I just couldn’t wait for Sunday to fish my new bamboo rod, at Oil Creek, I received at the ‘One Fly’ competition last weekend. I couldn’t wait to feel the cork handle grip or cast the slow action stick. After work Wednesday I hurried home and dressed for some evening fishing. I hurriedly nail knotted a 5X tapered leader to my new 5wt. Cortland Sylk fly line. I grabbed my camera, rod, jumped in the van and headed to the nearest brookie stream.
I pull the brown cloth rod sock out of my homemade cardboard cylinder tube. Unwrapping the sock I pull out the bamboo fly rod. The smooth mustard colored cork grip feels soft in my overworked tradesman hands. As I continued to slip the rod out of the cloth I take notice of the royal blue thread wraps shining against the golden yellow cane shaft. I began to feel how Jeremiah Johnson must have felt when he pulled the flintlock musket out of frozen Hatchet Jacks stiff fingers during that winter in the Smokey Mountains way back when. I felt that twinge when he grasped the balanced musket and realized he was holding a Hawkins, a genuine Hawkins muzzleloader. I was now holding the cane fly rod, ‘my’ genuine Tonkin Cane fly rod.
After fitting it together it looks like a piece of art work. Some admirers wouldn’t even think of fishing with this restored antique but just hang it on a wall so others can admirer it with him. Some fly guys might only use it once or twice just to get a feel and then display it in their fly tying room above their tying bench or the like. In my hands it is going to be fished, fished like it was meant to be. it is as if i'm giving it a new life. It is almost as if I'm taken a step back in time. Away from the graphite, boron and other resins that make up todays modern fly rods
I slip the reel seat ring over the reel foot of the Martin Classic mc78 reel. I thread the leader and Sylk fly line through the double foot rod guides and through the tip top, the reel clicks with each pulled length of line. The rod is a bit long, at 8 ½ feet, for the small creek so overhand casting will be nearly impossible with the closeness of the trees and brush that line the creek bank. Sidearm casting and roll casting will have to be my choices. With the creek running clear and low the fish will take a pattern easy like in the slow water so I feel I should use a pattern I can see beneath the surface. I decide to knot on an orange egg pattern. I put a small quid of Red Man in the side of my cheek and head towards the water.
I spot two fish holding in a slow shallow tail out. Fresh fallen colorful leaves line the shore and the bottom of the stream. A few fallen leaves flow with the current both below and upon the surface. I stand back from the creek bank and begin my sidearm false casts to draw line out. I plop the orange egg pattern just upstream from the two fish. The slow current turns it away from the fish. A few more casts I get a good drift towards the fish and one takes notice. The egg drifts within range of the trout and he takes it in without much lateral movement. I pull back the cane shaft and my first bamboo fish rushes upstream in anger as the rod bends half way down the shaft. I let the reel click a few rounds before palming the reel to a stop and the cane rod bends into the thicker bottom section of the shaft. The trout retreats with quick jerking tugs towards the pressure as the stick dampens any sudden movement by the trout. He circles downstream and I lift the rod and bring a rainbow to shore. The other trout is aware of the danger and swims away from my next cast and drift.
I slowly move downstream to a more quicker current and sit on the heels of my boots. The trout beneath are visible through my polarized glasses that block out the glare of the shining evening setting sun. I cast upstream and follow the drifting leader with the tip of my rod. The golden yellow Tonkin cane extends like a branch above the leafy rocky shoreline and clear running water.
I watch as the orange egg pattern disappears in the mouth of a trout that’s oblivious of my presence. I lift the hook set and the noticeable orange belly brook trout swims ragged through the shallow moving current. Again I feel each quick jerk through the rod shaft and watch the bamboo fluctuate with each movement of the fighting fish. Surface water swirls as the brookie turns and scurries downstream towards a fallen log. I lift the rod tip quickly and palm the reel spool tight keeping the fish from fleeing to the log. The strength of the fly rod now turns the trout towards me and he flips helplessly along the water line.
I move down further and see a pod of trout holding close to the downed log. I move behind the trout and work downstream from them into a riffling draw. After feeling I gave the trout enough time to settle down I cast upstream and let the egg pattern drift into the pod. After no takers I try a couple of nymph patterns and settle on a white San Juan worm pattern. I have a taker but I’m late on the upstream hook set. Upstream from the pod I notice a swirl and see a fish sip something from on top of the surface of the slow moving current. My heart skips a beat, my eyes squint slightly and a smirk forms on my face. Can I make one rise to a dry I wonder? I spit tobacco juice on a lucky stone and make my decision.
I clip off the San Juan and while tying on a #20 Blue Quill I’m still smirking and look over my cheater glasses frame at the lead fish. I make sure the dry fly is secure and pull line out of the reel. I gently start an angled false cast keeping my line above the water. I feel the slow action of the cane rod flex with each swing. It takes a few sidearm forward casts to lay the dry within the fishes sight but still far enough upstream for a short drag free drift to fool the trout. He takes notice as I see his tail fin swiftly sway and watch him rise to the dry. ’Fish On’ I say to myself out loud as I grin and let the brook trout tire himself out fighting my line and rod. I spit a wad of tobacco onto the colorful leaf covered bank before bringing the fish to hand.
The evening darkens and I succeed in catching one more brook trout on an orange sucker spawn before calling it a day. The cane rod fulfills my trout fishing need for the day and met my expectations. After wiping it off I slip it back into the rod sock and slide it into its case. I find a Macanudo Robust Ascot in my wicker creel and light it up for the short drive home. I can't wait to try the bamboo rod out on open water to feel a long overhand cast of 30 feet or so of fly line.
Heck, Sunday's right around the corner!!