Features appear in each issue of Pennsylvania Heritage showcasing a variety of subjects from various periods and geographic locations in Pennsylvania.
Vince Marinaro on the Letort putting one of his cane rods to the test. Pennsylvania Fly Fishing Museum

Vince Marinaro on the Letort putting one of his cane rods to the test. Pennsylvania Fly Fishing Museum


It’s important not to rush this. A mistake will obliterate a month of work. I take care to make sure that my workbench is uncluttered, the lighting is adequate to the task, and the tools I’ll need are handy but not in the way. Before me is a tapered hexagonal shaft composed of Tonkin cane (Arundinaria amabilis McClure), a type of extraordinarily tough bamboo found mostly in southeastern China. The shaft is 52 inches long, but I will eventually trim it to 48 inches, half the length of an 8-foot-long fly rod. Although the Linnaean name for this bamboo translates to “lovely reed,” it’s not too impressive at the moment.

About six weeks ago, I flamed two round 6-foot lengths of cane with a propane torch, turning them from straw color to a rich, deep brown. The heat drove excess moisture from the wood to harden the tough fibers within it. I then carefully split each section into 18 or 20 long strips, each about a quarter-inch wide. I spent a week precisely shaping and tapering the strips with a hand plane. In cross section after planing, each strip was an equilateral 60-degree triangle, and along their lengths they were tapered from butt to tip to precisely the same dimensions. This taper, if executed faithfully, will produce a rod that casts smoothly and with great precision.

A few days ago, I arranged six of the tapered triangular strips adjacent to each other in a pattern designed to maximize the strengths and minimize the weaknesses inherent in each, coated them with a strong waterproof glue, carefully folded them together, and ran them through a homemade binding machine that left them clamped tightly in a web of heavy cotton thread. After half a week of drying, the resulting rod shaft is ready to be unveiled.

Slowly, with patience and precision, the butt section of the fly rod emerges. After 90 minutes or so of careful scraping and even more careful sanding, the metamorphosis is complete. The deep amber of the flamed bamboo glows almost as if it were lit from within. It lies on the workbench burnished, straight, tough and springy, yet lovely and delicate. It’s now ready for the installation of metal ferrules, the application of a cork grip and a nickel silver reel seat, varnish, silk thread, line guides, and the other final operations that will make it a practical and durable piece of fishing tackle that is much more beautiful than it needs to be.

Alone in the shop, absorbed in my work, I am connected to a network of artisans who are creating something lovely and important, a sporting tradition that spans the globe, and a heritage of North American cane rod building that began in 19th-century Pennsylvania.


The Phillippes and the First Split Cane Rods

Built around 1869, this ornate six-strip cane rod constructed by Solon C. Phillippe, now in the collection of The State Museum of Pennsylvania, is one of the earliest of its kind in existence.

Built around 1869, this ornate six-strip cane rod constructed by Solon C. Phillippe, now in the collection of The State Museum of Pennsylvania, is one of the earliest of its kind in existence.
Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission

Fly fishing, like many sporting traditions in America, is mostly a British invention. Although the idea of catching fish with imitations of insects or baitfish fashioned from feathers or wool probably goes back to Roman times, tackle that is recognizable as fly fishing equipment appears first in the 15th and 16th centuries along the chalk streams of England and the salmon and trout rivers of Scotland and Ireland. This includes tapered lines and leaders of horsetail, as well as long, flexible rods fashioned from solid woods like greenheart and lancewood. Some of these wood rods persisted into the 20th century, and although they were effective and inexpensive, they were also heavy and inefficient as casting tools. As the British Empire expanded into Asia in the 18th and 19th centuries, new materials became available to rodmakers, among them many kinds of bamboo.

Bamboo is hollow, strong and flexible, and the first bamboo rods were simply thin canes of various lengths. Cane poles are still placed in the hands of kids around the world and, with simple fixed lines and earthworms for bait, continue to account for many young anglers’ first fish. They represented a real improvement in weight, but they couldn’t really be precisely tapered into effective casting implements.

In the early 19th century, quality fishing rods were often the products of artisans working alone or in small family-operated shops. These same craftsmen were often also luthiers and cabinetmakers. As they turned their skills to fishing rods, they began to experiment with new ways to use bamboo. At some point, it must have dawned on these craftsmen that thin strips of split bamboo could be tapered in various ways and then joined together to form a composite design. This seems to have happened first in Britain and France, where rod builders attached tips of split cane (typically four strips rather than six) to solid wood rods to form a sort of hybrid. A strong candidate for the inventor of the first recognizably modern example of split bamboo rods lived in the then little Pennsylvania town of Easton, Northampton County.

Samuel Phillippe (1801–77) was a gunsmith and violin maker. His interest in fishing tackle is thought to have begun with hooks, but at some point in the 1840s his attention turned to rods. He likely saw some of the composite wood and split cane rods being made in England, and this may have sparked his creative spirit. The British rods were still heavy, but the split cane tips offered some new possibilities. Phillippe’s first efforts were likely composite rods with wooden shafts and cane tips, but a number of angling historians and period accounts suggest that sometime around 1845, he built his first all-cane, six-strip fly rods. Few if any rods that can be solidly attributed to Samuel Phillippe still exist, so the physical evidence of this early attribution is hard to find. But there is one artifact in the collections of The State Museum of Pennsylvania that ties the early manufacture of cane rods to the Phillippe workshop, not to Samuel, but to one of his sons, Solon C. Phillippe (1841–1925).

The Oldenwalder, or S. C. Phillippe rod, has been termed “one of America’s most historically significant fly fishing artifacts.” It was donated to the museum by the Fly Fishers’ Club of Harrisburg in 1954 from the private collection of Asher J. Oldenwalder of Easton. Solon Phillippe likely built the rod around 1869 or later. It is remarkable not only for its beauty and craftsmanship but also for its place in the evolutionary history of cane rods.

The rod has an ornately carved wooden handle and butt made of alternating strips of ash and walnut. This butt section is joined via finely engraved German silver ferrules to a midshaft of six-strip split bamboo construction and a surprisingly delicate tip also of cane. The rod exhibits characteristics that link it to earlier experimental stages of split bamboo rod building and to the more modern and functional rods that emerged during the heyday of cane fly rods in the first half of the 20th century.

The rod is round in cross section, not hexagonal. The concept of a long, adjustable metal form did not yet exist when it was built; it was instead tapered by being driven or pulled through a graduated series of holes in a metal plate that rounded the shaft. This would have removed some of the tough outer fibers from the rod shaft and weakened it a bit. The cane itself is probably Calcutta cane (Dendrocalamus strictus), because Tonkin bamboo was not widely available in North America until the 1920s.

All of that said, the rod is among the earliest known examples of six-strip cane rod construction in this country. Like its descendants, it’s tapered with an aim to facilitate casting, although a modern fisherman likely would find the rod long and heavy and the taper overly soft and imprecise. It’s also a masterpiece: The exceptional carving and engraving, the flawless wraps of silk thread, and the thin and even-varnished finish all bear witness to skills that were carefully honed. Solon Phillippe must have practiced his craft for years, under the tutelage of his father, to have produced such an exceptional fly rod. Although it’s far from what great bamboo rods became, it’s the well from which they sprang.

The elaborate reel and engraved reel seat of the Phillippe rod.

The elaborate reel and engraved reel seat of the Phillippe rod.
Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission

Phillippe was not the only cane rod builder in 19th-century Pennsylvania. He was a contemporary of Thaddeus Norris (1811–77), one of the best-known anglers and sporting writers of his day. Known as “Uncle Thad” to his legions of devoted followers, Norris was perhaps the North American prototype “gentleman angler.” He was a very successful Philadelphia merchant who turned his free time and disposable income to all things angling. In 1864 he published The American Angler’s Book, a fishing encyclopedia that became enormously popular in the sporting literature of post–Civil War America. He was likely building his own rods in the late 1840s. The early examples were apparently of wood, but he knew Phillippe and may have even been instructed by him. By the 1860s he was familiar with cane tips, and by the 1870s he was building six-strip cane rods in a small factory-style workshop near Logan Square. Like Phillippe he made everything from scratch and sold his rods by mail order and in retail locations around southeastern Pennsylvania.

At about the same time, a builder named George Burgess (1805–82) began to make and sell cane rods in Philadelphia and Norristown, Montgomery County, and others soon followed. Philadelphia became a center for the sale of fishing tackle as late 19th-century angling clubs with exclusive fishing rights were established on the Schuylkill and Pocono rivers like the Brodheads and the Bushkill. A 1979 collectors’ compendium by the American Museum of Fly Fishing lists no fewer than 10 tackle manufactories and retailers operating in Philadelphia and southeast Pennsylvania during the middle to late 1800s. Although the larger-scale shops and innovators in cane rod building were concentrating in New York State and New England through the turn of the 20th century, Pennsylvania holds the distinction of building the first such rods.

The craft remained alive and well among Pennsylvania artisans even as the large and famous manufacturers like Orvis, Leonard and Montague grew elsewhere. One of those 20th-century artisans was among the most famous anglers this country has ever produced.


Vince Marinaro, Rodmaker

Any conversation about the history and heritage of American fly fishing has to include Vincent C. Marinaro (1911–86). He was a larger-than-life character with an almost unbelievably outsized resume and consuming range of interests. He was an immigrant’s son who studied law at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and became an attorney with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He was passable in four or five languages and widely read in subjects as diverse as archaeology, philosophy, entomology and political science. He was an accomplished amateur musician who, on finding himself dissatisfied with commercially available violins, taught himself to make them. He was an expert photographer with an eye for everything from landscapes to small aquatic insects. He was a bowhunter who made and used his own equipment. He was a brilliant fly tyer, and from his workshop at his home in Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County, came a number of patterns that every angler carries in his or her fly boxes to this day. He was a gifted writer whose two books on fly fishing, A Modern Dry-Fly Code (1950) and In the Ring of the Rise (1976), are still widely read today. He enjoyed the company of famous people — like President Jimmy Carter, who came to Pennsylvania to learn from the master — but could be just as generous of his time with local teenaged kids. He was known as a master angler on the Letort, a stream in Cumberland County famous for some of the most difficult and technical trout fishing on earth. He was opinionated and always intellectually curious and could be by turns blunt and encouraging, generous and suspicious, witty and irascible.

What is less well-known about Marinaro is the role he played in the design of split bamboo rods. He was never a prolific builder, and he kept much of what he learned about rod design unpublished and close to the vest. But by taking what little available information he could find about rod building in the early 20th century, teaching himself the craft, and incorporating his own idiosyncratic views about casting and fishing into rod design, he blazed his own path and built some of the best rods ever made in the commonwealth.

Marinaro began building rods, some apparently of hardwood, but soon of split Tonkin cane, during the Depression. He was then living in Butler with a young family and struggling like many Americans to make ends meet in difficult times. He found solace afield, as well as game and fish for the family table, and his expertise in crafting his own sporting equipment was born out of personal interest and, very likely, necessity. At that time, there were very few books or articles in print to help guide a beginning rodmaker, but Marinaro devoured every source he could find. He eventually found George Parker Holden’s Idyl of the Split Bamboo (1920), one of the first real how-to books on bamboo rod building and repair. He also began a correspondence with rodmaker Robert Crompton of upstate New York, an associate of Holden. With this guidance, and his legendary persistence, Marinaro built or acquired his first tools and equipment, and before long he was building cane rods.


Vince Marinaro explaining some of the fine points of fishing to one of his more famous pupils, President Jimmy Carter.

Vince Marinaro explaining some of the fine points of fishing to one of his more famous pupils, President Jimmy Carter.
Pennsylvania Fly Fishing Museum

What made Marinaro’s fly rods different from some of their predecessors, and in some senses more “modern,” was his own idiosyncratic views of angling. He liked to fish floating, or “dry,” flies — a relatively new technique in the early 20th century. For previous generations, fly fishing meant large and often gaudy sinking, or “wet,” flies typically fished two or three at a time. Near the turn of the century, British angler and author Frederick Halford began to publish books and articles on techniques and fly patterns that would tempt trout to feed at the surface. Marinaro took to the dry fly like a hungry fish, and it affected his thinking about what he wanted in a fly rod.

Rods of the 19th century were relatively soft, or slow, in casting terms and often very long. This worked well for wet fly fishing with its emphasis on slow, down-and-across delivery of the flies and on a springy and forgiving action for battling trout that were hooked deep and downstream. A dry fly is more often delivered upstream to a precise location in the feeding lane of a waiting fish. A stiffer, or fast, action is required to deliver the fly accurately and to set the hook at the sudden rise of a fish. Marinaro designed and built rods that suited his own fishing preferences. His rods featured slightly convex tapers that could deliver a fly accurately at short distances but also provided a reserve of power when greater distances were called for. He was able to do this not just in shorter length rods of 7 or 8 feet, but in 9-foot rods, a notoriously difficult accomplishment because increasing length brings with it longer casting arcs and problems of geometry that have defeated many accomplished rod builders.  He preferred these longer rods for his beloved Letort because they allowed him to lift his casts over conflicting currents and to cast effectively from the concealment afforded by kneeling or squatting. Marinaro’s rods, while handsome and precisely constructed, were not cosmetically perfect. They were, however, truly great casting tools.

If Marinaro was an iconoclast in many ways, he was also in one sense typical of cane rod builders in Pennsylvania from the mid-20th century to the present. For five brief years, the Thomas & Thomas rod company was based in Chambersburg, Franklin County, until their relocation to Massachusetts in 1974, and they remain the only large-volume cane rod manufacturer to have been based in the state. The Pennsylvania tradition of bamboo rods has been for the most part carried on by part-time, individual craftsmen for more than a century. These craftsmen have always constituted a small and mostly tight-knit community. One generation trained the next, and lineages were established that in some cases could be traced back to the Phillippes and Norris. Most of them knew or knew of each other, and although there were always rivalries, the tips, ideas, rod tapers and instruction flowed through this community like a river.

But Marinaro worked alone. He never shared his measurements with anyone nor borrowed anyone else’s. He didn’t sell rods and destroyed those that failed to meet his expectations. He trained only one apprentice in more than four decades of rod making. He never published articles or books about rod building. His habitual crankiness and insularity would have relegated his rod building accomplishments to complete anonymity had his personal effects not been acquired by the Pennsylvania Fly Fishing Museum in Carlisle, Cumberland County, from his family in the 1990s.

In the early 2000s, two Central Pennsylvania–based rod builders gained access to the Marinaro collection. After examining the rods in some detail and taking many measurements and careful notes, they documented Marinaro’s contribution to cane rod construction and published their results in a book titled Split and Glued by Vincent C. Marinaro (2007). The book made Marinaro’s precise tapers and techniques available to new generations of builders and preserved his legacy for the future. The authors were Tom Whittle, formerly of Lower Paxton Township, Dauphin County, and now of Boothbay Harbor, Maine, and Marinaro’s sole apprentice, William A. Harms.


Cane Rod Renaissance

Bill Harms inspects a recently completed rod tip behind some of the fiberglass rods that he also builds.

Bill Harms inspects a recently completed rod tip behind some of the fiberglass rods that he also builds.
Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission

The road to Bill Harms’ home winds through the mountain landscape of Perry County, eventually leading to a few houses tucked up in a hollow not far from Shermans Dale. Harms meets me at the door to his shop and ushers me in to look at his latest work. He projects the erudition of his decades as an English professor and the salty twinkle of a lifelong outdoorsman and artist in split cane. He has been making rods since 1974 and is one of the great cane rod builders in the country. His work brings top dollar; one must wait a year or more for delivery. The rods are built one at a time, and nothing leaves the shop until he is satisfied that he has done his best.

In the course of a two-hour chat, Harms reflects on the last 40 years of cane rod building in Pennsylvania. This is a story of persistence. The preferred material for fly rods changed in the 1950s. Technical innovations coming in part out of the war effort resulted in fiberglass replacing cane for most anglers. A post–Korean War embargo of Chinese products, including Tonkin cane, did wonders for fiberglass. When the embargo ended in the 1970s, graphite was replacing fiberglass, and the large commercial manufacturers of cane rods either went under or scaled back to skeleton and custom operations.

But as Harms points out, the craft never died. Cane still has some advantages. Fiberglass and graphite are lighter materials than cane but not as strong and certainly not as beautiful. Synthetic rod  blanks are designed and built in factories, most of them offshore, and the resulting rods all conform to whatever design criteria are imposed on them at the factory. Cane provides the builder with complete control of the rod’s taper, accounting for its behavior as a casting tool. Harms’ tapers are depicted on large sheets of graph paper rather than in mathematical tables. “I’m really a visual person, and I don’t pay so much attention to the numbers,” he says. It’s these tapers that make his rods so special and valuable.

A two-handed spey rod built and signed by Harms.

A two-handed spey rod built and signed by Harms.
Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission

But it wasn’t just the special properties of cane that allowed the craft to persist and even grow in the 20th century. As Harms notes, “The book changed everything!” The book he refers to is A Master’s Guide to Building a Bamboo Fly Rod (1977) by Everett E. Garrison and Hoagy B. Carmichael (son of the famous composer). Garrison was a legendary rod builder from upstate New York who, like Marinaro, learned his craft from Holden. He passed away in 1975, and Carmichael, then his apprentice, finished and published the manuscript. It was the first widely available manual that described the tools and processes of cane rod construction in detail. It became the bible for a whole new generation of craftsmen, more than a few of them Pennsylvanians.

Soon craftsmen with a mechanical bent began assembling workshops and building forms and binding machines and learning to split bamboo and sharpen plane blades from Garrison’s descriptions and photographs. More books, and eventually videos, followed. As we wrap up our visit Harms remarks, “By now, there must be dozens or maybe even hundreds of builders working in Pennsylvania. Who knows?”

It’s clear that as long as he’s physically able to do so, Bill Harms will be one of them. “It’s a consuming passion,” he says. “I’ve been at it now for 40 years, and I’m still just as interested and fascinated as I was when I started!”


Harms flame-hardens some of his cane in a spiral pattern that creates an exceptionally beautiful effect.

Harms flame-hardens some of his cane in a spiral pattern that creates an exceptionally beautiful effect.
Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission

We part with a final point of discussion: Is cane rod building a craft, or does it rise to the level of art? For Harms it’s really a semantic and perhaps pointless distinction, but there is one important consideration. Harms’ fly rods are indeed artful. They’re beautiful to look at and all the details are perfect. But what really matters to him isn’t aesthetics. “If I know a buyer just wants to acquire one of my rods as a collector’s item or an investment, I simply won’t build it.”

In the end, no matter how lovely they are, Bill Harms builds fishing rods. Their place is along a trout stream.

Tom Smithwick also builds fishing rods. Like Bill Harms, he’s part of a renaissance in cane rod building that began in the 1970s and continues to expand. Smithwick worked for decades in metallurgy in New Jersey and in the Doylestown, Bucks County, area. As his interest in rod building grew in the ’70s, he found that the mechanical skills he cultivated at his work transferred seamlessly to his workshop. On a beautiful summer afternoon, he welcomes me to his home and shop near Shippensburg. The shop is organized, spacious and filled with natural light from strategically placed windows just above his workbench. A lot of fine fly rods have been built here. Smithwick is well-known in the rod building community not just for the peerless quality of his work but also for innovation. He has designed and built a simple machine for binding rod blanks that many builders have copied, and he employs materials and products for some of his rod components and finishes that few other builders have tried.

Tom Smithwick with a couple of his recently completed cane rods.

Tom Smithwick with a couple of his recently completed cane rods.
Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission

Like almost every modern rod builder, Smithwick’s entry to the craft was a combination of mentorship and self-education: “In the ’70s I met and learned from Bill Fink, a really accomplished rod builder from New Jersey. Of course, I also acquired a copy of the Garrison and Carmichael book. In fact, the second rod I built was a Garrison 212. That was a good rod!”

Some of Smithwick’s innovation and experimentation is playful and quite astounding, for example the “spiral rods.” Smithwick notes that the spiral design isn’t really his idea: “Fred Devine [a builder from Utica, New York] built spirals in the early 20th century.” These rods not only taper from butt to tip like all fly rods, but also spiral over the length of the rod. This requires some fairly complicated geometry and the placement of guides on alternating strips so that they line up on the finished rod. This adds a stupefying level of complexity to a process that’s already quite complex. It results in a rod that transfers the stresses of casting through itself in a very different and effective way. Smithwick has also built some well-regarded “wet-fly tip” rods that are among the smoothest casting fly rods I’ve ever tried.

Tom Smithwick at his workbench.

Tom Smithwick at his workbench.
Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission

During my visit we take two of his recently completed rods outside to cast on the lawn, and I am again impressed by their flawless beauty, reserve of power, touch, and accuracy. Both rods employ modern and high-tech line guides and finishes for both the thread wraps and the bamboo. He makes his own ferrules from high-strength bronze and reel-seat hardware from stainless steel rather than the traditional nickel silver.

Smithwick’s approach to rod building contrasts sharply with Bill Harms’. If Harms is in some ways an artist and a traditionalist, Smithwick is perhaps more of an engineer and innovator, but in both cases the results are breathtaking examples of the rodmaker’s craft. The two men, so different in approach, are tied together by their passion for a pursuit that’s both tradition-bound and constantly evolving and growing. Their work has inspired an expanding cohort of middle-aged and young Pennsylvania-based crafters. This new generation of builders is carrying Phillippe’s legacy forward from the 19th century to the modern world.


Penns Creek

Near the little town of Coburn in Centre County, Penns Creek does an astonishing thing. The gentle limestone stream that begins life at Penns Cave some 13 miles to the northwest gathers a couple of its major tributaries, Elk and Pine creeks, and then takes a sudden and dramatic turn south into the long, folded ridges of the Seven Mountains country where Centre, Union, Snyder and Juniata counties come together. Here Penns Creek, now a small river, has cut a dramatic gorge through the mountains and flows into a 4-mile-long canyon accessible only on foot or bicycle from an old railroad grade. It’s one of the most beautiful and arresting landscapes in the Middle Atlantic Region and also one of the commonwealth’s finest trout streams.

One late afternoon in early autumn, two friends and I park near one of the access points, don our waders and vests, and rig our fishing tackle. In this case, the rods to be fished are all split bamboo, and they all came off my workbench. We pause on the high trestle footbridge to admire the view and watch for rising fish before descending to the streambank. Once at streamside, we split up and begin covering the water and prospecting for the wild brown trout that live here.

Fishing, while an activity that lends itself to amiable companionability, is at its heart a solitary pursuit. Once on the water and apart from my friends, there is the usual mix of silent predatory focus, natural wonder and reverie. For me, there’s a deep sense of connectedness. Some of it is simply to a landscape and a river where I’ve had a lot of good days. But part of it is tied to the cane fly rod in my right hand. I suppose to some eyes the rod makes me an anachronism. Light, powerful and state-of-the-art graphite rods are readily available, and modern technology has moved well beyond split bamboo. But that’s not how I see things.

A bulge near the opposite bank indicates a good fish, feeding under an overhanging hemlock limb. As I move into position to cover the fish, it occurs to me that the forward cast will be about 40 feet, but the backcast will stretch behind me all the way to the 19th century. This rod connects me to 175 years of tradition and craftsmanship, to generations of natural and sporting heritage, and viscerally to the place where I was born. That means something to me.



Cane Rod Construction

The process begins with 12-foot lengths of Tonkin cane called culms. Bamboo grows in segments separated by joints called nodes, where leaves and stems branch off. The nodes are both tougher and more brittle than the cane above and below them (analogous to knots in a wooden plank) and must be accounted for as the rod is laid out.

A glance at the sawed end of a culm will reveal why the material makes such excellent fly rods. A dark ring of tough power fibers is visible just below the outer surface of the culm, and the thickness of this ring of strong and flexible fibers will dictate whether they should be used in the butt or the tip.

Each half of the culm is split with a knife into 20 to 24 strips. The sections of cane are planed into tapered triangular strips to very precise tolerances measured in thousandths of an inch.

Most rods are built with six strips per section and are hexagonal in cross-section.

The completed rod sections are coated with varnish or other waterproof finishes, and the line guides are wrapped onto the rod with silk thread.



Visit the Pennsylvania Fly Fishing Museum

Pennsylvania is one of the cradles of American fly fishing. Many of the sport’s innovations and firsts that date back to the late 18th century occurred in the Keystone State. That tradition is preserved, interpreted and exhibited at the Pennsylvania Fly Fishing Museum, located on the banks of the world-famous Letort at 101 Shady Lane in Carlisle, Cumberland County. It’s a must-see for any fly fisher or environmental and sporting history enthusiast.

The museum houses collections from some of the commonwealth’s most famous anglers, including Vince Marinaro’s tackle, photographs and papers. The exhibits feature angler memorabilia and artifacts relating to the commonwealth’s most important trout and bass waters.

The Pennsylvania Fly Fishing Museum Association hosts an open house in April, an annual Heritage Days celebration in June, and a fundraising banquet in November. The events are attended by some of the most famous anglers and fishing writers in the eastern United States.

For more information on the museum, events and membership, visit paflyfishing.org.


Joe Baker is an archaeologist, writer and editor at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s central office in Harrisburg, Dauphin County, and is also an avid fly fisherman and cane rod builder.