Bamboo Tips - Contributors - Nash, Jim

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It all began in the early 80's because of stress at work and a need to know why I only fished for trout, in New Jersey, in April and May.  There was much then on the Saturday sports programs on TV about fly fishing.  I was able to get my first fly fishing rod and began my quest for the wily trout.  The next big step came when a friend of mine suggested that I go to the local Trout Unlimited meeting.  I did and began a long and strange relationship with some very unique people - chief among them was Bill Fink, a long time list contributor.

The TU chapter began to teach me about fly fishing and where to go in the local area.  But, more than that, I learned about life and other outdoor options that were worth investigating and doing.  I began to quietly watch and listen to Bill Fink when we were on fishing trips or at meetings.  His depth of knowledge about fishing for trout was amazing.  I remember one day on a stream in the Pocono area of PA and we were trying to figure out the hatch as the fish were rising all around us.  The fly was invisible on the water and Bill went though a process, which I followed, starting with variations in dark colors, then variations in fly size and finally fly modification.  His point was to watch the reaction of the fish each time and it will tell you when you are getting close.  One of the last things he did was to pull out of his vest a small pair of scissors and cut the wings off of a small black midge.  I was able to do the same thing with a pair of nippers and we caught fish on every cast.   I now carry a small pair of scissors in my vest.

During all of these times Bill would talk about building bamboo rods and the Rodmakers List.  He was one of the first contributors and he was amazed that he could openly talk to people about the process from all over the world.  In his early rod building days he could not get people to tell him much, if anything, about the process.  He showed me, during one of my visits to his house, the Garrison book with a few original letter tucked into it from Garrison, who was answering Bill's questions.

Finally, after a number of years of Bill telling me to take up bamboo rod building, I picked up a single culm sometime in 95 from someone else who had tried to start but gave up the quest.  This began a five year effort to complete a bamboo rod and learn the process, and a second meeting with a unique person - Tom Smithwick.  Tom was also a member of our TU chapter.  Between Tom and Bill, a lot of frustration, learning and mistakes I was able to finish my first rod in May of 2000 (The Five Year Rod), the year I retired from the City of Camden Fire Department.  I remember Tom telling me to "just finish the rod - it will catch fish".  And it did, but as the day went on the tip section rotated and the guides became offset because the strips were so out of whack and off of taper specification.  But when it did cast properly it was magic.

This then began my bamboo rod building quest for excellence.  I am conservative and traditional in most of my views and I had the belief early on that I wanted to learn to build the old fashioned way.  If I learned the hard way I would learn all of the cane rod building process "hands on" and then move to more modern building concepts.  I began with a Garrison rod (202e) and his book, and a lot of help from Bill and Tom.  Then another 202e but much closer to the taper specification.  Then a Martha Marie - sounded good and it was mentioned in a book I read by John Gerick (not sure of the spelling).

In 2000 I came onto the Rodmakers List  and a discussion began about a quest for excellence and meeting the taper.  There was a lot of discussion about the "Holly Grail", the "One Rod" and using formulas and computer programs to determine what the holy grail was and what the "masters" were after.  I felt at the time, and continue to think that there is no holy grail or one rod that will do it all.  As for the masters - well I felt that if I built the master’s rods and fished them I would learn a lot about myself (fishing wise) and them.  So - my quest has turned to feeling what the masters felt in their hands by getting as close to their taper specification as possible, and finding which master best suited me.  I think that having the master’s rod in my hand will tell me a lot more than looking at a graph, and then if I look at a stress chart of the masters rod and compare it to others I will know.  The List also helped in that there was often a request for people to post their three favorite rods.  The "masters" rods that came up the most were often the ones I would build (Payne 98, Young Driggs River, Payne 101, Cattanach Sir-D, etc.).

In the beginning of my education both Bill and Tom told me to: begin with Garrison, build a one piece rod and build a five sided rod as part of my learning process.  To that end I have built several Garrison rods and recently built a one piece rod, a 6'-6" Dickerson from Howells book of which Tom modified the taper slightly because of the loss of the ferrule.  The rod is really nice and light in hand.  I am now in the process of building the same rod to the original taper in a two piece version.  That lesson will then be complete.  Next up - a five sided rod in a taper that I have already done with a six sided rod (a Payne 98 or 101 perhapse).

As far as the List is concerned - I check my e-mail every day, unless I am away, and read the posts.  I'm a lurker because by the time I finish reading late in the evening it's time for bed.  I also have a lot of other commitments and activities that take up a lot of my time.  I have tried.  One of the activities is water color painting which again evolved from fly fishing and rod building.  Funny how those things happen.

I live in New Jersey in Mount Laurel about 16 miles due east of Philly and am beginning my 11th year of retirement at the rip old age of 63.  I have a nice shop in my basement with lots of work bench space and some nice rod building tools and equipment, but I have purposely tried to  keep it simple and within reasonable cost.  I only build for myself and I occasionally give a rod to a friend or my son.  I got a bale of bamboo from Demarest some years ago and picked it up with Bill Fink at the warehouse, which is about an hour from where I live, and still have culms in the basement ceiling.  Working on rods 13, 14, 15 and 16 on the work bench.  Unfortunately - I'm in a slump and haven't touched anything for about a year because of a need to commit a lot of time to other more important activities (water color painting requests, the local fire commission and teaching at a community college as an  adjunct  professor  - that really takes up a lot of time).

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