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Fishing Feathers

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From pheasant feathers to snake skin, Jon Steblay’s custom built fishing rods sometimes end up on the wall of a customer as a work of art not a fishing rod that bounces around the boat.

An avid angler since the age of 4, Steblay grew up in New York Mills surrounded by lakes. According to Steblay’s website, he fished more than anyone in his family wanted him to. Into adulthood, he fished Lakes Superior and Michigan, Canadian, Alaskan and Pacific waters.

After retiring from teaching biology for 30 years at Aitkin High School, he had a little more time on his hands. Six years ago he enrolled in a weekend rod building class offered by Kris Kristufek of Breezy Point and a new obsession began. Three years later he and his wife, Margaret, began Whitecap Custom Rods in their home on the shores of Portage Lake near Deerwood.

The outdoors life for Jon Steblay yields him raw materials to incorporate into his rod building. He found that keeping a few feathers from the pheasant and grouse he hunts can add a unique aspect to his rod design. Using two-part epoxy, Whitecap rods now sport delicate feathers from the hunted birds.

Sharing his passion from his first class, he now belongs to the North Central Region of the Custom Rod Builders Guild. Only a rod builder would get excited about visiting the St. Croix Rod factory in Park Falls Wisconsin every August with his fellow guild members. Here his friends share stories and ideas for the next years creations.

According to Steblay, “Just like people, every custom built fishing rod is different.”

To contact Whitecap Custom Rods visit or call him at 218-764-3424.

Steve Kohls
I started my career in photography after graduation from Moorhead State College with photography positions at the Daily News in Wahpeton, ND. , Country Echo in Pequot Lakes, The Journal in New Ulm and settling at the Brainerd Dispatch in 1975. I have been teaching fine art black and white and color photography at Central Lakes College for the past 15 years. Currently I have been teaching Underwater Photography for Central Lakes College and the Minnesota School of Diving for the past 7 years. From May to November you can find me at the Mineland Recreation Area either scuba diving and photographing the fish or enjoying the beauty of our area’s newest lakes.
(218) 855-5870