BAMBOO — A glimpse into the “dark side” — by Peter Brigg

I HAVE, over the course of my life, been connected with bamboo on three separate occasions. It could be said that I have moved in and out of the “dark side” — some of it pleasurable, some that brings back memories of anxiety and the discovery of right from wrong. ... My first association with bamboo was as a whippersnapper at the tender age of eight years. I’d already been introduced to trout fishing a couple of years earlier by my father and a close family friend, Mr Lake. He became my mentor and managed, with minimum effort and stimulating the obsession on my part, to get me hooked on flyfishing.

My interest in trout fishing developed as only it can with the urgency and enthusiasm of young boys — infatuation matured into longing, deep and abiding. With it came the yearning and desire. I ached to own my own fly-rod, to follow the dream, the need to stand in the stream, feel the tug of the cold water and cast a line. In those days of bamboo and fibreglass, I don’t recall being too fussy which type or make I got, as long as it managed to get a fly onto the water with a little help from myself and depending, of course, on the generosity of the seniors to take me fishing.

The show of enthusiasm did its trick and I was eventually presented with a three-piece bamboo rod of unknown origins that cast like a noodle of cooked spaghetti. It came neatly laid out in a plywood box — two tip sections and three factory-tied flies, dyed feathers in gaudy colours — red, yellow and blue — and, if I recall correctly, tied on #6s with barbs like grappling hooks.

If you were lucky enough not to scare the fish into the river in the next valley and by chance happened to hook an unfortunate trout, there was simply no prospect of escape for the hapless creature unless the 20 lb monofilament tippet broke or the knot of the inexperienced hand came apart. Even if it did manage to escape in this way, it was certain of a multi-coloured appendage hanging from its lip for its remaining years, probably destined to a life of rejection by its own kind as that “punk” from the pool downstream.

Fortunately for the trout, Mr Lake kept me supplied with popular flies of the day — Invictas, March Browns, Teal and Greens and a few others. However, in fairness I was as proud as punch of the little stick, and while it remained intact it did catch its share of trout. I even made my own wooden fly-box with cork insert to complete my needs. Not what one could call “craftsman standards” and of debatable family heirloom status, but I was in the zone. I was happy and so were those around me who relished the change from the yearning kid to one with a grin from ear to ear.

However, inevitably, in the hands of a young boy poking around in streams, the intended longevity of the rod was cut relatively short. After a few years of use and quite a number of enjoyable moments, with tips glued, wired and bound with bright green electrical insulation tape, it was eventually put out to pasture, backbone broken, never to be used again. My father saw this coming, and the day the plywood box was closed for the last time I was presented with a brand new fibreglass fly-rod and small Hardy reel. It went on to serve me well, and although it has been in retirement now for many years, the greatest result for my parents was that its introduction managed to maintain the grin. And so, I’d moved in and out of the “dark side” for the first time, an enjoyable and memorable experience and one that solidified my obsession for flyfishing.

The second association with bamboo was somewhat less enjoyable, indeed far less pleasant, with memories that are probably best erased. I suppose, though, that it was with intentions of teaching right from wrong after all other methods had failed.

Read the full story in the October/November 2011 issue of FLYFISHING.
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