In youth, professor hooked on bamboo fishing rodsBy DIANE LEDERMAN , Associated Press
Apr. 21, 2013 12:21 AM ET
AMHERST, Mass. (AP) — Richard Taupier is a scholar and expert in Central Asian history at the University of Massachusetts, often traveling to places such as Mongolia or Russia for study.
But, when you Google his name, the first listing hooks you to his passion: fly fishing.
He pursues this passion with bamboo rods, rods he has collected, restored or made himself at his New Salem home.
Taupier was born in Holyoke where his father, Lionel, delivered milk for years and his second cousin, William S. Taupier, was once mayor. Rick Taupier said he doesn't remember meeting his cousin who was mayor form 1968 to 1975.
Richard Taupier and his family moved to Southampton when he was a boy. It's there that he remembers his father taking to him a stream across from where they lived to fish for trout. They used fly rods made of bamboo. Taupier thinks he was about 6.
Now at 62, he still fishes with bamboo.
"It's like childhood for me. It's my comfort zone. It's what I do when I have time."
He used to also act as a fishing guide, something he does only occasionally now.
Fishing rods were made from bamboo until after World War II; then most were made from graphite and, now, fiberglass, which for many are "are lighter more pleasurable to use," he said. Materials for the rods became scare during the war, he said. First during the war, metals were difficult to come by, and then bamboo became more scarce when the United States imposed a trade embargo on China after the war.
Still for Taupier, there's nothing like bamboo because of the "history, the absolute beauty and elegance of these things."
Also he likes the tradition of bamboo rods. "They remind us of a simpler time."
Fishing with bamboo is a way for him to remember those days with his father and older brother and a way for him to connect to nature.
"Some people ski; some people bird watch. My connection with the natural world is the end of the fly rod."
And, he said, "Casting a good bamboo rod is like casting a really good piece of poetry."
He makes about three rods a year — each takes about 40 hours — he said. He also restores old rods that people bring to him or ones he finds, restores and sells.
He loves the history and connections.
Part of his collection is a rod called the Pelham made by the Amherst Rod Co., which operated in Amherst in in the late 1940s until the early 1950s after the Montague Co. closed.
One or two of the employees from that Montague company were involved with the Amherst shop. The Amherst Rod Co. made the Hadley, the Pelham, the Amherst and the Berkshire models, he said.
Taupier learns history as he restores. At times, it means tracking down materials used to make the rod in the first place. He had one rod from 1931 made by Edwards and Sons in Connecticut and knew that one of the employees bought the materials when the shop closed. When he was restoring it, he knew where to buy the thread he needed.
He said there are a lot of great reference books written on the rods that help. And, he said, he tends to specialize in certain rod makers.
"You meet some of the coolest people," who want a pole restored. "They tell you the stories of the fly rod, how it comes to them."
And he said, "Each one has an incredible story behind it."