Bamboo Tips - Contributors - Swearingen, Larry

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I'm Larry Swearingen.  I now live in Fort Wayne, IN and retired a little over two years ago to move here.

John Gierach's book "Fishing Bamboo" got me started down the slippery bamboo slope. I started fly fishing in high school around 1961 or 62 but with fiberglass.  My earliest fish memories are when I must have been 5 or 6 and Mom and Dad rented a stone cabin on the Meremac river at St. Clair, Mo. They would let me fish an overflow pond with a cane pole, cork bobber, green line and worms. I had a great time catching little sunfish and bullheads.  Come to think of it that WAS my introduction to CANE! But back to Gierach's book.  I was foolish enough to believe that I could find a bamboo fly rod for what John said was a going rate.  A Granger 9050 for about 150 bucks. Ha!  I was a few years too late.  Eventually I got a beater Montague and was sorely disappointed. Eventually ended up spending a lot more than $150 for a 8 1/2ft Heddon #20. I came to really love that rod.  I found Clark's Classic Fly Rod Forum somewhere in there and was interested in what the guys were saying about the Classic rods, Payne,Leonard etc. No way could I spend that kind of money on a fly rod.  I got interested in making one. Yeah, that's the ticket.  It'll be a lot cheaper!    Ha. is all I can say 'bout that. I found the List and got a few books to read first.  Wayne's book, also Mauer and Elsner.

I eventually saw Tony Spezio posting a lot on the List and got in touch with him. During a visit to Arkansas to see my Mother I went over to Tony's house and he spent 3 or 4 hours with me giving me a rundown on how a bamboo rod was made. I thought, "yes, I can do this."

Thank you Tony !

I already had many of the hand tools from my career as a Cabinet/Furniture maker. The rest I found a way to make as I went along. I ordered 10 Culms of bamboo from Andy Royer up in Seattle and was on my way. Some of you may remember my forst post in 2003 saying that I had shed blood opening up my bundle of bamboo.  That did not bode well.  :>) My first rod was completed in Feb 2004 and I loved fishing it.  But it wasn't enough. I had to start making the classic tapers I had read so much about.   Still haven't finished that task.  There's always another rod to try.   I made a few rods for friends but for the most part what I make ends up in my rod rack.   I had the thought that I could make a few rods for sale as suplamental income but after I moved here from California that doesn't seem to have worked very well.  There's already a few guys here making rods for sale and I don't really know very many people, other than said rodmakers, here.

So I have enough machinery now that I started making a few Planing Forms to sell at Rodmaker's Gatherings.  It's worked out well so far.  I've sold some 6 foot planing steel forms that can help beginners get started.   I made my first set of forms with a drill press and hand files alone.  That is very slow.  Also a lot of guys seem to be intimidated by the process. I have the process worked out pretty well now and can make a set in batches of 4 or 5 in a reasonable time for a reasonable price. So if you need a set of 6 foot steel forms send me an email.  I have 3 sets completed available now.

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