I recently had the pleasure of spending ten days in Tasmania (the island state off the South East corner of mainland Australia). The main reason for the visit was to attend the three-day bamboo rodmaking celebration – ‘Cressy Cane’, but I also managed to squeeze in a little fishing and also visit the new Australian Fly Fishing Museum.
Tasmania offers world class brown trout fishing, in a wide variety of waters, from small tannin coloured forest creeks, to broad flowing streams, and sea trout estuaries. But the highlight of Tasmanian fishing is in many of its 3000 lakes. I must admit that normally, I am not a lake fisherman, but Tasmanian lakes are very, very different! Most of the lakes are shallow - many are only 2-3 feet deep and wadable all over. Sand or silt bottoms allow polaroiding of browns, in a way similar to catching bonefish on the flats. Thousands of the lakes are in a World Heritage area, so the scenery and wildlife is amazing. While some of the lakes are quite large, there are many more small lakes and tarns, some smaller than a tennis court, that you can find fish in. To top it off, most of the fishing is with dry flies, as many of the lakes have substantial mayfly populations. As a passionate stream angler, I can honestly say that almost nothing can compare to a hiking into a wilderness lake and seeing a big Tassie brown coming up, up, up to the fly, its head coming out of the water, and a slow motion ‘clomp’ as the big mouth closes over the fly!
The more I think about it, the more I need to fish Tassie a LOT more! Anyway, this visit was based around the inaugural ‘Cressy Cane’ gathering, so I won’t digress further for now. This was the brainchild of David Hemmings, who, like me, began rodmaking by attending a class with American master Jeff Wagner in Ohio (www.wagnerrods.com). David is a Podiatrist as a day ‘job’ (was it John Gierach who wrote that calling Fly Fishing a ‘Hobby’ was like calling Brain Surgery a ‘Job’? In his spare time he does some drift boat guiding for our Master Caster and guide Peter Hayes. And now in his spare-spare time, he has started making sensational bamboo rods, to the point where his nickname has become ‘Bamboo Dave’ (the girls used to call him ‘George’, after George Clooney, for his good looks). He really is the sort of person you should hate! But he is such a fantastic guy, I’m honoured to call him a friend. Anyway, he thought in his spare-spare-spare time, he could organise a bamboo rod gathering at Peter Hayes lodge on the banks of Brumbies Creek, in the northern midlands of Tasmania, and so ‘Cressy Cane’ was born. A few emails and phone calls had the weekend pretty fully booked, with around 20 people signed up to attend.
Click in images to enlarge
Rodmakers - present and future
The weekend was a resounding success, and it looks like being an Annual event, held in late October. We had a really good mix of people there for the first running of it - from long time rodmakers to beginners and a few who may never make a rod, but just wanted to learn about the rods that they love to fish.
Early morning - view of the casting pool from the classroom. By the way - the casting pool is full of trout, which can be a bit of a distraction!
A fascinating thing to me was the way people brought ideas and skills in from their own walks of life - we had a luthier, boat maker, knife maker, machinist, engineer, carpenter, wood carver, sourdough bread maker, and even a World award winning whiskey maker! It was also really nice to meet the other Jeff Wagner ‘alumni’ - Jeff has taught quite a few of us Aussies now, to the point where we have granted him unofficial ‘Aussie-ship’!
Three days flew by, and we enjoyed a wide mix of talks, some hands on demonstrations, and casting a lot of really, really nice rods. I can honestly say that I didn’t cast a bad rod there (other than maybe a couple of my own funky prototypes)! For me, having been a full time rodmaker now for over ten years, though I still have to pinch myself to be making a life from the craft I love, it gave me a real injection of inspiration to see the passion and excitement in new people coming to bamboo.
Peter Hayes in the classroom
It was also mind blowing to have one of the world’s best casters and casting teachers, Peter Hayes, on hand to show how to get the best out of these rods for casting and fishing. Peter is one of those outstanding people that you feel privileged to meet, partly for their casting and teaching skill, but much more so for their generosity of spirit and friendship. We are lucky to have him here in Australia.
Ray Brown - a pioneer in Australian Bamboo fly fishing - tells his story
David did a great job keeping the sessions on schedule and shuffling things around when needed. A really wide range of subjects were covered, including:
- A week with Tom Morgan
- The Japanese experience
- The Hex Rod Computer Program
- The Morgan Hand Mill, and standard planing forms - how they work
Peter Hayes and Gary ‘Hairy’ Castles set up the Morgan Hand Mill
- Ferrules - different types, their uses and how to fit them
- Casting with Cane
- Splitting cane
- Heat treating
- Finishing methods - varnish - dipping, pouring and rubbing
- Group whiteboard brainstorm on resources: tools, materials, glues, varnishes, books etc…
Bill Lark’s glue up binder
- Eccentric turning of wooden reelseat spacers
- Quad Rods - history and comparison to Hex Rods
- Classic Rods and Rodmakers
- Evolution of an “Australian” style bamboo rod
- Australian Fly Fishing Museum visit and Whiskey Tasting talk by Bill Lark, of Lark Distillery
Bill Lark at the Australian Fly Fishing Museum speaking on another of his passions – whiskey!
There was a lot of informal discussion through the talks which worked really well.
Casting before lunch
As I mentioned, ‘Cressy Cane’ looks like being an annual event. We’re hoping to be able to attract some international rodmakers in the future too, from America, Japan, South Africa and Europe. Combining it with a fishing trip and wider holiday would be a great idea I think… I’m looking forward to next year already.
Fred von Reibnitz fishes Peter Hayes Spring Creek stretch of Brumbies Creek with bamboo in the evening