much larger in diameter than those of composites, which is the secret…the matrix created in composites of epoxy and manmade strand material are extremely fine…and require the epoxy to make a combined strength by the chemical bond of the two components…the miracle of bamboo is that the connection of the fibers with its own exterior hull is unified on a cellular level…and has no other parts contributing to its strength…it is the organic result of soil,water and photosynthesis …and of course the DNA that is in the core of its cells…a truly amazing creation!
 
      In current times there has been a “renaissance or rebirth” of this old material…Graphite is without a doubt the most commonly used material for all manner of rods for fishing in general and fly fishing today…However on a different level or approach many are returning to older styles and methods…for the reasons of nostalgia and historical appreciation …The modern materials based on all the “high tech” aspects of today just don’t have the soul of something like bamboo…and for me don’t have the connection with the creation and earth that is so important to me…
 
      Bamboo fly rods have always been considered viable…and renowned for their exceptional qualities…but usually considered out of reach by most because of the cost…That is something in current times that are really changing…With the advent of many more making their own gear, or just the appreciation of things from simpler times it appears to no be a fad…but something of substance and depth…Of course there are many like myself that just like the concept of using something that actually grows in the earth…and doesn’t require a factory to produce…
 
       I enjoy building rods from bamboo and fishing them because of that organic connection…Also after realizing how good they work…and on top of that…how beautiful they are …they show so much more human involvement…and in a time when the world is so crazy…its nice to have something that can be so much fun to use…and also just admire and look at…
 Sheep Creek_shawnee1
 …October is a very productive time of year for anglers in Colorado…
…seen here enjoying a nice afternoon on the North Fork of the South Platte River…
 
 
 
 
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