Talking Bamboo

My eight-foot Dennis Menscer Hollowbuilt five weight bamboo rod has been a favorite since I first laid my hands upon it. This is the rod that does it all for me on our Catskill rivers! This Mainstem surprise Tiger Trout is not a fan of the rod’s fish catching abilities!

I enjoyed a couple of hours of talking bamboo this morning, gathered in Dennis Menscer’s rod shop with my friend Henry and his buddy Dave. Our common interest in bamboo fly rods was the initial catalyst for our friendship when Henry and I chanced to meet a decade or more ago at West Branch Angler. It was good to get my friends together at last!

Dennis has been hard at work on a growing list of rod orders, a list that grew again this morning thanks to Dave. We enjoyed the late morning sunshine beside the West Branch as the three of us cast Dennis’ eight foot and eight and a half foot hollowbuilt trout rods. I could see the lights go on in both of these guys eyes as they sampled the master rod maker’s craft.

Dave finally decided on an eight and a half foot five weight and discussed his preferences for the ideal rod grip with Dennis before writing down his particulars on the order sheet. I know he is going to love that rod when he first takes it out of the tube, inhaling the sweet aroma of varnish and poplin. His first cast to a rising trout will be a moment he remembers fondly for a long time. I know from personal experience.

I clearly recall a warm spring evening there on the West Branch when the rod seemed to deliver my Quill Bodied Spinner to a dimpling rise near twilight, without any conscious effort on my part. The brown that gently sipped that dry fly measured twenty inches long after he tested the flex of my new hollowbuilt wand!

My most recent Menscer rod is the 7’6″ four weight he makes to a classic Payne taper. This rod was also christened by taking a big Catskill brown trout, with a twenty incher during early autumn on the Beaver Kill.

I always enjoy my visits to Dennis’ rod shop and some of the long talks we have had about bamboo rods and their histories. Besides making some of the finest bamboo fly rods you can fish, Dennis does a lot of remarkable restoration work on classic rods from Paynes to Leonards to Thomases and Kosmic’s, he has an incredible knowledge of rods and the historic rod makers that have become legends.

Fishing bamboo enriches our angling experiences and discussing rod techniques and tapers both past and present draws us further into the mystique of the craft. Breathe the varnish and feel the cast!

One thought on “Talking Bamboo

  1. Good morning Mark, I had another good evening on the Neversink last night. I hope you can join me soon. I really liked this post and as a fan of Dennis I appreciate how a visit to his shop is like going to a living museum. I’m awaiting my 7’6” 4 wt. It should be soon. Mike

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