THE HIDY ROD COMPANY

Press Citations and Reviews


The Angler's Journal - Vol. 3 No 4

"Cane Currents", regular column by Ed Engle

A Hidy rod was born to fish Goose Creek that clear, crisp September day.

It's late September in the Rocky Mountains and I'm fishing a little stream called Goose Creek. I can tell you the name because there are enough Goose Creeks in the Rockies to keep you off my trail. I've fished this particular Goose Creek for close to 25 years.

Right now the sharply honed light that you can only see in the Rocky Mountains in September is cutting open the landscape around Goose Creek. September light can make places you've known for 25 years appear bright, crisp and new.

I'm fishing a Jim Hidy 7 ½ foot, three-weight rod and it was born to be here. Goose Creek is seldom more than 20 feet across this time of year. It's running clear and shallow. Presentations have to be close-in and accurate. The idea is to cast a #18 Royal Wulff into the run-out at the tails of the pockets and along the foamy fringes around the pools. To neutralize drag you cast close, keep the rod tip up, and "guide" the fly along the riffles.

The Hidy rod does this and more with grace. The rod traces its roots to E.C. Powell and a unique school of bamboo rod building that has centered on the West Coast for the past 60 years. Jim Hidy's rod is of the same type of semi-hollow construction that E.C. Powell pioneered 60 years ago.

The weight reducing importance of semi-hollow design is obvious when it comes to larger rods, but it's lure is a bit more subtle in a 7 ½ foot 3 weight rod. You notice it first on the false cast. The line moves fluidly with few shock waves.

Even more subtle is the response of the whole rod to the casting stroke. The somewhat lighter overall weight of the rod coupled with its taper means that the rod tends to dampen more quickly resulting in a cast that just feels brighter and crisper. Needless to say this effect increases with rods designed for four, five and six weight lines.

***

Several days before I took the rod on the water I'd field tested it on the grass at a local park. It was a dream to cast in close. The very fine tip allows the rod to load up a bit quicker which means you "feel" it with little or no fly line out past the tip top guide. It's what you need on streams like Goose Creek.

The rod casts effortlessly in "real" trout fishing ranges out to 30 feet to 35 feet. Beyond that it's easy to get the line out to 50 feet as long as you keep in mind that it is a three weight rod and can be overpowered if you bludgeon it. Actually, I didn't have much trouble getting it close to 60 feet with a snappy single haul, but that was as far as I tried. There is really no reason to cast this rod beyond 40 feet, but I suspect a full-line-in-the-air fly casting crazy might be able to get it out to 75 or even 80 feet. But that would be a crime. The real beauty of this rod is that it makes casting close-in fun. You actually feel it load and see it form gorgeous loops with just the leader.

What more can you ask for in a three weight?

***

"I believe in fine tips, hollowing, and rods that aren't too fast. The real trick is to make a rod that's fun to fish right in close to you," Jim Hidy said.

Hidy said that he tried out the hollowing techniques pioneered by E.C. Powell on the third rod he built.

"Once I got on to the hollow rods there was no turning back for me because the benefits so outweigh those of solid rods," Hidy said.

The semi-hollow rods, also known as chambered rods, are created by scraping out the inner pith of the bamboo strip while retaining the outer power fibers. This reduces the overall rod weight.

Although the size of the chambers may vary in any given rod, all chambered rods utilize "internal bridges" or "dams" between the chambers. At the dams the pith is left intact at a precise location on each strip. When the tips are glued together it's imperative that the dams meet up perfectly to form a solid wall between the chambers.

"I've developed a hollowing machine that I can adjust to take out as much depth as I want and still retain the necessary amount of power fibers from the bamboo. I can also adjust the length I want the dams to be. I like to get them down to one-eighth to three-sixteenth of an inch. It's important for them to be as small as possible and to meet up perfectly when you glue the strips. This will provide the necessary internal strength and prevent dead spots in the action," Hidy said.

Builders agree that the most difficult aspect of making the semi-hollow rod occurs when the strips are glued together. If too much glue is used it will fill the chambers. Not enough glue could result in lifts or a loss in structural integrity.

"It's tricky. You have to brush on just the right amount of glue. When you are starting out in rod building the only way to really tell how you're doing on the glue job is to build a rod and then cut it open to see what it looks like inside. And I can tell you the last thing an apprentice rod builder wants to do is cut open a rod he just built," Hidy said.

Hidy said that he leaves the rod solid at the ferrule and "for some distance beyond that depending on the particular rod" to provide integrity and strength.

"I hollow my three piece rods out right up to the second ferrule. I keep the tips solid even thought I might be able to take a little weight out because you need the weight to bend the rod, unless it's a large rod." Hidy said.

Hidy said that the cut off point for hollowed rods is at a three line weight.

"I can make a three weight either solid or hollow. When you get down to the two weights there just isn't enough material in there to hollow out," he said.

Hidy doesn't make what could be called a standard model rod, but rather works within certain guidelines unless a customer makes a special request. The 3-piece 7 ½ foot rod I cast is representative of his work.

He used blond cane, which he prefers, but has made darker rods in the past. The blued nickel silver reel seat is a sliding band with a straight butt cap. Hidy machines the hardware himself. The fit of the sliding ring to the maple spacer is among the best I've seen. There is absolutely no slop. The spacer is flattened to accept the reel foot.

"I have a good supply of maple, but I also will use walnut sometimes for the spacers. If somebody brings me a piece of wood for the spacer I will look at it and use it if possible. I like sticking to the hardwoods," Hidy said.

Hidy's preference for small handles spooked me at first because I have large, long hands, but I was surprised at how comfortable the 12 ring, 5 ½ inch long cork grip was when I cast the rod. I credit this to its half wells design. The pitch up to the flare under the thumb is very subtle and worked wonderfully for me when compared to the short cigar grips most often encountered on very light rods.

In addition to reel seat hardware, Hidy also makes the ring style hook keeper which is strategically located above the handle.

The Hidy rods typically utilize the Perfection style stripping guide. The color of the guide wraps varies. The rod I cast was brown tipped with black. The signature wraps are three very thin narrowly detached black wraps located approximately 2 ½ inches above the cork grip. The two tips are differentiated by black tipping on one of the tip top wraps.

"I don't have any standard color threads that I wrap the guides with, but I won't use color combinations I don't like. Typically, I use red, green, brown or clear," Hidy said.

The wraps are sealed with epoxy as is the flared end of the half wells cork grip.

The rod is signed "Hidy" on one strip. A serial number that corresponds to the taper in case a tip must be replaced is designated on another strip. An "H" in the serial number denotes that the rod is of semi-hollow design.

Hidy uses Super-Swiss ferrules that are blued or "bright" in deference to the customer's wishes.

Node staggering on the rod is three and three on the butt section and mid section, but changes to a spiral stagger on the tips for added strength.

The overall sense of the rod is of quiet elegance. The accouterments are subdued which allows the eye to be drawn to the beauty of the cane itself.

Hidy is especially interested in how his rods perform.

"I was particularly lucky to learn the art of rod building from both Jim Schaaf and Mario Wojnicki. They both build hollow rods, but also they have this overall sense of what a cane rod should do. The bottom line is that a fly rod must be able to cast the line, set the hook, and play a fish," Hidy said.

Hidy is among a minority of full time bamboo rod builders who hand-plane the entire rod.

"I just feel you get a higher quality rod when you hand plane. Even though some bevellers are close to medical quality standards today, you still loose control when you push the cane into the machine. You don't get the high degree of diligence that's required when you hand plane. Hand planing requires attention all the time," he said.

Hidy said he key to planing is that the work can be checked throughout the process.

"You can get exact triangles and accurate tapers with today's machines, but I still like the idea of being able to hold a strip up to the light every couple of passes and checking to see where the fibers are going. I know that the fiber that is right under the reel seat is going to be the one that's in the center of the tip top when I'm done because I can keep checking it through the entire process. A machine may cut a 100 percent accurate triangle, but it can't track a single fiber," Hidy said.

All of this dedication to the art of building cane rods comes through a long family association with fly fishing. Hidy's cousin was Vernon S. "Pete" Hidy who wrote the classic, The Art of Tying the Wet Fly and Fishing the Flymph, which detailed Jim Leisenring's ideas, attitudes and techniques of tying and fishing wet flies.

Jim Hidy himself lived right across the street from the Golden Gate Angler's Casting Club for 14 years.

"I got to see a lot of good arms and listen to current debate on fly rod design. A lot of people who were involved with designing rods for the big rod companies would show up. What I liked most of all was that I could take a rod down there and put it in the hands of a great caster and see what it did," Hidy said.

It all contributed to Hidy's ultimate respect for how a rod feels when you cast it.

"Cosmetics are necessary and important, but a reel seat does not make a rod. It's the sum total of everything you put into it. I know that it's sure hard to hand plane good rods if you aren't in a good frame of mind. The whole expression of what you're putting out depends on your inspiration and how good you feel about it. I could probably crank a rod out in 15 or 20 hours, but it takes 100 hours because of everything else that goes into it," Hidy said.

***

And that might just be the reason why fishing Jim Hidy's bamboo fly rod on an autumn day on Goose Creek when the light is bright and crisp and everything looks brand new seems like the perfect thing to be doing.

Ed Engle is a bamboo rod enthusiast and professional fly fishing guide and author.

Reprinted with permission of The Angler's Journal.
The Angler's Journal is published quarterly, and is available by subscription, for $20 US, $24 in Canada, and $36 all others.
Eight Dogs Publishing, Inc., Box 1006, Livingston, MT 59047

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