Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Voices from the Past: Edmund Ware Smith, Part II (1937)

Here is the second part of the article by Edmund Ware Smith on the state of current fly rods. Note how he gushes over the tubular steel fly rod by True Temper!

Enormous in his value to the fishing world, and in his influence in educating fishermen not only to the proper selection but the proper use of good fly tackle, is the maker of Weber Fly Tackle, Stevens Point, Wisconsin. The fact that I have not owned a Weber fly rod is pure chance. I have used one in practice, and seen their arch-demonstrator, Bill Cook, use one in a way to make your mouth water--and Weber's catalog rates tops in instruction-interest along with South Bend's and Pflueger's. Weber's is fly-fishing exclusively, remember. They're specialists. Pflueger, on the other hand, sells pretty nearly everything a fisherman would need in a lifetime of fishing, and their catalog is guaranteed to give you a rare evening's entertainment, whether you be fly fisherman, baitcaster, or a salty angler of the deep blue sea.

Right down the center alley in value for cash on the line is any rod in mid-price range by Heddon and South Bend. A good mid-price-range is when you put a parenthesis around ($10-$20), like that. Horrocks-lbbotson and Montague make quantities of inexpensive rods--fly rods, surf rods, casting rods--rods of all descriptions. First fly rod I ever owned cost me $3.75 in a hardware store in Gorham, New Hampshire. Baldy bought one of the same, and we went to Maine and with them caught our first landlocked salmon, H.S.D. showing us how to cast a fly. Twenty years ago--tsk-tsk-tsk! Those two rods were made either by Montague or Horrocks-Ibbotson, I am reasonably certain.

A Special and a Favorite
A certain small specialist in fly tackle--and may he grow larger and wax prosperous for having designed and executed his "Imperial" fly rod--is Lyon & Coulson, 77 Swan St., Buffalo. Price: $18.75, unless there's a change for 1937 I haven't heard about. I fitted out mine with an HDH Ashaway Tob-Big line on a Bristol No. 65 fly reel, and got a marvellous balance and ease in casting. It's designed as a dry-fly rod, but I liked mine so much I fished it both ways. I think the boys from Buffalo have whittled themselves a peach of a value.

Always I think of Horton Mfg. Co. as makers of steel rods for still-fishing, trolling, and mighty near every other purpose. Practically every small boy buys his first fishin' rod out of Bristol, Connecticut--and many a man grown up to be, on some occasions at least, "an angler," has a Bristol telescopic rod, a stamped-out reel, and fifty yards or so of Kingfisher line. He may at times use this rod for still-fishing, for catching bait with which to catch larger fish, for horn-pouting, or for early season fishing-with-a-worm. For general-utility steel rods-of every shape and description--Horton has a big name. When we get in- to bait-casting talk, month or so hence, we'll have a lot to say about Meek and Bluegrass bait-casting reels, same company.

Tubular Dry-Fly Rod
Having led off last month with a note about the new True Temper dry-fly rod, the first shall this month be last in this discussion. I told you I thought the rod would be a peach, and it is better than that. It is truly a honey, and I am not one bit surprised. True Temper has been going to town, and where there is smoke there's fire--and there's fire in this 8-ft., 4 3/4 oz., beautifully finished and velvet-eased weepon.

Trial: Of course as I write this, open water is scarce, and it's cold as sin. But I fastened a reel equipped with an HCH line to the True Temper's screw-locking reel seat-and I amused the neighbors by giving them a free half-hour's demonstration of plain and fancy lawn-casting.

The maker suggested the HCH line, or if level, a D, as being good. Well, at forty feet with the HCH, this rod was doing its stuff easily on a par with anything I ever owned or operated in that weight class. I've had a heck of a time trying to find a word that will describe, or convey, this new rod's action. Brisk, quick, light, easy--it's all those. The rod has "life" and "fire" and "purpose." Its cork grip is nicely designed, and easy on the mitt. The rod's color is light gun-metal, and it's wound with black edged with white, like one of those white-tailed hornets - ah -that's the word I was after! The new True Temper dry-fly rod behaves with hornet action--quick, business-like, and very, very much to the point. And, alas, to round out the hornet metaphor, your bitter and hard-shelled correspondent is this moment stung with the realization that the steel rod and the split bamboo defy any further comparison. If there is any difference, maybe Izaak Walton could detect it. But I can't, and Izaak is dead these many years. Thus and henceforth, and using the new True Temper as a criterion, you must decide for yourself whether you want steel or bamboo. If I said anything to influence you either way, I'd be cheating.

Permanence of Steel
Just by way of caution: Don't abuse a good fly rod liust because it's steel and because you therefore think it's indestructible. A steel rod is probably slightly more indestructible, if it is possible to use that phrase, than a bamboo rod. They will both break or damage if you wrap them around a tree, run their tips into a bank, sit on them, or drop the window sash on their middle joints. Any breakage resulting from faulty construction will be replaced by a bamboo and (or) steel rod maker.

The judgment in such cases is--and should be--theirs. Never yet heard of an instance where they failed to make good. But if one scatters the joints of a bamboo or steel fly rod in amongst the old jacks and wrenches under the rear seat of his car, there to be rattled, joggled, bruised, and defaced, he should be forced by the National Guard to buy six new rods and distribute them among the deserving poor!

The Rigors of Wind
In the old days at the Cape Cod Trout Club, I used to hear Harry Tair talk about his "wind rod" and we all had "wind rods," heavy for use in gales; and we had dry-fly rods; and wet-fly rods. The modern dry-fly rod is stiff in action, eight or eight and a half feet. That's about all the term "dry-fly rod" means. And I am constrained to believe it's not essential to own a different rod for wet-and dry-fly fishing, and for high winds. A so-called "dry-fly rod" will fish a wet fly as niftily, to my mind, as the slightly longer, slightly more limber "wet-fly rod."

Opposite Extreme
Just before Cy and I left on the trout expedition above mentioned, I got a card from Ken Reid, saying: "Dear Ed: I am educating the trout of the Madison and Big-hole rivers to some of Joe Messinger's fanwings. It's hard to beat these Western (Montana) rivers." Well, I wasn't there, but I am certain Ken was using his 3 1/2-oz. Leonard dry-fly rod, long, tapered leaders tied by himself, and a Cahill, Pink Lady, or Royal Coachman fanwing, size 10 or 12. As for Ken's using a worm, I blush at the thought. In fact I do not think he ever used a shovel in his life, except to transplant some white birches I sent him once. To him, I expect a bare hook is defined as something to hang clothes on. A fly is something which buzzes in varying quantities in the neighborhood of the little board structure out back. But a dry fly is something beautiful, sublime, and floatable--and designed expressly for taking rainbow trout in fast water. So, again--Amen!

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