Its morning and we’re all stumbling around trying to find the coffee pot except for Jim Hidy. He already has a cup and is slouched back in an easy chair picking out Jimi Hendrix riffs on his Fender Telecaster Deluxe. The guitar isn’t plugged in, but the chords and notes are quietly clear and pure for those of us sitting nearby. As long as I’ve known Jim he’s been working to learn Hendrix’s entire catalog and crafting split bamboo fly rods.
I got to know Jim when a mutual friend, fly fishing author Dave Hughes, called to tell me I should cast one of Hidy’s fly rods. I took Dave’s advice and talked Jim into sending me a rod to review for my column, “Cane Currents”, in The Angler’s Journal (The Angler’s Journal was published from 1994 to 2000). I liked everything about the rod and later included a revised version of the review with Jim in my book “Splitting Cane.”
Somewhere along the way Jim invited me to fish the Upper Sacramento River with him and his pals. All of us fished bamboo fly rods. That gathering of friends has taken place in Dunsmuir, California every year since and would not be possible without Jim’s dedication to making it happen.
People often ask me “Why fish bamboo? What makes it so much better that you’d spend that much money for a handcrafted fly rod?” I used to try to explain it. Now I just say bamboo isn’t necessarily better than anything. It’s just different. If you like it, you like it. It’s kind of like Jimi Hendrix.