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Millheim Gallery Hosts 'Art of the Fly' Show

by on June 08, 2012 8:11 PM

The Green Drake Art Gallery in Millheim is having a month-long exhibition titled “The Art of the Fly.”

The show features paintings and sculpture centered on streams, fish, fishing and flies. Works of several artists are featured in the gallery. An opening reception was held at the Green Drake June 1.

Special guest for the reception was Jim Downes of Millheim. Downes is a master bamboo fishing rod builder, making his living building custom rods for customers all over the world. He gave a demonstration of his rod building techniques.

Downes was raised in Flemington, N.J., and fell in love with fishing at an early age. He resided in several different states before settling in Millheim. Downes builds rods in his shop in Coburn, very close to Penns Creek, which is world famous as a trout fishing stream.

“Penns Creek has the best Green Drake (fly) hatch, probably in the country, but for sure in the East coast,” said Downes. “It’s a big bug — you can see them on the water, and the big fish will come up for them.”

Downes makes his rods from six pre-machined triangular shaped pieces of bamboo glued together to form a hexagonal cross section rod. The pieces are tapered with the aid of a long, adjustable steel form which holds the segments while Downes hand planes them to size individually.

According to Downes, it’s a long, tedious, but very precise process which yields beautiful results.

“I work to a tolerance of one thousandth of an inch,” Downes said.

Of course, all this precision and craftsmanship has a price — $1,300 to $1,500 per rod — but to a serious fisherman, Downes’ rods are worth every penny. Downes estimates he puts between 40 and 80 hours making each rod.

The bamboo used for his rods comes from a province in China, which is the only place in the world where it grows. Downes says that obtaining the bamboo is sometimes difficult.

After the rod sections are built up, ferrules, line guides, cork handles are attached and the rod is varnished to a mirror-like gloss. Downes signs each rod like a piece of art, which it really is.

On display in the gallery are many paintings in acrylics and watercolors depicting scenes of fishing. The artwork is all of high quality and much of it has local scenes depicted.

For example, artist Jeff Mathison displayed watercolor paintings, including one titled “Fishing Coburn,” which shows a fisherman in a tranquil section of Penns Creek with the old railroad trestle in the background.

In addition to the art displays, music was provided at the reception by Erin Condo. The Green Drake Gallery is located at 101 W. Main St., Millheim. For information, call (814) 349-2486.

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