Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Lists from the perspective of a Bamboo Fly Rod Maker's Widow


As 2010 slipped away, the Oyster Bamboo family has the desire to reminisce (at least I do).

We are grateful for all of the palpable events that life beautifully produces…family, friends, fish (the norm). However, because we are bamboo rod makers (or married to one), our life is completely swallowed by the craft.
So, my 2010 reflections will be from the warped perspective of a bamboo fly rod maker’s widow…simple as that…
Let the lists begin…

Top 10 Reasons for a 
bamboo fly rod maker’s widow to be grateful:

10. Good Music – because without internet access or television of any kind in the shop, music is our savior. Conversation comes second to a good tune.
9. God – including but not limited to…creating the sea and fish on the fifth day.
8. Life’s “learning curve” that taught us to learn to make a living at what we love instead of learning to tolerate whatever activity makes a living.
7. Cutter, Veronica, Yogi and Molly -
6. Being a part of so many extraordinary occasions – we have been honored enough to be the special gift for retirements, weddings, graduations, anniversaries, birthdays…et cetera…
5. Main Street in Blue Ridge, GA – our version of a neighborhood.
4. A Full Rod Rack – It's fun to time the completion of our rods so we may gaze at them...for a moment, at least. (see # 3).
3. An Empty Rod Rack - I am even more grateful for the fact that all of those rods sold and our rack, once again sits empty.
2. Riley – I am grateful this year for our new full-time apprentice and friend. His help around the workshop is invaluable but most importantly…he makes me laugh.

1. Our clientsall of you…you know who you are…let’s see…how would I best describe your ilk…Obsessive, maniacal learners, methodical but ironically artful at the same time. Yes, you know who you are...most of our clients become our friends so perhaps I should just say our friends.

Because our shop is on Main Street in the middle of a tourist town, non fly fisherman / women inadvertently stumble upon our shop regularly and say the “darndest” things.

Here are some of my personal favorites...
Top 10 shop walk-in quotes
10. $1840 for your least expensive rod? Wow! How many do you make in a day?
9. So, this is a barber shop? (really…this happened)
8. Where can we can fish around here without a license and not get caught?
7. If I bring you some of the bamboo from my back yard, will you buy it?
6. I have a Winston.
5. This is great but what’s your real job?
4. What do ya’ll use? Corn or spinners?
3. Husband to wife screaming outside our door: “All they do in there is tie flies…tie flies…that’s it! I ain’t going in there!”
2. Good Luck making a living!
1. What kind of a dog is that? 

As most of you know, we regularly have classes at the workshop. Students come in from all of the country (and several countries for that matter) to learn to build their own bamboo fly rod. It would be impossible to make a "list" of all of the quotes worthy of mentioning in this blog.
So, here are only a few...

Top 10 Student Quotes
10. Isn’t there a machine that can do that for us?
9. When I show up to the river with my graphite rod, I am just another fly-fisherman. When I show up to the river with this rod, I am a rock star.
8. This is exactly the way I imagined bamboo fly rod makers live...spending long days and nights in a dusty workshop, drinking beer and talking about fish. It’s my personal hope for heaven.
7. Did I really almost impale him?
6. No, no, wait I meant to do that.
5. I feel as if I have transcended into a parallel universe and learning the process of making a bamboo fly rod was the portal.
4. I usually hate people…but I really like you guys.
3. Check another one off my bucket list!
2. I know that I am supposed to say that my wedding or the birth of my children was the best day of my life but this week was way better.
1. (insert English accent here) Bill, you bring out the magic in people, that’s what you do.
So, that's it for now. Bill is sitting here next to me feeling a bit left out so perhaps I'll make him tell me his favorite moments of 2010...
Happy Everything (including but not limited to the new year upon us),

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Oyster Bamboo Fly Rods, Halloween and just about everything else you can imagine!

Wow! Where to begin...the last 2 months have been eventful to say the least. We kicked of the fall by spending a few days in a Yurt in Western North Carolina. It's the closest Bill will get me to camping these days. It's so rare that we get away without work in tow so it was a serious treat.

Our Yurt was nestled in the woods with a gorgeous view of the Nantahala gorge. The best part was being able to "open the roof" at night and sleep under the stars in comfort. We managed to squeeze in a mountain bike ride at Tsali before going to see the Carolina Chocolate Drops . All of this in 36 hours...we had to cut the trip short for the love of bamboo but it was a glorious 36 hours. Crazy beautiful.

So, fast forward a few weeks, a few rods and a bamboo fly rod class later....oh, and a fun class! The class consisted of a group of friends from Arizona and a "local" from Tennessee. For this group, I traded our traditional graduation/meatball night for Gnocchi in it's stead. Why that's worth mentioning...I have no idea.

As I said, a few insane weeks later (insert starting Cutter's homeschooling here), it was time for the Oyster Picnic Reunion on October 2. This idea started innocent enough. I thought we could gather some local clients together at Froghollow and fish our Oyster rods for a few hours. However, much to my complete shock....lots (and I mean lots) of Oysters celebrated their bamboo fly rods with us. We had Oyster rod clients as well as bamboo fly rod class students arrive to enjoy the ideal, breezy, sunny day including delicious BBQ and big fish. What a touching and sincere testament to the company we started in our loft 13 years ago.

October is my favorite month of the year. Tom Waits sings about this.

So, let's see...oh, the weekend after the picnic Bill went to the Annual Carter Center charity event at Brigadoon. This year, Bill had the pleasure of guiding Rosalynn Carter. Ask me if I am annoyed that he did not take any pictures with her? Go ahead...ask. Yes.

Meanwhile, the kids and I went to the ocean for our October trip. October is perfect there...really. We met my friends, Kristy and AJ, down there for a few days and enjoyed (once again), the perfect weather, crystal clear water and unreal sunsets.

Again, fast forward a few more bamboo rod orders, a few more bamboo fly rods shipped and another bamboo fly rod making class. Our October class was fun and interesting, as usual. All of the students' rods were gorgeous! Wrapping day was a bit stressful...but, what's new. Also, I am proud to say that the most exquisite rod of the group was made by my now friend, Kathy. Women tend to do very well in these classes. I feel it's a combination of women being patient, good listeners and having an innate aesthetic that compliments the craft. That's my story and I am sticking to it.

Now, I should mention Bill being awarded Georgia's "40 under 40". Each year, Georgia Trend magazine honors 40 people under 40 for this award. When Bill was chosen, he was confused. While Bill realizes that he is a talented craftsman, I don't think mainstream recognition ever makes sense to him. By the makes perfect sense to me. Our family can not afford for Bill to be too humble. Bill got into bamboo rod making because of his love of the craft and fly fishing. Remember, I insisted he sell his second rod ever built over a decade ago. We had many discussions concerning the "business" of bamboo rod making and we (I) decided that Bill's talent and willingness to share all that he has to offer as a rod maker was a far better "job" prospect for him than a corporate job. Why not? Most people have to do something for a living...why not something you love? So, when Bill ended up on a "list" of 40 overachievers, he had no choice but to see himself as something else as just a bamboo fly rod maker. The honorees were celebrated at a dinner in Atlanta on October 20th and the Mayor of ATL (a former list member) was the keynote speaker (he was very good, by the I know why he was elected). One funny thing...the invitation to the dinner said "business attire". So, Bill said, "What do I wear...waders or a dirty shirt full of bamboo dust and leather gloves"? He did not. We thought about it. But, he did not wear waders.

A few days after the dinner and the completion of another class, Bill left for NYC to speak at the New York Anglers Club. The club made Bill's trip fulfilling for a variety of reasons...including meeting and hanging out with Hoagy Carmichael. Bill learned how to make a bamboo fly rod from Hoagy's book, A Masters Guide to Building a Bamboo Fly Rod. So, you (and Oprah) could call this Bill's "full circle moment".

The grand finale of this Loooooooooooong blog is our incredible Halloween. Blue Ridge shuts down Main Street and kids come from three states as the merchants give out candy as fast as our arms will move. We gave away over 3000 pieces this year...3000. Everyone dressed up at the shop...even Riley. But, now that Riley is 21...he thinks that he is all manly and stuff so he took some convincing to wear the clown wig. Actually, I think Riley enjoyed it as much as my other children. :)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Colorado, co-dependents and classes

So, we had a bamboo fly rod making class end Sunday night and one start this past Sunday morning. As usual, we have students in from all over the country and it's a diverse group wading through their first bamboo rod making experience.

Life has been hectic, as usual since Bill returned from Colorado. At the beginning of the month, Bill rode his motorcycle out to Colorado. Read that again...Bill rode his motorcycle from Mineral Bluff, Georgia to the Rocky mountains. This adventure started innocently enough. I signed him up to go out to the Colorado bamboo rod making conclave along with a plane ticket and rent-a-car. A few days before the trip, I was giving Bill his itinerary and he said, "I am riding my motorcycle out there. It's easier." I said, "Ooooookaaaay, babe, whatever you say." Truth be told...I was not the least bit surprised. So, he loaded up his bike and left for the West. Bill went to the gathering in Lyons, CO and then met his good friend Bernard in Montrose, CO to fish his brains out before making the long trek home back to Georgia.

We missed him. We are a family of co-dependents...even the dog.

Riley (our apprentice and dear friend) and I felt totally abandoned for the first few days. We threatened to revolt and spend our days with the shop door locked turning pots and silk screening objects opposed to selling bamboo fly rods. Instead, we held down the fort, worked on bamboo fly rods and organized the shed. However, we did manage to turn a few sideways pots. Here are a few shots of the family without a paternal figure...

Things returned to normal as soon as Bill turned into the drive.
Chaos restored.
Life is good.

Here is Bill upon his safe arrival home:

Monday, July 19, 2010

Be present

19 July, 2010

Today I am 40-years-old. I have heard of people turning 40, but now it's my turn. I suppose it should feel like "something" but it feels like any other birthday. Each year, I come to the beach and demand a chocolate filled donut in the AM and plan my day from there.

However, because I am 40 this time, it does cause a bit of necessary reflection.

The 15-year-old me is still so familiar. 1985 feels like yesterday and forever ago at the same time.

Do I wallow in regret? the contrary. While the subtle undercurrent of regret motivates us in our daily lives, real regret normally morphs itself into a life lesson. What has regret taught me on a more profound level? It's present.

Of course, I do have regrets and they are similar to the list of superficial regrets that I had when I was 30. Let's see...I still can not speak Italian or play the guitar. I use way too many paper towels and I stay up way too late.

Even at 15, I was painfully aware of the temporary nature of life. So the reverberation of "being present" in your current moment has been a reoccurring theme in my life. Learn from the past and move on. Look forward to the future but be flexible. Wallow in your moment. Now.

My vision/version of the 40-year-old me when I was 15 goes like this: I am a very successful attorney living in NYC hanging out with the Warhol crowd and Deborah Harry is my very best friend. My apartment is a loft penthouse in the middle of the city with "Jetson-like" attributes including Astro and Rosie the robot. In my free time (because when you are 15, you think there will always be plenty of free time), I am a professional photographer and have at least one coffee table book published. My actual birthday is spent in some exotic place with an enormous amount of friends and family around me. On a daily basis, tribulations give way to waves of fulfillment. I am blessed enough to be surrounded by my loved ones and love hard in return.

Wait! 40-year-old version TAKE TWO: I am a wife, mother of two young beautiful children and own a successful business in Blue Ridge, Georgia. While Blue Ridge is a far cry from NYC, it does remind me of the towns we read about in 7th grade literature class. The woods are my home in a little red house complete with Yogi the dog but no robot. My peer group is the fly fishing crowd and my best friend is my husband of sixteen years who is the absolute love of my life. I have a few good friends that I genuinely love but my truest friends are my family. All of them...the whole, husband, parents, brothers, sisters, in-laws, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins and the one technically unrelated friend whom I call my sister. In my very limited free time, I mountain bike deep in the woods on wild trails with my girlfriends. On my actual birthday, I am sitting in the most familiar place on earth on vacation with a few loving family members. On a daily basis, tribulations give way to waves of fulfillment. I am blessed enough to be surrounded by my loved ones and love hard in return.

Being present,


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Babies, Big Browns, Bamboo Fly Rods and Independence!

Besides raising babies, I work full-time for our bamboo fly rod making business (with the babies on my hip...literally). My goal is to eliminate all possible distractions from Bill's life that comes with owning your own business. I want Bill to wake up and make bamboo fly rods. So, this means if you come into our shop on any given day, it looks like a day care center exploded in my office. It's mild chaos, but the way we chose to do things, nonetheless. For the past few weekends, we have been able to make a departure from our organized chaos to attend events and celebrate our Independence. First, at the end of June, we went to the South Holston's Fly Fishing Festival benefiting River's Way charity. Our friend, Knox Campbell heads up the event and his efforts are an amazing testament to hard work and devotion on many levels. Knox is devoted to his family, his job/charity and the sport of fly-fishing. During the festival, Bill and Knox managed to get in some night fishing. Yes, night fishing. After working all day in 90 degree heat, Bill and Knox skipped sleep and went fishing (imagine that). So, on their last night, Knox was rewarded with this big brown at 2:30am! That's some good fish karma.

The next weekend was July 4th in our little town of Blue Ridge, GA. Main Street is packed with people and has a traditional parade that includes everything from the notorious Seed and Feed marching band out of Atlanta followed by locals dedicated to the soldiers of the confederacy. How's that for real "diversity"!?!? That's Blue Ridge. In fact, while watching the parade with the bamboo fly rod making students that were in town from the front of our shop, we heard bagpipes and thought we recognized the guy playing them...well, it was no coincidence. We are proud to include Chipley among our Oyster graduates. Here we are (pic to the left) in the middle of the parade as he poses with us. Oyster grads always have a variety of interests and Chipley is no exception. The rest of the 4th was beautiful. The parade was followed by a long lunch outside in downtown Blue Ridge, then Blueberry picking at the orchard, a long nap (Bill did not nap because he was teaching until almost dark)and fireworks at a friend's home on Lake Blue Ridge. Can't complain...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Bill wins a Winston!?!?!?

So, Bill won a Winston Boron rod this weekend. Yes, I know that we make bamboo fly rods and yes, I know that a bamboo fly rod maker should not be seen with a boron rod but the story is funny. While presenting at the SE FFF show, Bill decides last minute to enter his very first casting competition ever at 10:30 AM. By early evening, Bill won the overall category for distance (107 feet) and accuracy. The grand prize was a Winston rod and a Hardy reel. Now, my question is...

So, we are in the middle of a bamboo fly rod making class and it's a great group (as usual). We are in the thick of it scheduling our custom bamboo fly rod orders as well. Our waiting list continues to grow and we have a mean game of catch up (as usual). There's a long list of master series rods to complete so our bamboo fly rod maker turns into an engraver for a few weeks (at least). I think the hand engraving is a welcome break from the bamboo and classes. Also, Bill allows his artistic side to grow while engraving.
Meanwhile, the kids and I are preparing the students lunch so I'll have an excuse to go to the shop and work on my cast. If I cast 70 feet on boo, I get to buy a new pair of boots!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bamboo Fly Rods and Meatballs!

We are in the heart of bamboo fly rod making class season. And, while our days are long during the classes, we always find time at the end of each day to gather with our family and the students to talk about...well, a little bit of everything. The conversation usually starts with more bamboo talk then moves to fish which inevitably leads to talk of life in general. I am incredibly enthusiastic about participating in these conversations but eventually the students' stories take on a life of their own and I am left listening with fascination as these 6 completely different people become bamboo fly rod makers and friends. The final gathering (our graduation dinner) includes a meatball throwdown! Making meatballs is my zen. Sad but true. Our most recent class ended on Friday night and in addition to the meatballs, Cutter made a chocolate-filled cake-sized cupcake. He's so helpful. Even though they did not have advance plans to do so...the entire class ended up fishing together with their new bamboo fly rods yesterday. In fact, General Moen, one of our students, called early in the morning to say they were resting from catching so many fish! I love it!

The gang on grad night!
...not pictured...Riley...his head got cut off! Sorry Riles!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Top 10 Ways You Know You’re Married to a Bamboo Fly Rod Maker

A moment with the maker and Veronica in the workshop.

1. He grew a beard because it looks “more professional”.
2. Your coat closet is a varnishing room.
3. Bamboo shavings are are regular accessory.
4. When you fill out any type of general questionnaire, there’s never a box to check for profession.
5. When you DO tell people what you do for a living, they think you are kidding.
6. My father dropped the “ in-law” 16 years ago and simply introduces Bill as his son.
7. Your five-year old thinks a graphite rod belongs in his “Star Wars” toy sword collection.
8. Your infant’s pack and play is wedged under a workbench.
9. As a wife, understanding his need to create and make something with his hands that is an extension of himself and will outlive our time here on earth.
10. When the hatch is on... he is gone!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Bamboo Fly Rod it Art?

Do we call this a workshop or studio?

Cutter always tells people he wants to make bamboo fly rods when he grows up (and be an "army man", fireman and hero). Yesterday, a woman was in the shop and she asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. Cutter quickly replied, "an artist." I said, "I thought you wanted to be a bamboo fly rod maker like daddy?" Cutter said, "I do, daddy is an artist." After gushing with pride over my son because of his word association, I started thinking about how dead-on he was about bamboo fly rod making being an art. Fly fishing is an art. Most of the fly fishers I know have two things in common...they are analytical and passionate people. Normally, life squeezes the artist out of us. I think that fly-fishing and subsequently bamboo fly rod making allows us to tap into that part of our heart that has always been there. We consider Bill an artist because of his talent and free hand engraving but it is clear (and often overlooked) that the making of a bamboo fly rod is a true art. Taking a piece of Tonkin Cane bamboo and sculpting it into an extension of one's fly fishing self is art. Life is art.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Snow, Bamboo Fly Rods, Classes, more snow...oh my!

So...a few days of snow in North Georgia is fun and charming. BUT, this winter has been brutal. It has snowed a lot this winter...a lot. My five year old does not even look up when it snows. However, snow or ice...Bill makes it to our bamboo fly rod shop and works. The kids and I usually stay home on those days because it's too dangerous on the roads. The shop is usually our second home and when we teach bamboo fly rod making classes it becomes our first home. We had a new group of six students in town last weekend and the workshop had incredible energy and everyone had such a good time. Really! Two of our students are back for the second and third time! The budding rodmakers stayed busy flaming, scraping and planing, Bill taught at full tilt, Veronica rolled around in her walker and Cutter tied flies! Yes, Cutter (who just turned 5) is our most gifted "Fly Tyer"! Some mothers are so proud of their child's academic or athletic achievement. This mother loves her son's passion for the fly.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Whew! 10th straight year at The Fly Fishing Show in Charlotte, NC

Whew...we left the Oyster Bamboo Fly rod workshop for the Charlotte fly fishing trade show at 9:30PM on Friday after another insane week of bamboo fly rod building. We always take the entire family. That includes us, our 5 year old son, Cutter and infant daughter, Veronica, Yogi and the grandparents (our official groupies). No rest for the weary...after being stopped by the police and a six hour drive, we arrive at our hotel that smelled suspiciously like cat pee, opened the windows to air out the room (with 40 degree temperatures) settled in around 5AM only to be awoken by our son who crawled in our double bed with us and a baby girl whooping with croup! Bill and my father (he comes along as well) got up at 7AM to set up for the trade show that officially started at 10AM. Well...the show unofficially opened at 9AM. Friday was a busy day all things considered. However...then came the snow...Charlotte had a snow storm that evening. Lots of snow...lots of ice. As soon as Cutter found out that we were snowed in...he said, "I hope this hotel has room service!" Even though there was snow and ice, and a crowd of a dozen or so...somehow, Bill still sold several bamboo fly rods. Incredible...huh! That amazes me...really! How die hard are these guys?!?! It was so dangerous out there. The roads were pure ice and these fly fishermen voluntarily went to the show! I guess it's all worth it in the end. Trade shows are exhausting and fun at the same time. After 10 years at the same show, we have made real connections with clients and exhibitors alike. I look forward to each year at these trade shows (regardless of the snow or horrible hotel rooms)just to see everyone and so they can make jokes about Bill turning gray!

Here's what Bill looked like when we went to our first Charlotte show 10 years ago...

Here's what Bill looks like after building bamboo fly rods full time for almost 15 years, 2 kids and and lots of loooooong nights...

No, really. :)

Monday, January 18, 2010

another long day at the bamboo fly rod workshop...

...with the family and Yogi the bear. Blue Ridge is busy today and the sun is shining. Main Steet has a special energy.It's late and Bill's day is not even close to over. Trade show season is upon us so the days can only get longer...but who's is good.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Oyster Bamboo speaks at Pisgah TU

We just returned from a quick trip to the Asheville area after speaking at the Pisgah TU chapter. Bill does an amazing presentation (my opnion, of course)on bamboo fly rods and the classes. We had a great turn out and made a new friend in Dr. Mike Dennis. We stayed with him while we were there and he was such a gracious host. He served us several gourmet meals, listened to great music, drank wine and talked New Zealand fly fishing. Our visit was wonderful! We meet so many little time.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Greetings from Oyster Bamboo Fly Rod's HQ...this is the tale of one woman's journey into the bamboo fly rod building abyss.

That's me...standing in a river with my baby, 5-year-old son, Yogi the dog and husband, Bill Oyster.

How did this happen?

While growing up in the suburbs of Atlanta, there was no question that urban life was my only logical adult path. You lights, concrete, loads of people, modern conveniences and great food. So, again, how did I end up in the mountains of Blue Ridge, Georgia standing in a river?

This diversion from city life started 17 years ago when I met Bill Oyster in Athens, Georgia and he "left" his fly rod in my car. We were married a few months later. Fast forward a few years...while Bill was reading aloud from a John Gierach book about fly fishing, he said, "I want a bamboo fly rod." I said, "Make your own."

That was it...Bill made his own bamboo fly rod and then another and another. People saw the rods, people loved them, people started purchasing them.

We were too young and dumb not to follow our hearts. So, I took over the paperwork while Bill made bamboo fly rods and started teaching bamboo fly rod making classes.

Over the past 17 years, I have been introduced to and fallen in love with the woods, nature and all she has to offer and the simple life and style of the river. Once we had children, our want to move to a more fitting environment became a need.

We currently live in the woods and have a full time bamboo fly rod making shop on Main Street in Blue Ridge, Georgia. Our family practically lives at that shop. We work so hard (for's 1:10AM and Bill is varnishing a bamboo fly rod) but never take our life for granted. We still follow our hearts.