Fly-Fishing: Miller tests his casting skill, but can’t match Takemoto

At one time, Rick Miller,. casting left, owned 97 bamboo fly rods. He’s down to a more sensible 14 t

At one time, Rick Miller owned 97 bamboo fly rods. He’s down to a more sensible 14 these days — but he also has a tattoo across his back of a fly fisherman casting to a trout.

Miller, a former firefighter from Stamford, Conn., who now lives along the upper Beaverkill River and looks younger than 68, was among the devotees who turned up last weekend at the inaugural Hardy Bros. Cup bamboo rod casting competition at the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum in Livingston Manor.

Miller even owned a couple of rods made by Pinky Gillum, who “made the finest fishing rods there ever were,” he said. He sold them for several thousand dollars apiece.

On Saturday, when he stepped onto the plywood casting deck on the 100-foot rectangle marked off with white spray paint on the Catskill Center’s lawn, Miller wasn’t using one of his 14 rods. He was casting an eight-foot, one-piece, hollow bamboo rod made by his friend Tim Abbott of New Hope, Pa., one of the best rod makers in the country.

(People who assemble graphite rods — attaching the handle, guides, reel seat, etc. to a “blank” — are called rod builders. People who make bamboo rods from scratch, gluing together six strips of tapered bamboo and then adding the hardware, are considered rod makers.)

Miller only used four of his six allotted practice casts, then went live, double-hauling his line and letting it fly. First cast: 85 feet, eight inches. Second cast: 84 feet, four inches. On the third cast, the accuracy cast, he missed the hula hoop 50 feet away, as did most of the competitors.

Eighty-four feet is farther than I could cast with the finest fast-action graphite rod, but Miller was disappointed. After all, he had won a prev­ious tournament on the same field with the same rod last year, with a cast of more than 100 feet.

England-based Hardy Bros. is well known in the United States for its fine reels, but less so for its rods. The Hardy Bros. Cup (with an actual silver cup made by Tiffany & Co.) is meant to raise the profile of its line of fine graphite, fiberglass and bamboo rods.

The grand prize at the compet­ition was a replica of the rod John James Hardy had used 100 years ago to win a prestigious tournament at the Casting Club of France with a 75-foot cast to a target under a bush. Known as the CC de France, the modern replica sells for $4,000 ­— or it will, once Hardy makes a few more. The company is keeping the first two, and the grand prize at the tournament is the third of five that have been made so far.

“Ninety-five more to go,” said Tom Moran, who along with Calum Gladstone comprise the Hardy bamboo rod making operation. Both men came over from England for the contest. Moran makes his own rods and has made rods for Partridge of Redditch in England and Thomas & Thomas here in the states. His work is revered.

In fact, it was a disciple of Moran who won the Hardy Bros. Cup: Mas­aki Takemoto, who flew in from

Japan Friday for the event. He used an eight-foot, six-inch, three-piece he made himself, and cast 101 feet, 11 inches.

Two contestants got a fly in the nine-inch target in the center of the hula hoop: James Bendelius, a chemical company executive, and, fittingly, Joan Salvato Wulff, wife of the late Lee Wulff, former compet­ition casting champion and doyenne of American fly-fishing.

Experts, executives, world travelers, legendary anglers and regular folks, too: a typical mix at a Catskill Center event. “Only here,” said CFFCM executive director Jim Krul with a proud smile.

Morgan Lyle’s commentary appears regularly in The Daily Gazette. Reach him at [email protected].

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