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You will not be wasting your time reading Garrison.  He was not, however, the god of all information on rod building.  He was an engineer with an extraordinarily precise mind and an equally extraordinarily gifted pair of hands.

Bamboo rods had fallen almost completely out of favor with the fishing public by the 1970s,  and there were almost no known amateur builders at that time.  Carmichael's intention was to chronicle the work of perhaps the only living expert - and surely the only man willing to share, openly, his information and processes.  It is largely because of those factors that Garrison is regarded as our "deity,"  and not so much because we need to think of his way as being the only way (and certainly not any longer).

The book exists as it does largely because Hoagy Carmichael wished to pay homage to everything that his friend, "Gary," knew.  And this meant photographing and explaining every step that Gary took -- as well as accounting for all of Gary's complicated mathematical formulae.  This later is the part (for the newcomer to the craft, particularly), that constitutes the really tough going.

On the purely practical side of rodbuilding, again, Garrison/Carmichael "walk" us through a great many steps that are presented as being absolutely essential, when, in fact, many of these steps and considerations are not necessarily essential at all.  It was usually just Garrison's ultra-fastidious mind at work, and Carmichael's wish to honor, completely, his mentor/friend.

Garrison's math was surely the core of all his successful rods, but the irony is that you and I don't really need that part of the book at all - not even to build truly exceptional rods.  I have been designing and building fly rods since the mid-nineteen seventies, but I do not understand mathematics beyond simple arithmetic.  Complicated mathematics are very helpful to some builders, but by no means essential to the design process.  There are other ways, equally effective.  You and I just don't need those complicated mathematics any longer, as there are now literally hundreds of tapers available to us, not to mention the rather remarkable "Hexagraph" system that Wayne Cattanach developed.

Gary did his engineering calculations because that is the way HIS mind needed to understand things, and also because, at the time he began building (the 1930s), the only other builders were largely commercial, and they weren't sharing information (as we do now).

Gary's good friend, Dr. Parker Holden ("Idyl of The Split Cane," 1919), helped him enormously in the beginning, but Holden was influenced by Robert Crompton, and the two of them had already become powerful advocates of the five-strip fly rod.  Tapers for six-strip rods that were to Garrison's liking weren't publicly available in the 1930s (as they certainly are now), so he felt he needed to develop a system of mathematical calculations that would yield rods of similar action all across the spectrum of lengths and line-weights.  It was the first such attempt, and while some current builders may take exception to Garrison's engineering principles, nevertheless, Garrison's system produced a series of truly remarkable rods.

I would never wish to be critical in any negative sense of either Garrison or Carmichael.  The fact was that (apart from the limited and long-out-of-print information in the Holden, Herter, Kreider and McClane books) there were no truly complete books on bamboo rodbuilding available in the 1970s. Garrison/Carmichael had a truly unique opportunity to fill that gap.  So, if there is anything at all to be wary of, it is perhaps that the book has within it a good deal of "overkill."  We get a much more detail about Garrison's procedures than is actually needed.  (Indeed, Garrison probably became involved in a great deal more detail than he, himself, needed.  But it is the way he did things.)

Carmichael's focus was partly upon what another amateur builder would need to know, but it was much more intent upon saying everything possible about Garrison.  So, the book is both a "how-to" manual, and a tribute to Garrison himself.  It's this latter part of Carmichael's focus that perhaps goes beyond what the startup builder really needs.  So, as they say, take what you like, and leave the rest.  The Garrison book may tell you more than you need to know (sometimes to the point of irrelevance?), but it will not lead you astray.

As to other, contemporary books that  you  might  find   more "user-friendly," there are also (in addition to Cattanach) books by George Maurer and Jack Howell.  Any of these will serve you very well, indeed, in your desire to build a rod.  Later, you can return to Garrison, and appreciate his contributions in a somewhat different different perspective.

Cheers, Bill Harms

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