Over My Waders

Michael Montagne Quad Rods

from "Trout"

by Ernest Schwiebert, (1978 - E.P. Dutton)

Michael Montagne is another young rodmaker with a sense of probity and great skill. His work has obvious roots in the four-strip theories of construction found in the Quadrate rods built ‘by William Edwards in eastern Connecticut. His cork is a mixture of the Ritz and Garrison theories of grip design, but his silk wrappings are utterly transparent, in obvious homage to Garrison alone. The dark chocolate wraps at the ferrules and cork are echoes of Garrison too.

But Montagne is a craftsman of startling originality, and not all of his creativity is obvious. Edwards built symmetrical four-strip rods. Montagne builds his sticks at irregular angles to create their widest flats, and the primary power fibers, perpendicular to the planes of casting.

His four-strip design offers twice the density of cane power fibers found in six-strip construction of the same section thickness.

Such four-strip sections offer more than mere power fibers. Mon- tagne rods resist bending across the corners, concentrating deflection in the casting plane. Such performance tends to correct casting faults that twist other rods. Better distance and accuracy are also improved. Wave- linear behavior is crisp and clean. The ratio of power fibers to inert cane along the neutral bending axis is multiplied, even slightly higher than power fibers in the earlier Edwards Quadrates.

Montagne oven-tempers his Tonkin culms and splits them by hand. The nodes are hand dressed and polished with pressure and heat. The lateral strips are triangular, and the strips in the bending plane are trapezoids. Both rind and waste pith are removed by meticulous hand- work, using files and perfectly sharpened planes. The asymmetrical strips are unusual, but the ascetic dedication is typical of our most meticulous craftsmen in rodmakers like Howells and Dorsey.

The Montagne rods part sharply with tradition in their reel-seat designs. The rod shaft is neither cut nor modified in any way. Its structural integrity is not affected. The seat fittings are a reverse-locking type, but they are utterly unlike other reverse-locking designs. Montagne’s concept is almost defiantly creative, and still more monastic than the work of Garrison. There is no reel-seat filler, and the locking device is a truncated cone that places the reel foot in flexure, levering it firmly in position. It is lighter than conventional designs, both original and austere.

This past September I was fishing with Kirk Gay at Six~Mile Lake in Alaska. Although I had seen a few Montagne rods, I had never cast or fished one until another angler offered me his nine-foot steelhead model for a weight-forward eight line. Its smooth power and control in the Tularik winds were surprising, and its elegance was obvious. Its visual character was startling to other anglers, but its creativity and probity were unmistakable.

Montagne is building fourteen models. His series includes the follow ing designs:

All content copyright Reed Curry © 2006.
Cartoon by Walter Young © 1961, used by permission.