Bill Oyster of Oyster Bamboo
Bill Oyster runs an amazing shop, Oyster Bamboo, where he makes custom bamboo fly rods and teaches others his craft. He has been sought out for his expertise on making some of the best handmade bamboo fly rods.
Bill was generous enough to take time from creating beautiful bamboo rods to tell his story.
Travis Dailey (TD): How did you get your start in fly fishing?
Bill Oyster (BO): I first saw someone fly fishing when I was a small child and lived in northwest Wyoming. At the time I wasn’t convinced that it was a reasonable substitute for my Zebco and can of worms, which seemed to be working pretty well. Of course, things change, and children grow up.
TD: Where is your home waters?
BO: Here in Blue Ridge, Georgia, the Toccoa River gets most of my attention.
TD: What is your favorite fish to pursue?
BO: Although I love all types of fish on the fly, both fresh and saltwater, I will always be a trout
fisherman at heart.
TD: Who or what influences you?
BO: Early on I fell under the spell of the writer John Gierach, and of course A River Runs Through It captured the imaginations of a generation of would be anglers.
TD: What is your best fish story?
BO: So many images jump to my mind. Maybe my first large trout in flood conditions after sleeping all night on top of my backpack in the pouring rain.
Or maybe the time I ran down the beach after a school of false albacore crashing bait in four foot crashing surf.
I remember hooking that two-foot rainbow sipping midges in a foam line in Patagonia, or the giant mouseeating brown that woke us wide awake at three in the morning on a particular southern tail water.
Oh, and the school of 100lb tarpon that surprised us while drifting just off the beach throwing poppers at ladyfish.
I don’t know.
The only thing these stories have in common are that they were exceptional, good / bad / uncomfortable… just exceptional. None are “the best”, just snapshots of a life of fishing and they all make me smile.
TD: How long have you been making bamboo rods and what led you to the craft?
BO: In my early twenties I decided I simply must have a bamboo rod. My taste has always outpaced my income, so my wife Shannen suggested that I had better get to work!
At the time there were no classes or Internet forums to guide me, so I relied on the writings of the “Old Masters” to help me along.
TD: Do you only fish with your hand crafted rods?
BO: Typically I do, but I don’t have any prejudices against other rods. I love all sorts of fly rods. It’s just that, just like tying your own flies, it makes it that much more special.
TD: I understand that you also do hand engraving. How did you get into that?
BO: I recognized a demand for this type of customization and engraved fly rods have been around for a hundred years. Initially, I outsourced the work, but the frustrations soon outweighed the benefits. Having some artistic experience, I took a chance and traveled to train under a master gun engraver. Now it’s a large part of my daily work.
TD: Tell us a little about meeting President Jimmy Carter and making a rod for him.
BO: My first rod for President Carter was commissioned by the Carter Center as part of their annual charity auction. I presented the rod to him at Brigadoon Lodge on the Soque River near here. Although he had signed the blank before I varnished it, he had never before seen the final product. He immediately summoned me to the river to give it a try and upon closer inspection decided that a new rod should be made for the auction… because this one was staying with him. It did.
TD: What advice would you give to someone who just started fly fishing?
BO: Have fun! Check out B!
Check out Bill’s beautiful rods over on his website. They are truly pieces of art!
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