Were there any challenges or adversity you had to overcome?
Well, starting out as a twenty something year old kid in the Deep South didn't really help me fit the stereotype for a bamboo rod maker. None of the "big" guys in the industry really gave me the time of day back then. That's when I decided that I wouldn't spend too much time worrying what others thought of me. Instead I set out to make rods that were so fine, worked so well, and looked so good that it didn't matter who made them, or where. That still pretty much sums up our business philosophy, although with the grey beard things are getting easier! In fact, all of the closed doors I experienced when starting out is what lead me to teaching rod making classes. I found that rejecting the enthusiasm of would-be rod makers just plain felt bad. That wasn't the feeling I wanted mixed up in my life's work. Instead, I decided to find a practical way to make people feel good. To this day I've helped more people complete their first bamboo rod than anyone in history, and that makes ME feel good. See how that works?
What was your favorite fly rod that you have made?
There is no question that it is the first rod I ever made #001. It took me six months of trial and error, reading and re-reading, head scratching and cussing, but I finally achieved something I had dreamed about for years. I'll never sell this rod. It's MY family heirloom.
What was it like fishing with and making a rod for President Carter?
I guided Pres. Carter again last week, and it's always the same - highly rewarding, thoroughly enjoyable, and more than a little stressful. He is after all a serious dry-fly man, and those big boys aren't always looking up on demand. He's a hell of an angler though, and we always get a few to the net. The rods were originally purchased as a fundraiser by the Carter Center. The idea they had was that he would autograph it before I varnished it, he would fish it for awhile, then it would go to auction as a fundraiser. However, after fishing the first rod for about thirty minutes, he decided that a new rod should be commissioned because that one wasn't going anywhere! It was a real honor for a young guy from a one red light town working all alone (at that time) in his basement!