J. L. Bradley Bamboo Rod Company
the 1970’s my fishing partner, Jim Chrisman, and I were convinced that we needed bamboo fly rods. Neither of us could
afford any of the rods that were available, so we spent our weekend searching through garage sales in Paradise California
looking for a great deal. We bought some nice rods, but none were made for the modern lines that were just starting to become
available. All the rods we could afford were long and heavy.
We were both handy and each of us had a shop. We were determined to make our own rods. We had a short
chapter in McClane’s Standard Fishing Encyclopedia and Claude M. Kreider’s book The Bamboo Rod and How
to Build It to use as instructions. There were no dealers that sold bamboo rod making equipment as
there is now, so we had to make our own planing forms and gluing machine.
Walton Powell was making rods in Chico, and I had been buying flies from his wife, Erlene, for a couple
of years. I knew Walton had some of the components required, so off we went.
Walt would let us watch once in awhile and shared a few of his secrets but was not convinced that
we were serious about our rod making.
were near impossible to find--especially bamboo. There had been an embargo against importing bamboo from China since 1951,
and Walton was not going to part with any of his cane. I found a guy in Paradise that had some deep sea blanks that Walton
had made years before but hadn’t finished. I steamed these apart in the shower and used the strips
to make my first rod. Walton realized that we were serious and began selling us some of his old style ferrules that he no
longer used and some of his precious bamboo.
In the mid 1970’s
a friend of mine took one of my rods to “Creative Sports,” Andre Puyans’ fly shop in Walnut Creek. Andre
wanted to meet me. I took the only rod that was any good: a 7‘ 6’’, 6 weight; and drove
the three hours to his shop. He and Dave Inks, his partner, cast that rod for nearly two hours. Andy could
throw the full line with EITHER hand. I had never seen anything like it.
was getting ready to leave and Andy stopped me. “We need to talk. Can you make these in other lengths?
How many can I have?”
Well, now I was in trouble.
I answered “any length and all you want.”
I want two 7’ 6”, two 7’9”, two 8’, and two 8’6”. When can I have them?”
“Soon” is all that I could think to say.
Ten years later I had made more that one hundred rods for Andy and had fished
with him each year on the Henry’s Fork at Last Chance Idaho. He introduced me to a lot of great fisherman some that
I had only read about. Andy was my constant critic of manufacturing technique and finish, and he never quit encouraging me.
He even tried to improve my casting. I will miss him.
1985 I was burnt out, and returned to gunsmithing as my shop activity.
years later with all of the new interest in bamboo rods, I am now making rods again.