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Stalking perfection

August 25, 2011

Jesse Nicholas hopes to transform a passion and a hobby into something more economically viable.

Like a predominant number of fly fishermen, Colville’s Jesse Nicholas is a fisherman’s fisherman--a purist, if you will. After all, while he is erudite in any debate over the nuances of graphite vs. bamboo fly rod and understands the reasons for both, it’s clear where Nicholas and his allegiances lie—it’s bamboo with his dry fly pattern. Nicholas isn’t going to poor mouth the spin casters, or graphite and fiberglass. Different strokes and casts for different folks. It’s just that he prefers angling a different way. No, Nicholas isn’t going to take that bait. As clearly as a river runs through it or a creek runs past it, Nicholas casts his lot and perspective to the hallowed and often revered bamboo fly rod and the almost mystical devotion often ascribed to it. After all, he’s working hard to get a fledgling business off the ground and into the streams of a fly-fisher’s conscience and onto the water. Fledgling business Nicholas is the sole proprietor of Quillisascut Creek Bamboo Fly Rods of Colville. A nearly life-long fisherman, Nicholas admits that his fledgling business is in its infancy. After all, the Quillisascut website, which he created, has been up and running for all of about a month. And he doesn’t mind conceding that he hasn’t sold any of his premium bamboo fly rods yet. He does have some well-outfitted family members, however. “I have some very happy family members,” Jesse says of the handsome, exquisitely conceived and executed bamboo fly rods that he has constructed since initiating what started as a hobby. In 1998, he started making his own set of planing forms as a precursor to what has become Quillisascut Creek Bamboo Fly Rods. “I have made about 20 so far and have given them away,” says Jesse, whose parents own a farm along Quillisascut Creek in the Rice area, some 30 miles from where Nicholas hopes to make a niche and a living with a labor of love. Nicholas hopes to change that “gifting” to relatives concept. After all, materials for custom bamboo fly rods don’t come cheap. ‘His day job’ To pay the bills, Nicholas works construction and builds greenhouses (Nicholas Greenhouse Construction). He’s been doing that since he was 16-years-old. “I still do that,” says the easy-going Nicholas, who grew up in the foothills around Denver, CO. “It pays the bills. But I would love to be able to make this work and leave the construction world.” Nicholas, of course, is an avid fly-fisherman who has been casting his lot to the art since he was a teenager. “My brother and father were into fly-fishing…I remember getting some casting lessons and getting absolutely hooked on it.” Jesse admits that he loves to “product test” in local waters. “Most evenings, I’m on the water,” he says. For Nicholas, there is nothing quite like studying a body of water in the area, picking the appropriate fly pattern, laying it gingerly where it can drift naturally through riffles or a deep pool…and watching a trout hit the pattern. Unless, of course, it’s building a custom bamboo fly rod. Nicholas, who has fished with his share of fast-action graphite rods and fiberglass, concedes that “it doesn’t get any better than bamboo…I love fishing and I enjoy it even more using a bamboo fly rod. It has a feel that is difficult to describe. “It’s really beautiful. A six-inch fish on bamboo feels like it’s a monster. I don’t think that anybody who has ever experienced that wants to go back to graphite.” This avid fly-fisherman makes heirloom-quality, hand-split Tonkin bamboo fly rods from only the highest quality materials. The rods are made to order to suit the discerning customer’s specifications. Nicholas is a perfectionist on the water and at the work- bench. His bamboo fly rods are all personally hand-made from the ground—and the country—up. The cane for the rods comes from China. He selects the cane, hand splits it and planes the cane by hand to its final dimension. The craftsman fits the ferrules (from Vermont) and mounts and shapes each handle using the highest-grade cork. Hand-made reels are from Peerless. You get the idea. Custom fly rods Customers are invited to offer their input and help customize each fly rod, which come in lengths of six to eight-feet. The rods are all built in a three-piece configuration with two matching rod tips. All rods are embellished with decorative contrasting rod wraps at the ferrules and signature wraps. The customer can also choose the color of the cane on the fly rod (from the natural cane “blonde” color, to a rich dark brown that is achieved by flaming the cane). Nicholas is the first to concede that not all bamboo is the same. “I have found that Tonkin cane rebounds more quickly,” Nicholas says as he shows off a couple of his bamboo rods. The Tonkin cane is cured for upwards of a year before it’s ready to become a fly-fisherman’s best friend. Nicholas the bamboo fly-rod maker got his start after attending an intensive, hands-on class from renowned bamboo fly-rod maker William “Bill” Oyster of Blue Ridge, GA. For Nicholas, the craft doesn’t get much better than tutelage from a fly-fisherman and craftsman like Oyster, who draws his students from all over the world and has been commissioned to make rods for many of the world’s finest anglers. “I couldn’t have done better than take that class from him,” Nicholas says of Oyster and his instruction. “He has a very good teaching manner…he’s very good at it. His niche now is teaching…he’s a great teacher and builder.” Nicholas is committed to transforming something that is a passion and hobby to customized vocation. He admits that fly fishing, with or without a bamboo fly rod “isn’t for everybody, but it’s a whole lot of fun…the better you are at it, the more fun it is to fish. There is nothing quite like wading into a stream up to your armpits and casting a line…and being able to drop that fly into that pocket…”

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