Steve Madewell

Pedestrian Ramblings

Personally I love winter. Always have. For one thing it enables a different perspective that encourages a seasonal shift in activities. I start doing things that I have put away or put off for some time. A few weeks ago I got a call from my friend Kuma, who rebuilds bamboo fly rods. If you are not familiar with these things, they are remarkable works of art. In a nut shell, a piece of bamboo is split into smaller pieces which are hand planed to the proper dimensions then glued together to form a six sided, tapering fly rod. They are really quite amazing. An old gentleman had given me an armload of broken bamboo rods a few years ago. Bits and pieces that I sorted through and saved the ones that I thought could be salvaged. Slowly I have been having Kuma restore them. We met and I picked up the most recently restored rod and in our conversation he wanted to know if Ihad came across anything of interest. I told him about a rod that I had bought a few years ago that was sort of interesting. I had set it aside and hadn’t even thoroughly cleaned it up after the flood two years ago. It came stored a rod holder that was in a canvas bag. It was a very different storage system and that is one of the reasons I bought it. He encouraged me to take it out and do a little research on its origins and history. Thanks to the Internet, I discovered that the rod it’s self is pretty cool. As it turns out it is an Empire City Rod that was built in 1888 or 89 by a couple fellows that are quite renown in the world of fly-fishing, Thomas and Edwards. But that is not the neat part of the story. On the canvas storage bag there is the name W B Mershon Jr., and a date April 15 1908. On a whim I did a goggle search and found that WB Mershon was not only written up in American Angler and Field and Stream, but he also wrote the first book on the decline of the passenger pigeon. He lived in Saginaw and was actually the mayor there for a year. He made a fortune in the lumber industry and was known for his extensive hunting and fishing trips. The Squire brothers accompanied Mershon, on at least one of his fishing trips. They were from Cleveland and I believe they started the law firm Squire Dempsey and Sanders. So there is a little local connection here too. Now I just have to find out if Jr. was his son and what the significance of April 15th is all about. By the way this rod is in excellent condition and you could take it fishing today…. that is if the stream wasn’t frozen. Needless to say I hold the thing and imagine the stories it could tell. I probably wouldn’t have taken the time to look into this if Kuma and had met in the Spring or summer as opposed to December. As it turned out, I have this lovely little piece of history that I discovered in the heart of the winter.