The Grass is Sweeter

To my mind there is no fairy wand in creation more graceful and beautiful than a good bamboo fly rod.

John Voelker
Spots Before the Eyes
in Trout Madness

“If you have the okay to pull the trigger, I would do it and enjoy the rod for the rest of your life. You could get run over by a moose tomorrow and then where would you be?” You get advice like that from John Voelker’s grandson and you start to think. Only 500 moose inhabit the Upper Peninsula, but over 400 of those live nearby in Marquette, Baraga, and northern Iron counties. And an adult moose at full speed can have the same momentum as a Prius at 20 mph. I was convinced, but I still needed to secure “the okay to pull the trigger.”

“You know, honey,” I began. “Adam Tsaloff said I should buy a bamboo fly rod because, if I don’t, I could get run over by a moose tomorrow. What do you think about that?”

“Do I get to choose?” she replied.

The next day I noticed that her computer’s web browser was displaying a page for Code Blue Urge Moose Attractant, but, as far as I could tell, all of my fishing gear still had the musty smell of neglect rather than the musky smell of moose.

Two days later I was still alive and none of my gear was dowsed in that “powerful attractant that will last, won’t wash away in the rain, and will keep the moose coming back for more.” An implicit okay to pull the trigger, I decided.

On Adam’s suggestion, I called Sweetgrass Rods in Twin Bridges, Montana and asked to speak with Dave. “Hello Dave. I am the Tim that Adam was speaking of, and I want my fly rod please.”

“Yes, of course. Let me ask a few questions and we’ll find a rod that is perfect for you,” Dave replied. This was much better than being run over by a moose.

Sweetgrass is the perfect place to buy your first bamboo fly rod. For over 30 years, Glenn Brackett hand-crafted bamboo fly rods for the R.L. Winston Rod Company, but, in 2006, Glenn and Jerry Kustich left Winston to start Sweetgrass. Demand for the Boo Boys’ “artisanal craftsmanship” is intense — the waiting time for a custom Sweetgrass rod can be over a year. But, if the stars are aligned just right, you can call Dave and get one of their Mantra rods delivered in a week or two.

On the day my Mantra arrived, I strung up the rod and rushed out to practice my cast on the lawn. My wife drove down the driveway and lovingly asked, “Why don’t you take your new rod to Van Riper State Park today, honey?” Oddly, my waders smelled a little musky, so, rather than fish in the center of moose country, I took the Mantra to a local brook trout stream.

On the ride home from the river and throughout the following day I searched for the right words to describe my experience. In the end, the most appropriate thing I can do is paraphrase Adam’s grandfather:

I love my bamboo fly rod and I choose to think it has a sneaking yen for me.

© 2011 Timothy Schulz

Jerry KustichAugust 3, 2011 - 2:36 am

Very nicely written piece, Tim. The pics are wonderful too. Adam’s grandfather was an inspiration to my writing. More and more the bamboo rod is the thread that links everything together for me. Enjoy your rod and may there be many more perfect days on the stream. Jerry Kustich

uptroutAugust 3, 2011 - 7:46 am

Thanks for the nice words, Jerry, and thanks for making such wonderful rods. I just watched “Trout Grass” again, and the start-to-finish story of a bamboo rod really is special. Magic wands, indeed.

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