Every year Bamboo Bend offers eight disabled veterans the experience of a lifetime, by teaching them how to make a fully functional bamboo fly rod.
This event takes place in a special part of Michigan nestled in the Upper Peninsula. The trip begins for most participants with a flight to Traverse City, Michigan where they will link up with each other just by simply spotting each other’s Project Healing Waters ball cap. They are then driven to the heart of the Ausable and Manistee watersheds. Home of some very pronounced trout waters and what some arguably call the best dry fly fishing in the country.
It is when they pull in to the 100 year old Oxbow Conservation Club for the very first time that eases down the stress from the day of traveling and await through the anticipation of for the next day. This is when it all begins. In order to come to Bamboo Bend you must have built fly rods before. Three of the eight participants are winners of the Previous Year’s National Rod Building Competition.
As morning comes they are served a hearty breakfast from the staff at the Oxbow Club. From there they will take a daily journey to Lovell’s Township to begin class. Upon arrival they greeted by some of the country’s most experienced and respected Bamboo Rod Makers. These 10 instructors travel from across the country, to teach our nation’s most deserving students the joys of becoming a bamboo rod maker.
While attending the class, the participants stand at the work bench for approximately eight hours a day. Listening to the individual instructors and the mesmerizing sound of a properly tuned hand plane. Over the course the students will plane 12 sections to become what the instructors refer to as the magic wand (Bamboo Fly Rod). These strips form the tip on butt sections for the rod. Once the planning is complete, binding and gluing them together to create a hexagonal shape is next. Once the glue is dried the rod section is then cleaned up, fit for ferrules, trimmed to length and wrapping the guides begins. This is where the students really leave their visual mark on the rod. Different colors of threads and decorative wraps from there rod building skills start to shine. After wrapping the guides the class will begin to dip their rods in polyurethane. The rods take roughly 48 hours to dry from the dipping. It is during this time they are sent on guided fishing trips from the local guides.
The last day of fishing ends with a social hour, dinner and the presentation of their very own hand made bamboo rods. The smiles of seeing their completed rod is one that will remain for many years to come. Though some will never know the joys of making a split cane rods eight deserving disabled veterans will be able to say they have lived it.