I have just installed a display at the Catskill Fly Fishing Center & Museum about the rods of E.C. Powell. I am pleased with the way it came together and thank the Center for the opportunity to make this West Coast maker more visible in the East. I urge you to go to the Center, see the display and lend them your support with membership and donations; it is a remarkable facility and if you haven't seen it you owe it to yourself to go. Besides the Powell display there is a large rod-making facility with machines and gigs as well as an extensive display of rods in a separate building called the 'Wulff Gallery'. The Museum also has many other displays covering various aspects of our sport, including fly tying, international fly fishing, sporting art and more. From April to October they are open daily from 10-4 and November to March the same hours, but only Tuesday through Saturday.
Another great trip this year to the Florida Keys for Tarpon, Permit, Bonefish and Barracuda. I brought a new six strip #11 line tarpon rod prototype with me this year, my first attempt at a hexagonal spliced joint rod. You can see the result as I am fighting a Jack Crevalle hooked while casting to rolling Tarpon. I can see the way forward to building a Permit / Tarpon rod in this six strip format for #10 line which is my favorite for flats fishing these species.
Not much sight fishing for Tarpon this year, just casting to rolling fish in the morning. I only jumped one massive fish that almost choked me to death as the line jumped out of the stripping basket and went around my head; luckily the fish broke off before killing me. We concentrated this year on Permit and again had many good shots, but finally this year I hooked and landed one after years of trying. I even hooked and landed a second fish the same afternoon; two fish in one day after none in over four years of trying! The fish in the photo below is over 20 pounds and was caught while fishing a Loomis CrossCurrent GLX #10 line rod, a design from Steve Rajeff that I very much like. Those CC rods have a great feel for being graphite. When we come back in the fall or next spring I plan to have new hexagonal bamboo rods to test for this fishing. Chasing Permit has become my favorite on the flats. It is the most challenging fishing I've ever done and the demands on the rod are great. Designing bamboo rods for large fish on the flats is akin to designing race cars in relation to passenger cars; the great demands placed on design elements helps very much to improve my whole line of rods from little trout rods on up.
After a wonderful summer of fishing, casting and travel from Newfoundland to Long Beach, CA and points in between, I am now settling back into somewhat of a routine in the shop.The change of season makes me realize that the time has come for me to greatly edit down my collection of fly rods and reels that I have collected over many years. I am now 62 years old and want to move some tackle I have loved while I still have my wits about me to discuss the particulars of some very high quality and sometimes rare tackle. I do sometimes fish with rods by other makers, but the truth is that I usually prefer to fish my own rods and I have far too many reels. Please go to the link on this site marked 'Rods Currently in Stock' and see the rods as well as reels I will be listing over the coming months.
My wife Jean and I are now returned from a trip to the Florida Keys for six days flats fishing. I made two nine foot tarpon rods in 2003 and they have served me well on other Keys fishing trips, but on our last visit there in September of 2014, I felt I really wanted rods that are faster, lighter and easier-swinging. With that in mind, this past January I quickly cobbled together two rods at 8 feet, six inches with tapers generated from the original nine footers, but with faster actions and finer tips. Partial inspiration for going to the shorter rods came from my experience with the new Seele fiberglass rods for #10-12 lines at only 8'2" which I really like. All the rods in this case are spliced-joint quads so I would not have to worry about the effect of salt water on nickel silver ferrules. Reel-seat hardware is the same as I use on Salmon / Steelhead rods, but anodized a pretty gun-metal gray color.
Driving over the mountain west of our home in western Massachusetts, the car thermometer registered five degrees below zero. It had been a pretty tough winter here in New England, though the western part of the state where we live fared better than Boston in terms of snow accumulation. We were glad to be heading south. As we drove down I-81 I kept my eyes on the weather forecast and heard that our route through Virginia was due to be hit by a snow / ice storm starting early the next morning, so I made the decision to keep driving south in an attempt to get south of the freezing temperatures. It was a long drive that first day, but we made it to Mooresville, North Carolina and that was well south of the ice storm. The next morning we awoke to only a little rain and continued South. That night we made it to Palm Coast, Florida and arranged to meet our friend Dennis Menscer for breakfast the next morning as he was staying with friends in Sebastian. It was great to see our good friend from the Catskills and even better to see his sweet little dog Lizzy. He was also headed to the Keys and as things worked out we spent another day with him later in the week around our home base of Sugarloaf Key. We had arranged with our guide to fish for three days and then have three days off, ending with a final three days of fishing, and that was a perfect schedule for us.
Our first two days out saw an unexpected thick but patchy fog roll over the western Keys. Our guide told us that this was not unusual, it was downright rare. It did result in some amazing visual scenes of the flats disappearing into fog with patches of blue sky flirting with us from above. One particular sight will always stay with me, of the varied pastel colors of the flats fading into fog and nothingness and then on the horizon-line a single Snowy Egret standing outside of time and space, all of it looking like a three dimensional Japanese painting. We saw quite a number of Permit on these foggy flats and had some good shots, but as happened in September, we could not get one to eat. Most of the trip we fished the lighter action #10 weight rod for Permit, leaving the stronger rod loaded with a #11 line rigged for Tarpon. Both rods performed really better than I could have hoped for, being very fast and positive and driving long casts easily. Permit fishing, with its demands for quick, accurate casts at some distance and often in wind, is the most demanding fishing I have done, both from the casting point of view as well as the demands on rod design. On windy days it seems one can sometimes get away with closer casts of 30-60 feet or so because the wave action makes the fish a bit less spooky, but on calm days like we saw with the fog, casts usually have to be over 65 feet to have a chance of not spooking these very difficult fish. Just seeing their tails and fins as they happily grub along on the flats is such a treat. We looked for Tarpon rolling those first three mornings, but we saw none as the water was apparently still too cold to pull them up on the flats. I did have one morning when the long cast made to clear line before looking for the tarpon was hard to retrieve without hooking a scrappy Jack Crevalle, however. Those are also remarkably strong and beautiful fish.
Just the experience of being on the flats and witnessing the life and beauty there makes these trips worthwhile. Standing on the casting platform at the front of the skiff, I always feel like I am standing in a painting moving with life and color. After the first three days of this chasing Permit, we had our three days off, already happy with the fishing we had and I was very pleased with the new rod models.I knew my friend Joan Wulff and her husband Ted Rogowski were in Islamorada for the winter, and they invited us up for lunch one day. We had a very nice lunch at Cheeca Lodge and it was a special treat for me to talk with Ted as I had never had much time with him. He told me stories of commuting to New York City in the old days, riding almost every day with Everett Garrison! I now look forward to seeing them both again once we start casting with the Catskill Mountains Casting Club at the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum.
The first morning back on the flats fishing, we spotted a group of Tarpon rolling. Jean was up and she hooked her very first Tarpon, doing a great job clearing the line and letting the fish run and tail-walk across the flat. Our guide, Simon Becker, had spotted a Bull Shark on this same flat, so with the fish still well out into Jean's backing, he suggested she break the fish off to avoid providing the shark with a meal. She tried to do so, but actually the hook just fell out of the fish instead, so that was a perfect 'long line release'. We saw a few more fish that morning and had a couple more brief hook-ups, but in the afternoon, even though we cast to a good number of other fish sighted on the flats, they seemed to have developed lock-jaw, simply ignoring our flies. We really lucked out with the weather; the Keys had been downright cold until our very first days fishing, and then it kept getting progressively nicer for our stay there. For the first three days the water temps had not gone high enough to pull Tarpon out of the channels and deeper water onto the flats, so we stuck to Permit, but by the start of our second three days there were plenty of big Tarpon around and they had not yet been hammered by anglers.
The next day was one of those golden days one dreams of on the Tarpon flats. I have had brief times of an hour or less when everything seems to go right and good numbers of Tarpon come to the fly, but never for as extended a time as that morning. All morning long we found fish after fish, singles, doubles, laid up groups of 6-12 fish, and daisy-chaining fish, all eager for our flies. I don't even know how many fish we hooked, but I do know that we had twice that many take our flies! They would come at us after the fly and then after taking it, simply keep coming! It was very hard to catch up to them with long strips to set the hook, but we did hook a lot of fish and had grand sport all morning. Jean was able to get few photos of some of the fish hooked using my Nikon D300S; I only wish I had thought to put it in full 'motor drive' mode where it will shoot up to 7 frames per second. Next year maybe I will remember. The heavier #11 line rod performed admirably on these fish as I pumped several up along side the boat, staying nice and straight in the process. Fish hooked were in the 50-100 lb. range. I already have new six-strip versions of these rods in my mind for next year, as I can make the walls thinner on the hexagonal rods.
Our last day was spent on the gulf 'inside' flats again chasing Permit and we saw a lot of fish, I think literally hundreds of Permit. The problem was that many of them were in large groups; as my friend Jack Coyle who does a lot of this fishing says "too many eyes" and as Simon adds "too many lateral lines". With that many fish, it becomes much more likely that one of them will spook from seeing or feeling us, and then the whole school is gone. The wind made for difficult shots that day, while allowing us a bit closer to some fish, and we did get a couple of fish to come to the fly, but without the grab. We would just say to the fish as if in victory "made you look!" I said to Simon that in a way I hope I never do hook one. We shall see. We have arranged with Simon to fish a similar schedule with him next year. Hopefully next winter will not be as hard as this one has been in New England, but it will still be very nice to get away to those warm, sunny flats.
This past weekend saw the Crossroads Angling Auction and Show take place in northern New Jersey. As usual I attended this three-day event and am grateful it is in western New Jersey which is quite pretty, as opposed to the more industrial eastern part of that state. I enjoyed both the Discovery Auction and the Catalogued Auction and made purchases at both, but the highlight for me was at the show. I had a rack of rods set up for display (as usual, I had nothing for sale) including an 8 ft. Leon Hanson hollow-built, a nine foot solid E.C. Powell three piece 'A 8 X 1/6' taper, a Tom Morgan Rodsmiths Special Streamer built up by myself, as well as several examples of my own rods. I enjoyed the show-and-tell around the rods I brought, but the most exciting thing for me was when a friend and customer, Stu Hayden, brought in a couple of very special rods for me to see.
One of these rods was an original Paul Young built by the man himself in 1952, a Para-15 '3-Way Junior'. I had never even heard of this special version of the Para-15, though it was apparently catalogued in 1952. We often see Para-15's with a wet fly and a dry fly tip, but this version has three tips of differing taper, covering a range from the delicate dry fly tip to the strongest wet fly or streamer tip. As is often the case with original Young rods, Mr. Young wrote all the particulars on the butt above the grip, including the '3-Way Junior' designation and the rod weight with each of the three tips, from 3.78 oz. for the light dry fly tip to a full 4 oz. with the strongest wet fly tip. Also included are recommendations for line weight for each tip, HCF or HCH, HDH or HDG and HEH or HEG, corresponding to modern line designations from line weights 7, 6 and 5 respectively in double taper or weight forward designs. I look forward to casting this rod this coming weekend (May 3) at Shannon's Fly Shop Classic Tackle Day when my friend will again bring this very special Paul Young rod. I own a very nice Para 15 built the same year as this rod and mine does have the dry fly and wet fly tips; it is fascinating to me to study the taper development of the various Paul Young models, but most particularly these Para-15's and the Perfectionist models.
Stu also brought a stunning Walt Carpenter rod built adhering to the design concepts of Edward Hewitt when Payne offered the Hewitt 'Circular Bend Rod'. I was particularly eager to see this rod because I visited the Payne shop in the 1970's after Jim Payne had died and the company was owned by Gladding. I believe it was Dave Decker who took me around the shop that day and looking in their catalogue from that time I ordered the 'Circular Bend Trout Rod' from them, a rod that never saw delivery. The catalogue describes a rod that is not brown-toned (as the standard Payne rods were) and with un-oxidized mountings, a rod designed "to handle short-to-medium length casts needed in many fishing situations." I have to say I was very, very impressed with how Walt executed this design, incorporating the details described in the Payne catalogue. At 8 feet for a #4 line, this rod also turned out to cast exactly as the copy described it; not a rod to be pushed hard driving a long line, but exquisite, delicate and smooth in the short to medium distances for which it was designed. Walt's work on this rod was particularly impressive as I believe Stu said it is the only rod he has built along those parameters. A very unique rod indeed!
From my own purchases at the auction, several nice things were acquired, but the stand-out for me was an 8½ ft., 4 oz.Winston from 1947 built by Lew Stoner. I've always preferred the Stoner era Winston trout rods because their fast tapering, fine tips are closer to my own design ideas. Most Merrick-era and later Winstons have much heavier tips. One disappointment for me was that an E.C. Powell Trout Fly Distance rod sold for much more than I anticipated, so I was unable to go home with it. I encourage all of you to tune in to the Crossroads Auction and Show for the fall of this year and also to attend Shannon's Classic Tackle day this coming weekend, May 3 in Califon, N.J.
Trinity River Steelhead Dry Fly Fishing
Photo by Herb BurtonAfter I moved out to California in 1990 from my home in Pleasantville, NY I started to spend a fair amount of time at the Oakland Casting Club, learning and practicing the various casting events. Perhaps the greatest pleasure of casting are the friendships which develop at the ponds while playing the games. Among the many people I met and got to know at those Oakland ponds were Roger Moon and Mel Varnhagen, two old-time casters and members of the club. I mentioned to them one day my interest in fishing for steelhead which I had never done. They both said "if you want to catch steelhead, go see Herb Burton up on the Trinity River."
Naturally I gave Herb a call at his Trinity River Fly Shop in Lewiston and set up a time to come up and fish towards the end of February that year. The drive up north to the Trinity was about 4 hours from my home in Berkeley where I lived at the time and I was in luck because it wasn't snowing going over the pass from Redding to Lewiston that day. My Volkswagon Vanagon made it over the pass without incident. When I met Herb at the shop the next morning he told me we would start by swinging wet flies, but we may have a chance at fishing dry flies also. It turns out that in February and into early March on the Trinity there are hatches of stoneflies as well as a large Callibaetis. This was delightful news to me coming from the east where we never thought about dry flies until at least mid April and here was a shot at fishing dries in late winter!
Talking with my guide Herb as we floated down the upper river it became clear to me that he had a deep knowledge of, and affection for this very special river. He stopped us at a somewhat nondescript looking run I never would guess held fish and told me to swing the Chappy wet fly through that water. He explained that though it didn't look like much, the salmon had spawned there earlier in the year and dug out depressions in the river bottom in which steelhead now like to hold. Sure enough after maybe a dozen or so casts my line tightened and I was into my very first steelhead ever! I landed that fish and admired a steelhead of about five pounds; I felt like I had arrived.
Continuing our float down-river we eventually came to a pool I believe was named Brown's and as we came around the corner Herb quickly pulled the raft to the bank because he had spotted a number of fish rising to dry flies in the slick run below! As we waded into position we could see that the steelhead was basically taking every single fly that floated over her and there were a couple more fish rising downstream. Despite the widely held belief that steelhead don't feed once they enter the river, I have many times seen fish in the Trinity and Klamath Rivers feeding aggressively on hatching flies. I knew that if I could get a good drift to this fish, it would come up to my fly. Herb knotted on a 'T-bone' which is his version of the small stoneflies we had seen falling to the water. He positioned himself behind me for a photo in case I was able to raise the fish and the results are below.
Photo by Herb BurtonThe rod I was fishing that day was an 8' 3 pc. solid quad, the 16th rod I ever built so finished while still in New York and it proved to be a good rod for this fishing, though perhaps just a tad on the light side. When my wife Jean and I packed up the car in mid February of this year for a drive across country, that same rod was in the rod case as one of our plans for the journey included re-visiting those old haunts on the Trinity where I got my first steelhead. Other agendas for the trip were to continue my research for the book on E.C. Powell I am in the process of writing and to help the GGACC Foundation with a fundraising auction at the Angler's Lodge in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. These other items went very well indeed, but the highlight of the trip was our fishing with Herb and his fellow guide Kitt on the Trinity. We had arranged for our fishing out of Herb's Trinity River Fly Shop already in the fall of 2012, so we could only hope that the conditions would be suitable for some dry fly fishing. Word was that the run of fish was very good this year, but conditions are always variable and we could only hope.
Herb guided us for our first day and conditions were good as he sent us to the head of the run to swing wets through the faster water there while he prepared the raft for our float down river. Almost immediately he called us down to the slower, deeper water because he had seen a fish rising intermittently to dries! That fish turned out to be less eager than the one I caught 22 years earlier and we also didn't get a pull on wets at the top of the run. Making our way down the river we fished wets through likely runs known to Herb, but hadn't had a touch by mid-day so took a break for lunch. The hot stew made by Herb's wife was welcome on the chilly early March day. As the stew warmed us from the inside out, we started to see the occasional rise from the middle of the river to the far bank. We could spot a stonefly falling from the sky and hitting the water and then watch it as it approached a rise and then see it disappear in an enthusiastic boil. I thought the fish were only coming to the stoneflies, but followed Callibaetis mayflies on their drift downstream and soon saw one of them engulfed in an eager rise as the stoneflies had been. Dry fly fishing was on!
Each day we set up one dry fly rod and two rods for wet flies. This first day out with Herb I had set up the same rod #16 from many years ago as the dry fly rod with a WF5 line, and my 866-3 df HB quad with the heavier streamer tip and a WF7 line for one of the wet fly rods. The second wet fly rod was an 8'6" Carlson salmon rod for which I had made new semi-hollow tips and on that rod I put a long belly WF7 steelhead taper, all floating lines, by the way. Jean was up for the dry fly with the 8 ft. five weight quad and Herb put us in position so she could cast to one of the rising fish. There were several fish coming up sporadically at this point and they seemed to be cruising a bit, so not the easy targets I had many years before. After a change to the 'T-bone' stonefly pattern, we soon saw a head come up and take her fly down with a surging rise. The fish took off right away, but never jumped as Herb brought the raft back across the river to where we had just eaten lunch, a good spot from which to fight the fish. Three times the fish tore line far into the backing on the little 3 1/8 inch Perfect and I was sure Jean would lose the fish. Herb at one point threw a large rock into the river to turn the fish from going into the faster water below and when the fish was finally brought close enough to think about having it landed, it found its way into the branches of a downed tree at the river's edge. Now she would lose it for sure! Somehow Herb managed to snake the line and leader out of the snag and Jean was once again connected to the strong fish. We could now see its gleaming silver sides in the clear water and I made a comment about how bright it was. Herb put his big net under the fish and pronounced it a sea-run brown of about seven pounds. Not a bad fish for an 8 foot bamboo trout rod over 25 years old and with some miles on it!
Photo by Herb BurtonWe also fished two days with Kitt who is Herb's guiding partner at the Trinity River Fly Shop and he too is very knowledgeable and a joy to fish with. We still fished the wet fly rods most of the day, but in three days fishing got only one fish briefly hooked on the wets. The next two days fishing I took the wet streamer tip off the 866-3 df HB and put the lighter dry fly tip on that rod and used it for the dry fly fishing with a WF6 line, replacing it for wets with my standard seven weight 8'9" steelhead rod in semi-hollow six strip design. Each day right around lunch we would again find rising fish for much of the rest of the day, catching a mix of chunky resident brown trout and steelhead. Jean really had the touch, however, as the next photo shows; the biggest fish I landed was only about half the size of her two large fish. One aspect that really pleased us is that all the steelhead we landed were wild fish as indicated by the adipose fin still in place. The hatchery fish used to represent 90 percent of the run some years ago and have their adipose fin clipped at the hatchery, but today with added flows wild fish comprise about half of the average run.
Per Brandin photoI don't make it a habit to fish with guides, but have fished with them for steelhead, trout, salmon, tarpon and permit over the years and I have to say that Herb is one of the very best. Both he and Kitt have an enthusiasm for the fishing that is contagious.They also fish in a classic style which I very much appreciate. They swing wet flies and fish dries to rising fish while other guides on the river drift nymphs and egg patterns under indicators. Give me the classic approach every time! I have traveled to British Columbia for many years now chasing steelhead, but realize there are great steelhead opportunities in many places up and down the west coast. I think most of my steelhead fishing from now on will be in the good old USA. Jean and I are already making plans for fall fishing with Herb and Kitt on the lower Trinity this year.
Photo by Herb Burton
The American Casting Association
Photo by Alice Gillibert
I thought I was a pretty good caster when I moved from New York to the Bay Area of California in 1990; several guides and other fishermen had told me so. When I started frequenting the casting clubs at Oakland and San Francisco and met the casters there, I found that I was not the hot stuff I thought I was! I soon met Chris Korich who was to become my casting guru. The first time he picked up one of my rods, an 8 ft. #7 line semi-hollow quad I was using for Dry Fly Accuracy, he cast a perfect score of 100 with it. Handing it back to me, he said "pretty good rod".
Tournament casting has been a real gift to me in the people I have met and cast with and it has played a major role in me being able to develop the rod actions I have. Casting with the likes of Steve Rajeff and Chris Korich has been a lesson not only in casting, but in rod design. Of course Steve is well known as the rod designer at Loomis, while Chris' rod design work is less well known. Chris started designing rods as a teenager working with the great Jim Green. I have had many conversations with Chris, rod in hand, about how to adjust the action of a particular model, be it in bamboo, glass, or graphite, to get just the action and performance I want.
Chris has also been able to tweak my casting, helping me to get rid of habitual faults that are ingrained over many years of fishing. One of these faults is a tendency to allow the rod tip to creep forward before the forward casting stroke is started. Chris told me to stop the rod and then to leave the rod tip still in that exact cubic inch of space until the forward stroke is started. If I am on a river today and am struggling to control a longer cast, I simply remember this sage advice from Chris, and the same cast I was struggling with happens by itself with ease. Chris is also a proponent of the cushioned stop. Many people stop the tip too harshly with a death-grip on the rod. The result is that the tip, which still has inertia, continues to travel forward and then bounces. What Chris proposes is that we stop the tip in the same way we bring our car to a stop when using the brake. As the car comes to a stop, we actually release the brake so we avoid a harsh, jarring stop. In casting, we stop the tip and relax our grip at almost the same instant. This allows the tip to simply stop with very little bounce, accomplishing a smoother cast and tighter loop with much less effort. Joan Wulff, also a tournament caster for many years, describes a similar approach and E.C. Powell, the great California rod maker and tournament caster, called this his 'relax cast'.
Many rod-makers working in different materials have been significantly influenced by tournament casting, including E.C. and 'Buddy' Powell, Jim Green, Steve Rajeff, Jim Hidy, Rouel Herico & Tom Chin (C&H Rods), and myself. Of course in the early days when bamboo was the dominant material used to build rods, many great rod designers were also tournament casters. This was true of Reuben Leonard, Hiram Hawes, Goodwin Granger, and the Powells already mentioned. I urge anyone with an interest in rod design to go to casting tournaments either at the local or national level; there is much to be learned at the casting ponds and distance fields. I have added a link to the American Casting Association to the 'links' of my web-page; I hope you will visit their site and find a tournament to attend and perhaps you will choose to get involved as a caster also. Look at their 'Association & Members' tab and find a casting club close enough to you. I am now in the process of starting a new casting club which will meet at the Catskill Fly Fishing Center & Museum in Livingston Manor, NY. It has been officially registered with the A.C.A. as the 'Catskill Mountains Casting Club' and should show up on their website in the near future. I hope to see you at some of these ponds in the coming year.
January 10, 2012
There will be a new 'Live Preview' angling auction starting this October in New Jersey. This is the brainchild of Steve Starrantino who many of you know from his classic book business. Steve has assembled a very knowledgeable team of experts in various fields of sporting collectibles to help guide the auction process. I am on board as one of this team and I will be available to examine rods which come in for auction to aid in accurate descriptions where needed. I also plan to be at the auction at the end of October. If you have quality fishing tackle that you have been waiting for the right venue to sell it in, you may want to contact Steve and discuss what you have. I feel it will be very exciting to once again have the ability to see and examine the items we are bidding on. I still enjoy and participate in the on-line Lang's auctions, but to my mind there is nothing like being able to examine in detail these items, many of which have subtle qualities that cannot be appreciated from on-line descriptions and photos. If I am a seller wanting to auction real high quality rods, for example, I would be more confident of being able to realize the true value of those rods when bidders are able to handle and appreciate the quality of the piece. If you go to my 'links' page you will see a link there to the Crossroads Angling Auction website which will give you much more information.
My wife Jean and I have just returned from a very beautiful and inspiring trip cross country; in fact, all the way to northern British Columbia and back. Highlights included camping and fishing in the high mountains of Montana, visiting with Tom Morgan, steelheading on the Kispiox River, and seeing Bob Clay and his spey rods again for the first time in many years. The drive from Banff to Jasper with fresh snow on the Canadian Rockies was also a treat.
The primary purpose of our journey was to get Jean into her first steelhead and to visit with old friends in the rod-making and fishing community. We were successful on all counts in spite of less than stellar water conditions for fishing in B.C. on the Skeena watershed. Besides some really good fishing had on our journey, a highlight for me was to see and fish the spey rods being built by Bob Clay on the banks of the Kispiox River.
Yours truly in the final stages of bringing a Kispiox River Steelhead to the beach using a 'Riverwatch' 11 ft. spey rod built by Bob Clay
Bob visited my shop in California shared with Mario Wojnicki many years ago to gain insight into our way of building rods. Since that time I have watched Bob's development as a rod builder with great interest, especially since I had heard glowing reports about his rods, even from acquaintances here on the East Coast. When I had the chance to cast and fish his 11 ft. spey rods, I understood the praise I had heard. In fact, all the steelhead I hooked were on Bob's rods, both the heavier version fishing sink tips and the lighter version with a dry line. Both are five strip, spliced joint rods that have proven themselves on the often large steelhead of the Skeena system. I was very impressed with Bob's understanding of the shorter, more comfortable rods and their relationship to the newer, shorter heads used for modern spey casting. Workmanship is impeccable on these rods and Bob has developed a very distinctive look to his rods, including his very evolved understanding of the spliced joint. As far as I know, Bob is the only maker ever to produce spliced joint five strip rods. Learning from Bob about these rods has also inspired me to go back to my own two hand designs and look once more at shorter, lighter rods. My feeling had always been that most two handed rods were too much rod for the steelhead and salmon fishing I did, and for my own fishing I had gone back to fishing single hand rods. These new, shorter rods with shorter heads are very comfortable indeed and are well suited to the steelhead fishing I often enjoy. My designs along those lines will of course be spliced joint quads; I should have a rod or two ready for next year's steelhead season.
I don't catch very many steelhead, but I catch little ones!
Back in the shop for the winter after a summer filled with fishing for salmon on Newfoundland, trout locally and in the Catskills and Montana, and steelhead in British Columbia, I have my work cut out for me. Rods from my order list will continue to go out the door as well as making progress on many new R&D projects. Some of these will soon be outlined on my 'Models in Development' page.