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North Fork Composites Tour Reflections 12/27/2011

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As you all may know, I have been longing to meet the famous Mr. Gary Loomis of North Fork Composites (NFC) for the longest time. It was with my greatest pleasure that I got this once in a lifetime opportunity to tour NFC and to meet Mr. Loomis earlier this week, what an experience, Wow!


You’re probably wondering how I could be so lucky and blessed with such an opportunity? Here’s my story:


I met “Joe Cool” Nguyen, who is one of our fishermen friendliest from Seattle. Joe and his wife were planning to drive to Portland for the Holidays to spend time with family. Joe contacted me and asked if I could take him fishing while he was down south, then he asked if I was interested in going to NFC for a tour. A tour at NFC, are you kidding me? Before he could finish his question, I believe I had already answered “ABSOLUTELY”.


I did not sleep at all the night before the tour. I logged on to retrieve the questions from Surftalk-Stripers Online. The plan was to make use of all of the time that I had at NFC and to get as many questions answered as possible, so I did some prep work before going there. After that, I checked the water level so Joe and I could go fishing later on in the afternoon, the water level had changed from 2000 to over 5000 CSF - I was miffed! Changes in the water flow help the fish move up river with no interest in holding or being territorial, no bites. The water changed around 6:00 pm in the evening before, which means the fish are on the move and new fish will take 24 hours to acclimate to the change. DANG IT! I wanted Joe to hook into some Steelies, what a major disappointment.


Joe arrived at my place in Woodland later that morning. I showed him around while having our morning coffee, as I was showing Joe my fishing gear in my garage; Joe received a phone call from Greg Cobb at NFC asking if his friend (me) is a surf fisherman. Joe wasn't sure because we never discussed surf fishing. Greg was wondering because an NFC employee had seen my post on Surftalk-Stripers Online, raving about my good fortune to tour the NFC plant. The NFC employee was double checking to ensure there were no more tours scheduled for that day besides the one that they’re expecting (Joe’s personal tour). Immediately I was afraid I may had overstepped my boundaries. I didn't want to do anything that infringed on privacy, thinking that perhaps my posted questions had been out of line. I was prepared to abolish my plans on posting questions, as butterflies bounced around in my sleepless stomach.


I informed Joe that I am 'LamiLoomiland', Khiem Nguyen of Woodland, WA. Overly excited, I bragged about my tour with NFC and wanted to address some questions directly to NFC on behalf of eager members of SOL. I shared my fear of having crossed the line, but Joe didn't think I had. I also admitted that I had printed the 15 questions I intended to ask if plausible; if not, I would totally understand and respect NFC's privacy. I also admitted my intent to bring a camera for pictures, and a digital recorder to record any conversations. Feeling like a loaded paparazzi chasing information Joe convinced me to leave the recorder at home as not to be such a knuckle head. Later I wished I'd brought it... more on that below.


Joe and I left my house around nine to start the eight-mile drive towards NFC.


Joe said, "Do you know the way?"

"What! I thought you'd been there before?" I proclaimed. "I thought you met Greg Cobb two days ago?"

"Yeah, I met him in town, not at the plant,” Joe said.

"Crap, I have only driven by there once and do not know the roads on that side of the river. “My wife works at the Post Office and she delivers mail to NFC, she’d know the way,” I added.

"Call her and get the directions,” Joe said

"She’s at the hospital my daughter is getting her tonsils out; I can't call her” I replied.


Joe called the plant and asked Greg for directions, but we reached Jon instead. Since I live in Woodland and know the roads better, Joe handed the phone over to me so I could follow Jon’s directions. I was instructed to cross the bridge over to the south side of the Lewis River and turn left on the main road, up river, I knew that. Turn left on Etna, go a little way and turn left on to Happa. I sort of knew this, but did not remember the names of the roads. From there, I convinced myself I could smell the graphite and resin to find my way to the plant as a hound dog sniffs its way to its prize.


We found the plant exactly where I remembered it. We parked and walked towards the most obvious door of the three buildings “Visitor’s Entrance”. Joe opened the door as we entered and yelled out "Hello!" as I rang the bell on the table.


We were greeted by Joe's friend Greg Cobb, Production Plant Manager. Greg seemed like the nicest guy I have ever met. In fact, everyone I met at NFC was Über-nice.


Greg ran into another room and grabbed two disclosure agreements for each of us to fill out; I was feeling the high coming on. I took pictures of the blank form, filled it out and took another picture as proof of this day. Suddenly a soft voice came from Greg saying, "I’ll take these forms and Gary will be down shortly to guide you around the plant.” I did a double take and tried hard not to let my knees buckle under me, thinking to myself, "What?! Gary Loomis, the god of Pacific NW fisheries? The man solely responsible for creating everything to preserve our fishery so we, the common fisherman, can benefit from his hard work and legacy? WOW! Have I just died, found myself on Cloud 9 and am on my way to heaven?"


You all must understand that to me, Mr. Gary Loomis is about as close to God as one can get in human bodily form. He is a man walking this earth amongst men, yet in his presences is that of a celestial being. He is my rock star, my hero, my idol, and my most respected person beside God himself. Alright enough with this, getting too religious, it was a religious experience to me...enough said.


Gary came down the stairs with the biggest smile and kindest face, and made us feel completely welcome. He shook both Joe and my hands, and from that moment started calling us by our first names, "Khiem and Joe,” nodded Mr. Loomis. We continued to stand in the front room and gabbed for over an hour listening to Gary and all his great stories. Honestly, I enjoyed every moment of listening to the wisdom coming out of this man's heart. So much passion, so human, we laughed, we high five’d and nodded in agreement. I was clicking with Gary like I had known him all my life the fact is, he would make anyone feel this way.

At this point, I really wished I had brought my digital recorder to record all the laughs and fun we were having.


“Ok, let me show you around” said Gary.


I timidly asked, “I have these questions which were formed by many interested members of an Eastern Coastal Surf Forum Surftalk-Stripers Online; may I address these questions with you later? I also have a camera with which I would like to take some photos for my memories; may I take some pictures?”


Both Gary and Greg replied “Sure! But no pictures in this room please”.




So off we went from the beginning to the end, Gary explained, as Greg followed, grabbing any samples Gary needed to show us. I think they have done this together before Gary walked us through each step of the development of a blank. He explained the process thoroughly along the way, leaving out no detail. He even had his charming employee Lindsay showed us a graphite sheet rolled onto the mandrel, so much attention to detail. I loved seeing perfection at work, perfect execution and speed, from the 20-foot high baking oven to the removal of the mandrel from the formed blank.


At this point, I pulled out the camera to take some pictures, I panicked thinking my memory card was full. “How could that be? This is a 16 GB memory card?” Greg helped me turn the mode knob on my own camera, a couple turns of the knob and off to snapping I went; “Paparazzi Khiem” at his best.


I tried to listen and take pictures at the same time. Gary went into detail explaining his ferrule design, taking time to sketch pictures with pencil and scrap paper. We talked and talked, Gary always emphasized keeping the tip of the rod light for sensitivity. “Smallest thread you can use.” “Lightest finish you can use.” “Don’t wrap too tight as to not let the finish penetrates through the thread.” “The right amount of pressure will also allow you to make final adjustments if the guide is not straight.” “If smaller thread is used, the finish will penetrate more easily than larger size thread.” "Just a thin coat is needed, let it dry and apply another thin coat if needed." This is all common sense in keeping the rod as light as possible, right?


I had to ask, “Gary, I commonly drift for steelheads for about 4-6 hours, as to not cause arm fatigue, am I messing everything up by adding a small amount of weight to the butt of the rod as a counter balance? Am I going against your philosophies with keeping everything light in a rod build?”


Gary looked at me with his eagle eyes and I thought for sure he was going to throw me out of the plant. He exclaimed, “Do you know who started those technique years ago?” I knew right then that I was golden. He pointed to the tip of the rod and said, “You’re not adding weight to the sensitive tip!” “But remember,” He continued, “less here…” pointing to the tip, “equals less weight needed back here”, pointing to the butt.”


I was ecstatically high five-ing Gary, exclaiming "I agree with you 100%. There is a point where too much counter balance weight will defeat its own purpose."


"You don’t want to fish with a 10lb setup do you?” continued Gary. “If the rod is perfectly balanced at the reel seat, you require no strength from your wrist to hold the rod. You hold the setup with your biceps and triceps… relax the wrist… perfect sensitivity!”


Gary continued, “Do you know what your problem is? You are battling tradition! If I followed tradition, I would not be here. We must think outside of the tradition box.” He added, “We must accept and understand that not all methods are for everyone. We all have choices. Never think that yours is the method for the masses.”


I high five’d him again with cheerful agreements. The man I respect most in the fishing industry giving my method his seal of approval!


Gary continued, “Have you heard of spiral wrap?”

“Gary, you do not need to get me started on the acid wrap!” I returned.

Gary said, “That’s the perfect example of tradition not accepting what is mechanically natural.”


I laughed in agreement.


We talked some about my origin, and some other personal stuff. I asked Gary if he still drank alcohol from time to time. He said “no, been there, done it. But then admitted from time to time, he’d have a sip to toast a special event. I announced that my family friend in Wilsonville, Oregon had recently started a distillery / brewery, VINN Distillery, making traditional Asian Baijiu Vodka (It’s similar to Japanese sake but high octane at 40% alcohol and not the normal 15-20% in sake. In Chinese its call Baijiu, Vietnamese it’s Ruou De, and so on. I purchased two bottles and gifted one to Greg Cobb. Then I indicated to Gary that I would love to give him the other bottle for sharing the past three hours with Joe and me.


Gary said, “Did you know my wife is half Japanese?”

“Say no more!!! I will return tomorrow.” I replied.


I did not sleep at all the night prior to my visit to North Fork Composites. I was so tired, yet after my day at NFC in the presence of Mr. Gary Loomis and Mr. Greg Cobb I am currently running on energies of hyperphysical senses as I write these reflections of my most awesome day.


I would like to extend my final gratitude to my new brother “Joe Cool” Nguyen – related by common last name only; his good friend Mr. Greg Cobb for planning our tour; special mention to Lindsay for her expertise; Jon Bial, General Manager of NFC for allowing my experience to happen; Steve Pitcock, Public Relation of NFC for his continual communication with me in the aftermath; and final hail to Mr. Gary Loomis for his lifetime contributions to our fishery.


I will post the response to the 15 questions from SOL members in a different post. Please keep in mind that I had taken too much of NFC’s time and felt the questions did not need lengthy response. I am not, and will never claim to be a paparazzi or a reporter of any caliber.


Thank you for sharing your time in my bliss.


Best regards,


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Nice write up. Funny that you couldn't operate your own camera, lol. It's nice they took time out to give you a tour, good people at NFC that's for sure.


Thanks Billy.


I am extremely blessed with the opportunities given to me the last two weeks. The amount of time Gary Loomis and his personnel has contributed to this write up, and still committing to complete the questions compiled by SOL members is incredible. NFC and her personnel ROCKS!!!


LOL... I have Greg Cobb to thanks in regards to my camera's mode change:D. He took some pictures for me so I could be included in the snaps. When I got the camera back and try to take pictures, it kept saying "Internal Memory Full". :shock: I was definitely panicking and cursed quietly "but there is the 16GB SD memory card installed." :huh: So for a good hour of the tour the camera was messed up.

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It's a great opportunity to tour a facility like that. I hope to check out Seeker in March. I was also hoping to tour a couple in Washington later on in 2012 if money allows. I have amera issues similar to yours all the time, I can't get teh pics off my camera since I lost the cable, so I'll snap a bunch and then realize I have no card in the camera. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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