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Water Ways: Mid-Atlantic Maritime Communities

Recreational Fishing Crafts

Meet the craftspeople who still customize rods, tie flies and do fish taxidermy

The rise in popularity of recreational fishing has also given rise to crafts that support the industry. While ready-made fishing rods and lures can be found at bait and tackle shops, some discriminating anglers prefer custom made fishing equipment.

Pete Ames, a native of Little Neck, Long Island, New York, learned to make fishing rods from his father and grandfather. He makes rods for recreational fishermen who tend to prefer Long Island's south shore, which most serious fishermen favor over the north shore. As a child Pete was fascinated with the process of building rods, which he does in his basement workshop in his spare time. Pete makes rods using decorative "wraps" for his friends in the Manhasset Bay Sportsmen's Club, and for people who have heard of his work through former customers, including many south shore recreational fishermen. Designing and wrapping the rod is a meticulous process, one that requires aesthetic judgment and mechanical dexterity. Many recreational fishermen bring their rods back to Pete year after year for refurbishing. Pete has taught his son (also named Pete) how to design and decorate the rods, so that this family tradition continues on Long Island. Pete is also an active fisherman himself, frequently going to the south shore on either charter or party boats or with friends and customers.

Like Pete Ames, Richie Tillman of Queenstown, on Maryland's Eastern Shore, is himself an avid fisherman. Richie learned how to make salt- water fly ties and "bucktails" from his uncle, and as a child making these specialized fishing lures helped him recouperate from a serious childhood illness. Richie's ties, some very realistic and some fanciful, are sought after by charter captains from such important recreational fishing ports as Rock Hall on the Chesapeake and Ocean City on the Atlantic. Like Pete, he works out of a basement workshop.

Other recreational fishing crafts in the Mid-Atlantic include fish taxidermy and rod and reel repair.

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Craftsman Pete Ames. Photo by Steve Gravano.