'A Fly Rod with a Soul' is the title of my upcoming book about the life and work of E.C. Powell, legendary California bamboo rod maker and early pioneer of hollow fishing rods. I expect the book to go to the printer by the end of November this year (2020) and I hope to have books available in December. I plan a trade edition that will sell for $98.50, a limited, slip-case edition priced at $250 (limited to 100 copies), and a deluxe limited edition initially priced at $1795 (limited to 26 copies) leather bound in a clamshell box with special touches such as rod sections, Powell fly patterns and more. All three editions will be Smyth sewn hardcover books in the 'roundback' style, 240 pages with about 70 B&W photos printed in duotone and hundreds of color images, line drawings and charts. Printing will be by O'Neil in Phoenix, AZ and bound in the same town by Roswell Bookbinding. My feeling is that E.C. Powell would have been happiest with an all American produced book, so it is being printed in this country also using American paper, 100 pound McCoy Silk Text. It is certainly not the most affordable or profit-oriented approach, but it is a way to get the quality that I want and that I feel the Powell family will be proud of in honoring their place in this uniquely American craft.
I can say it has been, and continues to be, an adventure and I think the finished product will be worth the years of effort. I hope I can live up to the kindness many people have shown me in accessing information about 'the old man', especially the Powell family. If you think you would like one of the editions, please email me and I will put you on a list and keep you updated as the publication date nears. You can use the contact on this site, or better yet is to email me directly at email@example.com. The publication has as you might expect been delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and I now hope to have books available in December (2020). I will email those of you who have expressed an interest in the book when I have a more definitive date for publication.
Typical Powell 12 cork ring grips with the most common reel-seat; five are semi-hollow and one is solid.
The deluxe limited edition will be a very special volume, incorporating features not found in the regular trade or limited editions. Lisa Hersey of Antler Editions is hand crafting a clamshell box that will house the book and a panel that can be lifted out has actual rod sections from E.C. Powell and from Brandin rods revealing the cedar core and semi-hollow construction, as well as examples of two iconic Powell fly patterns, the Buzz Hackle and the Clyde. Also included in this deluxe edition will be reproductions of the four hardest-to-find Powell pamphlets which I have been lucky enough to unearth during my book research. A trade edition, as a 'reading volume' will also come with each Deluxe Limited Edition. About two thirds of the available volumes of this edition are already spoken for, so if interested please contact me and I will add you to the waiting list. Partial payment for the Deluxe Limited edition will be requested to confirm your order once the publication date is known.
It was my hope to have the 'Clyde' pattern tied by Dave Brandt, who has done all the technical illustrations for the book, but sadly Dave passed away recently, so all the flies will be tied by Chris Vance and myself. Dave did an exceptional job on the illustrations and I am sorry he won't get to see the finished product.
Top three rod sections are from actual E.C. Powell rods, showing the outer bamboo, a 'solid cedar center' also with cross section, a cedar-core section also with hollow scallop, and the bottom section which is from a Brandin semi-hollow rod. These sections will be displayed in a sunken mount in the pull-out panel of the deluxe limited edition.
E.C. Powell as a young angler on Antelope Creek.
The one that got away was this big!
The bend of a Truckee River Special shows a rather extreme 'tip-bending, butt-resisting' type of action.
To give an idea of the scope of this book, I include here the Table of Contents, including sub-titles for each chapter. This should give a good idea of subjects covered; in the printed book the sub-titles will not be included in the Table of Contents.
Table of Contents
~Acknowledegments ~Preface; Tom Morgan ~Foreword; Hoagy Carmichael ~Introduction
1. A Modern Perspective on the Bamboo Rod ~Other materials used to build rods. Basic bamboo rod construction. Taper design is paramount. The significance of making rods hollow. 2. What sets E.C. Powell rods apart? ~Tapers realize a ‘fine unity of action’, while the semi-hollow design yields a lighter weight rod. Longer rods with a plain aesthetic are the norm.
3. The California of E.C. Powell ~California was teeming with fish and wildlife, while population growth and development changed the state radically during E.C.’s lifetime. ~E.C. was inspired by the rivers and lakes teeming with fish and the demands of that fishing influenced his rod designs.
4. Getting started building rods ~E.C. gets a leg up in business from his older brothers. ~Racket Store merchant while developing fishing tackle business ~Unimpressed with rods from eastern builders, E.C. set about to build rods for his own use suited to the requirements of western waters. ~Demand for Powell rods grows. ~Move to Marysville and soon into full-time rod building. The unique Powell saw and tapers are developed. Myrtle Powell supports efforts with fly tying.
5. The A, B and C tapers; the foundation of E.C.’s rod actions. ~Smooth actions are the result of consistent mathematical taper progressions that E.C. termed ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’. ~Specific tapers are for specific types of fishing and in line with the caster’s preferences or style.
6. The development of hollow and semi-hollow rods. ~Semi-hollow rods are copied from nature. ~Cedar core and hollow scallops ~E.C. Powell and Lew Stoner took different paths to a similar purpose. ~Others were working on similar ideas in the same time period.
7. The Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club and the world of tournament casting. ~The GGACC was a mecca for fly-fishing on the west coast and a prime mover in tackle development. ~Semi-hollow and hollow rods are developed at the GGACC by E.C. Powell and Lew Stoner in response to the demands of tournament casters. ~Buddy Powell and Herman Hittenberger were great friends as well as casting competitors.
8. Standard and Special rod models ~Certain models are the most commonly seen, while some desirable models and lengths are uncommon to rare. ~Special model rods include the ‘Companion’, Combination Taper, Yerxa Dry Fly, Truckee River Special, Yuba and West Branch, and Tournament distance and accuracy fly rods and accuracy plug rods. ~Rods built by E.C.’s son Buddy were a variation from the standard Powell rod.
9. The Makers ~Many people were involved in making E.C. Powell rods other than E.C. himself; these included Wood Yerxa, Albert ‘Buddy’ Powell, Walton Powell, Clyde Powell, Max Yerxa, and Tony Maslan. Women in the Powell family, Myrtle and Mildred, tied flies as well as wrapping rods and writing inscriptions on rods.
10. Building Methods and procedures ~All rods are built from a single culm of bamboo ~Up to a half dozen or more people work in the shop at one time. ~Many details of how bamboo is handled are unique to E.C. Powell rods, including heat flaming, node placement, cedar lamination and semi-hollow scalloping. ~The unique Powell saw takes four cuts on each strip to achieve the desired design. ~Specifics of how rods are finished out result in a distinctive look to E.C. Powell rods and play a role in the rods performance.
11. Rod Production ~About 10,000 rods were built during E.C.’s career. ~One can often tell when a rod was built based on components used and other details. ~Telling rods built solely by Tony Maslan. 12. E.C. Powell Pamphlets, writings and advertisements ~Seven different pamphlets and leaflets were printed, from a Christmas greeting, fly lists, principles of casting and rod construction. ~The Elusive Trout ~A 1939 Outdoor Life article on casting and rod handling summarizes many of E.C.’s main points. ~Unpublished writings
13. Fishing with E.C. Powell Rods ~Different anglers have different favorite Powell rods for varying fishing applications. ~Wes Drain and his passion for Powell rods ~Jim Adams favorite dry fly steelhead rod ~Author’s experiences fishing E.C. Powell rods
14. Western Builders evolve the E.C. Powell semi-hollow design. ~Walton Powell and Eugene Powell carry on the E.C. Powell legacy. ~Mario Wojnicki and Per Brandin bring higher performance to bamboo rods using principles first developed by E.C. Powell and taken further by Michael Montagne. ~Other western builders use refined versions of E.C. Powell and Stoner semi-hollow and hollow fluted designs to continue a revolution in bamboo fly rod performance. ~The original E.C. Powell ‘solid cedar center’ rod is translated into the modern Hexagraph rod using modern synthetics. ~A new look at cedar lamination yields faster, lighter rods from the early E.C. Powell construction.
15. Unanswered questions.; an imaginary conversation with the ‘old man.’
16. What kind of a man was E.C. Powell? ~E.C.’s demanding nature was a challenge for family relations. ~Men of genius often have difficult personal relations
17. Selected Correspondence ~Many letters reveal the importance of tournament casting to E.C. Powell’s rod business. ~E.C. used a few well known anglers to represent and sell his rods ~Customers extoll the special virtues of the ‘Powell rod.’ ~E.C. turns over rod production to his son-in-law Tony Maslan.
I. Current E.C. Powell resources II. How to tell A, B, and C taper rods using micrometer measurements
III. Suggestions on silk thread and finishes to match E.C. Powell wrap colors
IV. Rod pricing over time
V. Selected actual rod tapers
VI. Guide spacing
The only known example of the original printing of A Discourse on Trout Angling and Tackle from 1919, courtesy of Merna McClenathen. A reproduction of this very rare pamphlet will accompany the Deluxe Limited Edition along with three other rare pamphlets written by E.C. Powell.