In Tough Economy, Montana Craftsmen See Bright Future for Cane

While many retail-dependent rod builders wonder when the wind will return to their sails, Montana’s Sweetgrass Rod Company has seen a small downturn in orders but is still about a year behind on their waiting list. We spoke with Jerry Kustich and Dave Delisi of Sweetgrass yesterday afternoon, and not only is the crew building new digs in Twin Bridges (Jeff Walker, who owns their current workshop, is leaving the business), but Glenn Brackett and Delisi just got back from China after sorting through 18,000 cane poles and returning with, as Delisi said, “enough for about 10 years of rod building, as long as we don’t get too many orders.” Sweetgrass goes through about 300 poles per year, not counting throwaways.
According to Kustich, the legendary team of bamboo rod craftsmen has seen its share of tribulations this year. Master craftsmen Glenn Brackett and Kustich wanted to see the workshop build more rods and make headway in satisfying growing customer demand, and not all of the original “Boo Boys” liked the idea of having less time to go fishing. Kustich says it was a difficult decision, but one designed to create a legacy. “We are still trying to redefine bamboo rods, do something that hasn’t been done successfully in 40 years, which is consistently supply a market for bamboo rods. Eventually we’d like to reduce the wait time to three months and even have some rods in stock. But it doesn’t seem overly ambitious. I think we’re really at the cusp of making that happen. No one has ever been able to offer the range of rods we have, from 4- to 5- to 6-strip, or the variety of tapers — we’re even going to get in to spey rods. You name it, we’ll build it. The whole idea is to turn this over to a next generation some day. We’re trying to make a difference in the right sorts of ways.”

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