When I spoke to Stan Bogdan last year, he told me he would die “with dirty hands and in front of the lathe.” The great craftsman died Wednesday evening at the age of 92, no doubt thinking of the next reel he would make, even after seven decades of producing some of the most remarkable fly reels ever made.
Monte Burke wrote about Bogdan’s passing in his Forbes blog yesterday, describing him as “perhaps the finest reelmaker the world of fly-fishing has ever known,” and recounting his 2009 magazine story, which explained why Bogdan reels were so distinctive.
In last year’s interview with us, Bogdan described what motivated him to perfect his craft:
“I don’t know who got the idea. My son will eventually retire. But I will never retire, until they pick me up off the floor from in front of a lathe or drill press or something. I’m only ninety-one years old now, and that’s all I’ve ever done in my life, for seventy years.”
“I’ve done this since 1940. I made my first reel during the war, by hand — I mean I didn’t even have a lathe or anything else. But I do it only because I love what I’m doing. I wouldn’t work for anyone else; I can’t do it. I gotta work for myself, and I gotta do things my way. I’m kind of stubborn about that. But I do this a little bit differently than most people — they run it as a business, and I don’t. Some days I don’t feel like working at all and I’ll just goof off and go fishing or something. But eventually I get things done and we’ve done this for seventy years not with not one cent paid in advertising. It’s all been word-of-mouth.”
“It works, but I can’t tell you why it works. I never try to explain what I’m doing, because I don’t know what I am doing half the time. But I’ve been the most fortunate man in the world because I’ve got a million friends that are so loyal to me that well… it’s scary really. And the older I get, the more they make sure that I’m taken care of.”