- Fri Feb 23, 2007 1:01 am
From the 1999 Drake, by Chris Dombrowski:n Rodholders - Glenn BrackettThe second time I met R. L. Winston's Bamboo Guru, Glenn Brackett, he was in the Twin Bridges Post Office. It was my first week in town and I was hot to get a few letters off with the new postmark. I walked in past Glenn and a couple of ranchers who were leaning up against the window in the small lobby, and stood behind a woman who was trying to ship a vacuum. Hoping Glenn would recognize me, I turned around and said, "Hey.""How you doing," he said, then added, almost as an aside, "we usually form the line back here, so as not to crowd our Postmistress."Recently I caught up with Glenn at the old Winston factory where his rod shop is located, and asked him about this meeting of ours."Well," he said, [/img]t tells you a lot about Twin Bridges, doesn't it?" Twin Bridges, MT, population 350 or so has been home to the R.L. Winston Rod Co. for 25 years, since Brackett and then co-owner Tom Morgan moved the company from its Market Street store in San Francisco. For more than century before Winston arrived, Twin served as a resting place for ranchers and gold prospectors, hardened men and women on the heals of Lewis and Clark and Sacagewea. Before the upstream exploration, the Shoshone Indians lived and hunted in the Beaverhead Valley; since the first snow melted in the Red Rocks and the Pioneers, the valley has been the place where the Beaverhead and Big Hole Rivers join, where the Jefferson River begins."When we moved Winston here," Brackett said, "we were looking for a place that hadn't changed much in the 30 years prior to our move, and wouldn't change much in the 30 years to follow. It's lived up to that hope."As a rod builder, fisherman, and father, Glenn Brackett has the steadiness of Twin Bridges; quietly impassioned, Brackett has gone about the business of making some of the finest split-cane rods in the world for over 20 years. He's also fished the world-over twice, holds numerous world records, and yet seems truly content to hike high into the Tobacco Roots and pop a dry fly onto bathtub-sized pools all day. And, though he has no biological children, Brackett has been in the "business of parenting" since his mid-thirties when he began adopting "troubled" children.[/img]'d always wanted to go into the Peace Corps," he said, "but the Army got me first. Adopting kids is just a chance to return to society some of the opportunities that came along my way."n [/img]'d always wanted to go into the Peace Corps," Brackett said, "but the Army got me first."A short man with a thick, graying beard, the gold wire-rimmed glasses resting on the bridge of his nose pin him down in your mind as a kind of cross between your college poetry professor and an old-time train conductor. His friends call him gentle and kind, a model craftsman. With his feet propped up on the table in the rod shop, a sandpaper square in one hand, a new piece of cane from Tonkin in the other, he looks a lot like a philosopher, a sage, the wise character in a book someone should write someday.A Gene Autry tune drones away on the stereo in the dusty rod shop--"yeehaw music," Glenn says. Later on in the night it might be Buddy Guy or some Mississippi Delta Blues, and even later, Joseph Campbell's "The Power of Myth" tapes, or a recording of the Dalai Lama's latest book."Anything to keep the hands moving," says Brackett, who works about 8 months out of the year, along with partner Jeff Walker, filling rod orders for Winston that pile up faster than a spring snow in the Highlands. One of the most respected rod builders in the world, Brackett's dedication is this: Twin Bridges guides often see him riding his old ten speed home at six or seven in the morning on their way to gas up for the day.It takes 4,500 steps to wind up with a finished rod. There's a hundred feet of travel in each section of an 8' 6 wt.Two years: That's how long it takes to build a rod from beginning to end."Who's crazy enough to do that?!" Brackett says. "How much does one of your rods sell for," I ask, hoping to answer his rhetorical question. Brackett, whose rods are famous for their seamless design, flawless varnishing, perfect node work and classic action, is reluctant to answer:[/img]f you start looking at it for profit," he says, "there's a spirit of it that disappears. My goal has always been to build rods: to do it continuously, with passion and purpose."And do it he has, though you would never hear it from him. Annette McLean, long-time friend and current Winston Production Manager, calls Brackett "a humble man who holds true to the tradition of craftsmanship in bamboo rod making." To many, McLean says, Brackett is a "point of reference" for those who seek art in an industry that so often works in direct paradox to what it allegedly values--solitude, quality, subtlety.As a fisherman, though, Brackett didn't always value the latter of those qualities.[/img] used to do the trophy thing," he says. "But after I'd fished hard for thirty or so years--Alaska, Argentina, you name it--I just stepped back, looked at the fish, and said, 'Come on, give 'em a break.'[/img] think we've done a terrible injustice to the fish as a creature," he says. [/img] mean, the whole gamut of wading and floating, being on the water every day all year--I don't know why the fish just don't go on strike!"Did this realization come to him because of what you learned as a fisheries biologist (Brackett earned his Masters in fisheries at Humbolt State in Northern California, specializing in cold water species)?"Not really," he says. [/img] guess it was more of a philosophical realization. When I look back, I see fly fishing as a means that has opened up all kinds of doors for me. I've fished everywhere imaginable; I've fished for trout, salmon, carp--when I was in graduate school I caught bats on flies for study purposes. Now, it just keeps me in touch with the things I need for my soul."After grad-school, Brackett worked as a guide for "a couple of years" on the Madison and the Henry's Fork, living out of the 1959 Airstream camper that now sits in the grass down the road from Glenn's house, serving as a monument to all would-be trout bums in town.[/img] never loved it (guiding)," he says, "but I gave it a good shot." Brackett worked mostly for Will Godfrey in the early 70's in the [/img]olden triangle" region near West Yellowstone. Mike Lawson, whom Brackett still visits once or twice a year, was starting out as a guide in the area around the same time as Brackett. Lawson says his friend was "a respected guide who kept mostly to himself."After this short guiding stint, Brackett made his way back to his native San Francisco where "somebody made me an offer to start building rods." That somebody was Doug Merrick, former owner of Winston.[/img] grew up with Winston," Brackett says. [/img]y grandpa and father used to take me to the shop in the Market Street area when I was a kid. I guess it got in my blood without me consciously knowing." Under Merrick and his right-hand man, Gary Houghs, Brackett began to learn about the craft of rod building.[/img] learned a great deal in those early years, and I still consider Houghs my mentor. I still call him up on the phone and ask him how to tweak this or understand that.' "A quick study, Brackett became a partner in Winston in 1974, and owner in 1975. In 1984, he retired from the retail side of the business, dedicating his energies to the craft he is hesitant to call art. Some time ago, John Gierach wrote that hand tied flies are "craft if fished, art if framed." I asked Glenn if he felt this way about bamboo.[/img] always personally thought that rod building was a functional tool that addressed a lot of issues--design, structure, natural materials--and that my job was to bring the best of those characteristics together."That, in my mind, is 75% of what this business is about--the other 25% is your art."The first time I met Glenn Brackett I was looking for a place to live. Jane Waldie, Twin Bridges' resident guide-mother, had told me that Glenn had an old Airstream camper that was up for rent. Go on over and ask him, she had said, he's a nice-enough guy.So after floating one day, I went to Glenn's house and knocked on the door. A young girl who I assumed was Glenn's daughter answered the door and when she saw me said "Daaaad, somebody's here to see you." When he came to the door with a beer bottle in his hand, I was proud that I'd looked like a fisherman to his daughter. I introduced myself, told him how much I admired his work, then asked about the Airstream. He was eating dinner, he said, so could I come back another time? His daughther piped up: [/img]'ll show him," she said."O.K.," Glenn said, "fine." Glenn's daughter led me down the street to the old silver camper. On the way, she picked dandlions from the grass and told me about a mean dog who lived down the block. When we reached the Airstream, she said: "This is where my daddy used to live." "Nice," I said. I looked at our reflection in the weathered-mirror side. "You want me to show you the inside?""No, thanks," I said. "That's alright.""O.K.," she said, [/img]'d better be getting back home then."This happend a few years ago, and I remember at the time being charmed by this young girl's innocence, even a little scared for her, that she felt so comfortable with a complete stranger. I didn't know then that Glenn's daughters and sons (four at home; five total) were adopted, or that they'd come from families with disfuntions too numerous or gruesome to mention.But now that I do know, it's hard to see Glenn and his wife, Christine, as anything other than master child builders."The craft of parenting teaches us a tremendous ammount of patience," he says, pausing. "These kids are so resilient . . . it does a lot for my heart to see them rise above their various seen and unseen problems.[/img] hope someday they can know the dedication of a pair of hands that has handled them--crafted them, worked with them, taken time with them.Sanded and prodded and tweaked. I hope they can see those hands.
"Any mods on this forum or what? It's just a free for all of people being assholes to one another?"