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Fishing Antique Striper Fly Rods

A Photo Essay On The Big O.

Photos by Jim Stuard

She will never see the sea, she's a river fish.  Born of a white bass father and a striped bass mother, the hybrid sunshine bass comes into this world with both appetite and attitude. Don't under estimate her because she lacks exposure to the salt.

J.S.Sharpe, of Aberdeen isn't just surviving, it's positively thriving, although the brand has changed ownership twice since its heyday in the fifties and sixties. The famous Scottie impregnated rods were made for many years in Aberdeen, and gained a fine world-wide reputation for quality and longevity.  Look at how that rod loads on the cast!

The rod has plenty of guts for the work. Clearly those early pioneers weren't so outgunned as we might imagine from our vantage point of space-age plastics and truck-stopping drag systems.  Of course those fellows chasing striper then were "real" men - the rod/reel combination was well over a pound in the hand!

Tom Gribble shows a typical Ohio River wiper fly.  The common bait is the gizzard shad and flies need to imitate the shape and size very closely to work in the clear water of the river.  An important strike trigger is the eye.

The McKinley Shad, Ohio's own tarpon, is better known as the skipjack herring.  They are a very sporting fish, prone to multiple jumps.  Tom's a fellow who's respectful of any gamefish and he always has a smile for the creature that found his fly.  I don't blame him one bit for the grin, that's a fine skippie he's got there!

Tobacco brown and lovingly appointed with such novel ideas as a hammer-handle shaped grip, this early glass rod demonstrated its continuing ability to address challenging water.  Seventy-foot casts weren't a problem with the big Phillipson and a contemporary Orvis Striper Wonderline.

It's just like a striper to come up and crash a baitfish right were the fly was!

One could be forgiven for thinking a big, nickel-silver ferrule will deliver a dead-spot in the action.  The opposite is often true. The rod builders of the mid and later half of the twentieth century knew how to get the most out of their materials.

Fishing the Big O is as close as I can come to the Cape Cod Canal of my youth.  If I close my eyes I can almost smell the salt air and hear the gulls screaming.  The farther I go, the closer I get to home...


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