K.R. Lee - Bamboo Rod Builder in Seoul
A few days ago, I had the opportunity to meet and spend some time with Korea’s famous bamboo fly rod maker Mr. K.R. Lee. He runs a fly shop at the eastern edge of Seoul and has been making bamboo rods in Korea over 15 years. Mr. Lee is a mild mannered gentleman, soft spoken and his genuine character is shines through even at first sitting. He told me about his first introduction to fly fishing from a TV show on the military broadcasting station AFKN (American Forces Korea Network – now called AFN) and since then he has been building fine split bamboo rods and discovering multiple species of fish in Korea and Japan. He has built many rods with Tonkin bamboo canes for years, but since a several years ago he has been developing and building rods with bamboo canes from the Jiri Mountain regions. The canes he uses does not come from bamboo fields, but he prefers canes that grow naturally from the highest peaks of the Jiri ridges. He explained to me the characteristic differences between Tonkin & Jiri canes. Mr. Lee is generous in sharing his stories and knowledge about fly fishing in Korea, and we spoke at length about where fly fishing industry in Korea was heading (and it’s issues). He showed me some beautiful bamboo rods he had custom built for various clients. I had a great time meeting Mr. Lee and appreciated him taking time to explain to me about his experiences and about bamboo rod building in Seoul. I will purchase one of his beautiful rods before I leave Korea, and look forward to fishing with Mr. Lee sometime soon. K.R.Lee fly shop website is in Korean (http://bambooflyrod.co.kr).
I am not clear where exactly mash vest originated from, but even for many years before I was involved with the fly fishing, I was able to see many people working on the street including police, street vendors, and delivery people wearing vest made out of durable nylon fabric and cool mash material. Maybe because most of the vest weren’t out there for the fashion statement, I over looked at their deep functional thought behind. Now days, I even noticed that it comes in many styles. Some have mash only in the rear, some have mash fabric through out front and rear for more breathing, some have many different colors and patterns, and some have multiple pockets on the front just like fly fishing vest.
Like in many places around the world, there is great fishing hidden away… you just need to know where to go. Taiwan is a land full of beautiful sceneries, and has many great spots to fish with many types of challenging fish. You certainly need to “know where to go”, otherwise chances are you’ll end up like most other people there, on the crowded banks of harbors, with lure tackle. But if you want to fly fish fresh waters, you need expert guides especially since you could end up with a $1000 USD ticket in your hands for fishing in the forbidden areas (yikes!). Last time I fished for top mouths with my good friends Caddis & Wesley, they mentioned the possibility to fish for baby Pacific Tarpons close to urban environment…. I could not wait too long to join them.
It’s like one of those surreal scenes out of a movie, we are walking down the urban streets of Taipei then we suddenly slipped through a wall of tall & sharp grass blades, to find ourselves in a parallel secret world. I could no longer hear the cars, I can only see the “plop” of tarpons rising to the surface to grab insects that have carelessly landed on the water’s surface. I can hear the faint sound of someone practicing their clarinet somewhere beyond the wall of grass, playing amazing grace. The weather was hot, but the slight breeze made it tolerable. This was nice, to find myself somewhere close but completely far away…
On this day I was given the chance to try out some of the new rods my friends had designed and had built. I tried a 3 weight fast and 3 weight slow action rods. As expected the rods were highly sensitive and smooth to cast. Caddis & Wesley has already developed several series of fly rods (Approach Eclosion Series, Morewell Traveler Series, Morewell Harrier Series, Morewell Mayfly Series) and they are starting to gain recognition & praise throughout Asia & Europe. Some of their rods have been used in several top competitions (most notably by the Czech national team) and orders are being placed from around the world. I have ordered my 5 weight and can’t wait to get it. It’s nice to see young and talented rod designers creating their vision into products, and building a reputation for themselves. For me, how cool is it that I can use rods and reels my friends have developed, doesn’t get more personal than that.
I was also able to get some free casting advice from Caddis, and immediately my casting started to improve. I basically learned casting on my won, and therefore continue to have a lot of problems. Like most things, people learn to overcome their flaws by overcompensating on other things, but until the problem is properly fixed, there will always be some limitation. It was amazing to watch Caddis cast what seemed to be close to 100 feet of line, and with such ease. We talked about how in most situations, these long casts were not necessary. But we both admitted that there are those moments that only the super long cast will get that fly to that fish. Rare, but all fly fishermen know this situation. When that moment comes, you want to be able to get it there… it’s simply preparing that.
These Pacific Tarpons were a lot of fun! They were the miniature version of the larger Atlantic brothers, but they behaved the same (in a miniature way). They took the fly like they meant it, they jumped really high to display acrobatic skills, and gave a good fight. We were lucky this day, there was a lot of them and the most challenging part of the fishing was deciding on which rise to throw it to. Some friends joined up towards the later part of the day, and it was funny watching friends slip forward one by one from the magical wall of grass. Everyone caught a bunch of fish and the conversation was as plentiful. We wrapped up the day with some awesome hot pot dinner and some ice cold Taiwan beer.
Caddis & Wesley – thanks for letting me test out your new equipment, and I look forward to many more of our multi dimensional trips around the world. Rock on brothers!
I have a upcoming date to meet with Rainbow, Iwana, Brown, & Yamame Trouts in Hokkaido soon. I am pretty jacked up this trip and have been busy tying flies that I has been passed onto me from friends that have gone before me, and will join me this year. I’m not sure if I will have the chance to meet all 4 trout in 5 days, but that is the plan. Plus a short detour to the Sapporo beer factory should help wash away any regrets I may have of trout I didn’t met. Stay tuned…