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Washington Fly Fishing Articles: Trout Grass - A film by Ed George and Andy Royer
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Trout Grass - A film by Ed George and Andy Royer

Fly Fishing Book Reviews by Bob Triggs - Little Stone Flyfisher : Guide



Trout Grass

A film by Ed George & Andy Royer
Writer & Narrator - David James Duncan
Director, Editor and Cinematographer Ed George
$29.95 - Color DVD - 48 Minutes / Digital Beta / 16:9
2005 - Volcano Motion Pictures - www.troutgrass.com

Screening Award  Montana Cine 2005
Best Short Documentary  Port Townsend Film Festival 2005
Best Feature  Ellensburg Film Festival 2005
Official Selection Globians Film Fest Germany 2005
Official Selection Jackson Hole film Festival 2005

 In the lexicon of Bamboo fly rod builders, and for those of us who love to fish with them, no material stands out quite so well as the Cane that comes from China. Rodmakers prize the resilience, warmth and life that this fine grass plant's cured sinewy fibers bring to the action of custom rods. Though there are many varities of Bamboo worldwide; harvested for furniture, decoration, industry and a broad spread of other uses, but one particular fine Tonkin Cane Bamboo- Pseudosasa amabilis- is simply the finest for flyrods.

 Enter Andy Royer and his early career as a general Bamboo importer to manufacturers and craftsmen, and his eventual meeting up with Glenn Brackett, the renowned Twin Bridges Montana Fly Rod builder. It was not long before Andy set out to find the best Bamboo in the world, for some of the best rod makers in the world, and this journey led him to Southern China's Guandong Province and a unique community of people who live and work on the steep bamboo and timber covered coastal slopes. There Andy developed a working relationship with some exrtroadinarily hard working people and they began to specialize in selecting, harvesting and importing the finest Tonkin Cane Bamboo, from the mist enshrouded hills of the coastline of Southern China, to fine Rodmakers worldwide. 

 David James Duncan brings his expected heart, warmth and humor to the film's writing and narration, and even makes an angling appearance- along with writer angler Thomas McGuane- just to remind us that two guys can still take something so serious as their very own Glenn Brackett custom bamboo flyrods out for a fling on a spring creek in Montana and not be so danged serious about it.

 Throughout this film there is is a refreshing breeze of simplicity and human warmth. Especially poignant is the presence of rodmaking Doyen Hoagie Charmicheal Jr, ( A Master's Guide To Building the Bamboo Flyrod ), and his moment of heartfelt gratitude for the history and unique personal connection to the Bamboo, the people and locale, and his career as a modern rodmaker. In this moment we see Hoagy is really speaking for a tradition that spans over 100 years of craftsmanship and angling history. And we begin to appreciate the miracle that something so simple as a species of grass could bring so many lives and hands and hearts together in an art from that continues to grow within the fly fishing community today.

 I have watched loggers working the steep timber slopes of the Pacific Northwest and often felt humbled by how hard they work in such rugged terrain. But when you see how hard these women work, barefoot and with nothing but a machete, to harvest Bamboo for fly rod makers, ( almost every day of every week of every year so Andy tells me ), well- humility takes on a new face. From the first machete slash we follow the bamboo on it's long route from forest to trout stream. And it is remarkable to find that there is so much care and craft and real art from the very beginning of the process. After a brief scene on the waterfront docks of Seattle, we follow the bamboo to Glenn Brackett's Twin Bridges shop, where we get  a rare look at a true master at work. Even with modern machinery to aid the flow of tasks, the rodmaking is a laborious and painstaking series of steps, meassured in the thousandths of inches, and in the end, carefully finished and fitted to perfection by hand. Surrounding Brackett's workshop, almost everywhere, are fly fishing mementos, artwork, talismans and an ethereal sense of the religeous. When Glenn speaks of the materials he works he also connects to the importance of every person who's hands brought that cane to him. Amidst the hum and whir of the shop there is a kind of untouchable, reverant silence. And you realize that a flyrod is sometimes more than just a flyrod.

Ed George's signature "right-up-in-it-all" camera style has us with it every inch of the way. And I do feel it is my favorite of his many good works. But then I do love bamboo flyrods too. There is music here as well, and it is very fine, conveying the romance and simplicty and strength of the material and the message- that life is indeed art, and some people find a way. I dont know who, in the end, will have had more fun- Andy Royer and his traveling companions who made this wonderful film, or us for watching and enjoying it all. watch it and let me know. Then start saving your money because those rods aren't cheap. 

 

 


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