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Classic Cane History: Lyle Dickerson

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  • Classic Cane History: Lyle Dickerson

    This is the eighth installment in the NGTO classic cane history series. This week, we stay to Michigan to learn about Lyle Dickerson. It is estimated that Lyle Dickerson only produced around 1,300 rods in his career. With this relatively low number or rods, combined with the amazing quality he was know for, it is easy to understand why his rods highly prized by collectors. The collecting world buzzes every time a genuine Dickerson rod comes up for sale, which does not happen often.

    The following information was originally written by Dick Spurr and has been maintained on Fishnbajo's site for those who wish to learn more about bamboo rods and their makers. Information in this article was also obtained from Fly Anglers Online:

    Lyle Dickerson
    Lyle L. Dickerson was quoted in the book by authors Dr. gerald Stein and rodmaker Jim Schaaf as saying "If the depression had never come along when it did, I probably never would have gone into the rodmaking business." I say the bamboo rod community would have been all the poorer had he not."

    While Dickerson is most noted for his 2 pc fast series of rods his first rods were of 3 pc construction and while there are some fast rods in that series most were of moderate taper which Dickerson himself preferred.

    Lyle Linden Dickerson has historically been one of the least understood and appreciated rodmakers who ever crafted bamboo rods in America. He practiced his trade in Michigan, far from the Catskills area that was the center of bamboo rod making activity during the first half of the century, so he was never as well known nor as accepted as other noted rodmakers of that era. Yet in recent years, fishermen and collectors have come to realize what a master craftsman Dickerson was and the prices of his rods have soared to near the pinnacle of the classic bamboo rod market.

    All Dickerson rods were produced in his small one-man shop, first in Detroit then later in up-state Bellaire. Not only was Dickerson a master at producing bamboo rods, but he was also a quiet genius who designed and built all of his own rod making equipment. He was one of the few rodmakers of that era who made all of his own precision machinery and also made every component for the rods he produced, including the ferrules and reel seats. Dickerson always had the reputation as a "loner," a dedicated perfectionist who pursued his craft in relative isolation. He was never involved in the rod making fraternity of his peers, and even had little interaction with Paul Young, a contemporary rodmaker in Michigan. Lyle Dickerson died in 1981 at the age of 89.

    The earliest Dickerson rods date from about 1930 and were hand planed before Lyle developed his unique milling machine. Beginning around 1935 Dickerson became acquainted with fishing-writer Ray Bergman and his reputation began to spread rapidly. Bergman also served as a distributor for Dickerson and many rods included a "Dickerson-R.B." or "Dickerson-Bergman" designation on the shaft in addition to the model information. Other inscriptions Lyle used at various times in his career include "Dickerson-Detroit" and "Dickerson-Leitz." About the same time he became affiliated with Bergman, Dickerson standardized his model numbering system and maintained it throughout his career. The model desi gnation he developed was a combination of the length of the rod and the diameter of the ferrule. Thus his Model 8013 was a two-piece eight-footer with a size 13 ferrule; a Model 801510 was a three-piece eight-footer with two ferrules in size 15 and size 1 0.

    Most Dickerson rods have a spartan appearance. Dickerson was most concerned with the function of his rods and cared little for embelishments that contributed nothing to the function. His first-rate ferrules and reel seats were both simple and straight forward, yet highly functional. Most of the ferrules were oxidized. The standard reel seat was a downlocking model with a nickel silver pocket as the butt cap, and featured a black walnut spacer. The most common wrapping pattern on Dickerson rods exhibits brown wraps tipped in black. Some early rods had intermediate wrappings.

    The outstanding rod making equipment designed and built by Dickerson was sold in 1971 to Tim Bedford, an amateur rodmaker in Oakland, California. He produced very few rods under the Bedford name before his sudden death in 1985. The entire rod making operation was then purchased by Jim Schaaf from the Bedford estate in 1986 and incorporated into the Schaaf Rod Shop in Concord, California.
    Last edited by Buck Henry; 04-13-08, 07:30 AM.
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    Buck Henry
    Simple Goat Herder
    Former NGTO President
    Hall of Fame Member