In all honesty, I’ve never been one to care about the “fashion statement.” When I was in fourth grade, and my mom sent me off to school in those brand new bright Adidas tennis shoes, I was the kid scuffing dirt from one foot across the next to “break them in” before they drew attention.
Now I’m in my forties, and when I get new waders I honestly let my hands get greasy with a wet burrito (or leave a little extra Gink on my fingers), then drag them across my hips to smudge the GORE-TEX, so as to create the “lived-in” look as quickly as possible. The rattier my vest gets, the more I think it reflects the miles I’ve rolled, and the wild stuff I’ve seen. I like it when the wraps and finishes on my fly rods get bleached by the sun.
And, for the record, I do not own a bamboo rod. But several months ago, I was doing a Little Red Book of Fly Fishing talk in southern California when I met Greg Madrigal, who hand-builds Sierra Nets. Every net he makes is different. Every net makes a statement. And in the case of a net, I think a statement is in order. After all, I think the net is the place where a fly angler transitions from hunter to healer (I’ve said that before, but it’s worth repeating). And so not only do I treat my Sierra net—Wenge wood from Africa, mixed with Cat’s Paw maple—with kid gloves (literally… I take it off my vest and wrap it in cloth in the back of my vehicle for the trips to and from the river), I bought another one for Tim Romano as a Christmas present.
If you’re looking for an heirloom-quality object to fit somewhere inside your fly fishing gear arsenal, and perhaps you don’t feel like, or aren’t able to drop the couple grand it costs for a bamboo custom rod, I’d suggest you think about a custom net. And Sierra Nets, which can be made with trout-friendly rubber mesh—would be a darn good place to start.