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Putting Bamboo Within Reach

Posted on April 24 2008

Most trout anglers fish only a few years before they begin to wonder what casting a bamboo rod is all about. Bamboo not the earliest material used by fly anglers — that designation would probably go to hazel or some other flexible wood — but it is considered the most “classic,” if only because it dominated fly fishing’s recent history up until the introduction of fiberglass. And for its devotees, bamboo provides an experience that no man-made rod can match.
The “mass production” of cane rods ended with the arrival of plastics and a Chinese embargo on bamboo, and as manufacturers turned away from cane, the prices of bamboo fly rods rose steadily. Nowadays, most anglers expect to pay well over $1000 for a cane rod. $2000 is not an unreasonable price, given the craftsmanship evidenced in most custom rods. And waiting more than a year for a $3000 rod is not unheard of. But a few years ago a handful of enterprising people began to wonder if bamboo shouldn’t be more affordable and more available. One of these folks was David Rogers, who started Headwaters Bamboo Rod Company in Hillsboro, Oregon in 2002.
Rogers’s infatuation with bamboo began like that of most cane rod owners: “I came into bamboo later in life, scouring flea markets. That first bamboo rod sent a chill down my spine. I was holding a little of my own heritage. My grandfather was a fly fisherman and died before I could tag along. His was a hard scrabble existence, working leased fruit orchards. But wetting a fly with a bamboo rod in the Logan River was his occasional diversion, as fishing coastal rivers in the northwest is for me. Bamboo brings me closer to his memory.”
The idea behind Headwaters is that you should be able to fish bamboo for under $300, and get it tomorrow. They do have more expensive rods, but even their more affordable rods are built of six hand-planed Tonkin strips — quite a notion when you consider the craftsmanship required. They’ll even let you fish a rod for 30 days before deciding to keep it.
So find yourself a copy of the DVD “Trout Grass,” if you need inspiration, or George Black’s book Casting a Spell (excerpted here).
For a limited time, Headwaters is giving MidCurrent readers a special discount on a classic fly reel to match their bamboo rods. Read the details here.

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