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Vintage Tackle Contest: Dragon Bamboo Fly Kit (Plus, New Prizes from Berkley!)

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November 15, 2012

Vintage Tackle Contest: Dragon Bamboo Fly Kit (Plus, New Prizes from Berkley!)

By Joe Cermele

We've had bamboo fly rods in the vintage tackle contest before, but this is the first complete kit with line, rod, and flies I've seen yet. It was entered by Chuck Rogers, who writes that he found it in an old farm house his son-in-law purchased. On a side note, I've never found anything cool in any places I've moved in to. Let's see if Dr. Todd Larson of The Whitefish Press and "Fishing For History" blog says you've stumbled on some gold.

Dr. Todd says:

"You have an interesting piece of fishing history on your hands. Following their defeat in World War II, the Japanese economy was in ruins. One of the first industries to begin the difficult task of retooling was the tackle industry -- it wasn't to make traditional Japanese rods, but rather to make inexpensive fishing kits for American G.I.s during the occupation from 1945-1952. There were at least seven major makers of such kits, which had colorful names like Dragon or Eagle. Most kits allowed the user to make a variety of rods. The quality varied, from extremely poor ("Tomato Stakes") to moderate, but it seems like every G.I. purchased one at the Post Exchange and brought it home. They are fairly common, but in the past few years have inched up in price. They regularly sell for $50-$150 depending on quality, condition, and whether they are complete or not. To see a dozen different Japanese kit rod labels, click here."

Excellent find, Chuck. Unless you need the spending money, I'd suggest you try fishing it. As a man who just recently fell in love with fishing bamboo, it's worth trying it just a few times for the nostalgic feel. Keep an eye on your mailbox, because there's a set of Berkley Aluminum Pliers headed your way. Special thanks to Berkley for these new prizes!

If you've already sent me photos of your vintage tackle, keep checking every Thursday to see if I chose it for an appraisal by Dr. Todd. If you haven't and want to enter the contest, email photos of your old tackle to fstackle@gmail.com, along with your name, mailing address, and story of how you acquired the gear. If I use it in a Thursday post, you get a pair of Berkley Aluminum Pliers (above) worth $50.

Comments (5)

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from buckhunter wrote 1 year 22 weeks ago

Picked up a couple of these kits at an auction some years ago. Thought I struck it rich, but did not. I believe some of these rods are not even bamboo but some other grass or wood.

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from haverodwilltravel wrote 1 year 22 weeks ago

IMHO the are the worst fly rods ever made (same goes for the cheap chenille flies). They are in a league by themselves. They truely are Tomato Stakes and not even remotely connected to the American Bamboo Fly Rod, which in most cases is a true work of art and a magical casting tool. ;)

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from whitefishpress wrote 1 year 22 weeks ago

@haverodwilltravel My father was a G.I. in Japan when these came out. As someone who bought a number of low-to-moderate priced Horrocks-Ibbotson, Montague and Union Hardware fly rods in the pre-World War II era, he claims that when purchased new the better brands of these kit rods were equal to the low-to-middle end American rods. I think their reputation for being terrible rods is built on the fact that these rods were not meant to last. The glue used in the binding process was, from what I have heard, water soluble and this delamination was a major and very real problem. I think they were originally designed for U.S. soldiers to take fishing out on Tokyo Bay or up in the mountains, used a few times, and then discarded. Makers made so much money they began to mass produce them. GIs would bring them home, let them sit for a year or two, take them out, and watch them fall apart after a few casts. As an experiment a rodmaking friend of mine completely delaminated one of these rods, reglued it using resorcinol, and then finished it out with the proper varnish. You know what? It cast just like a low-to-middle end American cane rod.

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from haverodwilltravel wrote 1 year 22 weeks ago

Whitefish, you are correct, the HI, Montague and Union rods, pretty much covered the lower rung of the ladder in American Bamboo, in both price and quality.....However, each one had a time or two when they put out a passable product for the money.....and many are still around today (though they were fished hard, with bait and fly)in fishable condition.
As a youth back in the late 50's and 60's I ended up with several kit rods as "gifts" from neighborhood Dads who had become frustrated with them (my Dad was also a WWII Vet). My Aunt's and Uncles would even buy them for me for birthday gifts when the 5 and 10 stores pushed them at a low prices as American went fiberglass.
The delamination problem was true of all of them. However, even disreguarding that, they were clubby with little or no taper.Now....to be fair, the fly line that came with them was hardly enough to load the rod...but even with your friend's interesting experiment and your Dad's more detailed observations than those of a 8,9, 10 year old boy, I'm going to have to say at anytime in my life they would have been my last choice.

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from Ruger wrote 1 year 22 weeks ago

I have a bamboo fly rod kit like that, that I got from my granddad that as given to him from his brother inlaw that was stationed in Japan after WW11.

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from buckhunter wrote 1 year 22 weeks ago

Picked up a couple of these kits at an auction some years ago. Thought I struck it rich, but did not. I believe some of these rods are not even bamboo but some other grass or wood.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from haverodwilltravel wrote 1 year 22 weeks ago

IMHO the are the worst fly rods ever made (same goes for the cheap chenille flies). They are in a league by themselves. They truely are Tomato Stakes and not even remotely connected to the American Bamboo Fly Rod, which in most cases is a true work of art and a magical casting tool. ;)

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from whitefishpress wrote 1 year 22 weeks ago

@haverodwilltravel My father was a G.I. in Japan when these came out. As someone who bought a number of low-to-moderate priced Horrocks-Ibbotson, Montague and Union Hardware fly rods in the pre-World War II era, he claims that when purchased new the better brands of these kit rods were equal to the low-to-middle end American rods. I think their reputation for being terrible rods is built on the fact that these rods were not meant to last. The glue used in the binding process was, from what I have heard, water soluble and this delamination was a major and very real problem. I think they were originally designed for U.S. soldiers to take fishing out on Tokyo Bay or up in the mountains, used a few times, and then discarded. Makers made so much money they began to mass produce them. GIs would bring them home, let them sit for a year or two, take them out, and watch them fall apart after a few casts. As an experiment a rodmaking friend of mine completely delaminated one of these rods, reglued it using resorcinol, and then finished it out with the proper varnish. You know what? It cast just like a low-to-middle end American cane rod.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from haverodwilltravel wrote 1 year 22 weeks ago

Whitefish, you are correct, the HI, Montague and Union rods, pretty much covered the lower rung of the ladder in American Bamboo, in both price and quality.....However, each one had a time or two when they put out a passable product for the money.....and many are still around today (though they were fished hard, with bait and fly)in fishable condition.
As a youth back in the late 50's and 60's I ended up with several kit rods as "gifts" from neighborhood Dads who had become frustrated with them (my Dad was also a WWII Vet). My Aunt's and Uncles would even buy them for me for birthday gifts when the 5 and 10 stores pushed them at a low prices as American went fiberglass.
The delamination problem was true of all of them. However, even disreguarding that, they were clubby with little or no taper.Now....to be fair, the fly line that came with them was hardly enough to load the rod...but even with your friend's interesting experiment and your Dad's more detailed observations than those of a 8,9, 10 year old boy, I'm going to have to say at anytime in my life they would have been my last choice.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ruger wrote 1 year 22 weeks ago

I have a bamboo fly rod kit like that, that I got from my granddad that as given to him from his brother inlaw that was stationed in Japan after WW11.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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