Words and Images from Ed Felker

One Fly Rod, Fifteen Anglers: A Journey


I recently had the privilege of participating in a unique and special project put together by the folks at the Outdoor Blogger Network. Fifteen bloggers from all across the United States were selected to receive this custom-built bamboo fly rod made by Fall River Fly Rods, fish with it, write about it and pass it along to the next blogger on the list. The South Fork model 5-weight rod comes with a beautiful reel from Montana Fly Company loaded with Rio line, and after each has had a turn with it, one participant will get to keep it!

When the rod arrived at my post office, having only made three stops so far (Arizona, New Mexico and Alabama) the shipping tube it came in was already getting the look and feel of a world traveled suitcase with stickers and labels all over it. Inside, the rod case alone is a thing of beauty, but as I took everything out and put it together I was really impressed by the wonderful craftsmanship that went into the rod. I had known for some time that I would be taking part in this, but now it was here, it was real, and it was exciting. I couldn’t wait to get that line wet and fish with this piece of art!

I had to bring this rod to my favorite trout fishing spot in the area, Rose River Farm in scenic Madison County, Virginia. I arrived in the evening, with just enough light left to try for one of the many rising trout I could see along the entire stretch of river at the farm. So I carefully assembled the rod and realized I had a new top priority above even catching fish: Do Not Break This Rod! So, slowing down, methodically stringing the rod and making sure I didn’t do anything stupid like leave the spare rod tip partially out of the case where I could sit on it or something, I was finally ready to fish.

This was my first time fishing with bamboo, and it took a few minutes to get a feel for it. But the learning curve was not as great as I had anticipated. Short casts were difficult, I found, but once I got some line out, I was comfortable with the rod in no time. And with the June light fading in a pink sky, the black water around my fly broke in a burst of life as a rainbow rose to it. Fish on.

This rod is not light, in fact it feels quite stout for a 5-weight. But the tip is very responsive to a fighting fish. I really loved having this rainbow on the line and wanted to savor the moment, but I also needed to make sure I got it all the way to hand so I could get a picture of my first fish on bamboo. My first fish as my part of this rod’s journey.

The next morning brought perfect conditions, a few friends and one very special guest to the farm.

Photo by Steve Hasty.

I had met General Conway (left), retired four star general and the 34th Commandant of the Marine Corps, at a Project Healing Waters event a month earlier, and his speech was awe inspiring. This man simply exudes leadership, and it was an honor to spend time with him.

I told the general about the bamboo rod project and asked if he would fish a little bit with it. He graciously agreed, and it was fun to watch him cast this rod so beautifully.

Photo by Steve Hasty.

Here he is with the Outdoor Blogger Network South Fork rod. A big thanks to General Conway for helping add some unique history to the path this rod will take before settling down in one of fifteen permanent homes.

Photo by Steve Hasty.

After a nice lunch with the general, it was time to have some fun with this rod and try to get into some more fish. The dry flies weren’t working anymore, so I tried nymphs and even some streamers. I got very comfortable with the rod trying many different styles and approaches to casting and fishing.

This nice Rose River rainbow fell for my antics and was kind enough to stick around for a photo.

And another.

I released my last fish of the day back into the cool Rose, and closed the book on a fun and memorable day of fishing, thus ending my chapter of this rod’s story. Unless of course I am lucky enough to end up with it in the end, in which case you will see a lot more of this bamboo rod here!

Let’s have one last look at the beautiful Montana Fly Company reel under the water’s surface. Good luck to Joel in South Carolina who has the rod now, and to everyone who will share and add to its unique history. Waters in Vermont, Michigan, Illinois, Utah, Washington and Oregon will see this rod before it’s all said and done. I am proud to have been a part of it all. Thank you to the Outdoor Blogger Network, Fall River Fly Rods, Montana Fly Company and Rio for conceiving such a fun and different project.

15 Responses

  1. What a fantastic concept, the rod looks like work of art. The stories and this type of unique experience are why I became intrested in the world of blogs. Thank you for sharing!

    June 17, 2012 at 4:39 pm

  2. Great post Ed! I am also one of the “Fortunate Fifteen, and while I am not a Marine Veteran, I am a Veteran, so knowing that someone like General Conway has fished with the rod too makes it even more special for me.. Is there anyway I could get a coin from him? Please?
    HOO AHH!
    Brian
    SSG(RET)
    UTARNG/USA

    June 17, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    • Haha! Man, I didn’t even get a coin from him! That was given to my friend who is the Chairman of the Board of Project Healing Waters. I just took a picture of it, but boy was it special spending time with him. Brian, have a blast with the rod when you get it, and thank you for your service!

      June 17, 2012 at 6:03 pm

      • Thought I’d ask, it never hurts to ask.. I spent 21 years in the Utah National Guard, in both the Air and the Army, and during my last four years I was mobilized on active duty with a Warrior Transition Unit, it the most humbling job I have ever had..
        I am very excited to be a part of this have been giving lots of thought to the post I want to make. I hope it turns out like I have it planned out.
        Brian

        June 17, 2012 at 6:08 pm

  3. Jay

    Ed,
    Great write up and a great contribution to the rod’s history. Hopefully I’ll get my post up soon. Lately, life has gotten in the way of blogging and fishing.

    June 18, 2012 at 12:37 pm

  4. They picked you perfectly as a participant. Your attention to detail in word and photographs made this satisfying to read for even someone like me who has never done fly fishing. Nice job! And fantastic write up.

    June 18, 2012 at 2:24 pm

  5. That’s a great story. That’s a great way to get a bamboo fly rod. A friend of mine got one as a gift from a different company, Sweetgrass Rods, and has been loving it.

    June 18, 2012 at 8:38 pm

  6. I know next to nothing about fly fishing, but the photos are just beautiful! And the rod is actually very nice. What a privilege to meet General Conway! Debra

    June 19, 2012 at 12:52 am

    • I’m sorry your comment got held up in a spam folder for some reason. I just noticed it. But I appreciate your comment, and all the ‘Likes’ you have given my posts in the past. Thanks for reading!

      June 29, 2012 at 10:35 am

  7. This has to be handsdown one of the best fly fishing stories I’ve ever read. Wow. Somehow I missed this on OBN but I’m very happy I came across it on your blog. And fishing with Gen. Conway, I mean wow. Really looking forward to reading more DFP. Oh and by the way…how weird is this, I literally just find and am reading your blog and my inbox dings–and I see you liked one of my posts. Neat.

    July 19, 2012 at 6:25 pm

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  10. Reblogged this on Everett Reynolds Blog.

    September 20, 2012 at 5:17 pm

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