Tuesday, November 25, 2008

O'Keefe's Fiberglass Adventures

Recently I emailed Brian O'Keefe asking if he'd be willing to provide a couple lines of copy and a photo that could be used on the blog. What he sent is nothing short of a grand adventure and personal history of fly fishing with fiberglass fly rods that I am honored to share here.

"In 1960, my brother and I learned to fly cast on my Grandfather's front lawn. He was a strict casting disciplinarian. And, after we were allowed to hit the water, it was the Big Blackfoot River near his home in Missoula, Montana where we tied on Joe's Hoppers and caught some uneducated trout. Years later, when I read the now famous book, A River Runs Through It, I thought it was incredibly similar to my upbringing.

For about eight years I kept my hand me down bamboo rod intact. I would rub Mucilin into the silk line and dream about a new rod and a modern Air-Cel fly line. Finally, after saving money from mowing lawns and washing cars, I bought a first generation Fenwick Feralite FF80 and a Scientific Anglers Ivory Air-Cel DT-8-F. I think I bought, like everyone, a Pfluegar Medalist 1494. The following years were great. Montana was still an annual trip, sometimes for a month or more. My local waters in western Washington were good for bass and trout. I tried for steelhead a couple of times but did not have any success. That changed in 1972, when I visited the North Umpqua River in Oregon. I had an SA Wet-Cel full sink eight weight line and a couple traditional Skunk patterns. In cut off Levis I landed a nice seven pound steelhead."

"I took my Fenwick to New Zealand in 1973, right out of high school. With a backpack and a map, I walked from the tip of the North Island to the southern tip of the South Island and fished every river I encountered. The durability of the Fenwick was amazing. It was slow, as we all know, by today's standards, but I could bush-whack, fall down and torture the heck out of it on big fish and it never faltered."

"Eleven months later I took the Fenwick to Western Australia, then to Borneo, where I even used the Fenwick, in it's original brown tube, as a weapon and fended off an angry group of lepers who wanted to steal my stuff. Then across Asia to Kashmir where I taught skiing for the winter of 1974-75. In the spring, I fished several Himalayan streams for brown trout. On one of those outings I ran into a wealthy Indian who was so impressed with my rod, he bought it for $50. I think I paid $39.

When I got home from that adventure I went to Alaska for a summer job in the Forest Service. I took a new, second generation, Fenwick FF856. I lived in a cabin on Kenai Lake and fished the Upper Russian River, the Kenai River, and several good lakes for rainbows and grayling.

That rod made many trips to Montana, British Columbia, and all over the northwest. One time, on a buddy trip to Montana, we traveled in an AMC Gremlin with rods rigged up and ready, in a ski rack. Somehow the tip of my Fenwick came off and was dragged for fifty miles behind the car. The rod was fine.

When I moved to Bend, Oregon in the fall of 1975, I joined the Deschutes River Chapter of Trout Unlimited. There I met guys who knew the Deschutes for steelehad and I started a long love affair with swinging flies for summer steelhead. I don't remember what happened to my FF856, but I know I had a Cortland fiberglass rod on many of my first float trips. I began to hear about Lamiglass S-glass rods and added one to my quiver.

Today, I have a Scott Fibertouch F703/3 and love it. I think a solid history of early glass rods has made a better, smoother caster. Those first Fenwick rods were very nice and nver let me down."

Check out Brian O'Keefe's latest endeavor, Catch Magazine, a high resolution multi media fly fishing experience.


Cofisher said...

What a wonderful story. I thoroughly enjoyed it.


"What a wonderful story. I thoroughly enjoyed it." Ditto what just said!

I really love the story! Every single little part are just pure spiritual!

Dusty said...

If you are going to keep up this caliber of work you may want to consider going with a website, one that sells glass rods of course!!

Joel said...

I loved that story! Brian O'Keefe is one of my heros. His on line magazine "CATCH" is truly a work of art. I would love to spend a couple of days with him just soaking up his knowledge!

Good stuff here Cam!


flynbird said...

Brian is quite a fella. Every encouter I have had with him has been a great time. Nice job on getting some of his work on your blog. Dusty is right you are putting out some high caliber stuff going on here. Awesome!!!

Cameron said...

Friends...thanks for the kind comments. Brian did us all a favor with writing up this story. I've enjoyed reading it over and over again.