Tag Archives: Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum

Fly-fishing: Catskill Center offers opportunity to make quality bamboo rod

First published in The Daily Gazette, Schenectady, N.Y., June 2 2011

Status symbol. Talisman. Objet d’art. A relic of a more innocent time.

A bamboo fly rod can be any or all of these things to its owner. You could add investment, collectible, exquisite toy and sublime fishing tool to the list.

“For sheer sensuality of casting and for fishing that requires some subtlety, a good bamboo rod is simply the superior inst­rument,” writes John Gierach in “Even Brook Trout Get the Blues.” “So it doesn’t really bother me that it costs several times what a graphite does, because it’s several times better.”

That kind of devotion to the split-cane rod will be on display this summer in a couple of interesting events at the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum in Livingston Manor.

The first is the center’s 2011 Cane Rod Makers School, set to run June 24-29.

Tuition is $1,400, which is a bargain in the sense that a new bamboo rod can cost twice that much. Tuition also includes accommodations at the center’s bunkhouse and breakfast and lunch each day. Museum members receive a $200 discount.

Making a bamboo fly rod is craftsmanship of a very high order. Just being able to lash together a bundle of six triangular strips of bamboo to form a hexagonal fishing rod seems like sorcery to me. Imagine shaving the strips to exactly the shape that will give the rod the taper it needs to perform properly, not to mention varnishing it and adding guides, a handle and a reel seat.

This is the sort of thing where learning in person could save years of frustrating trial and error.

Once you’ve built your bamboo rod (unless you’re like me — willing to leave that job to the experts), you can use it in the center’s inaugural bamboo rod-casting contest.

The inaugural Hardy Bros. Cup casting competition will be held Aug. 6, at the same time as the center’s Summerfest and Angler’s Market. It’s open to all, and the only requirement is that you use a bamboo rod no more than nine feet long.

Competitors will be judged on two distance casts and one accuracy cast. Rods under eight feet will benefit from hand­icaps. Ties will be decided in favor of the older rod. The organizers say you should be able to cast a fly at least 50 feet, using a 7 1⁄2-foot leader.

For a competition with no entry fee, this one has one heck of a nice grand prize: a 100th anniversary edition Hardy Gladstone C.C. deFrance bamboo rod, which retails for well over $2,000. The winner’s name will be engraved on a very classy looking, Tiffany-designed Hardy Bros. Cup, which will be displayed at the CFFCM.

Second and third place winners will receive classic Hardy reels. An awards ceremony will take place that evening, at a complimentary barbecue.

I’m lucky enough to own a bamboo rod — a seven-foot, two-inch Orvis Battenkill that my dad ordered as a kit back in the 1960s. He had a local expert put it together for him. It’s a sweet, lively rod, and casting it does inspire some devotion. I’m not even sure I can cast it 50 feet, but I seldom need to.

More information on the Catskill Center events can be found at www.cffcm.net.

Morgan Lyle’s commentary appears regularly in The Daily Gazette. Reach him at morganlyle@gmail.com.


Art Lee: Angler, Author & Now Hall-of-Famer

The late Lee Wulff famously called the Atlantic salmon the “fish of 10,000 casts.”

Art Lee is a great admirer of Wulff and his legacy, but he fishes for salmon on his own terms. “I said, ‘Baloney. I don’t want to make 10,000 casts,’” said Lee, who will be inducted into the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum Hall of Fame Oct. 9. “I want to make one, at exactly the right time.”

He seems to have the timing down. No person, Icelander or foreign, has caught the biggest salmon of the season from Icelandic waters more than once, except for Lee – who has done it five times.

Lee is quick to say that fishing is supposed to be fun, but his idea of fun is to take fishing very, very seriously. He’s been on the water as many as 300 days per year for the past four decades. He has gone fishing for salmon in Iceland more than 40 times, often for six weeks at a time, and fished the Canadian Maritime Provinces far more often than that.

Lee has published articles in 106 consecutive issues of the quarterly Atlantic Salmon Journal, a streak unmatched by any other fishing writer at any other magazine, and he says he plans to write at least 106 more. (“I dictated one to a doctor in the intensive care unit of a hospital,” he recalled.)

He is also the author of some of the most informative, intelligent and entertaining fishing how-to books ever published, including “The Lore of Trout Fishing,” “Tying and Fishing the Riffling Hitch” and “Fishing Dry Flies for Trout on Rivers and Streams.”

Lee is in distinguished company as a CFFCM Hall of Fame inductee. Also being inducted this year are John Randolph, longtime publisher of Fly Fisherman magazine; Louis Rhead, the artist and author in the late 1800s and early 1900s of many books and articles, including “American Trout Stream Insects,” and Jack Gartside, the intellectual Boston cab driver and cheerfully unorthodox fly designer who died last year.

Lee’s career began in 1965 as a general assignment reporter at the Schenectady, N.Y. Gazette. He then spent several years at the Albany Times Union, moved on to stints with Curt Gowdy’s “The American Sportsman” TV show and the now-defunct American League of Anglers, and began his long association with Fly Fisherman as northeast field editor. In the mid-1970s, he moved to Roscoe and has made his living ever since as a writer for all the big fly-fishing magazines as well as National Geographic and Sports Illustrated.

Such is Lee’s inquisitive approach to fishing that he once figured out that trout weren’t rising to spent, egg-laying mayfly spinners because they were actually eating the insects’ eggs. He tied up some tiny egg flies and caught trout with a technique that no one had ever thought of before.

There is sacrifice in the life of a fishing writer like Lee, and it’s not for everyone. “After moving to Roscoe, I never played another round of golf,” he said. “I decided to be as good a fisherman as I can be. But I’ve also said that governments don’t rise or fall based on whether you can catch a fish. There’s no reason to presume that you have to take it as seriously as I have. It can simply be a wonderful lifetime hobby.”

Lee still thinks like a reporter. He’s turned down offers to endorse products in order to preserve his objectivity – “How can you be a journalist and endorse?” he said – and is proudest of being called “a man who never raises his hand unless he has something to say” by Christopher Lehman-Haupt of The New York Times and “a man who always tells the truth” by legendary salmon guide Richard Adams.

Lee won’t have to travel far for the induction ceremony. The Catskill Center is in Livingston Manor, just up the road from Roscoe, and begins at 3 p.m. Visit http://www.cffcm.net for more information.