Michael A. Sawyers
CUMBERLAND — Wes Powell has caught enough big fish to make Mrs. Paul jealous. And now he is hooking and landing them by way of fishing rods he makes in his Bowling Green home.
An angler all his life and retired since 2009, Powell has constructed 40 rods, including one each for his seven grandchildren.
“Mudhole (Rod Building and Tackle Crafting) advertised a two-day rod-building class in Virginia Beach, so I signed up and went,” Powell said. “I learned a lot of the tricks of the trade from that and Judy went shopping and enjoyed the beach,” he added, speaking of his wife.
Growing up at the corner of Virginia Avenue and Second Street in Cumberland’s South End, Powell was an easy stroll from the late Vince King’s Tackle Shop on “The Avenue.”
“Vince taught me how to tie,” Powell said. “I’d get frustrated and he’d tell me to stick with it.”
Powell said his greatest angling pleasure is to catch a fish using a lure and a rod he constructed. Powell has long put together his own version of the spinner/fly combo known locally as either the Potomac Coachman and originally as a Casto Special, created by the late Hugh “Pop” Casto.
“I like using rattlesnake and cobra skins as inlays on the rods,” Powell said. He orders the serpent skins commercially.
Other than one casting rod and one fly rod, Powell’s flexible works of art have been spinning rods. They have ranged from 7.5 feet down to 4 feet, the latter being made out of a broken blank for his youngest and smallest granddaughter.
Also, most rods are one-piecers. Powell only does the two-section style when dealing with a lengthy rod such as an 8-foot fly rod.
Uninterrupted, Powell turns out a finished rod in two days. The most time-consuming portion being drying periods, including one of overnight duration.
Powell’s name and a decal of a fish, often a trout, are parts of the finished product. He has even inlaid feathers from his fly-tying bench into a few rods.
“I like to experiment with new techniques,” Powell said. “Right now I’m learning the diamond wrap or cross wrap.” Powell said he experiments on old broken pieces of rod or even on some of his old aluminum arrows.
Other than taking time away from the rivers and streams during the autumn deer hunts, Powell said he “fishes just about every day” in either Maryland, Pennsylvania or West Virginia. He also travels to New York to angle for large lake-run trout such as the brown of almost 20 pounds on his wall.
Most rods are built in the winter when the outside temperature is heat-challenged and daylight is scarce. Powell keeps his downstairs at 70 degrees to facilitate drying the epoxy used for rod construction.
Powell said he has sold a few of the fishing rods, but didn’t get into the hobby for that purpose.
Now that Powell is catching fish using lures and rods he makes, perhaps there is only one frontier that remains. Watch out fishing line manufacturers, you may be getting some competition.
Contact Michael A. Sawyers at firstname.lastname@example.org.