Since 1731 George Barnes has been the only family member born outside the area near Harpeswell, Maine. At times, he’s felt like the proverbial black sheep. To make matters worse, George even chose a career away from the sea. An inspection of family records will show that George’s role models were sailors, fishermen, yacht skippers and boat builders. Although he didn’t take his livelihood from the sea, Barnes takes pride in the fact that he inherited the traditional skills of his ancestors. The quality of George’s craftsmanship is reflected in the precision, function and beauty of a Barnes split bamboo fly rod.
In lieu of life associated with the sea, George chose a technical education, majoring in civil engineering at the University of Maine. After graduation, he spent the next 35 years working in virtually every technical position in the field of civil engineering. George started as a “rodman” and ended up president and CEO of the firm. During that time, his list of accomplishments grew to include: chairman, treasurer and president of the American Consulting Engineers Council, headquartered in Washington DC. While president of the ACEC, George led the first US technology exchange mission to China. He then went on to serve as treasurer of the National Construction Industry Council.
In the early 1970’s, George became interested in making bamboo fly rods. His interest came at a time when the average guy just didn’t attempt making his own split cane fly rod! When told by a leading manufacturer that rodmaking couldn’t be done at home, George rose to the challenge.
Back then, there wasn’t much information on the subject, so after mastering the idiosyncrasies of rodmaking “at home,” George wrote his first book. In How To Make Bamboo Fly Rods, George explained, in simple, concise terms, his procedures and early construction theories. Many current rodmakers credit Barnes with contributing to a rebirth of bamboo fly rods. George’s early work is reproduced in Book One of this volume. Book Two, entitled Fly Rods Galore, is the sequel, and presents 25 years of changes in the rodmakers’ art. Book Two is filled with innovative theories, helpful tips and interesting sidelights and ideas not found elsewhere.
Certainly George Barnes’ thoughts and theories will generate opposing viewpoints, both from novice as well as contemporary master craftsmen.