Whitehouse resident Denny McLean makes sure his guides are straight during a fishing rod building class at Netcraft in Maumee, Ohio. At left, is Temperance resident Rick Boehme.
A few weeks ago, Denny McLean of Whitehouse was dealing with a serious case of the fishing blues. December had crawled into January, which plodded along into February. It wasn’t bitterly cold, but it was gray chasing gray, day after day, and the guy had simply had enough.
So he signed up for a fishing rod building class, partially out of curiosity and partially for the medicinal benefits he hoped it would offer to mitigate his cabin fever.
PHOTOS: Rod Building 101
"I’m a warm-weather guy, and I was sick and tired of winter and just needed something to get me through," said Mr. McLean, who works in computer security for health care companies.
On a recent weekend, Mr. McLean found himself at Jann’s Netcraft, a Toledo area fishing tackle supplier with a history that goes back more than 60 years. Mr. McLean and other similarly afflicted fishermen were taking a rod building class taught by Ted Lauber, a retired Maumee school teacher and custom rod expert.
At the end of an eight-hour day of sanding, filing, taping, gluing, sight-lining, threading, and epoxy applying, with surprisingly little cursing or gnashing of teeth, Mr. McLean and his classmates had a precision-crafted, six-and-a-half foot fishing rod that was their own creation.
"It’s amazing how nice it looks," he said.
Fishing friends Carl Blazik and John Lublow from Sandusky made the trip to Netcraft’s Briarfield Boulevard showroom in search of a skill they hope will serve them well in the angling days ahead.
"We were just talking about it one day and the rod building course sounded like it would be fun," Mr. Lublow said. "The concept of putting your own rod together, exactly the way you want it, seemed pretty interesting."
The hands-on format of the rod building class and Mr. Lauber’s one-on-one instructional technique was not what Mr. Lublow had anticipated.
"I was expecting maybe 20 or 30 people in a group, just watching someone building a rod," he said. "The fact we got to do every step in the process ourselves, with individual attention and no rush, was phenomenal. We spent a day there and built a really decent fishing rod from a bunch of parts."
Mr. Blazik said he went in hoping to learn a little about the process, and left hooked on rod building.
"I didn’t realize it was as involved as it is, but the pace of the class was just right, so we got to do every step," he said. "I love to fish and now I’ve got the bug to build fishing rods. It’s a good hobby, and I plan to make rods for family and friends, and build a couple of ideal perch rods, because I’ve never been able to find one I really like."
Rick Boehme, Jr., of Temperance, found the class fit his skill set, because it tapped into his love of fishing, and his technical know-how.
"I’ve been building car parts for a long time, so this looked like something worth a try," he said. "I like intricate things, and I found rod building included quite a bit of that type of work. There was a lot of attention to detail, but it turned out to be a little easier than I thought."
Like several of his classmates, Mr. Boehme has already started building a second, more intricate rod, and he has plans to eventually put together a nine-foot casting rod to use on salmon fishing trips to Michigan.
Mr. McLean expects to tackle a fly rod building project in the near future, and to celebrate that first fish that he catches with each of his creations.
"There has to be a certain amount of satisfaction when you use a rod you built and know that you just caught a fish on something you made by hand," he said.
Mr. Lublow expects to experience the same, but admits that "the one that got away" will be harder to explain.
"It will be a great feeling, a real personal touch, to catch a nice fish on something you put together," he said. "But since you made the rod, it takes away a good excuse when you lose one — you can’t blame the equipment anymore."
Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6068.