My first association with bamboo was as a whippersnapper at the tender age of 8 years. I’d already been introduced to trout fishing a couple years earlier by my father and a close family friend Mr. Lake who became my mentor and who 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 fiberglass, I don’t recall being too fussy which type or make 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 3 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 3 factory tied flies, dyed feathers in gaudy colours, red, yellow and blue and if I recall correctly, tied on # 6’s 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. 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. But, as young boys will poking around in streams, the intended longevity of the rod was 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 and 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 fiberglass 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 my grin.
About 2 years ago Stephen Boshoff one of South Africa’s gifted craftsmen, presented me with an exquisite handmade bamboo fly rod and a magnificent small stream net, incorporating indigenous Besembos inserts in the rod’s reel seat filler and in the net handle. Apart for the fact that they are items of beauty, they are practical fishing implements that exude quality. When the rod was ready Stephen wrote to me stirring the same elating emotion as I experienced when sliding the rod out of its tube for the first time. This is an extract of what he said – “ It is based on a Paul Young midge taper, a classic small stream taper, 6’3” for a 3 or 4 weight line, I suggest a 3 as in action it is quite authoritative, but not fast. In style, I tried to interpret what you would like, classic and no frills, something that doesn’t look and feel modern or even new. It’s an “easy” rod …. I thought of making something which you can use during those easy, uncomplicated and “stolen” escapes: where size and number of casts or even nature of the stream doesn’t matter, but just the fact that you can get away and be content and at peace, Forgive me, but it was contemplated as a grand father’s small stream rod, in a positive sense.”
Stephen Boshoff’s rods are featured on the prestigious http://www.alternativetackle.com website.
Not only a craftsman, but a judge of character who was able to seamlessly connect the two and make me one happy and grateful flyfisherman – privileged indeed, for me the perfect rod. I’m reminded of the words of Vincent C Marinaro in his book ‘In the Ring of the Rise”, “….. bamboo, being a natural product, like flesh and blood, can establish a greater affinity with its owner than any other material. There can be a powerful bond between them, an identification, that lets the caster feel that the rod is an extension of his own personality.” And, as Harry Middleton put it in his delightful book, “The Earth is Enough – growing up in a world of Flyfishing, Trout & Old Men”, “ … such a fish demanded, of course, special attention, certain considerations, a method of pursuit as finicky and fastidious as their own behavior. A curious fish insists on a curious form of angling, one heavy with respect, tradition, skill and a challenge. If there was only one fish in our lives, so was there only one way to fish for it – with the fly rod. And not just any fly rod, but A subtle, willowy, handmade bamboo fly rod, a good line, a trust-worthy reel, tippets as delicate as gossamer, and the smallest dry flies possible.”
In the eyes of HM I think I’ve just about got it right.
My rod and net with a beautiful Bushmans River Brown trout
Tucked away in the peaceful hamlet of Scarborough on the Cape Peninsular a short distance from Cape Town is a small unpretentious workshop where Stephen makes his fine bamboo rods, beautiful fishing nets, fly boxes and other exquisitely crafted bamboo and wooden products. Time spent in his workshop on the city’s edge is an escape from the bustle of the city and professional life, A place where he works his magic to the sounds and smells of the Atlantic Ocean a stones throw away. A deep thinker, quietly spoken, humble and generous, Stephen is one of South Africa’s leading craftsmen, innovative and creative in this field of specialty.
Any one interested in finding out more about Stephen’s bamboo rods and other fine hand-crafted products, can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on cell 0823767381
Some of Stephen’s fine handcrafted products for the discerning flyfisher.
Please note that all written and photographic material contained in this blog and its posts are the sole ownership of the author/photographer and may not be copied or used for any purpose whatsoever without the prior consent of the author/photographer having been obtained – Peter Brigg.