IMG_5946Before any of my family members reading get grossed out, as I understand it “my first boner” is the phrase used when hooking into your first bonefish. Thanks to my new willing wife, I was able to do just that during our recent honeymoon in Mexico.

Despite the general American perception of Mexico being a total war zone I convinced Heather to venture off the manicured landscape of our 5-star resort for a day of guided flat fishing. In doing so I was responsible for setting up all transportation to meet our guide for the day. This would  include a cab ride from resort, to a ferry, followed by one last cab ride to our destination.

The moment we left the resort I could sense Heather’s fear. She was convinced she would be kidnapped and forced into human slave trafficking. I, on the other hand, was totally fine. The first cab was clean, professional, and in uniform. The ferry was one of the nicest ferrys I had ever traveled on. Alex, our guide was waiting for us at the end of the pier; he led us to a cab, said something to the driver in Spanish and told us he would meet us at our destination. Still on our own and now traveling in an area that had much less of the tourist feel we had seen earlier that morning, I also began to sweat a little. Once we turned onto a dirt road, I officially became worried. We slowly bounced down this dirt road for what felt like forever, jungle towered over the cab on each side. Random roadside trash was the only other sign of previous travelers. However, relief finally came over me when I saw water on the horizon.

We met Alex along the shoreline at his tied up Panga – the Mexican version of a skiff. As we were loading up, another random guy approached us.  He and Alex said something in Spanish and then both began to yell at one another. Standing just feet away from two strange men with your wife as they scream at one another in a language you don’t understand is a very uncomfortable situation. The guy we don’t know breaks from Spanish, looks at Heather and says, “Listen to me.” Alex jumps and  yells, “NO! Don’t listen. He is not a fisherman!” They again exchange words and then Alex continues to load the boat. Heather and I look at the other guy waiting to hear what he has to say. I expected for him to tell us it was not safe, and that Alex is going to take us out to the ocean and kill us both.  The man looks at Heather and me. “I can take you to Pleasure Island cheaper!” Okay. Now the argument becomes a little less foreign. Had I not just gotten married, a trip to Pleasure Island would be damn tempting. Instead, Heather and I stare at the guy blankly and he walks away. Alex chuckles. “Dis guy crazy. We go fishing.” Fifteen minutes into fishing and I had hooked my first bonefish – baby bonefish to be correct. The fish ran so fast and pulled with so much strength I feared I would lose the rod halfway through the fight. Thankfully I managed to hold and catch eight bonefish from the crystal clear water throughout the day. While I spent the day rod bent, wading the flats, Heather sat in the Panga reading her book and soaking in way too much sun. She was a trooper, further reassuring me that the  “I Do” I had proclaimed just a few days earlier was the right answer.IMG_5942

Looking back at how young we were when our dating started is mind blowing. I was 16 and just starting to seriously get into fly fishing and fly tying. Heather accepted my weird hobby and we continued to date. We were your typical young couple. Stupid in love and everyone and their mother prodding us to break from one another and experiment.  We did the opposite. I stopped playing hockey after high school, Heather stopped playing basketball and we both stayed home for college together. Fast forward to last week when our wedding day finalllllly arrived we had been together for 12 years straight, not a day’s break, and no other girls for this guy (pathetic I know).

Such a long time coming, the big day had my nerves racked for weeks leading up to it. Everyone had advice: “It’s fun” and, “Enjoy the day.” Even author and guide Ed Engle offered me some valuable advice about enjoying the moment. Upon our wedding day everything was going as planned. Surprisingly, all my groomsmen showed up sober and  were taking our preparation fairly serious.  Unfortunately, I guess it is fate that all wedding day celebrations encounter some sort of conflict. Mine came in the form of myself and my bride’s father screaming at one another; reminiscent of Alex and random Mexican guy. It was literally all over watching television while we got our tuxes on. I was furious for the next hour. All I could think about was her father, whom I historically have not gotten along with. I wanted to knock his teeth out and despite everyone telling me to calm down I couldn’t.

 Few more shots of Bulleit whiskey and it was go time. While standing at the alter I was so nervous that I began having trouble breathing and couldn’t feel my legs. All I could hear was my brother Chow. “Dude breath, breath.”  I motioned to my best man Nick to employ the secret weapon: smelling salts. I breathed deep, my knees straightened and the lightheaded feeling left me. Moments later it happened. Music filled the room and Heather, accompanied by her father, began the walk toward me. Upon laying eyes on Heather it was like we were the only two people in the crowded room. Her father no longer existed despite the two of them walking with arms locked down the aisle. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel all over the country pursuing my passion of catching fish on a fly rod, met a hex hatch with my very first bamboo rod, caught native brookies in Maine over 18 inches, witnessed thousands of amazing moments in my 28 years. Seeing Heather that day was the happiest moment of my life. I honestly didn’t think the mental euporia I felt at that moment could be felt without being on some kind of drugs. But it did, and I will never forget it. photo-16

Having not mentioned Heather much in the blog, I’d at least like to thank her. For putting up with my tackle collecting, my fly tying with feathers everywhere, my rod making, the money I have spent making rods and flies, and most importantly allowing me to turn every vacation into part fishing trip. I have a great one… and I’m never throwing her back. Just kidding with that last cliché, was getting a little soft there. IMG_5909

Now that this wedding horse shit is over it’s rod making time baby! I’ll be in the shop this weekend getting back on track. Next week check the blog for an interview with author of Splitting Cane Ed Engle.

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Wedding and honeymoon are finally over! This weekend I will have a complete recap, which includes my first bonefish trip. In the meantime check this out!!

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“Piss on old time hockey!!!!!”


Despite the title, I would never “piss on old-time hockey.” Those familiar with the movie Slapshot will recall the Charlestown Chief General Manager screaming said line in the team locker room during intermission of the Federal League Championship game. In his rage he proceeds to scream “piss on” everything and everyone. My brothers and I have claimed this statement and use it frequently when presented with an unfortunate circumstance. For example, my fiancé tells me so and so has not responded to the wedding yet. My initial reaction is to say, “Oh piss on it,” and exit the room. At this point I cannot recommend that action to anyone, as this has proven to escalate the problem. Just 18 days until the wedding, I had no idea how much this event would cut into rod making time. Last week I forced myself to get in the shop and do some work (despite not being fitted for my own tuxedo to date).

George and I rough beveled the butt strips for two Payne 200’s. Each have a slightly tweaked taper and I’m anxious to get them done and compare casting characteristics. After finishing up and setting the forms I headed home. Came into the shop the next morning to find my strips soaked. Something had dripped through the floor above the bench and directly on to my strips. I put my hands in it, trying to identify by smell. Nothing. Finally George came down and I told him he must have a pipe leaking or something. He took one whiff, double checked the location and confirmed that his dog Balboa had pissed on the floor above. Subsequently soaking my heat-treated strips, and fingers in urine. Piss on it!!photo.JPG 6

Enough was enough. Deciding then I needed to go fishing. With wedding drama piling up, not being able to work on my rods or writing, I needed to recharge the batteries. Pulled the sick card at work this past Friday, got my gear together, packed my lunch and headed to Big Spring in Newville, Pennsylvania.


photo.JPG 5It was my first time on this stream.  I could not have picked a more frustrating place to try to relieve stress. I brought my driggs river taper, just because I have so much fun casting that rod. As I walked the stream bank I was in awe of the clarity and numerous directions the water swirled about within the stream banks. Shaking my head in disgust I gave up any hope of actually catching a fish. Reminded myself this would be my last fishing trip as a single man, to just relax and enjoy the day.

photo.JPG 3

After about an hour of walking the stream dumbfounded, I decided to sit along the stream bank and wait for a fish to show up. Eventually a decent trout showed himself on the far bank. Feeding  once every ten minutes, then drifting back under a weed bed. I lengthened my leader and tied on a size 22 emerger pattern. To keep my profile down I crawled on my knees into the gin clear water. Then waited for the fish to feed again. I kneeled in the water for 45 minutes before I decided to cast. My first backcast hooked into the tree behind me. Frustrated, I yanked the flies out of the bush (this is a big no-no with a cane rod). Luckily only my connection to the fly failed; no damage to the rod. I did however have to crawl back to the bank, wait while I re-tied a fly on and then again crawl back into the stream. This all being done in as stealthy a manner as I could accomplish, took me about an hour. I was proud of my patience. Again I waited for this fish, who at this point I dubbed “The Bastard” to show himself. He did, and I decided to cast. Not a terrible cast, but it was enough to send him zipping downstream. At least two hours of patient effort and the bastard was gone. Piss on it, absolutely applied to the situation.

But it was all good. The day evolved, allowing every possible stress to be forgotten while I hunted that trout. Even the lonely three hour drive was enjoyable. Furthermore, I have accepted no rod making will get done until I get married and all this planning and preparing is over with. So no more stressing; if something goes awry I’ll tell myself “piss on it” and move on. I have got a lifetime ahead of me for making rods and fishing for bastard trout. As for my pissed on strips, they will become the desired Payne. But I think I’ll soak them in the bathtub, and then reheat, don’t want my rod smelling like dog piss.

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Low and Clear DVD

Most of the Fly Fishing films coming out now, I’m assuming you have to be high on something to get the full effect of the film. Transcient music, psychedelic screen shots and little storyline. Everyone is trying to do this extreme fish porn-style video that doesn’t really appeal to me. This approach strays from what makes the sport so perfect.  My personal favorite fishing video is on tape: Kurt Gowdy and Lee Wulff fishing for huge brook trout in Labrador. I have watched it a zillion times. Lee Wulff battling these ridiculously huge trout on a short bamboo rod; Gowdy casting cane out the front of a canoe. I love it, unfortunately when I moved in to my own home the VCR didn’t come with me. So I have to downgrade from my DVD player and find one on the cheap.

The trailer for Low and Clear did not look like most of the films being produced in todays fly fishing industry. It appeared to have more of a storyline to it. This, paired with the fact I have not been fishing in months led me to pull the trigger.

It was a good film. Shorter than I expected, and not too much meat to the story. But it was enjoyable to watch, and really has me wanting to try casting for redfish.  The movie shows a great contrast between two guys who have totally different view points on fishing. Definitely recommend this one….with a cold brew. Save  your drugs for next rave.

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Fly Fishing Tattoo

In an attempt to check off another to-do on my pre-marital bucket list, I went out this weekend and got a tattoo. Most people won’t get it, and that is fine. However, most reading this blog will recognize the image now permanently burnt into my forearm. I wanted something with meaning, an image I could look at to remind myself of who I am, in case I forget.

I’m not going to break down the book, what the words mean to me or the impact the film had on my life. For anyone who read the book, watched the film, or enjoys fly fishing, I think you get it.

River Runs Through it

River Runs Through it

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Gordie Howe; The Dog

Gordie Howe

Gordie Howe

Fishing dogs. Magazines, internet message boards and fly shops have housed this heated debate for longer than I’ve been into fly fishing. I can vaguely remember reading a message board post which cited a popular fly fishing magazine sparking some sort of riot when it published a dog streamside alongside its owner on the cover back in the early 90’s. Personally so long as your dog doesn’t come crashing through the pool chasing waterfowl, I’m pet friendly. furthermore; even admire the idea.

Everyone who has met my dog Gordie Howe is in agreement he posses a mental disability. I only paid $100.00, perhaps evidence to support these claims. For certain, Gordie is no fishing dog. He hates the water, and retrieval of any sort, dry or wet. My idea of sitting streamside with mans best friend was short-lived.

As our shop began to take form, he would roam around the basement during the construction. Thus sparking the idea that what he lacked as a fishing dog would be supplemented as a rod shop dog. Again my imagination painted the scene. Calm, loyal, laying in a corner snoring contentedly. All while I plane into the late hours of night.

Once again, dreams remained dreams. First sign of Gordie Howe’s unwillingness to become a rod shop dog came when he chewed about 6 spools of silk wrapping thread. Yet to even build a rod and the dog had me in the red financially.

Being down in the shop presented a physical challenge to Gordie’s rod shop decorum. For some reason the dog insists on walking up steps ass end first. Backwards. Our basement steps down to the shop are to narrow for him to spin and back his way up. He’s realized this, and if my attention is anywhere but on Gordie he squeals like a dying rabbit.

Gordie Howe will not make it as a lazy shop dog. Certainly not a fishing dog. So i have lowered my expectations; making moments like the one below all the more special.

Gordie Howe on the Moose River

Gordie Howe on the Moose River

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Wedding shower was this week so free time was tough to come by. Did manage time in the shop Saturday morning while the woman was doing the wedding stuff. This and a post on the Clarks Classic Fly Rod Forum sparked this post. Just a short photo tour of the shop.

The planing bench, bamboo stool was total coincidence. Came with a bar.

The planing bench, bamboo stool was total coincidence. Came with a bar.

Best thing ever!

Lathe table and Wagner binder

Lathe table and Wagner binder

Heat gun style oven

Heat gun style oven

God damned old ass farm house basement....LOW ceilings!

God damned old ass farm house basement….LOW ceilings!

Old man dug down 4 feet for dip tank. Doors from old stereo cabinet.

Old man dug down 4 feet for dip tank. Doors from old stereo cabinet.

Keeps shop smelling awesome...(shifting eyes)

Keeps shop smelling awesome…(shifting eyes)

Wrapping bench. "Simplify,  simplify, simplify!"

Wrapping bench. “Simplify, simplify, simplify!”







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Guide feet

Details. Aside from a popular name you would imagine its the attention to detail that sells a rod. For some reason a lot of the rod photos I have seen posted online show guide feet that look as if they had just come out of the package. No touching up of the feet at all. They have the squared edged look.I don’t consider this a matter of laziness, but assume many makers see this step a waste of time.

photo-7Snake Brand finishes these guides out so nicely that you don’t really need to touch up the guide feet. But for me personally, I like the look of a rounded off guide foot. Which you can see under your silk wraps if you’re not using a color preserver. The challenge is to get each foot rounded and shortened to the same dimension. On previous guides I did it by hand with a small file, with mediocre results.  So I bought a small rotary tool from Harbor Freight. The rotary tool and 80 accessories for $19 bucks. Awesome price. At first I locked the tool into my vice, but found better results by holding the tool in one hand and the guide in the other. I simply try to count each time I roll the guide foot over the sanding wheel. For my first time, I thought I produced consistent dimensions on my guide feet. After the grinding, I simply touch up the black nickel guide feet with a permanent black marker. So far so good.


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New Jersey Fly Fishing Show Report, (sort-of)

I have drug the old man to the Somerset Fly Fishing show in North Jersey damn near every year since high school. Even tricked my brothers into attending a few times, no chance this year with the admission fee jumping up to $18. I promised myself we wouldn’t go this year. Especially with the pond frozen, it was time for hockey, not fishing. It always ends in an impulse buy or me discovering the next must have piece of equipment. Despite the frozen pond, this year had brought us a fresh reason to take the trip.  So the old man and I hit the road. When we got there he even asked the woman collecting the entrance fee if he could get a half day pass. Jokingly, (Kinda).

Despite his attempt at a custom half day/ half price pass George and I do both agree it to be money well spent.  Its packed with fishing and tying stuff, art and its nice to grab some of the exotic location brochures as day-dream material. A particular outfitter in Labrador has sent us a Christmas card every year since I signed a form for updates on the outfit. The cards are always hung somewhere as they typically sport a hand painted brook trout. Last time I checked, the price was over 5,000.00 for a  week of heaven in Labrador. Thanks for the card boys, but this guy ain’t making it in this lifetime.

As I said this year was different, I would have not gone. But I’m now extremely glad that I had. Sante Guiliani had emailed me telling me he would be attending and bringing along “a pile of Fred Thomas rods” for me to check out. A freaking pile of Thomas fly rods?! I’m in. Even pushed back my planned pond hockey game. The rods were awesome, and so was Sante. I had never met him in person, only email. Its weird meeting someone you have known only via internet, its almost as if they are not real until you physically see and speak with them. But real he was, and possibly the nicest guy I have ever met. We talked Thomas fly rods for about an hour. He showed me his collection, one by one. Even made me smell one, and F.E Thomas mahogany. Like the smell of my Dads old pick-up truck he had when I was a child, I hope it never leaves me. I can’t say enough nice things about him, if you get the opportunity to meet Sante, do it.

After that we stopped to say hello to Jim Downes, and show him my Thomas rod. Really just stopping by to b.s. We did end up spending money, but not on a whim. As planned we met with Fred Kretchman and purchased a vintage Stanley 9.5 plane. Even though we have a lie-nielsen pops and I both thought it important to purchase the plane that most historic makers started with. Its awesome, and more comfortable in my hand than the Nielsen plane. Then stopped by the Wanigas Rod Company to purchase a few blanks of spanish cedar that were left over  from the Payne rod shop.

I arrived home to a chewed up sheet of ice. The result of my old team mates and brothers skating all day. I laced em up, skated by myself till it was too dark to see, threw in some chew, enjoyed the silence and thought about those Thomas rods. It was a beautiful moment, as I grabbed my gear and looked back at our rink, then headed for the house. A great day. I took five steps and my left leg plunked through the ice up to my knee, sending me and my gear flying, (still don’t know how the hell I managed to keep the rest of my body above water). Flock me, was my first thought. Then I realized that after meeting Sante my Thomas rod purchase was complete, and it was perfect. The rest of my life will continue to be some what of a shit-show. But the Thomas will be with me, I’ll manage.

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Wedding Planning sucks! Cane planing is good!


On April 26th I will marry my high school girlfriend, Heather. We have been together for 12 years, without a days break. With only four months till the big day we are in, what I consider, crunch time getting everything in line.

In short, it’s been a nightmare. And that is my excuse for slacking on a blog post the past two weeks. I won’t kill you all with details. Moving on.

As my blog title implies, I hate wedding planning, I love cane planing. (See what I did there?)

When the old man and I first started reading every building book not one author disagreed on the importance of a sharp plane blade. Builders went about sharpening in an array of intimidating methods. Everyone seemed to have a best approach, each requiring different equipment; stones (wet and dry), glass, leather, sandpaper, and machines. Having only sharpened my pocket knife, I had no clue how we would ever get sharp enough to cut cane.

Thankfully Jim Downes showed us his “no bullshit” technique before we made an attempt at any other method. It was and continues to be a simple process. We bought a two-sided diamond stone from DMT for about 90 bucks. Then I was able to find a lightly used Veritas sharpening hone for $40. After a few passes on that stone we were shaving sharp. We could have followed one of the other intimidating, less expensive sharpening methods. But for us, only spending $140, saving a lot of time and getting excellent results was money well spent.

All we use to sharpen.

All we use to sharpen.

Once our tool was sharp we got to planing. We had no hesitations or fears as we began. Push the block plane down the strip cutting the bamboo; flip and repeat. Easy. Or so we thought. As our strip melted down to the form we began measuring for accuracy. Excitement filled the shop as our apex depth measured dead on our desired numbers. When we finished that first strip we sighted down the apex; plain eye test revealed disaster. We had managed to the create the most in-equilateral triangle the geometry world had ever seen. We simply overlooked this crucial detail. It was deflating. We had hit another road block in our rod building journey. Despite Jim’s mantra that he had developed for me: “Stay off the damned internet,” I went and did what I do when a question arises. I googled it.

Again, George and I were flooded with suggestions on how to correct our angles and keep them correct. We returned to our bench with a mirror, and determination. The mirror was set up at the end of our planing bench. Theoretically the mirror would allow one to watch the plane gliding down the strip, making sure to be kept paralel to the form. We found the mirror to be a little bit of a help, but for me the biggest improvement came from the simple consciousness of now knowing to keep the plane level. That and just feel. I would pause the plane on my strip and with a slight rocking motion guiding my fingers along the form, feel the plane into the correct position.

Ye' old mirror trick

Ye’ old mirror trick

Our strips for that first rod, (after burning strip #1) had every angle within .003 of one another. It glued up great with not a glue line to be found.

Beginners like George and me read the famous books on making rods and came away with the impression that only certain methods will get the job done. Thanks to makers like Jim, and the old man being something of a Mcguiver, I found this to be the biggest misconception throughout the rod making process. There are no mirror type parlor tricks, nor any one way to accomplish a task. Only practice and repetition produce results. The only certainty is that building a rod is one provocation after another. Each requiring so much effort and concentration to overcome, are what emerge as a bamboo fly rod.

So while the wedding plans rage on, deep breathing, good beer and a sharp plane iron become just enough to keep me sane. As I move towards the big day, cane problems believe it or not are much easier to deal with than wedding problems.


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