Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bamboo - no I don't have a pet Panda

PHASE 1: Tooling up
I've been building graphite fly rods and restoring bamboo fly rods for years. I don't know what finally decided to get me to bite, but I decided that I am going to start manufacturing bamboo fly rods from the ground up. After the restoring that I've done, I didn't have many doubts about being able to craft a beautiful rod, but could I make a functioning rod?

I did a little research and immediately saw that this was no small project. The amount of information out there on different tapers, actions, methods of planing, heating and flaming bamboo seemed overwhelming. That was the easy part. I soon found out that one does not walk into Home Depot to buy materials to start making blanks on day 1. Unless you have the money to drop on specialized tools, the majority of makers out there craft their own. I decided to make a set of planing forms out of maple to start. I would need one set of rough forms for getting the strips within the ballpark for their final planing. The final forms are much more precise and need to be accurate to .001”, that is a small margin of error.

The planes were fairly easy to assemble, but needed some finishing to make sure that they were perfectly flat and true to form. Once they were all set, I had to groove out my forms. Since there are 6 strips in a standard bamboo rod, 360 degrees around, each strip has to be cut to a 60 degree angle. I needed to make two tools for this. A 60 degree bit plane as well as a 60 degree file plane. The bit plane would allow me to make quick progress while the file plane would be used to clean up the grooves.  There were a ton of resources out there to help me create these tools, and I'm extremely happy that phase of the process if over.  As of now I've managed to cut the grooves in my rough planing form. I am waiting on a 60 degree contact point for my dial indicator before I start grooving out my final forms. With the need to be so accurate, I want to make sure that I am exact to .001”. Once you take out wood, there is no going back. Now its time to get some bamboo and get splitting.  Stay tuned, I'll keep posting progress.

60 Degree Lathe Bit Plane & File Plane

Unfinished Final Form (Left) & Rough Planing Form (Right)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Battle of the Vests - Simms G3 vs. Patagonia Guidewater

I've been using for the past season a Simms G3, but recently decided to make the switch and try out the Patagonia Guidewater Vest.  Both vests have the same MSRP, $200 USD.  The Simms is certainly a very cool looking and well designed vest.  I think the website boasts 22 pockets, which never left me wanting more space.  I fit 6 fly boxes in there without a problem, as well as all of my other tools and gear.  My only downside to this vest is that it never quite felt comfortable.  It's molded to shape, which certainly helps the fly boxes fit in their places, but always left me feeling like I was part of a SWAT team instead of enjoying a day on the stream.

The Guidewater vest arrived today, and I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable it was from the get go.  The vest itself feels like you're hardly wearing anything at all.  I immediately tried to stuff my boxes and gear in there, all of which fit without a problem.  Like the Simms, it has plenty of straps, holes, and clips for all of your tippet spools, forceps and other gear.  Both vests also boast a full back pocket, perfect for holding those larger items, which in my case, consists of a bottle of Gatorade, a sandwich and some dog biscuits.  The only thing I'm cautious of is that many of the pockets are mesh lined.  I'm hoping that they will hold up, otherwise this will be making a trip back to Patagonia.  The Guidewater also has curved pockets which are supposed to help with the natural curvature in your body, and they seem to do a good job of that.  I'll post up a report when I finally get to fish it.  As first impressions go, if I were to see these two side by side in the fly shop, despite the G3's really cool look, I think I would go with the Guidewater.

Monday, March 7, 2011

First outing of 2011

I got the chance to get out this weekend with my good buddy Brandon Alexander of Catskill Fly and Float with hopes of swinging big streamers for big fish on the West Branch of the Delaware River.  Hours before we were going to leave, they cranked it up to 1700 cfs (400 cfs would be ideal) leaving us scrambling for a plan B.  With ice clearing up on the Beaverkill and Willowemoc, we decided to head to Trout Town, USA.  We were met with some showers and water barely above freezing.  The fish were lethargic for sure, and we pretty much had to put our flies right on their noses.  We managed to hook up with about 6 between the two of us, Brandon netting one on a streamer, with all of mine coming on small patterns.  I lost a really nice fish as he broke me off on a rock a rods length away from me.  A size 18 black birds nest seemed to work well for me.  In a few weeks the fishing will be picking up, but a day like this is exactly what I needed to beat cabin fever.  For information on the flies I was using, be sure to check out my Fly Shop page.

We certainly had different view on how to fish

My first trout of 2011
A nice holdover
Brandon proving that fish will hit a streamer in cold water