A couple weeks ago I was fortunate to travel to the driftless region in Wisconsin for a gathering of bamboo enthusiasts. After unpacking a few rods and chatting with my host we quickly made plans for the evening rise. I offered him a rod to fish for the evening and he likewise asked me if I would like to fish with something from his collection. He had a terrific Garrison 212 and I had never cast one let alone fished with one so thought this would be a great opportunity.
I should mention for those who are unfamiliar that Garrison rods hold an exalted status to folks familiar with cane rods. There was a book written by Hoagy Carmichael that detailed Garrison cane rod construction techniques. This book was the genesis for a whole slew of aspiring bamboo rod makers and is likely the reason the craft is alive today. There are the auction and sales prices for Garrison rods that approach the $10k mark. These factors create an impression that rods by this maker are simply the best ever made. It was with these thoughts that I set out for a couple hours on a small spring creek.
First I had to walk through an overgrown pasture area and crawl under a barbed wire fence to gain access to the stream. When you are holding an irreplaceable fishing rod these obstacles created a little greater anxiety than normal. I soon found a nice run with a few rising trout and made my first casts with the rod. Soon I was fighting a nice brown trout and released it quickly. Having broken the ice I was able to concentrate more on the performance of the rod. I know some of you are expecting me to describe some transformational moment, but it wasn’t that. I found that I was fishing with a nice casting fly rod that worked well. It was a little depressing as I had these huge expectations and it turns out it was just a really nice fly rod.
I know some of you might be thinking who are you to make judgement on a rod made by such a master of the craft. You are right I don’t have any special qualifications to pass judgement other than being someone who fishes with bamboo. In reflection I think Garrison would probably be happiest that I trudged through overgrown pasture, crossed the barb wire, and started catching fish. Isn’t that what fishing rods are for?