Bamboo Bonzai

Bamboo Chat, now an hour earlier! - Host RON KUSSE - Thurs. 5-8 p.m. PST (8-11 EST)

The Fire is Back
By Bob Nunley

Today seems a bit of a letdown, ladies and gentlemen. Why? Oh, the weather's great, the fishing would be good if it wasn't the weekend and I wouldn't have to shoot or cut my way into the river, but fishing isn't what's on my mind.

I remember a few months back there was a some talk among a few cane rodmakers about burnout. What do you do when you get burned out a bit. Well, usually I fish, or I read, or I just step back and think about why I started doing this to begin with and the "fire" comes back.

Yesterday, I found an entirely new cure for mild burnout. Troy M., a young man who has aspirations of being a cane rodmaker, came up from Houston to visit my shop and see exactly what goes on around this place in a normal day. I hope he wasn't too overwhelmed.

When you walk in the front door of the house, you are immediately greeted by a Gray Wolf/Siberian Husky Hybrid who runs straight at you, not viciously, but thinking that all humans have one purpose on earth, and that is to love her! Immediately after that, met by a 6'4" man with a pony tail and a fresh lathe dent on his forehead, (the result of an accident a couple of weeks ago, never look directly at a pressed in shaft when you have a gear puller attached to it).

When you look around the first room in the house, there's no doubt you're in a flyfishers/rodmakers house. Rodmaking books covered in dust in a makeshift bookshelf setting next to a fly tying table, a round rack with 10 or 12 cane rods in it, flyfishing, fly tying books laying on every table, a Mounted Whitetail deer's head on the wall, with more cane rods hanging across the antlers. Several taper sheets laying on top of the entertainment center, flanked by little flyfishing collectables. Tapered strips of cane lean against the wall by my recliner, micrometers and calipers laying on the table beside my coffee cup.

Going into the kitchen from that room, you'll see a rack full of rod tubes, with new tubes, old tubes, classic rods, etc., in it. The first thing you see in the kitchen table is a glass topped table. Oh, I don't eat there, the big maroon leather recliner is better suited for that. The glass top table is where I sharpen plane blades and wrap my rods. The kitchen itself? One cabinet is nothing but flyfishing pictures, silk thread, special items people have given me related to cane rods or flyfishing, and the biggie, you absolutely CANNOT miss the 40" x 50" Michael Simons work of art "The Brown Trout" that is the centerpiece of my living room.

On the far end of the kitchen is a door that leads out to the shop. The shop itself is nothing fancy. Nasty, disorganized, bamboo shavings and dust everywhere. The famous mankiller lathe on a bench, boxes hanging on the wall with unfinished reel seat hardware, the Harley sitting between the shop fridge and the heat treating oven, pontoon boat stored in disarray on top of the table saw (also a mankiller, have scars to prove it). Typical of what a small town looks like after a tornado.

Ok, got the picture? You see what this young man sees when he walks through the door. NOT what you might call a "habitat" for a normal human being, but the ideal habitat for an old balding biker that happens to make a few dozen fly rods a year.

Troy came with the impression that we'd talk a little cane, plane on a strip or two to test out the plane blades he made (quite a fine job, I must say) and maybe break for lunch, talk some more. Well, the best laid plans of mice and men, blah, blah, blah. He rolled in at about 9:30 or so and the talking part only lasted about an hour, and I just couldn't stand it anymore. To see someone excited about cane rods as he was, fueled something inside of me that I haven't felt in awhile. Don't get me wrong, I love making cane rods, but that "tingle" disappears sometimes, and this visit proved shortly that the tingle was still lurking deep inside.

I couldn't stand it anymore. Out to the shop we went. I showed him splitting, straightening, pressing. I didn't just show him, I guess I should say, I showed him HOW, and let him take my spot at the workbench and get a feel for what he's about to jump into. At first, I thought, "We'll press and straighten a couple of strips and you can get the feel of working the cane a little bit..."

The next thing I know, we have 6 strips laying on the bench, straightened, pressed, roughed and ready to bind for heat treating. What the heck, let's fire up the heat treating oven. A little more talk about cane, it's properties, the planing forms and flyfishing in general, took up the time needed for the cane to cool. We unbound it and were off to the races. If our constant wandering talk of flyfishing hadn't interfered with our rodmaking endeavor, we would have had that butt section glued up. Of course, the only breaks were for talk and for sharpening those new plane irons he brought. Noo breakfast, no lunch, and it was well after dark when we turned off the shop lights and went to the Fish Camp to eat our first meal of the day. Coffee kept me going, soft drinks kept him going and that's just what we did, kept going on that ugly chunk of imported grass until we nearly had a beautiful rod section made.

After we got back from the Fish Camp, our bellies full, we sat at the Wrapping table (aka the kitchen table) and talked fly rods, tapers, mechanics of tapers. You should have heard this! Two engineers sitting analyizing bending moments on tapered beams, loading and unloading properties, why rods cast the way they do. Had you closed your eyes, you probably would have envisioned two nerds in black horn rimmed glasses with pocket protector full of pens and pencils with a slide rule sticking out of the middle of them. Open your eyes, and you see a couple of scruffy looking flyfishers who didn't care that they had bamboo shavings stuck to the seat of their pants at the restaurant. Even dinner was rod talk. Between bites of catfish and shrimp, we'd speak of cane, of classic makers, of contemporary makers, and of the pure pleasure of seeing a trout rise in a still pool.

The waitresses were gathered at the register when we left and listening intently as we discussed the mechanics of casting from an engineering standpoint on the way out the front door of the restaurant. Him in a flannel shirt and jeans, me wearing my Southern Rodmakers Gathering Hat, my hair in a pony tail. My lady Billie of course, dressed nicely so it would look like she had picked up two homeless people and was treating them to a meal. I think the waitresses were amazed that these two guys with the funny looking wood shavings stuck to their clothes could know words with more than two syllables.

Troy expressed his gratitude as he left late last night, but I didn't express mine.

I went out with Billie for a couple of drinks after he left, and all I could think about was "I gotta get more rods made... wonder what this would look like... wonder how I could make a reel seat out of that..."

Everything in our local watering hole, to me, looked like something that could either be used in the shop or made into something for a fly rod. This visit fanned an ember that has always burned inside, into the fire to get in that shop and make rods for fun, the way it used to be.

For that... THANKS, TROY! Thanks for reigniting that fire, and for reminding me why I love being a rodmaker, and you're welcome in this old man's shop, anytime.

Off to ferrule a rod, yep, working on Sunday! Why? Because a young man, aspiring to be what I am, reminded me that I do this because I love it. ~ RL (Bob) Nunley, Rodmaker

If you would like to comment on this or any other article please feel free to post your views on the FAOL Bulletin Board!

With Bamboo Archives

[ HOME ]

[ Search ] [ Contact FAOL ] [ Media Kit ] © Notice