I’ve been able to get out fishing a few times since my last post. Each time, I used my Shakespeare bamboo fly rod. I acquired this rod in a trade about thirty-five years ago. It’s a 9-foot, three-piece, 8-weight outfit. I’ve nicknamed the rod, Romeo, in honour of William Shakespeare, England’s “Bard of Avon,” not to be confused with William Shakespeare Jr., inventor of the level-winding fishing reel and founder of the Shakespeare Fishing Tackle Company, who produced my fly rod. To my knowledge, William Shakespeare Jr. and his father, William H. Shakespeare, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, were not related to the English playwright, poet, and actor, whose name they shared.
The Shakespeare Fishing Tackle Company was formed in 1897. Along with reels and other fishing equipment, they manufactured split cane fly rods. These rods were manufactured in the U.S. and were produced until 1952. My Shakespeare bamboo fly rod likely dates to around the time they ceased production of these rods.
It had been more than twenty-five years since I last fished with Romeo. It took less than an hour of casting with the rod to remind me why I had not used it for more than two decades. It’s heavy, weighing more than twice that of a comparable graphite rod. Still, I was determined to catch some fish with it, maybe even a bull trout.
After a few hours, my arm and shoulder became tired and sore. It was a lot of work, casting and swinging large, heavy streamers through deep, dark pools and swift-flowing runs. I managed to land a few bulls, but nothing of size.
The biggest bull trout I found was a dead one, decaying in shallow water near shore. Its demise may have been the result of improper handling while being released by an angler.
I covered a lot of water with Romeo, walking miles upon miles to reach various stretches of river. Some days, I spent more time walking than fishing.
There were times I encountered rain and drizzle, relentless wind, scorching heat, cloudy skies, smoky skies, and sunny skies. Over the past month, I have watched summer transform into autumn.
On one of my last trips out, I visited the same stretch of the Crowsnest River where I first used Romeo, many years ago. It was a warm, windy day. By mid-afternoon, there were lots of grasshoppers flying along the steep bank, high above the river. You could hear them. I replaced the bull trout streamer on my leader with a foam hopper pattern and caught several decent rainbows.
Overall, my Shakespeare bamboo fly rod performs well when I’m casting large streamers, heavy nymphs, and big dry flies. But I’ll admit, it’s heavier than I like. The weight of this rod is the first thing you notice when you pick it up. Back in the day, anglers were accustomed to using fly rods like this. Today, most anglers who fish for trout with bamboo use shorter, lighter rods designed for light lines.
Bamboo fly rods are not everyone’s cup of tea, but I enjoy fishing with them. I’ll continue to use my Partridge bamboo rod from time to time. As for my Shakespeare rod, I won’t be in a big hurry to rig it up again, anytime soon. At least, not until my casting arm recovers. Sorry about that, Romeo!
Vic: Romeo is back in retirement! Put away for a couple more decades, Then, I see a sequel starring your 5wt bamboo rod: ” Son of Romeo”…Then next summmer, “Romeo Returns with a Vengeance”…
That blue shirt makes the photos pop!
Nice post and history on Shakespeare Rods…
I’m thinking of calling my other bamboo rod, Juliet, or Juliet of Partridge. It seems to fit. If my arm feels better by next season, I might give Romeo one more opportunity. Would still like to catch a big bull on it from one of those streams south of here. David Lambroughton gave me some advice once. He said I should always wear a blue or other bright-coloured shirt in my photos. I think I may have overdone it, this time. Hope you get some nice fish on your days off. Thanks for commenting!
Good story, Vic. You’ll recall me telling you how heavy the rod is that I built a couple of years ago from the Hardy blank given to me. Maybe casting it 30, 40 years ago wouldn’t have been bad but at this age? No thanks. My sympathies to your arm which I can feel just thinking about it.
I remember you telling me about your rod. You know the feeling. I don’t know how anglers were able to use those heavy bamboo rods all those years ago. They must have developed good shoulder and arm muscles. Mine are still aching! Because of this, Romeo is going back into retirement. Thanks for commenting!