GFF video/DVD review

Trout Grass

Instructor, narrator, producer etc.: Andy Royer (prod.), Ed George (instr.), David James Duncan (narr.)
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Andy Royer (prod.), Ed George (instr.), David James Duncan (narr.)
Trout Grass
Volcano Motion Pictures, 2005
48 minutes

GFF rating: 6 out of 7
Global Class

Rod builder Glenn Brackett assessing his work

Reviewed by Martin Joergensen

This is a fantastic journey! And in more than one sense. It's both a journey from east to west - from China to the US - and at the same time a journey in materials and workmanship from a perennial grass to some of the longest lasting fishing rods we have seen - split cane rods. And it's narrator and writer David James Duncan's mental and physical journey through something, which he evidently carries very deep in his heart.

During this DVD's almost 50 minutes Duncan shares with us his fascination of the bamboo itself, the processes that lead from plant to fishing rod and of course the rods themselves and fishing with them.

Enlightening trip
Duncan takes us on an enlightening trip to China, where we meet the hardworking Chinese, who grow and harvest the bamboo.
We are joined there by American bamboo importer Andy Royer (who also happens to be one of the producers of this film). Royer knows his trade and explains to Duncan and the viewer what characterizes fine bamboo for rod building and we see how the material is harvested, selected, prepared and packaged for export.

In China we also meet Hoagy Carmichael of Carmichael and Garrison fame. Carmichael is actually in China for the first time, and in spite of almost half a decade of passion for bamboo rods, he has never been at the "birthplace" of the material, which he and Garrison have become so famous for making films and writing about.
The meeting is both touching and very descriptive for the relation, which bamboo rod makers have with this material.

Skilled hands
Leaving China we go via Royer's import business to Montana in the US where rod builder Glenn Brackett gets his skilled hands on the bamboo. He and his co-workers now takes us through the long process of turning two-inch diameter bamboo culms into the thin, triangular sections of split cane, which make the rod and have given it its name.
In spite of the fact that machines help do a lot of the work, this is workmanship, which must yield respect. And at the same time it clearly illustrates why most split cane rods are expensive. The building requires not only skill but also a lot of time.

On the way author Thomas McGuane comments on his relation to bamboo rods and as the DVD winds towards its end the narrator and McGuane go fishing on some idyllic stream somewhere in the US.
See clips from this DVD on the Trout Grass homepage
Beautifully filmed by Ed George and with some absolutely breathtaking shots from both China and the US - outdoors as well as indoors - this film succeeds extremely well in facilitating the fascination of bamboo and the rods made from it.
Camera work and editing is calmly paced and soothing, and the narration is both well written and spoken. The music manages to carry both the eastern ambience as well as some good ole country and western mood, and as a whole I will consider this one of the best films on fishing related subjects I have ever seen. I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end.
Now, I do fish bamboo, but have never played with bamboo rod building. I still think I learned a lot of useful things from this DVD. Non-split-caners will probably enjoy it as much as I did, while anybody who has toyed with cane rod building will have to be thrilled beyond what's healthy by this story.

Menu to come
My only minor issue with my review copy was the lack of a DVD menu and sectioning of the film. This will of course be added in the final version, and the addition of these DVD features will make it close to perfect.

This DVD is so worth watching and so well made that it has earned our highest rating - Global Class!
Highly recommended to all fly fishers - rod builders and split-caners in particular.

More resources:
Trout Grass homepage, with the background and some sample clips.
Bamboo Broker, Andy Royer's web site.

The DVD hasn't been released yet at the time of this writing, late September 2005, but should be available soon.

Where the cane in split cane comes from

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