Howells: the Bamboo Fly Rods & Fly Fishing Legacy of Gary H. Howells

By Joseph H. Beelart

In this, the first full biography written on Howells, author Joseph H. Beelart Jr. has tapped into archives, private letters, and unpublished material to craft a moving portrait of a true American artist. We've always had Howells rods; now we have the story behind the rods. 100 color photos; 9x12 inches, 220 pgs.


Out of stock

Categories: ,

ISBN: 1-936702-55-X

EAN: 978-1-936702-55-8

Binding: Softcover

Publish Date: 30/11/2013

Share this product!


Gary Howells bamboo rods are among the finest ever built. To see one is to experience modern American art; to cast one is to feel wonder that such a magnificent tool can be made. His rods endure; with proper care, a Howells rod will last a lifetime.

In 1948 when Gary was 15 he hand planed his first cane rod. He tied flies and built cane rods to pay for a considerable amount of his university expenses. Then, he joined the Winston Rod Company as their principal cane rod maker. In 1970, after thirteen years at Winston, he left to open his one-man shop near San Francisco. From 1970 until 1997 he made rods under his own name, but never enough to satisfy the demand. For two decades Howells limited rods to one per customer per year, and his annual backorder list was usually sold out at the start of his production cycle. Gary built rods for eight months each year and took three or more months off each year to go fly fishing. He traveled from British Columbia to South America, but mostly he spent his fishing months in "Howells 'West'" of Idaho, Wyoming, and especially Montana.

Howells was an intensely private individual, and he valued his privacy most highly during his fishing sojourns. He once wrote, "I hide in the bushes so my customers can't find me ..." Howells was also very secretive about his building techniques; but, with a limited group of rod builders, he willingly shared ideas. Thus, Howells craft lives on.

By Joseph H. Beelart Jr. on December 5, 2013

I started work on this book the third week of January 2008. The acknowledgement pages list over 50 contributors; some of whom only gave me information for captioning a photograph {like the 1949 Mercury Woody, one of only 1,700 produced and GHH used for a fishing car} to pages of interview details. Others, including contributors from Japan and Europe, provided substantial photographic and background information.

This book is more than about Howells; it gives a basic history o his mentor, Lew Stoner, a founder of Winston Rods where GHH worked 13 years, and high profile friends such as Haig-Brown and Ted Trueblood. Well respected men in the rod making craft such as Tom Morgan and Glenn Brackett granted extensive interviews and then carefully reviewed them to ensure accuracy. Several of Gary's living friends and apprentices granted interviews. Also, I took the time to research a circle of deceased friends like Jon Tarantino, the champion caster; Jack Horner, the San Francisco fly fishing legend; and Ferd Claudio, "a wheel" at the Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club.

For what it's worth, there is a rod value appendix, and an briefly annotated bibliography, of which I am proud. One of my goals was to have a footnote for virtually every page. I succeeded;there are over 200 of them, most condensed from many words, even pages of drafted information.

Finally, the book honors the reader by including over 100 photographs, most in color. My wife Sharon did a wonderful job scanning slides, prints from family albums, and then running them through Photoshop to remove dust specks, etc. One of Gary's enduring traits was to not caption photographs .... honestly, only one out of about 1,000 had a note on it! Another was he didn't clean his camera lens ... some photographs taken a decade apart had dust specks in the same places!

In addition to photographs Howells left behind, he also left about 2,000 letters, several logbooks, and a big box of business records. These were the foundation stones of the book, along with the wonderful rod list complied by Messel and DeClue. Needless to say, I can go on and on; but let's go back to the first paragraph. I was just the scribe. This book is the result of a world-wide cooperative effort of Howells friends, associates, and fly fishers who wanted to contribute. The acknowledgement pages tell the story. I am humbled each time I read it and think of the wonders a simple email or letter from me wrought.

Joe Beelart
West Linn, Oregon
December 5, 2013

Hay {since I'm a farm boy, I spell it right}, I had to rate it five stars. Sure there are errors and omissions, but this book took a lot of work. Keep in mind, my 66 year old fingers did all the typing, for the biography, and the Limited Edition letters volume. The typing alone was no small effort.

Thank you for reading this. I think you might also enjoy reading the book. Yours very truly, Joe Beelart of West Linn, Oregon USA.

Additional information

Weight 3 lbs
Dimensions 12 × 9 × 1 in


There are no reviews yet.

Only logged in customers who have purchased this product may leave a review.


Equipment / SuppliesLodges / Resorts
Online Retailers


DVDs / VideosMagazines / Ezines

Get in touch

AboutContact Us


Terms and ConditionsPrivacy Policy
Fly Fishing Digital Marketing Group
Copyright © 2024 Ask About Fly Fishing | As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases through links from this website.