The L&T and the kids were elsewhere, so with two hours to spare on a Sunday afternoon, I ended up at Chris Raine’s fly rod shop, handling an 8′ 7wt rod he built to fish bushy October Caddis and stonefly dries.
Raine’s been a tear lately — the family business is closed until March, so he’s been turning out bamboo fly rods like it was easy.
For the record, bamboo fly rods are not easy, but when performing a series of painstakingly precise, highly repetitive tasks, it’s clearly possible to work up a good head of steam.
His goal was to fill his outstanding orders and stock the “impulse” rack (some folks actually have the money to buy a cane rod on impulse).
Because he’s a fisherman, he also wanted to build something for himself.
Which is where it gets interesting.
Raine builds gorgeous fly rods in a market where many buyers let a magnifying glass determine a rod’s worth — sometimes before they’ve even cast it.
The vast majority of his sales are the longer, lighter fly rods that respond well to hollowbuilding (like his 8′ 4wt and new 8’3″ 5wt).
But in his “off” hours, he crafted a rod using stained cane, chrome guides, a scratched reel seat and a ferrule manufactured in 1998.
He also built it on an experimental taper that has little or no commercial value, and in a line weight more common to a modern bonefish rod.
Yet the rod’s no throwaway; it weighs a featherish 3.5 ounces, casts beautifully, bosses big flies smartly and still bends enough that you’ll feel — as Wayne Eng puts it — the “heartbeats” of even an average trout.
See, I said it was getting interesting.
When your goal is to slap a bulky, wind-resistant October Caddis dry into a one-inch seam, accuracy matters. At least it feels that way when you miss. Today’s fisherman is likely to replace line mass with line speed, casting big dries with lighter line weights. That works at longer ranges, but at short ranges, the bushy flies open up the loops.
Which is where the 7wt suddenly starts to make sense.
So while a builder’s unlikely to sell a relatively full-flexing 8′ 7wt, a fisherman who lives on a good October Caddis river and understands physics might want to fish one.
This is why I like hanging with bamboo rod builders; they’re an iconoclastic bunch prone to tinkering, and you never know what’s going to emerge from the dark recesses of their shops.
They’re like evil geniuses, but instead of the apocalypse, they produce obsolete fly rods the market doesn’t want, but fishermen should probably embrace.
See you on the river, Tom Chandler.