Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Voices from the Past: Jim Rhody

Although many of the Voices from the Past authors have been famous national writers, I would like to profile a few local writers who penned outdoor columns but who probably escaped national attention. Such is the case with Jim Rhody, who wrote a column called Sportsman's Horizons for the Boyden Reporter in Boyden, Iowa back in the 1940s and 1950s. Here is a typical column of interest to bamboo and fiberglass rod historians and collectors, in particular Phillipson fans. It was originally published in 1951. I think it is a nice panacea to the belief that every fly fisherman simply ditched their bamboo rods the second that glass became available. And I love the last line, which is certainly an epithet I believe many talented modern makers are proving every year.

Bamboo Tops

by Jim Rhody

We think it a distinct compliment to the manufacturers of bamboo fly rods that the bamboo is still tops in the fly rod field, as attested by every manufacturer of glass and steel rods declaring that their product "has the feel of the best bamboo." That is manufacturing license, sort of like "editorial license" in that statements may be made in generalization, rather than specifically. And so it is with rods — nothing but bamboo, naturally, can have the "feel of bamboo," and what the makers of glass and steel rods mean, of course, is that their products "approximate the feel," of the best bamboo.

This superiority of the bamboo fly rod over other type rods in the matter of lightness, resiliency, "aliveness," and the supreme delight they accord the angler isn't an accident; and the fact that bamboo continues its superiority isn't an accident, either. Instead, it is due to the fact that real rod-makers spare no effort, no research, no testing techiques to keep bamboo in the enviable position it holds in the hearts of fly-rod and plug-casting anglers.

This is epitomized by manufacturers like the Phillipson rod company. "Way up in the mile-high atmosphere of Denver, the Phillipson people developed for the first time a guaranteed, waterproof, never-leak glue-joint. The little illustration accompanying this article is of a Phillipson joint which has been submerged in water for more than two years, with its bamboo sections still as strong as a weld.

In doing this article on bamboo rods, which follows treatment here previously of steel and glass rods, we contacted John A. Eble, sales mnanager of the Phillipson people to ask "how come" on this waterproof never-break glue joints. He replied that this process, exclusive with Phillipson, is one that "joins the six bamboo strips together in an ever-lasting bond that never comes apart, no matter how hard the service or how wet and disagreeable the weather."

To the angler who has never seen a fly rod come apart in his hand after being subjected to hours of soaking in a driving rain, or after haying been left out overnight in the rain, Eble's statement really mean something. Too, the bamboo-rod maker, with his own special techniques has the advantage of being able to build into his bamboo rods amazing strength without appreciable additional weight. This, to the fly rod addict who appreciates light tackle is like manna from heaven.

"Through trial and error, testing, testing and testing, experimenting here and there," Eble says, "we have been able to build into our rods a smooth, sensitive action, combined with backbone, vitality and terrific power per ounce of weight."

And that's decidedly what the fly rod angler wants—and, to paraphrase a famous automobile slogan: "When better fly rods are made, bamboo rod makers will make them."

-- Dr. Todd

No comments: