Old Becomes New


By Damon Toney
March/April 2015

Sometimes something old can be made into something new. You can see this in most any fishing forum online. Often posts can be summarized as this: “Here's a new piece gear I bought!”; “Here's a new fishing method I learned!” Fun times.

Often newness comes from newer materials. Graphite rods are the craze. Light weight, sensitive, and they have that sleek, new look. What happened to the old materials? Did they die? No.

For instance graphite rods are great for all the reasons given above, but most every pro has a con. It's brittle. Don't step on it. You have to baby graphite rods. The older fiberglass rod were tougher but heavy. We call it e-glass today, and it's still available often as a cheaper option.

What if you could combine the properties of graphite with fiberglass? We call it S-glass. Combining both materials uses their best qualities yet minimize the downsides of each.

While we love “new,” sometimes new is a matter of combining the better parts of several systems. This is exactly how I developed a new series of fishing floats at Black Warrior Lures made from the following:

·         hardwood (old material)
·         wine cork (old material)
·         nylon thread (nylon is a new material, but sewing thread is very old)
·         jewelry wire (old material)
·         epoxy (new material)

Let me tell you the story of how combining old and new materials paved the way to making something new, functional and cost effective.

A Quick Story | Dad's Floats

Dad made fishing floats from cedar and poplar wood. These were the old cigar-type floats, but his had elongated, pointed ends. He liked cedar, but as a kid I liked the color of poplar.

On Saturdays he'd whittle each one from a block of wood, then spray paint the upper third of the float orange or red, mostly red. He tried to teach me, but I didn't have the dexterity.

He used electric wire insulation to attach the float to the fishing line. Old copper wire worked best, well, sort of. It was the only solution he devised. Using the Old Timer folding knife, he would strip two half inch pieces of plastic insulation from the wire, thread them onto the fishing line, then push the insulation pieces onto the pointy ends of the float.

The floats were sensitive and looked like something from yesteryear. However, if you cast too hard, the float would go fly off in one direction and the hook, bait and line would go another. Soft, underhanded lobs were all you could do. You couldn't cast them for long distances, nor could you fish any deeper than the length of the rod.

Fast Forward | New Methods | New Floats

After dad had fallen asleep, my mind returned the old floats he made. In the summer of 2014 I learned a “new” method for catfish angling using long, sensitive floats. The method is common in the Texas-Oklahoma corridor, but I had never seen anyone use this method in Alabama.

It involves fishing off rocks and rip rap walls in the spring and summer for channel catfish with very sensitive floats and long limber rods. Dad's old floats were perfect! Despite the drawbacks they never left my mind while learning the new technique.

While his old floats were sensitive, they could never be cast the long distances needed for the method at hand. Back to Mad Man Labz™ as I call it. The mad scientist in me would not rest. After researching all manner of fishing float designs, two concepts arose, one old and one new:

·         traditional British floats
·         modern slip floats

The Avon floats and the waggler floats are classic British floats. Both are straight stick floats made from a dense material with a body made from a more buoyant material. Avons have the body at the top of the stem. Wagglers come with or without a body. A bodied waggler is placed on the low on the stem.

These classic designs are still around. What I did was split the difference between the two. I placed the body on the center point of the stem. The old Avons and wagglers inspired a new design variant. The other concept: Slip floats allow you to fish at any depth from inches of water to 100 feet deep if you want. It's simple: You thread the line through a eyelet(s) and use a bead and stop knot to set depth. You can make long, hard casts with these and fish as deeply as needed. This is great example of a new solutions derived from both old and new ideas.

Another old material: used wine corks. The two main materials used in my floats are birch hardwood dowels and used wine corks. New wine corks cost much more, but used wine corks can be found on eBay cheaply. Corks are naturally water resistant and highly buoyant.

The old materials reduce costs. While the new materials and concepts perfect the design.

New material: epoxy. Modern adhesives are used to build boats that cross oceans and airplanes that withstand violent aerobatic maneuvers at 10 times the Earth's gravity. Can epoxy be used in making strong floats? Oh, yes.

While wood is a classic material, it's an organic material. It can rot, mold and breakdown. Modern epoxy systems fix this. Boat builders use two-part epoxy, fiberglass and wood to build strong boats capable of withstanding the hard impact of waves while running at planing speeds. The same principle works in building fishing floats. The wet epoxy saturates the wood. When it cures, it waterproofs and preserves it.

It also makes it stronger. Goodness, the number of times I've cast these floats hard against the rocks. They survive. It's amazing. The wood alone would snap, but the epoxy not only gives it a hard outer shell, it has saturated in an between the wood fibers making the whole unit as hard as a rock yet light-weight.

All these elements come together to make something new.

Wooden Fishing Rods?

Before graphite there was fiberglass. Before fiberglass there was bamboo. Before bamboo there was wood. Yes. Fishing rods used to be made from wood. The technology to turn wooden rods on a lathe has been around a long time.

How could it be? Wouldn't they snap? Modern epoxies applied to a rod built from wooden strips can be as useful as the floats described above. People still build re-curved bows from laminated woods, fiberglass and epoxy, the same principle.

In his wonderful work Making Strip-built Fly Rods from Various Woods on a Lathe, author John Betts tells the story of how he started making fly rods from wood. People forgot about wood once more modern materials came along. Mr. Betts has spent years rediscovering the process of building fishing rods from wood with modern adhesives. This is a delightful read.

Bamboo fly-rods are still made. Salmon and steelhead fishermen use them to great effect. What about wood? Wood still has its same characteristics. It's still strong yet supple.

Composite rods can be made from wooden strips, fiberglass and epoxy as well. This is the same concept as the fiberglass/graphite S-glass rods mentioned above. Wood, fiberglass and epoxy, one old material, two new materials brought together to make something new.

Our Newness in Christ

This article has been about old and new technology brought together. In a spiritual sense this is not the case. When a person follows Christ and the Holy Spirit enters them, they are made into a new creature all together. It's a different thing. As St. Paul wrote,“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Cor. 5:17)

St. John wrote in another place, “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal.” (Revelation 21:10 & 11)

I don't know about you, but that's a far cray from any city I've ever seen, even the new cities built from the ashes of the World Wars. Even today's new buildings built from new materials don't have that kind of radiance.

The newness we have in Christ is a complete newness. New to the core, this is not a mere recombination of things. When you buy new fishing gear this season, consider the newness you have in Christ: a new life, a new body, a new city, a new planet, a new universe. All new.

About the Author

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  • Damon_Toney's picture

    Damon is the Chief Pencil Pusher at Black Warrior Lures where he designs, tests and makes custom fishing tackle for catfish anglers along the Black Warrior River. If you'd like to try one of his fishing floats, use the following coupon code: “SHOUT!Floats!” to get one fishing float. See terms and conditions on the page. Check him out on YouTube: Black Warrior Lures

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