Thursday, September 29, 2011

Trout Lake Report: Bamboozled

I got a new rod over the weekend. Bamboo. But don't get too excited.

It's a Montague, one of the thousands, maybe millions, of split bamboo rods manufactured by the Montague Rod Company in Massachusetts from 1900 to 1955. Mine is a "Flash," one of the many model names used by the company, including "Trail, "Redwing," "Fishkill," and "Rapidan."

I picked this up at a charity auction for $50. Someone who knows bamboo rods told me he wouldn't go higher than that. When I got home and checked online I found one list which valued it at $150. That's not a lot for an antique bamboo rod until you consider that you could buy one in a dime store or a country store or a hardware store for five bucks or less in the beginning, and later for the astronomical price of $16.

It's not my first bamboo rod. I bought one a couple of years ago for twenty bucks, a Montague Clipper. But it's the first one I've owned that I can fish. The Clipper needs a little work.

Montague rods aren't exactly rare, but ones in good shape are getting harder to find. The most recent rods they made are already almost 50 years old. I was fortunate to find a good one--with two intact tips. I haven't been able yet to figure out when it might have been made, but my guess is that it's somewhere around the same age I am. That has a nice symmetry to it.

I was eager to get out and try it on the water, and Tuesday evening opened up. The rod is a nine footer and weighs a ton, but it throws a five weight line with a big, bushy fly just fine. Just as my friend told me it would, it casts s-l-o-w. One might say majestically.

There was a fresh wind blowing, and I was stripping a Bomber through the rolling waves. It wasn't long before the rod bent to a fish.

How many times has this rod arced over a running fish? How many fishers have held it in their hands and felt it quiver with the life of the fish? Who were those fishers? Where did they live, where did they fish?

This most certainly was not the rod's first fish, but it was the first fish I've caught on a bamboo rod.

But not the last.

We had a good evening together. My wrist got used to the weight, and the rod didn't even have to work very hard.  We caught many fish in the smaller range, and the best fish was probably a seventeen. (It escaped from my lap before I could get a photo.)

I'd like to see how it handles a fish of decent size and girth. Golden October is just coming into view, and it brings with it the promise of just such fish. I'll be out there, with my Flash.


On Wednesday I thought about the bamboo rod and, I confess, wondered what the fuss was all about. I was hoping to steal a couple of hours to steal back to the lake again, and I thought maybe if I did I'd go back to my "regular" rod--the graphite.

I know, the bamboo rod I have is not a finely tuned work of art crafted by the hands of an artist. I can't expect a factory-made fiddle to sound like a Stradivarius, or one outing with a manufactured bamboo rod to be an epiphany.

But, you know, it is bamboo. It wasn't extruded, it grew. Out of the earth. Naturally. As I thought of that long, whippy stick I remembered bamboo groves on Kauai waving slowly and majestically in the tropic wind. And I thought it looked real pretty when I saw it in the sun in the back of the truck.

So when I was able to get to the lake for a couple hours I naturally picked up the Flash.

It didn't feel so heavy anymore, and I began to find its natural rhythm. The fish were everywhere. Midges, caddis, and, I swear, honey ants, dotted the still surface. That rod gently laid down my little cinnamon ant, and firmly picked up fish after fish.

And I love that little pop it makes when you pull the ferrules apart.

I like this rod. It grew--and it's growing on me.


  1. Beautiful post..."It wasn't extruded, it grew." I really enjoyed this read...

  2. Always appreciate your comments, Erin. Thanks for taking the time.