James Reid is a highly respected bamboo rod builder from North Vancouver, British Columbia. His rods have been described as “the closest feeling to graphite out there” which despite them being all wood and proudly so, is a testemant to the ongoing research and development he has put into hollow built bamboo. We are no longer surprised at the number of his rods that come through our lodges as everyone seems to be in line for the next one.
Question 1: Where did your love of bamboo grow out of?
A: Well…. Once upon a time…. Nope, it’s not that good of a story! The dirt most likely….. no, no seriously. I would say that my love of fishing with bamboo came from the very first vintage bamboo rod that I ever cast. I had built a few graphite blanks out by this time and I purchased a cool looking old 9’ bamboo rod in a wooden form case that needed to have some work done to it to make it fishable again, it was a bit of a basket case. I re-did the whole rod top to bottom and the process took me ages! This rod was a terrible caster, beyond slow with an action similar to a buggy-whip, the tip would deflect wildly while casting the rod and it was about as accurate as playing darts blindfolded….. Still, there was something there that I really enjoyed the feel of, the feel of the line loading the rod was intoxicating. It wasn’t until I had spent some more time learning the history of the split-cane rod that I found out my introductory rod was basically a bottom shelf, mass produced, glorified tomato stake that you would have purchased from your local hardware store for about $0.75 way back in the 1920’s….. The modern day equivalent of walking into Wally-World and picking up a snoopy combo setup. There has been a tremendous amount of Bamboo rods thru my hands since that first one, vintage examples, modern makers as well as my own designs. All of them have been better than that first rod in every way… but that first one sure did get into my blood. When she bit me, she bit me hard.
Question 2: The creation of one of your rods is a long process. How long? Can you take me quickly through the steps of making a bamboo rod?
A: Sure, depending on the configuration of the rod I am making each rod would take between 35-65 hours to make. Length, line weight, number of sections, guide wraps, single hand, two handed, number of tip sections all have a factor in the amount of time it takes to create one of my rods. This of course is only referring to the physical time spent making each rod and does not make any account for time spent designing, re-designing, testing, fishing or casting rods, nor does it factor in time spent with my clients discussing their personal fishing, needs, wants, desires, abilities or experiences. These “other” parts of the process are very enjoyable and rewarding on many levels and as such, they really are un-quantifiable.
The process of making a J.M. Reid Bamboo rod really has almost too many steps to break down and list individually… so I will instead offer this brief explanation. First an appropriate stick of bamboo is chosen based on the rod that I wish to make from it. That stick (culm in bamboo speak*) is then subjected to fire in excess of 3600*F (flaming*), knifed into strips (splitting*), carved into tapered triangles (tapering*), has it’s guts ripped out (hollowbuilt*), slathered in formaldehyde (gluing*), has its skin scraped from its body (final finishing and buffing*) before being plunged into a vat of VOC’s (impregnating*)…… if the bamboo survives this onslaught… we can now call it a “blank”. Once the impregnation has cured, the torture continues…. the blanks are sliced on an angle on the ends, agonizingly slowly (spliced joints*) before being bound (guide wraps*) and gagged (cork*) and finally, at the end of all of this….. like a final slap in the face…. I tie a rope to the now completed rod and whip the last traces of defiance from the once proud bamboo (test casting*)……. And they say that bamboo rods are fragile. (tongue firmly planted in cheek*)!!!!
Question 3: Are you at all worried about Pandas? Bahahaha! Okay real question, is there a situation where bamboo doesn’t cut it? Like do you ever find yourself using graphite?
A: Pandas are a serious concern! Luckily for us, the Panda does not inhabit the same region in China where Tonkin Cane is grown…. So I can sleep well knowing that I am not stealing eats from the mouths cute little baby Pandas! Seriously tho…. I do own a few graphite fly rods in 15’-16’ lengths. Bamboo rods just cannot compete with the responsiveness of modern graphite in these lengths. A well-cast long belly line on a 15’ composite rod is a real thing of beauty and I enjoy fishing in this way on some rivers almost as much as I do fishing a 12’ hollow-built bamboo rod… ALMOST!! ….
Question 4: What’s coming up in 2016 James Reid? Trips, milestones…
A: This year is shaping up into an amazing year for me as both a rod maker as well as an angler. Having just returned from a trip to the Portland area where I was fortunate to connect with many anglers as well as fish a few days coupled with an earlier trip this year to spend some time on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula this season has already been mind-blowing. In 2016 I hope to further focus on exploring the outer limits of my rod designs in both distance spey casting as well as in salt water fly angling for larger species such as Tarpon and GT’s while continuing to hone and evolve existing rod designs. The fall of this year will see me spending time on steelhead rivers in both southern & central Oregon as well as at home in BC, fishing, speaking with other anglers, testing new rods and spending time at a few lodges and smaller guiding outfitters. Toward the end of this year I am looking to broaden my rodmaking into a different cross-sectional geometry, beyond the hexagon for select rod models and I will be making the first prototypes of these rods in the final months of this year. Throw a trip or 3 in there to the Sandy river Speyclave, the Henry’s Fork and the Spey-o-rama competition held at the historic GGACC in SanFransico and that will just about squeeze everything I could hope for out of this exciting year!
Question 5: Most importantly what’s in your cup right now and why?
A: This is a most important question! It is currently 2:54pm on a Friday afternoon…. Guinness in my glass is about ½ finished and I am undecided if I will have another glass of same, or switch to a nice IPA carefully transported back from Portland or maybe a bit of Sailor Jerry, it is Friday after all……
For info on JM Reid products visit his website at JMReidBamboo.com or James can be reached at his North Vancouver shop at (604) 376-7382 or by email at [email protected] .