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Colorado inmates learn craft of rod-making and fly-tying

Tracy Harmon
The Pueblo Chieftain/AP
Aspen, CO Colorado
**FOR USE IN WEEKEND EDITIONS OF MARCH 15-16**Jeremy Loyd, an Arrowhead Correctional Center inmate, uses blue and brown thread to weave a pattern on a custom fly-fishing rod for Correctional Industries newest business in this photograph taken on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2008, in Canon City, Colo. Inmates have made nearly 100 custom fishing rods since opening their business. (AP Photo/Pueblo Chieftain, Tracy Harmon)
AP | Pueblo Chieftain

CANON CITY, Colo. ” An inmate has turned a fishy idea into a profitable business for Correctional Industries, providing education, job skills and therapy for fellow prisoners.

“I used to make cane and graphite fishing rods, and tie flies as a hobby when I was on the street,” said Jeremy Loyd, an Arrowhead prison inmate. “I approached Dave Block (a Correctional Industries manager) with an idea for making it a business and an educational program.”

Block was willing to listen and turned over an empty room near the greenhouse operation to Loyd and assigned him an inmate helper. Before long, the empty room was a shop, complete with custom-made work tables.



Loyd then started dealing with wholesalers and set up wholesale accounts for the business. One gives the prison program a 64 percent discount on supplies and raw materials because of the educational and vocational aspect of the program.

Another boost came when Loyd secured an Addiction Recovery Program grant to help pay for the supplies to build graphite fishing rods.




With his own knowledge and a small cache of library books, Loyd has taught other inmates the skills of building fishing rods and fly-tying. By early February, the inmates had made nearly 100 custom rods in three months.

The fishing poles are decked out with woven-thread decorations that range from fishermen’s names to thunderbird designs. Another has a fish design and one rod even has a Denver Broncos design.

Loyd is weaving a Boy Scouts of America logo on one rod that will be auctioned at a Boy Scout fundraiser. Each thread weaving is sealed in a two-part resin with an ultraviolet light guard so the thread will be preserved.

“Our second month of operations was December and we had the second-highest gross profit for a Correctional Industries business because so many people ordered custom rods for gifts,” Loyd said.

Currently, eight inmates are making fishing rods and another 10 will be tying flies as soon as construction of a workshop is complete inside the greenhouse area. The inmates may sell the finished products to a wholesaler who supplies large retail stores.

While custom graphite rods can cost $100 and more, Loyd is organizing the inmates to make custom cane rods that will cost as much as $2,000 apiece.

The cane rods will be fashioned from bamboo shipped from China in 2-inch to 2 1/2-inch diameter poles. The poles will be split into thinner strips, shaped to join together in thin rods, joined with glue and baked in a 7-foot-long oven outside the greenhouse.

“We really are selling the rods for less than what they are worth. A handmade rod with your name on it usually is very expensive,” Loyd said.

To further jazz up the rods, the inmates are making custom wood handles in elder, jade and even maple, as well as unique cork handles that feature a variety of designs and colors.

“It is very rare to find a rod with a cork handle in different colors and these guys even are doing inlays, shapes and designs on the handles,” Block said.

The inmates have a library book that shows braiding techniques that has given them the idea to create custom leather handle adornments, which they can attach to or wrap around a handle and waterproof for long-lasting use.

So far, Block has not had time to advertise the rods on the Correctional Industries Web page. However, a section devoted to the poles will be coming soon he said.

“As the word gets out, strictly by word of mouth so far, this just keeps getting bigger and bigger,” Block said.

“Some of our customers are Department of Corrections employees, but a lot of the word has gotten out through our vendors in other areas, so the poles are going out as close as Denver and as far as Florida,” Block said.

“Word has even got out to the governor (Bill Ritter), and we are going to make one for him,” Smith said.

Loyd said the inmates are learning a skill that’s worth money later.

“The guys are seeing the value and benefit (and that) learning this is a feasible business,” Loyd said. “When they get out, they can continue making fishing rods because you can sell a rod anywhere.

“Everyone is working hard and being responsible. I think it is important, especially for the Arrowhead Therapeutic Community (a treatment program for inmates with drug, alcohol or sex abuse problems) because it takes a lot of patience,” Loyd said.

Although Block also oversees a large tilapia fish-growing operation at the East Canon Prison Complex, he draws the line when the inmates suggest that a fishing pond would be an ideal way to test the fishing rods.

Steve Smith, director of correctional industries, said the staff and inmates are grateful to Warden Ron Leyba and prison department chief Ari Zavaras for permitting them to try the rod program.