Interview: Todd Opsal


Todd: I’ve noticed in fishing, if you can’t clear your mind,  if you’re thinking about stuff – it doesn’t work.  It really doesn’t work.  It’s really difficult to be able to fly fish if you’re worried about something else.  You shouldn’t go. That’s part of the idea.  You have to clear your mind of everything and just zero in on what you’re doing.  You sort of lose track of things. There’s been a lot of times when on the creek here I’ve been fishing and I haven’t been more than 50 yards from the car and I fish for 4 or 5 hours.  It’s not always getting out there.  It’s really immersing yourself in what it is that you’re doing.  I think that’s the aesthetic of this.   Fly fishing is more like hunting I think than other kinds of fishing because you actually go to the fish.  You don’t just throw it out there and wait for the fish to come to you.  You have to go to the fish.

Interviewer:  You mentioned the aesthetics of that rod, but it seems like this whole place has a certain aesthetic.  Maybe even fly fishing has a certain aesthetic.  Can you speak to that?

Interviewee:  I think the whole aesthetics of this, it’s more of an intimate one-on-one thing, you and the fish. The idea of this is not just catching fish.  If you just wanted to catch fish, it’s easier to get a piece of chub tail or a piece of worm and throw it in there and wait.  But this way, you’re actually out there interacting with the fish. When you catch one, you’re directly connected to him rather than having a mechanical between you and the fish.  I think that is just more satisfying to a lot of people, more pleasing than just pulling in the fish.  It’s the act of catching the fish that is important.  That gives rise to the whole catch and release.  A lot of people that fish these days just let the fish go.  It’s not just keeping fish.  It’s the catching.  It’s the chase.  It’s the figuring out where they are.  It’s pouring over maps and looking at maps and walking along the creek.  You spend most of your time looking at the water trying to figure out where they are. Then you check spider webs and see what kind of bugs are there.  You pick up rocks and look at the nibs on the bottom of the rocks. That is sort of the aesthetic of fly fishing rather than just pulling in fish.

Interviewer: What inspired you to start your own thing here?

Todd:  I just really liked doing it a lot.  This wasn’t just to start a fly fishing shop.  It was also to have a place where people could come, like you guys, to use for different things.  If it was just for fly fishing, we wouldn’t have any of that on the wall and stuff.  We’d have more waders and such.  Amy was a big part in starting it.  We have an environmental ethic and an appreciation of what you guys are looking at, the artistic part of it.  That was a big part of coming into here too.  It was a love of the sport but also interest in the things that makes it special.


Interviewer:  What is the benefit of a rod like this [pointing at a locally made bamboo rod]?

Interviewee:  Aesthetics.  This is old. This has been around for over a hundred years, more than a hundred years. Some people that are just into fishing, just catching fish, they don’t understand why anyone would want a bamboo.  It’s heavier.  It’s old technology.  But because of the craftsmanship in building it, these aren’t massed produced.  These are made one at a time by hand.  This is made by a guy just up the road.  He gets old pieces of bamboo from China and splits it down.

Ok, more physics.  Force equals mass times accelerations, right?  So the mass of those rods is really light so you have to accelerate.  You have to go faster.  This one, the mass is greater so you do less acceleration.  So this one you really have to go slow, or you should go slow.  If you go too fast, the rod bends out too much.

When you’re fishing a really short distance like from here to the TV, for a graphite rod you have to go pretty fast and sometimes the line will slap the water and scare the fish.  Where with this one you can go a lot slower because the mass is greater.  It’s a much slower action.  Some people get it and some people don’t like that. Some people think that’s nasty.  It’s how stupid, that’s a hundred year old technology, why do we want to keep doing that?  Other people say that it’s some of the best fishing there ever was.


Interviewer:  I have two questions related to that.  One, what is his name?


Interviewee:  Paul Julius.


Interviewer:  Paul Julius.  Are those at all, I’m curious about the cases over here.


Interviewee:  My brother makes those cases.


Interviewer:  It looks like it has a similar shape like a triangular shape.


Interviewee:  These are made in the same way.  This, if you make that bamboo rod huge, this would be the same shape.  These are hollow for holding it.  But just imagine if this was a piece of bamboo and each triangle coming in, that’s how they’re done, just glued together.


Interviewer:  How long does it take to make a rod like the bamboo one?


Interviewee:  By the time it’s all done, because it takes a long time to dry and everything, it takes Paul 3 weeks to make one of those from the time he slits it and then you have to dry the bamboo. For those 6 pieces he cuts about 12 to 18 pieces because if there are any little flaws in them he has to go through and make sure there isn’t any worm hole or any imperfection. Once it’s done, you have to glue them and then let them dry a couple days and then wrap them.  It’s a long tedious process.


Interviewer:  They are really pretty, like the texture of it is really smooth and you can tell it’s bamboo.