Bamboo Bonzai

Forward to The Lovely Reed

By Glenn Brackett

December 14th, 1998

Publishers Note: Glenn Bracketts forward to The Lovely Reed, will appear in three segments. And is as Glenn provided it to us, the original, unedited text. A review of The Lovely Reed appeared previously here on Fly Anglers on line. Click here to read it.

Glenn Brackett and son Bruce

Jack Howell has honored me with the opportunity to cast the opening line about something we both share as very dear, the craft of bamboo rod making. It has been long known, to those who share this passion, that no book will ever be written that can fully express what this craft is all about. However, Howell has come as close as I feel you can, has tried to crack this impossible "lovely reed" nut, and has done well in the effort. He lives up to all my expectations in title and text. My associate, Jerry Kustich, wrote, "I feel there is something built into a bamboo fly rod much greater than what meets the eye - a blending of all the magical elements of the sport itself. I build them because it is something I love to do." And I do too - it constantly humbles me. You can't learn enough from it, and about it.

Much has been written, and I hope will continue to, on this craft. However, Howell has brought together all the past and present thinking that makes this craft what it is today. This is a book that I'm pleased with. I was struck by the realization from it that everything in print has been written by the hobbyist. We have yet been enlightened by a Payne, Leonard, Howells (Gary), etc. Also, the days of the quality production rod shop are basically history. It's the hobbyist that's keeping the craft alive today. Lost forever is the wealth of knowledge in Jim Payne and his contemporaries. Now there would have been "the-book-of-books." But we have their rods to keep us in awe.

I have found that most of the rods built, from the beginning to present, are the results of craft procedures, long known (i'ts technological peak was reached many years ago) and followed by rod craftsmen, be they hobbyist or professional A practice that is simple but demanding of your abilities and dedication. Jack Howell is true to this principle. But it's more than a how-to manual, for he gives us his passion along with the practice. To me that makes it a valued, praiseworthy and most readable work. I can find no open glue seams in Howell's masterfully written book.

We have seen, throughout this craft's history, simple quiet beginnings, followed by a roaring industry and now a guild of artisan hobbyist. Every imagineable aspect of design and technique have been put to the test. But it's those simple quiet beginnings that we find ourselves coming back home to, over and over again. Basement, one-man, weekend, hand planed rod craftsmen. In this wonderfully written and illustrated book Jack Howell dedicates himself to keeping the traditions of our unique craft alive. Those who have taken part in this craft have wanted to do what Howell has done, but we've all been too distracted at the rod bench, or fishing. Thanks to those few, we have been blessed with some fine writings. Jack Howell is one of those few. We all need to applaude his hard work that produced what will become a classic in its own time. His book is a labor of love; it has everything to make it possible for the crafting of a bamboo fly rod. His handling of the myths, metaphors, mystery, means and methods are all beautifully taught and presented. He will walk you through every aspect with understanding and compassion, ie., "Keep the bandaides, and an experienced fellow of the craft close at hand."

Man needs to do things with ritual in them. This craft, above all else, demands that. Howell lives up to it through his teaching, his rods. The rewards that the craft repays you for taking part in the ritual can never be fully explained, intellectualized- it becomes art, art poetry. It reaches beyond your mind. Levels of awareness will unfold to you with each new rod you create. This is assured through following and believing in the ritual, which Howell has qualified and proven he can do. People would be much better off if they would curb ambition, slow down the tempo of life, and work with their hands.

Howell's well written book carries us into this age with the right language, research, and experioence to help you, better than any other book, make your first rod. That is the beauty and purpose of his book. With his gifted, inspired way, you will be expertly taught and sprited to become part of a unique fellowship. He has sifted, refined, and clearly stated what is important, regarding tools, technique and attitude. And I fully agree with it all, especially the true essence of the crat, your own two hands - there are no mechnical things that can substitute. No matter how great one's enthusiasm and tools, the hand will ultimately be the deciding factor. It's innately there, or not. It has become that simple a fact. He and I stand together on that truth - it's in your hands, period. ~ Glenn Brackett

Next time, Part 2.


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