Tag Archives: Fly Fishing Stories

Rod Memory: What’s In and With a Rod

B&W Fly Rods

What’s in a fly rod? Sure, some are rolled from graphite, some crafted from split Tonkin bamboo, others are poured fiberglass gel, there’s guides, reel seats, cork grips (sometimes composite) and such. But I’m not looking to go into a “how to make” or a “how it’s made” dissertation on rods. I’m asking what’s “in” a fly rod? What is it that draws us towards one rod over another? To claim one better than another? To choose one from the quiver over another for the day’s fishing? This is not about a general rod company being better than another general rod company. I have my certain dislikes and likes towards companies. It’s a question of what draws us to a particular rod regardless of the company sticker on it. When I’m getting things ready to head out to the water I take a moment to decide which rod is going with me. I’ve thought on this a handful of times and I always go back to one instance where this metaphysical pondering was brought to the forefront.

Me and my wife (girlfriend at the time) were in Central Idaho, about to float a nice stretch of river. As we were getting into the boat the guide looked at my rod I chose to use for the day; it was an old Cabela’s 2 peace, 9 foot 6 weight graphite rod I’ve had for years. After a short snarky smirk the guide commented, “You should really upgrade and get into something better than that rod.” I didn’t really say anything in return, just “Hmm… Maybe.” The thing is, I had other rods, mostly ranging in the mid-price range category, but that’s not the thing. I chose this rod for a reason, it had a purpose to be on that water.

Early in life my folks got a divorce and my mother remarried to a man who became that great father figure, a Dad really. He showed me what true honest work is, responsibility, how to treat women with the respect they unequivocally deserve, and got me into the one thing that obsoletely changed my life – fishing. I remember pawing through those thick Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s catalogs dreaming of my own impressive collection of obviously magical gear; my Dad caught more than me and had far more tackle boxes filled with interesting gummy things and sparkly jingling jigs. The mass collection was my speculation for his success. I didn’t have much money to afford collecting my own mass. I had to work for everything I did and wanted, and pulling chickens and detasseling corn didn’t pay much. Garage sales where my catalogs. And it was at one of those I happened upon a fly rod.

B&W Fly RodsI whipped the water for a good long season with that garage sale rod, wet noodle really. It was the rod I took every time my Dad took me fishing. I would listen to his advice. Sometimes a friend of his would be with us, I would take their advice. I could feel their sideways glances looking at my cast, their cringes with every pile cast, flitches with tailing loops and forward casts. They where patient and kept giving advice, but more importantly they kept telling me – “you’ll get it.” Slowly I learned more about the fundamentals of fly fishing and casting and began to get the hang of it. It must have been the diligence I showed towards the sport that gave my Dad the idea to gift me a rod and reel setup. I imagine he thought it would serve better than the random no-name $10 garage sale purchase I made and was frothing the Michigan water with, or perhaps he thought it was my due. Either way, it was a much better, and greatly appreciated addition to my meager arsenal. Casting came easier with it. I explored many rivers of Southwest Michigan and took it with me when we did our summer long vacations visiting family in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It was my every day rod, it was my only real rod.

I fished with my Dad as much as I could, but I got older and began fishing with my own buddies. The times me and my Dad fished together became less and less. I started swinging a hammer and earning better money than on the farms, allowing to expand my rod collection a little and shelving the gifted rod more and more.

I moved West in my early twenties creating an even bigger gap and less of a possibility to fish with my Dad. Shortly after I moved he developed small cell lung cancer, suspected from Agent Orange during his service in the Vietnam War, and passed far too early in life. He never got the chance to visit me out West where he encouraged me to move and always thought I belonged. He missed me graduating from college. He never met my wife and never met his grandson. He never got the chance to fish any of the rivers he dreamt about.

That rod I chose for that float in Central Idaho with my future wife, that rod that I should think about upgrading to “…something better…” was the rod my Dad gave me as a gift years ago. It fished rivers on my move West. It has fished many of the rivers I fished when I was in college in Portland, Oregon. It fished my favorite rivers when I lived in Montana. Since living in Bend, Oregon it has seen my go to spots. My son has wiggled it in the yard while I try to teach him how to cast. It’s not my every day rod, it’s my special occasion rod.

So, what’s “in” a fly rod? Memories. When we where in Central Idaho, about to fish that beautiful river, I thought it appropriate to share that memory with my Dad and show him that river. Do I need to upgrade, no. It’s already the best rod anyone can have.

-Troy

This stems from a short version I posted on the Bend Casting Club website – here

On the Up and Upper

It was a slow methodical rigging. Erroneously double checking that every guide was strung. Adjusting straps on an already adjusted pack. Tying tippet on with a blood knot when I knew a double surgeons would suffice for the fishing we where about to do. I wouldn’t say I was deliberately taking it slow, none of us where in any real hurry, nor did I have any reproach in regards to our impending water. I was just sort of… curious. That’s all. Curious how the water would look, how I would fish it.

My last visit to “The Punch Bowl” definitely left an impression on me; any complete submersion would. It impressed enough on me to try on different wading belts until I found the one with the greatest comfortability factor to ensure it’s use.

I’ve gotten severely cautious about my wading, more so than usual. I’ve never considered myself an adventurous wader, but now I second guess what I would have never given any thought to. I was definitely shaken by going down. Any confidants that I did have for sloshing through rushing water, leaping a boulder or two, weaving in, on and around snarled log jams was drowned. But now I’m going back to the scene of the accident. It’s my chance to face the demon and ask “What the hell?” Then poke it’s eye and run the other way.

The distinguishing click and following hiss of a snapped beer can tab rang out and awoke me from my trance. I notice Jake and Arian, standing, patiently awaiting for fishing to begin and rigging to end. I ended my internal conversation and grab the cool perspiring can of beer Arian was offering me. “We’ll just kill a little time here until it get’s closer to last light, then head up river to the other spot. The good one. Last time I was up there they were just smashing it.” Jake proclaims with a slight, sort of maniacal, chuckle. We all smile with the prospect of getting into some hard hitting brookies.

I was about to crack the beer as we started towards the trailhead. “You don’t mind if we partake in libations around you, do you?” I ask Jake knowing he’s been free of the habit for a little over three years now.

“Nah. I don’t mind at all. I just can’t have any. I have this allergy – every time I drink I seem to break out in cuffs.” He chuckled. We all share the laugh and head towards fishing, leaving my internal conversation and vehicle roadside.

Photo credit: Arian Stevens

Photo credit: Arian Stevens

The first spot we stop to fish is “The” spot. As we approach I start doubting that it is the spot. I look towards river left bank. This can’t be it. There’s no giant branch obstructing the edge of the pool where I went in off the point. Below the pool is a down skeletal tree but not as I remembered it; as the big bushy trunk where I bassmastered the brookie out from under.

“So, this is it?” Arian asks.

Photo credit: Arian Stevens

Photo credit: Arian Stevens

“I’m not sure. I’m pretty sure it is, but everything seems off. It’s possibly the next hole.” I answer with uncertainty and walk down the bank peering into the water looking for recognition, either from me to the river or the river to me. It doesn’t seem threatening. I feel sort of bewildered to the reason why such a seemingly tame waterway would drag and shove me like a cattle catcher on a locomotive. I recognize the tree in the shallows above the pool and the submerged limps towards the bank. I walk to the point and look into the pool. Yup. This is the brute. The one that dragged me down but managed to break free of. It’s the abyss. I look at it some more. I look into it. I look all around it. There’s a slight, but definite, change to everything. There’s a softer, sorrowful tone. I guess as the season wears the punch softens. There’s change in both of us but not quite to an unrecognizable difference. I unhook the streamer from the guide wire, let out line and toss it into the current.

Photo credit: Arian Stevens

Photo credit: Arian Stevens

After a few strips of a streamer it seems nothing is going to come out or up for a take. Perhaps that’s how it’s suppose to be. Just a gentle reintroduction, get reacquainted before more fish are let to hand. I feel comfortable and start fishing deferent areas of the Punch Bowl. I throw the streamer a few times below the pool. Then wade across well above the pool, and try a small seam on the other side.

I spot a couple small risers but have little desire in re-rigging. I get a good solid tug on the streamer but miss the hook up. Arian’s taking pictures in between a few tosses of a dry fly. Jake’s on the other side of the river spotting for fish in the deep pool, his rod leaning next to him rigged with a two nymph setup. Fishing is slow all around. Someone, not sure who, mentioned time. It’s nearing low light and for us to motor over to the other spot for smashing action during last light. I reel in and head back towards the trailhead behind the other guys.

Photo credit: Arian Stevens

Photo credit: Arian Stevens

Photo credit: Arian Stevens

Photo credit: Arian Stevens

Photo credit: Arian Stevens

Photo credit: Arian Stevens

The “good hole” as Jake put it, is a slow flow but nipple deep wading experience. Stripping streamers hounded out a few pumps here and there but nothing buttoning up. Jake switched to a Chubby Chernobyl for some reason or another and buttoned up and got a brookie to hand. I switched… yup. Arian made a comment about the amazing wonders of the Purple Chubby Chernobyl. I’m not really focused on the fishing. I slip back into an internal conversation - It’s the little wonders and what ifs amazing us the most. Often things are just on the edge of working and you need to figure out that slight change in order to get things to click. Sometimes things fail completely and you have to look at it as a learning experience and not a failing endeavor. Was my complete submersion a utter failing? Not really. I got the fish. I learned to always wear a wading belt. Best of all, I got a story I’m sure to yarn out every once in awhile around angling friends. I went back, faced the demon, but found that it wasn’t really there. I didn’t have to poke his eye and run the other way.

-Troy

Don’t forget the following:

Check out Beattie Outdoor Production‘s video “Spring Stoneflies” with Jake – here

Check out Arian Stevens Photography – here