Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Influence of Wayne Cattanach on today's bamboo rod makers

A recent thread on the Rodmakers Email List asked what there was to know about Wayne Cattanach other than his Handcrafting Bamboo Fly Rods book and DVD/video series.

Brian Creek from Michigan reminded Rodmakers' readers that Wayne was the first to program Everett Garrison's math for the computer (I think it was in Visual Basic. If you can remember that language, you've been hanging around PC's for a long time) in his Hexrod program. He offered Hexrod as a bonus with Handcrafting Bamboo Fly Rods and as a free download from his website.
Brian also pointed out that along with Ron Barch, Wayne started The Planing Form, a newsletter for bamboo afficionados. "The Makers' Rod" was another of Wayne's unique brainchildren. Eighteen different rod makers contributed a single strip of bamboo, planed to taper, and formed into a one-of-a-kind rod which was auctioned to help raise conservation funds for Michigan streams.

Wayne was the chief impetus behind starting the Rodmaker's Email List, way back in 1994 or early 1995. I still think that List is the single most important source of bamboo rod making information anywhere. The archives go back to January 1995, but the list actually began before that time.

Without Wayne's encouragement I wonder if I would ever have completed a rod. I bought his self-published book back in 1996, and completed my first four bamboo rods in 1997. I still remember the first time Wayne called me on the phone. We talked over an hour, on his dime. In those days long distance wasn't cheap like it is today.

His week long rod making classes in Grayling, Michigan, Mountain Home, Arkansas, and other places introduced scores of want-to-be rod makers to the craft. The outline I use in teaching my own classes largely follows Wayne's original ideas.

I still believe Wayne's book to be the best printed text on making rods, especially for analytical types. Jack Howell's book may appeal slightly more to those with an artistic bent, but Wayne's fingerprints are all over Jack's pages too. Though I have both the hardbound and softcover editions, I treasure the old 3 ring binder with the first edition book. Not just because it's inscribed to me and signed, but because Wayne and I poured over a coupla those pages with him trying to help me understand some point or another.

The Grayrock Gathering was held in Wayne's clubhouse for years. He still attends most years.

It's been a few months since Wayne and I talked. I will always consider him not just a mentor, but a true friend. Most of us have few true friends in this life, and I count myself fortunate to call Wayne one of mine. Though I doubt we've spent more than a few hundred hours together over the last dozen years, each of those hours is precious. I remember some moments spent sitting on a rock together in the middle of Wildcat Shoals on the White River. And other moments with Harold and Eileen Demarest, Rick Crenshaw, Miles Tiernan, and Lowell Davis on the back patio of Unit #7 at Fulton's Lodge. Tami and I still recall with tenderness stopping by Wayne's place unannounced on our way back to Louisiana from Traverse City, and taking Wayne and Brenda to Bennigan's that night. I remember helping him with a Beginner's Workshop at SRG a few years ago, and slicing the stuffings out of three fingers. He laughed and laughed as he ran to grab some band-aids for me.

And a call from Wayne this summer helped me over some bumpy places in my personal road.

What else is there to know about Wayne? Well, let's see. He built his own home with his own hands on the family farm outside Grand Rapids. He's an engineer and HVAC man by training. He's the father of two great kids -- now young adults, but kids when I met them. He's a pretty good fisherman, a good talker, and a great listener. He's putting together a place somewhere on the Manistee. He runs on caffeine and nicotine and a few kind words.

He's my friend, and I'm grateful for his friendship.

For over ten years I have been helping others learn this craft through demonstrations, classes, forum posts, email correspondence and phone calls. Anyone who has learned from me owes a debt to Wayne Cattanach, as I do.

Harry Boyd

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