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Casting a Spell: The Bamboo Fly Rod and the American Pursuit of Perfection Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 8, 2006

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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (August 8, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400063965
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400063963
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #628,208 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In the rarified world of bamboo fly rod making, names like Ed Payne and Sam Carlson, and their progeny, acolytes and apprentices, stand like giants, casting long shadows that stretch from the dawn of modern American fly-fishing in the late 19th century to the present-day reality of multimillion dollar "cabins" along the Bitterroot River valley in Montana. In this beautifully crafted, utterly engaging work, Black wraps his own personal journey through the contemporary world of bamboo fly rod making in a sweeping, meticulous telling of the history of American fly-fishing. With admirable dexterity, he manages to make the story a metaphor for a great deal of how American social and commercial culture has evolved over the past 150 years. Black indelibly etches a story of peerless craftsmen laboring toward perfection, sparring all the while with corporate interest, fickle customers and the inevitable diminishing of their own inspiration. A must for any committed angler, this is a worthwhile read for those who have never rolled out of bed before dawn, pulled on a pair of rubber waders and ventured into the ice-cold waters of some trout stream in search of that perfect catch. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Black celebrates the bamboo fly rod, finding in this special piece of fishing tackle a metaphor for an offshoot of the American dream: what he calls the "pursuit of perfection" in craftsmanship. The text combines a history of bamboo rod development--from -nineteenth-century craftsmen through such recent rod makers as Hoagy Carmichael Jr. (son of the songwriter)--with a broader narrative in which bamboo craftsmanship becomes part of a larger story involving the cold war, the growth of outdoor retailing companies (Abercrombie and Fitch, Orvis, L. L. Bean), and the movement of the tackle-manufacturing industry from the U.S. to overseas (rod bamboo, it turns out, is only available in China). Some readers may be disappointed to find that there is relatively little actual fishing in these pages, but Black is after, well . . . bigger fish. In the manner of Mark Kurlansky writing about salt or cod, he finds in the simple bamboo fishing rod a means to express not only the essence of fly-fishing but also the unquenchable spirit of individual craftsmen. John Rowen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

The book is an easy read, is well-written and the style is novelistic.
Iron Blue
I'm disappointed in both the author and the editor for letting petty feelings break up the rhythm of an otherwise fine book.
Learned a great deal about the complexities and history of bamboo fly rod making.
Susan R. Spissinger

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Iron Blue on August 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I myself am a maker of bamboo rods, so I may be somewhat prejudiced, but Casting a Spell cast a spell over me. Black has caught the spirit of our craft in his telling of the story of the development of the fine bamboo fly rod and the people involved in making them from the late 19th century until the present. He begins at the beginning-- that is, with H. L. Leonard and the group of marvelous rod makers who worked with him in the late 19th century. This core group of rod makers served as the wellspring of all bamboo rod making in the United States. Eustace Edwards, Fred Thomas, Edward Payne and the Hawes Brothers, and of course, Hiram Leonard himself.-- though each of them had distinct personalities, they all had one thing held in common; a drive for perfection.

It was not Black's intention to write a complete history of American bamboo fly rod making. Rather, it was his intention to trace the quest for perfection shown by lives and work of the original Leonard crew as they dispersed and established their own shops and their own versions of perfection in fly rod making. Black believes that Eustace Edwards, with his restless quest for the perfect fly rod, epitomizes all that is best in craftsmanship. Therefore, his book focuses primarily on Eustace and his offspring, their contributions to the art of rod making and the personal and professional interconnections among the great rod makers.

Black does not attempt to explain how the bamboo fly rod is made, but it is really unnecessary to know much about that to understand the book. There is really very little new in the book in terms of the history of the bamboo fly rod and its construction.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Knapp on September 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Regardless of whether you don't know the difference between a fly rod and a cane pole, or whether you not only know the differences but you've made your spouse learn about them, there's a place on your book shelf for Casting A Spell. George Black's investigative trail took him all over the country on a merry chase after the fly fishing equivalent of the Holy Grail: the perfect bamboo fly rod. Is there a piscatorial equivalent to the Stradivarius? George is convinced the best were from the hands of Eustis William Edwards, and he goes on to show the reader that the excellence that began in the mid 1800's flourished under the stewardship of makers like Billy Edwards as the new century began. Fly fishing in America certainly didn't start with A River Runs Through It and today the bamboo fly rod is alive and well as the new generations of rod crafters strive to create the next Strad. There are good reasons why the bamboo rod has enjoyed a renaissance in recent decades and when you've finished this book you'll understand both the craftsmen and their customers a bit better. This is a good read from an investigative writer with a proven track record in this area.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Paul T. Shultz on November 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
George Black has written a most literary and enjoyable history of the bamboo fly fishing rod. Unhurried, with frequent fascinating digressions, he takes one through the history of the development of this remarkable sporting instrument, beginning in the mid 1800's and coming down to the present. He provides much color to persons whose names were all we knew before: Leanard, Edwards, Hawes, Thomas and more. A grand book by a great author. You will really enjoy this book, even if you are not a fly fisher.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By John Matlock on November 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
While the nominal subject of this book is the banboo fly rod, it's really about art. There are those who can look at the Mona Lisa and be enraptured. There are others who hear a piece of music and almost leave their bodies behind.

Then there are others who look at the Mona Lisa and see a picture not as good as a photograph, and to whom music is basically noise. (Of course to a lot of music lovers, that 'other kind' of music is just noise.)

This book goes a long way to explaining that there's another approach to art. The art of the bamboo fly rod 'casts a spell' on George Black. And as a professional writer he has the gift of words to explain just how it does. His poetic prose takes the reader from the technology and the reknown makers to little known streams across the country to make the perfect catch with the perfect rod. Will he ever reach the untimate? Of course not. Life is a journey not a destination.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Who, What, Where? VINE VOICE on December 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The topic has started to catch my eye when I treat myself to a book on amazon. Bamboo rods really have a grasp on my interest in the sport right now. So, I bought this book with the intention of trying to further my awareness of these rods. Well, let me just say that the writing is great. It is unsurpassed within the world of fly fishing literature. However, the author's elitist attitudes did not really provide much of an insight into the world of bamboo rods, other than to recount how one person was able to use his credentials to make connections that others could not make. He met some great people and tells us of these meetings. Then the author engages in an ego boosting yarn about his rare and valuable rods he owns. That is about all that is in the book and why it does not really belong their with Gierach's book. It is up to you but there are other more enjoyable books on the subject.
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