Thursday, December 1, 2011

How did you become a bamboo fly rod maker?

That  is the most common question asked at our shop. 
Our answer is a bit convoluted but basically it's a hobby gone wild.  So, I started to think about our Oyster clients and their are a few of my favorites...

How did you become…

…a General in the Air Force?
A:  When I showed up at the recruiting office, it was the shortest line to stand in.

…an attorney?
A:  Really Shannen?!?!?…for the money.

… a sniper?
A:  Snipers had the best parking spots on the base and I was sick of walking.

.…a vet?
A:  I like animals a lot more than people.

 …a neurologist?
A:  My mother made me do it.   

 …an Orchid thief?
A:  Strange things happen when you are in South America for too long.

 …a pilot?
A:  Besides standing in a river trying to understand how a trout thinks, flying is the experience of a lifetime.

 …a snow maker?
A:  It pays more than ski patrol.

a banker?
A:  It seemed like a good idea at the time.

a horse track designer?
A:  Naturally, because I am from Kentucky. 

a knife maker?
A:  It’s a familybusiness (Jason Randall). 

…a sculptor?
A:  The models…  

There's more but I'll save it for later...the fact of the matter is that pepole are so much more than "what they do for a living" .  What we do with our lives before and after simple acts of self presevation defines us more than anything else.

Another hard day at the falling at NCF...thanks Kristy!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

American Dreams and Oyster Bamboo Fly Rods

Tick, tick, tick...time.

...vintage Bill...circa 1993
...vintage Shannen...circa 1993

Time is a gift and a bully...a constant "in your face" reminder of your inner most weaknesses but when confronted head on, the time bully can also be a reminder of your greatest strengths.

Oyster headquarters from our basement to our cottage to Main Street to our new digs COMING SOON!

Basement sweet Basement
Our true cottage industry years
Main street USA

Tick, tick, proverbial biological clock is loud and I am not talking about the one that hit me like a 6- ton Mack Truck in my 30s that resulted in 2 amazing children.  I am talking about my "dream clock".     Oh, and I have a chorus of dreams...big and small alike.

Oyster Bamboo Fly Rod's future interior wall

With all of our country's current turmoil,  "dreams" seem even too trite to mention, huh?  Well, I happen to think it's the perfect time to drag our dreams out front and center  for everyone to see!  For example, the seemingly illusive "American Dream".   Until recently, I have not even given that expression too much thought (see my disdain for cliches).  Not much thought at all until a few weeks ago when we closed on the land and construction loan for our new Oyster Bamboo Fly Rod's building in the heart of downtown Blue Ridge on Main Street.  I would love to say that we never imagined that such a thing could ever happen and the "universe spoke for us"  but the fact is we worked so hard for this opportunity dreamed of this for over 13 years and now it is happening.  Taj Mahal it is not...our dream it is.

Here's the break down of our American Dream.  A husband and wife (ma and pa makes me feel old) start a company in their basement 13 years ago.  We make things.  We make nice things.  We have a quality product and try to get as close to the "beyond reproach"  ideal as possible.  We use Bill's undeniable talent and my knack for arduous paperwork (not as romantic as Bill's talent but necessary)  and combine the two with a ridiculous work ethic, loads of grit and a remarkable love of what we do and one another (sorry...had to throw that in) that inevitably collide with opportunities (opportunities that we took regardless of how tired/sick/busy/pregnant/broken/happy/sad/cold/hot/far/small/big/good or bad they were)

The American's a good one.  It's real and it's still out there. 

So, while time and dreams can sometimes get in the way of one another, they can also create a "deadline" with following through, confronting the bully and unearthing your greatest strengths. 


Look Mom...finally an occasion to use your good crystal!


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Oyster Bamboo Fly Rods says goodbye to summer

What?  Summer is over?!?!
Fall is near.  Our nights are cooler and the crisp air teases us until noon each day when we inevitably end up in the high 80s.  I am okay with the heat (if it's below 70 , I swear I can see my breathe),  but most people are not as tolerant.  When I walk outside the shop on Main Street, I hear a chorus of complaining from all directions (especially Bill and Riley).
One word...winter.  Don't forget the alternative...winter.  
But, until then, we have the magical fall to look forward to soon.

Saying goodbye to summer is always difficult for me and this one is no exception.  Here at Oyster Bamboo Fly Rods, we were very busy playing and working over the past several months.  So, if a picture is worth 1000 we go...

work, work, work

play, play, play on the Frying Pan
work, work, work
play, play, play in St. George
work, work, work...hand engraved butt caps for students in one class
  We taught over 28 students to make a bamboo fly rod this summer!
work, work, work...kind of
PLAY!PLAY!PLAY!...once our student and now our "imported" friend Brian from Massachusetts.

 work, work, work

play, play, play...Bill and Riley took up pipe smoking when I was not looking
play, play, play
Goodbye to summer...

Until we meet again...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

My Jeep Wrangler, an ode to a blue minivan and Oyster Bamboo Fly Rod Rods

I had an ephiphany today.  

You go where you look.

And it all revolves around an electric blue minivan.

Let me all started several months ago when my Jeep Wrangler was trashed by softball sized hail (if you think this is an's not). 
the hail that started it all

Once we realized the extent of the damage,  I immediately starting  dreading the day that I had to give up my Jeep for some rent-a-car and compromise my self esteem priorities by driving something else for an extended period of time that was far more uncool practical.  FYI:  I have driven some form of Jeep Wrangler for 20 years.

So, after putting off the inevitable for 6 weeks,  I took my Jeep to the dealership for repairs and waited for the Enterprise rent-a car person to pull up with my temporary ride.  How bad could it be, right?  I do live in Blue Ridge,'s probably a truck.  I can live with that.  Maybe it's a comfy family sedan.  As long as it's not maroon (long story), I can live with that.  I'll not even panic if it's a fuel efficient smart car that has zero room for the kids.  I can make it work and I'll feel so superior environmentally friendly about it all. 

When my new vehicle came up the drive, it was the worse case scenario...for me.   My new transportation was a minivan.  Specifically, an electric blue minivan. 

It was so blue that when Cutter saw it, he yelled, "Cool!  Is that Spiderman's car?"

Oh geeez...a bright blue minivan.  Here's the quandary...after purposefully and systematically shedding most of my hard core suburb upbringing throughout my adult life, the van pulling up in front of me was the metaphorical equivalent of all that is wrong with the world that I purged from my life when I was able to start making my own choices.

Wow...I was thinking too hard about this blue it too much credit...I requested a new car.  Anything.  Mr. rent-a-car man did not argue with me and said they could have something the following day...problem solved.

The "problem" worsened. 

In a word, this blue minivan van was easy and it taunted me from go.   I was pulled into a parallel universe from the moment I took the wheel.

The easy universe (or easier at least).

This blue bus drives like a dream, has enough space to accommodate groceries,  all of my my ridiculous hobby gear and everything else I own (all at once) and still has room for Cutter to change his clothes  standing up (don't ask).  It's intuitive automatic doors blow my mind and the satellite radio is clear as a bell because the top to this van is hard (unlike my Wrangler's soft top) and does not rattle my brain stem when I drive over 55mph. Oh, and the cup holders!  There are at least 8 cup holders within16 inches of the driver's side. Incredibly, they were all full with my random items before I even pulled out of the dealer's parking lot.  Of course, the kids love it because of the DVD players and "glowing" overhead feature at night.  


The Jeep body shop called a few days ago to say they are very sorry but it would be at least another week before my car is ready.  I said don't apologize...really.   It's okay.

In a panic, I started looking for Minivans for sale.

Cutter asks every day if we can keep it (like a puppy).  I say no.  He asks why.   I am running out of excuses.  After all, is a Jeep really worth the extra work?  It has cramped quarters, I have to strap everything on top despite my 5' tall stature, it drives like my go-cart from 3rd grade, and (aghast), there are only two cup holders.
the kids vote for the van

But then it epiphany.  

Just as I drove (very smoothly I might add) and listened to (hearing very clearly I might add) every word of "Fresh Air" through our winding mountain roads, the following series of events happened (this is a true story):

I was following behind a Jeep Wrangler that turned off onto a side road.  The top was down, the doors were off and my heart ached as I watched it disappear straight up a rutted-out dirt road that  immediately incited a riot inside of me.  Where did that road lead?!?  Trails?  A great creek?  A secret view?  I slammed on the breaks (very subtle breaking system I might add)  and stared at the forest in front of me.  My trance like state could not be broken as I imagined vistas, meadows, a rainbow and perhaps a unicorn at the top!

I wanted to follow that Jeep up the rocky mountain road...but I could not...the proverbial "you go where you look" was not even an option.  

Then it hit me...this minivan can not take me where I really want to go.  In spite of it's "ease", ultimately, easy is not (and has never been) a priority.  Sometimes, life's lowest common denominator (in this case my go-cart like Jeep) actually fulfills our deepest desires without even having electric sliding doors involved.   

This caused my internal riot to morph into the "reflection" thing that happens when you listen to your little voice (and two kids are not screaming in your ear).

While making bamboo fly rods for a living has created a beautiful life for us, it is not easy.  This profession chose us and we heard the call (that little voice again) but certainly not because of it's ease, potentially lucrative nature or because some book on the shelves at Barnes and Noble gave us an "easy step by step" plan for the bamboo fly rod making industry.  Bamboo fly rod making is none of the above but it is indeed a fulfilling and happy life as a direct result of going "straight up a rutted-out dirt road".  

As a craft, bamboo fly rod making is an extraordinary undertaking (to say the least) and making it a successful business is even more of a challenge.  But, we are up for it...each day.  We do  not just accomplish the minimum to get by...we are all consumed with making it all better for everyone involved. 

HIS...and hers!
If we simply looked for the "easiest" route, there would not be vistas and meadows to even imagine much less realize (and even live atop of).  So, we here at Oyster Bamboo Fly Rods and the Oyster family in general will forgo the easy  and "go where we look".

The reward of making bamboo fly rods is the easiest to understand of gets us where we want to go.

So, I bid adieu to the blue minivan with no regrets...except perhaps those cup holders.

Not Easy

But Super Duper

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Cast and Blast at Oyster Bamboo Fly Rods...and this's me!

Roni taking a stroll down Main Street attracting a crowd

My children have grown to be quite the conspirators in the progress department wherever we may go in our small mountain community.  I spend the majority of my day "preparing" to be efficient while Cutter and Veronica have a completely different agenda.  While there are many advantages to raising kids in our "Blue Ridge village", the lifestyle has it's pitfalls.  For example, there is no where to hide...ever.   Each uncontrollable behavioral milestone is confusing enough but now it all happens in slow motion as an entire community of locals and tourists thoughtfully look on as if the "Oyster kids" are a new TLC show. 

I guess having a shop (and raising kids in it) on Main Street in any type of tourist town has an expected "fish bowl" effect on a family.  The fish bowl feels more like the "carnival effect" on busy weekends.  When Cutter panhandles sells his flies, I hear the proverbial, 

"Step right up...step right up...see the boy who ties flies and is raised in a bamboo
fly rod making shop...and when you are done marveling at him...there is a toddler 
girl dressed up as a Jedi casting a rod around the corner...step right up..."

Oh well, seems perfectly normal to me.

After a month and a half of arduous work for all of us here at Oyster Bamboo Fly Rods (including the kiddos because they had to put up with the schedule), we decided to treat ourselves to something special.  Listen...the months of which I speak were truly "get yourself something special" worthy.  I am talking 7 days a week (okay that's not so unusual for us), 14-18 hour days (while long hours in itself are not unusual) for 6 weeks straight.

So, after three classes and an unusually hectic time of custom rod building, Bill announced that he had a surprise for me...ahhhh, what could it be?  Jewelery? No, I don't really care for the shiny stuff (I am one of "those people" who question the true value of a rare gem).  Was it a quick get-away to Belize?  No, I still won't leave the children because I am a good martyr  mother.  What about a new pair of boots?  Okay, now we are getting close...I secretly hoped he knew to "size down" if he bought me Fryes.

No such luck...none of the above...

Bill bought me a shotgun.  (insert sarcastic tone here) What every girl dreams of, right?  Especially this girl.   And, I should mention that since I started writing this post, Bill has purchased yet another gun for me.

While I do not have a moral issue with firearms (feel the detachment in my voice), I have chosen not to own one for my entire adult life.  It has always been best (for everyone really) that I do not own and therefore use a gun.

Fast forward a few weeks after receiving my special gift from Bill...and...

Sooooooo, guess what? I love my shotgun.  Love it!  I shot clays for the first time with a friend that was in town from New York for a class that has experience and (most importantly) patience.  He showed me how to hold the gun and not shoot myself.  Whew!  He threw my first 25 clays and I was officially hooked!

I am even the first confirmed Oyster "staff " member to have an unauthorized "Cast and Blast" day at NCF.  The fishing was great and all...but shooting was the highlight.


My form has greatly improved since this photo...

But the shooting...what can I was something.  I just love to shatter a clay.  That would make a good t-shirt.  I even love the smell of the gun powder.  It's just so cool to walk through the woods from station to station and shoot your gun.  And, if you don't feel like walking, there are golf carts.  Who knew!?!

I wonder what life will introduce as my next unexpected "leisure activity"?


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Clichés, Relativity and Bamboo Fly Rods

Is it March?!?!  


(insert snarky teenager inflection here)


The older we get, the more applicable "time flies" is to our lives.

We started the year strong...personally and professionally.  Well, when you make bamboo fly rods for a living the lines are divinely blurred between all of your "selves" especially professional and personal.  Wait!  Do we have a professional self?  I digress...

So, as I mentioned, we started the year strong.  Bill was awarded  Garden and Gun Magazine's Made in the South Award  for the sporting category.  It was beautiful.  Period.

On a more personal note...the beginning of 2011 also ushered in the realization that I have become my greatest fear.  Yes, you heard it...(after dying in a fiery plane crash, of course), my greatest fear is being a  Cliché.  I am now officially a card carrying member of the  Cliché club.  Here's how this discovery flooded over me in one word...Disney.   Oh yeah, that's right, I am a Mickey Mouse lovin', Space Mountain riding, souvenir buying, Kodak moment taking...Disney freak!  Who knew?

Here's something funny...when making the reservations, I told Bill we should stay in the "Wild Kingdom Resort" at Disney.  He said, "We live in the Wild they have a 'Suburb Land' know, a resort that has a Starbucks and a Barnes and Noble in your suite?"

January and the beginning of February was a blur...literally.  All snow!

The snow broke long enough for our winter weekend class to start.  Believe it or not...the weather has been mild and beautiful ever since?  Coincidence?  Probably...but, I would much rather believe that the sun came out just for bamboo fly rod building.

Oh, and there was the Atlanta Fly Fishing trade show that was scheduled after we filled up our winter weekend class.  Because the show conflicted with our class,  my father and I did this show without Bill (and Yogi) for the first time ever.  It was empowering strange.

Just a few short days after the class and show, Bill left for Argentina for 12 days.  Again, Riley and I threatened to revolt and turn pots BUT Riley left us as well to fish on the South Holston!  No sweat.  We managed but it's so nice to have Bill home again.  (see co-dependent portion of this blog)

We have a week long bamboo fly rod making class in session as we speak and it's non-business as usual. Our students are enthusiastic and diverse from all walks of life.  Of course, the "tie that binds" is some little voice inside of them that brought them to us.

Our little town of Blue Ridge is full of people strolling the streets and enjoying the gorgeous weather.  Cutter is selling his flies for $2 each but usually makes a bit more because he does not give change.  Now that Veronica is a proficient walker...she is officially a "townie".  She stomps up and down Main Street stealing everyone's hearts and hugging each dog that passes by.

Riley and I made a little video (well Riley made it while I stood over his shoulder and needled him) to introduce ourselves on a site that we joined called TaiganIt's it is...!  If you don't have Quicktime, go to the You Tube link here.  I am proud of it.  check out Veronica in the engraving scene.

So...I have to mention the painting that Cutter did for Youth Month here in Blue Ridge.  Above all else...I am one proud seems like yesterday this kid was learning to walk...