The name L.L. Bean evokes in me familiar sensations that stir my senses. I can smell oiled leather and dirt, the scent of crushed leaves on a dry breeze. I can feel the heft of canvas and the sticky rubbery knobs in my hand, along with the back and forth motion of lacing up a boot. Ah, the secure feeling of a well-laced boot. I can hear the sharp, zippy noise of a thorn vine sliding off waxed cloth and the crash and snap of twigs below my feet. I can see across the stream over the sun-dappled surface and into the shade below the overhanging willows and spot the bluegills slurping bugs off the surface. Yep, to me, Bean is synonmous with the outdoors and ever since I had my first pair of duckboots (I think I was about six or seven), it’ll be synonymous with splashing in puddles.
Over the years, I’ve drifted to many outdoor brands, but L.L. Bean remains the original to me. Somehow it was always affordable for my family, always available and ever-present, especially in the New Hampshire countryside where I was born. Frankly, there was nothing else. Imagine my surprise to learn that L.L. Bean is celebrating its 100th year in 2012. In the years after college, I’d become petulant about certain American brands. Fortunately, we’re not doomed to the ignorance of youth and things change, and now I’ve fallen for L.L. Bean all over again. Sure they don’t make everything here in the states–and who could afford to these days–but they do their best, and they continue to make the outdoorwear pretty accessible. I’ve lately been messing around with some of their fly fishing gear and accessories, but I didn’t realize that old L.L. himself was an avid fly fisherman, and a devotee to the bamboo rod. For the 100th Anniversary, Bean has created a special bamboo rod with Thomas Rod Company in Brewer, Maine. Its a beaut. Oh its way beyond my means for sure, but 100 year anniversary’s don’t come along every day. Someone will give the 25 individually-numbered limited edition rods a good home, I’m certain.
Steve Campbell, owner and rodmaker at Thomas Rod Co. spends anywhere between 50 and 80 hours on each rod, and the art and sweat are pretty obvious. “Stripping guides have traditional agate stone inserts with a nickel-silver frame; snake guides are bronzed stainless steel. Nickel-silver reel seat is adorned with an impeccable butternut spacer. Brass capped aluminum tube and cloth sleeve included. Spare tip section is included.”
Happy Anniversary L.L. Bean–here’s to 1oo more!