Following is a series of emails from Todd Enders. It is an interesting look at the process of rodmaking from a first time maker. I hope you enjoy the trip!
Slowly getting up off my duff and proceeding towards rod #1. Still playing with "practice" cane at the moment, sorting out all those devilish details. Certainly more fun to make shavings than reading about it. [:-)]
Meanwhile, I'm getting some of this down, I think. More or less happy with splitting. Fairly happy with my planing technique. Not exactly happy with straightening/nodes, and how to deal with them.
I've tried the following on dry strips -- alcohol lamp, hot plate, steam from a tea kettle, and the trusty heat gun. Maybe I was somewhat too impatient trying to get the rough strips up to temp over the first two, but even when I forced myself to slow down, there was some degree of scorching/discoloration. Reduced some of the worst charring by planing off the "fluffy" innermost layer of pith along with the node diaphragm.
Ran out of patience trying the tea kettle. Filled it, fired the burner up, got a good head of steam going, and proceeded to warm up a strip. Strip dimensions about 1/4"x1/4". 15 minutes later, no sign of the strip "softening". Maybe this works better with smaller strips, but it wasn't cutting it for larger ones.
Heat gun seems to work the best, but still get "browning" on the pith side, and to some extent on the enamel side, depending on how "enthusiastic" I get in the application of heat. Slower is better, but I don't see how one can get the strip flexible in the 1 1/2-2 minutes of heat time Wayne Cattanach cites in his book w/o some discoloration of the area. Again, maybe I'm still a bit too impatient here, but it seems to take a lot of heat to get the strip to "melt," as it were.
Have seen a lot in the archives about soaking strips, and the relative merits thereof. Would certainly seem wet strips could take a heavier hand with the heat (or perhaps reduce the need for lots of heat) during straightening w/o cooking them. Clearly some experimenting left to be done. [:-)]
Also been playing with scrapers. [:-)] As far as bodied Vs. the naked blade, I rather prefer the blade. Much more tactile. I like being able to really feel how much material I'm removing, and that sense is muted in the bodied scraper. Had some difficulties with chatter, but if one stops right away and gives the surface of the strip a going over with 400 grit sandpaper to take the chatter marks out, one can resume scraping (with a lighter touch! [:-)] and not have a repeat performance. If you try to scrape out the chatter marks, it's pretty much a hopeless cause, unless you're real careful, and even then it seems like you never do get rid of them completely. Much better to sand them out before resuming scraping.
Of course, where a bodied scraper has some advantage is in consistency (IE: you tend to remove the same amount of material per pass, and all cuts are the same depth). Then again, with the naked blade one can remove anything from a long curl a couple thousandths thick to sandpaper-like dust with the appropriate pressure. With no body in the way, one can be more precise in where they scrape as well.
Never seen it discussed, but does anyone use their heat gun for flaming a culm half (or large strip)? From what I've seen in playing with strips and heat guns, it would seem one would have more control than with a big torch. Will have to experiment... (Todd Enders)
The heat gun is fine for the job. My best advice is not to worry too much about the charring; you will be planing it all away a bit down the track anyway. Even some discoloration of the enamel side is quite OK, as, unless you are going to turn into one of these curmudgeonly old pedants, you will be scraping that off as well before you finish the rod.
My own feeling is that Wayne's 1 - 1 1/2 minutes is very conservative. I am sure I manage to get plasticity in a lot less than that, but have never timed it. I am actually straightening some strips and node pressing tonight, so I will time a couple and if I am greatly out in my assumptions, I will let you know.
Most authors of books on how to build rods will include pictures of their prepared strips, and I'll bet you that most of them have the same coloration as Siamese cats!
CONTROVERSY TIME! Don't waste your time soaking strips, unless you have figured out some way of distilling potable intoxicants from the vegetable soup produced thereby! With a little bit of attention to detail you can do the job at least as well with dry cane, and possibly by doing it that way you can remove some of the dimensional uncertainty associated with wet planing.
Having said that, I know that many of our brethren use the soaking technique and find it practical, but my point is that it's not any better, just suits some styles more than it suits others.
SCRAPERS. All that you say about scrapers is true, but remember that what you are trying to do with the whole process of planing strips for bamboo rods is to produce accurate, tapered equilateral triangular strips with perfectly flat sides.
I use a Lie-Nielsen scraper, and while I do not believe that a scraper is a good tool for final planing, I would not like to be without my L-N, especially (a) for scraping the enamel side, including flattening nodes, and (b) for dressing problem nodes.
Unless you are a very skilled woodworker, I do not believe that you can do this as accurately with a freehand scraper.
Last point to make here is that I really do not like the sound of what you say about correcting your chatter marks with sandpaper.
One should never criticize without being prepared to offer a better alternative.
Here is my better alternative - there is no substitute, at ANY stage in the rod making process, for a really, really sharp plane. If you were to find that you had to resharpen every 40 or 50 strokes to keep your plane properly sharp, do it. You can take unbelievably fine cuts with a truly sharp plane iron, and you cannot do it as well with any other tool yet devised. You can certainly get rid of chatter marks.
I, for instance, would love to have a Morgan Mill, for a variety of reasons, but I am absolutely convinced that I could never do with those scraper-configuration blades the things I can do with my Records and L-N's.
I also accept that some production-style makers achieve very good results with power milling tools, but I would contend that the great advantage of these machines is their speed and repeatability of production, and that neither can they achieve anything approaching the satisfaction of seeing (and feeling) a long .002" curl of bamboo roll off the strip, unbroken from the butt to the tip. (Peter McKean)
In many instances I agree with you 100%. But I do worry about charring. Using my cheap heat gun on its highest setting, I rarely heat any strip for more than 25-30 seconds. Over the course of 70+ rods, I've learned that the "plasticizing" of bamboo is much more subtle than I first thought when I read the instructional texts. Here's an idea... one might heat for 20 seconds, then try to bend and hold. Next try 25 seconds.... then 30, etc. My guess is that the bamboo will bend and hold its new shape much sooner than many of us might think. At the first hint of browning on the pith, the color of very light toast, the strip is warmer than is really necessary to straighten.
I don't sand strips very often, but on those rare occasions I do, can't see that it hurts anything. (Harry Boyd)
Well, practice with straightening strips and flattening nodes continues, and seems to be improving. Looks like I was getting a bit too impatient with the heat gun, as a slower, more measured approach to heating nodes and bends has resulted in getting them to submit without scorching the cane.
Based on some good info provided by a list member, plus a few tidbits gleaned from the 'net, I was inspired to change up plans for #1 from a traditional hex to a two-strip (aka "Poor Man's") quad. I was struck with the elegant simplicity of the technique and the lack of the necessity for special forms, etc. Besides, the freeform nature of planing a 2SQ strip is real good practice for learning to keep a plane level. Another selling point was the relative ease and quickness in proceeding from a set of raw strips to a rod/blank. Closest thing to "instant gratification" one is going to get in bamboo rodmaking.
Not that I'm in a big rush to have #1 in hand, since it will be a while yet before water resumes a liquid state. However, it seems to me to be practice with a point at the very least, and at best I get a nice, serviceable rod out of the deal.
What's not to like?
So, I grabbed the lower half of the "good" culm and proceeded to split out the requisite strips. Of course, the "good" cane had to have a mind of its own as far as being split went. :-/
Generated some interesting looking scraps. Finally got four serviceable strips split out and did some of the prep work. Amazingly enough, the strips came out fairly straight, and won't need too much straightening. Once I get the nodes flattened and the edges squared, I should be good to go for the first session of planing.
Anyhow, with a three-day weekend coming up, I ought to have the free time to make considerable headway.
Never hurts to check out craft/fabric stores. Never know what you might find, be it feathers, beads, foam, etc., to 00 Clover/Tire silk thread. Not sure why they have it and why the strange color selection (maybe for making silk flowers?), but some of what they have looks like it'll look good on a rod.
And thus doth the world progress. What I had originally planned for #1 will now be #2, since I'll still have the need for a short spring creek/panfish rod. Then, perhaps a 2SQ 8-9 wt. bass/pike rod, and then maybe a traditional wet fly rod, and then... (Todd Enders)
The two-strip quad moves ever on to completion. Butt section has been through the first taper planing, glued up, bound, and will have gone through post-cure heat treat by late this afternoon. Tip section has had the nodes staggered, trimmed to length, and some initial rough planing done in preparation for some straightening and node work. Hoping to be ready to slather the strips with fine glue in the next day or two.
A sharp plane blade is a thing of beauty! Makes short (not to mention less) work of strips. Sharpen early, sharpen often!
A Nagura stone is almost magic on a 6000 grit or finer waterstone. Those fine surfaces tend to load up with metal in sharpening pretty quick if the waterstone is used "naked". Rub it down with the Nagura before starting that last polishing, and the difference is amazing! The metal fines stay on top, the stone doesn't load up, and you get there faster. Really amazing difference!
Lesson learned: Mark your strips so you can positively and instantly tell the desired orientation. I'd marked the butt ends of the strips with a black marker. Not eye catching enough to keep me from tapering one strip "wrong way 'round". Fortunately, it was pretty symmetric with regards to node spacing and placement, so I didn't screw the stagger up, but a minor surface flaw that I'd hoped to hide under the grip now resides at the other end of the section. Doh!!! Probably hurts nothing to mark the pith side as well as the end to identify which end of the strip is which.
For a two-strip quad, it's probably not a bad idea to split the stations and interpolate the intermediate heights to give a more uniform taper, since it's all done "freehand." IMHO, it's more trouble than it's worth to go much finer than halfway between stations (like say every inch or less), but if you want to be that "precise", knock yourself out. , but checking your work at the halfway points works for me.
A reloading/powder scale makes mixing small quantities of two part glues by weight a snap. Been mixing in pop bottle tops (plastic), and using scrap bamboo slivers to mix. Using cheap flux brushes to apply (3 for $0.79). About 3/4 a bottle cap worth of mixed glue was sufficient for the butt section. The tip will take less.
Hand-binding glued sections is sticky business. Never hurts to keep hand-cleaning supplies close at hand. Latex gloves will keep your hands clean, but the loss of feel may bother some. I prefer to work bare-handed, and clean hands before reversing direction. If I were doing more than the odd rod here and there, a decent binder would certainly be in order!
Did some finishing work on a test section I'd done for practice. Had glued it up with resorcinol, so that I might check my work insofar as glue lines and such goes. Actually came out looking good, with no screaming glue lines. For freehand planing/scraping, that's not too bad. A wipe with some tung oil varnish left me with a halfway decent looking pointer stick/baton blank.
So, the butt section ought to be ready for hardware shortly, with the tip ready shortly thereafter. More learning yet ahead w.r.t. wraps and such The rod will not be "perfect," and as a first effort I never expected it to be. Should be good, though, as a fishing instrument, though there will doubtless be nits folks could pick about it. Frankly, I could care less. A decent rod that gets used will accrue "character" in short order. A rod with "character" to begin with is just that much ahead of the curve! (Todd Enders)
Now have a glued-up tip section to go with the butt of the two-strip quad.
Planing the tip strips was a thought provoking experience, given the thinness one has to work to. You will fast find out whether your plane is sufficiently tuned and whether the blade is sharp enough. Prayer doesn't hurt, either. I clearly need to work over my plane more thoroughly, since it seems there's still some cupping of the sole. Just enough to allow the strips to start lifting as the cross-section gets small enough to allow them to flex easily. Makes a body nervous...
I ended up planing down to ~0.060-0.070" before it became worrisome enough to stop and take up the scraper blade. Yeah, ~0.030" is a good ways to scrape, but the slowing down is a good thing, IMHO. You end up having plenty of time to hit your stations with the slower material removal. Yeah, it took me two hours per strip to work them to dimension, but I hit the stations easy enough, didn't mangle or break those thin sections, and everything came out as it should.
Getting the strips as straight as you can manage before starting your planing helps, especially with the tip section. I worked the tip strips over thoroughly before commencing to plane so they'd sit nicely on the board, within 0.020-0.030". Also took any slight kinks out. Seemed to pay dividends, as the tip came out quite straight after hand binding. In working the bends out of the strips, I find that you can get away with less heating than most folks cite.
If you heat until the enamel side is hot enough to the touch that you don't want to leave a finger on it for any great length of time, it's about hot enough that it'll hold the corrective bend when it cools. I hold the bend and gauge whether the strip is cool enough to let go of by touching the strip to my lip, and once it feels cool enough to leave it there, you're good. CAUTION! Wait at least a minute before you try this the first time, or you WILL burn your lip!!!
One really needs to plane the sides of the tip strips, as well as the pith, so that you don't end up with a strip that's 0.175" or so in one plane, and ~0.065" in the other. Will make for difficult planing later on. Doesn't matter so much on the butt section, where there's plenty of meat to support the section while planing to final dimension, but the tip of the tip is pretty delicate when you come down to it, and trying to work a tall, thin cross section down to square with a plane is going to be a real pain. Leave the strip wide enough so you have material left to clean up, but not so much that you're working on an excessively tall section. I worked my strips down to ~0.100" wide at the tip. 3x the thickness is about right.
Also it’s a really good idea to match the width on both strips as close as you can. Makes binding easier, and doesn't introduce any strange kinks or sweeps when you bring the halves together. I calculated the widths and worked to dimension both in width and height. Seemed to work quite well.
Waiting on some hardware, but I'm getting close to having everything to make the push toward the final product. (Todd Enders)
I am really pleased to see that you are getting into high tech rod building. Your finger test is right on. You can not do better than to use that gauge for the heat. While your li test is a bit cutting edge, I think that I would agree that it too is a great idea. (One I will put into effect), You have not mentioned my favorite temperature gauge. The nose. The aroma of cooking cane has an infinite number of permutations, but they are easily learned and far more accurate than any oven thermometer than you can buy. One tip. instead of planing the pith side down on your tips to avoid flat strips, start the planing in a deeper groove and move down to the finer ones. It maintains the integrity of the strip.
As you have pointed out preparatory work on a strip is the key to success. Great Work. (Ralph Moon)
Well, I'm getting close now. Last of the hardware arrived in the post yesterday. I have the tip section of the two-strip quad about half finished.
Only need to work the enamel side to dimension and give it a final sanding to be ready for hardware. Ran into some difficulty with the last 4-5" of the tip. Had left the rough dimensions at about 0.100"x0.070", to get me close, but leave plenty for dimensioning and cleanup, plus leave me as large a support base as prudent to scrape/sand against.
That's still plenty skinny, and in trying to work the 0.100" side down to ~0.060" final dimension, it wanted to twist, etc. under sanding/scraping pressure, and I ended up with that last 3-4" decidedly diamond/lozenge shaped. I was bummed. I contemplated what I was going to do, short of consigning the tip to the tomato stake bin. Measured the long diagonal of the diamond. Hmmm... It's quite wide, isn't it... I've got 0.010" of thereabout to take off from the enamel side... Hmmm... I think I can knock the points off on that long diagonal and maybe get back close to square without screwing this up too much... Hmmm...
Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? Tore off a slip of 400 grit sandpaper, oriented the tip section in hand so that I could pinch the sandpaper down on the desired points, and made a couple swipes with the paper.
Hmmm... This just might work...
Took 1-2 swipes at a shot, then eyeballed the cross-section. When it looked like I was back to square, more or less, I stopped. Measured the cut side width again, and it was still where I wanted it to be. Whew! That was close! Sometimes, it's better to be lucky...
I suspect if I'd been paying closer attention, I might have caught this before I got to that point, and taken corrective action when I still had plenty of leeway. Another lesson learned -- don't take on fine detail work when you're tired. Should have known better, really, as I've been there, done that, on more than one occasion with other things. But, you start working, and it's like potato chips -- you do one station, then another, and another... Before you know it, there's only one station on the section plus the very tip to work down. Gee, long as I'm here, might as well finish up... Of course, having not quit while one was ahead, the "uh oh" moment comes upon you in short order.
Anyway, hanging up the tip with a fair bit of weight (~5#) after gluing and binding got me a really straight section (of course, getting the two strips straightened out as well as I could before glue-up didn't hurt either . Won't have to do any additional straightening to the tip. Sweet!
Now, the final push begins. Part of the "fun" is in finding ways to fit square pegs into round holes. Going to shave down the corners of the butt ~0.030" each to accommodate the reel seat insert. I cannot see where this would compromise things, and much easier than trying to ream the hole in the insert out 0.060", and the attendant risk of cracking same.
Then, there's the matter of the grip. Using a pre-fab'd one, with the usual 0.250" round hole. Need to get that to an ~0.270" square. If I can find my loose abrasive collection out in the shop, I'm thinking a tapered-square section of appropriate dimensions, slathered with epoxy and dusted with say 120 grit should do quite nicely, I would think. Now, if I can't, then I have a problem.
Anyone have any other ideas on making that round hole square?
Still doing much contemplating about wraps and such. Going to be wrapping with Clover/Tire #50 size (~00) silk. Played around with wrapping on my test section using 6/0 and 8/0 fly tying thread, just to get the hang of it. Have much respect for those using Pearsall's Gossamer and other fine diameter silks. Figured somewhat thicker, easier to handle thread would be better for a relative klutz like myself.
We shall see. The anticipation grows as each point is passed in the process. Still many decisions, but most of those are more cosmetic/aesthetic. Maybe it's a good thing the water around here is still solid... Temptation becoming strong to affix the guides with strapping tape and just go fishing... (Todd Enders)
If the grit/epoxy doesn't work (or maybe anyway) try gluing 120 grit sandpaper to the tapered square stock. (I would NOT use pressure sensitive adhesive sandpaper, it doesn't seem to stick very well for me.) (Neil Savage)
I use a square file from Harbor Freight. Think it cost about $4. I do not like the reamers, bad experience with a plastic blank with the grit sticking to the inside of the cork rings and scratching the blank.
I said grit, not GRITS. (Scott Grady)
Grit, hmmm, well, no style points for you then.
I'll second the advice about using the grit, I had the same experience once upon a time. (Larry Blan)
Had the same experience with grit coming off of one of those glue and grit creations and then scratching the blank as I fit the grip. I wouldn't try to eat those grits though. (Bill Walters)
Would like to let you all know that rod #1 is now ready for the water.
Is it perfect? Not hardly! It's not half bad, though, (if I do say so myself and casts mighty fine. In the end, that's what really matters. Aesthetics are all well and good (and I've certainly made some decisions based on my own aesthetic sense), but when one is just starting down this road, you do the best you can, and picky aesthetic points be damned!
Anyhow, a tip of the cap to all that have borne with my ramblings, offered assistance, answered questions, etc. Special tips to Darrol Groth for everything he's done to help me reach the finish line, and to Tony Spezio for lending an ear and offering sage advice.
OK, enough already! Now, all I need to do is get a line on the reel, and wait for some warmer weather to terrorize the local fish population.
Will let y'all know when it brings the first fish to hand. (Todd Enders)
Congratulations. I suspect no future rod will be as enjoyable to you. Looks like with Darrol and Tony you had some good advisers. (Harry Boyd)
Congrats. (Ron Revelle)
Thanks to all who have provided comments on my first rod! All y'all sure know how to make a body blush! (Todd Enders)
Breaking In #1
After finishing #1 a couple months ago, all that remained was to properly try it on some fish. Unfortunately, the weather gods have been somewhat uncooperative over that time, and fishing in general hasn't exactly been hot around here.
Anyhow, Thursday was the first decent day in at least three weeks -- not pouring rain, not cold, not windy. Sunshine and light breeze, plus it being quiet at work was giving me the itch to head to a little trout lake about a half hour's drive away and see if I could tempt the denizens of the deep to come forth and flex some finely planed, glued, and varnished bamboo.
So, cut out for the lake after lunch. It was a fair bit windier there when I arrived, but not so much so that I was willing to leave #1 in the car and break out the heavy artillery. Strung up #1, and tied on a damsel nymph. Worked my way down the west side. Didn't take long before the wind was up enough that I was getting blown into the fly eating trees behind on some back casts, but I managed to retrieve my fly OK with some branch bending. Not much happening. Birds are working over the water, and I see midges coming off in quiet, sheltered areas. Also a good number of adult damsels buzzing around. Suppose the wind was maybe 15 mph., or a tad more.
Wasn't there too long before a G&F vehicle shows up. First time I've seen them out there. Chatted with the warden a bit, and found out they stocked about six weeks ago. Hmmm... I would have thought I'd have run into some of those small rainbows last time I was out, as they're usually pretty stupid the first few weeks after they're dumped in. Anyhow, the warden was out to throw some grass seed on bare spots up where they did the renovation work last year. He was soon done and on his way.
Back to peace and quiet. Kept working down the shoreline, and finally got a hit -- and a good one at that. Strangely, after a couple shakes, the fish breaks off. Sure, I only had 5x tippet on, but it's unusual on this lake to hook into anything that'll break you off that quick. I figure the end of the tippet had got beat up getting snarled and extricated from the trees.
Since I wasn't exactly having fast and furious action on the damsel, I switched to a #6 bead head sparkle leech. Big, gaudy thing. Since the damsel got hit just ticking the weed tops, I figured something that got deep quicker was in order. Too much fly for the rod and conditions though, and I couldn't cast it worth a hoot. Kept on flogging for a while, trying to make it work, but never did get the fly to go where I wanted.
Finally figured I needed to switch fly, tactic and venue, so, remembering the midges coming off, I went and rigged up with a midge pupa pattern called a "Chromie" (hot fly on the lakes up in BC these days) and an indicator. Set the depth at about 3'. This rig cast much better, and I tried the west shoreline again for a bit before moving down to a little bay that's been good to me in the past.
Was a little deep at 3', at least where I had been, as the fly would occasionally get hung in the weeds, and the wind-induced current would pull the indicator under. Raised it about 6", and figured I was good. So, I got to my spot at the little bay and made a cast.
Intently watched the indicator, and it wasn't too long before something swirled on it. The indicator danced a bit, and I flipped the rod tip for good measure, but nothing there. Recast, and let the rig drift in the wind. This is a good method on stillwaters where you have a ripple on the water, as the indicator imparts some action to the fly, and with the right setup, it mimics the movement of the naturals nicely. Sure, it's glorified bobber fishing, but it works a treat.
Anyhow, I'm watching the indicator drift, and suddenly it slowly and smoothly gets drawn under. I'm thinking I got up a bit shallow again, and snagged some weeds. Flicked the rod tip, and the line comes up solid. Oh jeez, I know there's a branch or two in this spot (have snagged them on occasion), so I put more tension on the line. It's not moving. Crap. Maybe I can still put a bit more oomph on it and not bust anything...
Hmmm... it gave way a bit, but I'm definitely wrapped around something. Hopefully I can pull it in and get my fly back, at least. I slacked off pressure just a bit, and I feel "shake, shake, shake."
Whoa! Something down there doesn't like this! I'll bet I know what's going to happen next... Sure enough, whatever has my fly bolts. Feels like I'm hooked to the bumper of a truck departing at speed! #1 gets bent sharply, and I'm trying to maintain enough pressure to keep whatever it is from reaching the cattails on the far bank. If it gets in there, I'm done.
I play tug o' war with whatever it is for a good while (feels like 5 minutes at least) before it decides to come up out of the hole enough that I can see sides flash. Lordy, it is a good one! Not sure what it is yet. I feel a bit outgunned, though -- 7' 4 wt. with 5x and something a fair bit larger than the average trout or small bass on the other end...
Seemed like forever, but probably only a couple minutes more, and the fish finally comes up to the top. Oh my, it's a brownie, and looks to be 19-20" or so, built like a salmon. He's not happy to be on top, either. Finally he seems like he's giving in, although still a bit green. I don't like to fight fish to exhaustion, so I got him to my feet, grabbed the leader and reached down to tail him. Really needed a cloth to give me better grab. Tail near thick as my wrist. Soon as he feels my hand close on him, he gives a flip, and busts me off, although still at my feet. Tried to scoop him, but as soon as I got my hand under him, he wheeled and zipped for the depths. :-/
Ah well, I figure if I touch them, they're caught for all intents and purposes. If I'd had a net, there'd been no question of him. Would have liked to at least laid the rod next to him and gauge his length. But still, what a first fish!
Could have left then and been more than amped about the whole deal, but I had time yet, and since I'd not had a decent outing there this season, I was bound and determined to fish until I needed to leave.
Rerigged with another Chromie and got back to working the water. My attention started to wander after a while, and I knew I was soon going to be ready to either change flies or go home. Checked the time, and figured another 10-15 minutes and I'd be outta there.
Recast the rig at that point, and watched the indicator. Within a minute, I see it wiggle slightly, and repeat the slow disappearing act. Flipped the rod tip and near got the line jerked out of my hand! Don't tell me I hooked up with another big brown...
But, that's just what it was! It'd been 19 months, give or take, between the first (20.5") big brown I landed out there and the one I'd just brought to my feet. Now, ~20 minutes later, I've got another one? You've gotta be kidding me!
He didn't quite have as much fight as the previous one, but he gave me quite a ride nonetheless. I now knew I could "give him the butt" pretty safely, and had a feel for how much pressure I could safely put on the rod without too much danger of snapping it. I dearly wanted to land this one, and wore him down a bit more. He was on his side when I finally brought him to my feet. He didn't protest too much as I took him from the water. I lipped him, actually, which was not exactly the best idea I ever had, but I could get a solid grip at least. Man, there's teeth in there, but I should be OK, as long as he doesn't shake on me...
You know he did, don't you? Not quite as bad as having your hand in a pike's mouth, but pretty close. My right thumb is boogered up a bit -- cut at the base of the nail, and punctured in several places on the pad, but it was worth it! Swear to God he was a twin of the first one, and I more than half expected to find my other fly still in his mouth, but it wasn't the case. He had some healed over line cuts around his snout, so he's been around the block a time or two. Looked like a bird peck scar on his head as well, but he was otherwise bright and healthy.
Laid him up on the grass, took my rod and laid it alongside. Matched the end of his tail to the bottom of the cap, and put a finger where the end of his nose came. Took the hook and scratched a witness mark, then got the fish back in the water and revived him. He swam off, surely wiser, but otherwise none the worse for wear. Figured I'd done more than enough good for one day, so I reeled up and headed back to the car.
Had a Sharpie in the glove box, and inked in the witness mark. 'Twas special enough to warrant that. Pity I didn't have a camera with me though, as I'd have loved to have had a picture of him alongside the rod. Ah well, maybe when I catch that 30" brown I saw out there last year... (assuming he's still there...
Too sweet, but gives one pause as to how it'll be topped. Not that it needs to, mind you. Certainly an auspicious start for my first rod. (Todd Enders)