I sometimes wonder if we have really made any progress at all.
I get to thinking back to the fly rods I have owned and fished.
Several seasons ago I remember thinking just how darn smart I
was because I always kept a few Band-Aids in my fly vest. They
were not for the run-of-the-mill first aid, they were for the
blisters I would get every time I fished that rod. Usually got
three or four on any day I took it out. Solved the problem when
I found out that not all fly rods do that. Sold it shortly
thereafter. For the life of me, I can not remember the brand
of the thing. But, I do know I enjoyed fishing it. My rods of
today do not give me open wounds, I guess I like them better,
at least I think I do.
"What the hell is that," I asked? That was the first time I saw
a guy tie a fly with a bobbin. Yes, I am that old. I felt very
foolish, like I should have known all about those things, well,
I didn't and it amazed me. Up 'till that time I had tied off
the spool or a length of thread. Try it sometime, you might
get an appreciation of how some things used to be. Fun back
then. Whip-finisher? Your kidding, right? There was only one
way to whip, by hand, those nifty little tools had yet to be
invented. I figured I was way ahead of the curve when I learned
the whip, before that it was a few half hitches and lots of glue.
I look at the vise I have now, wow, what a difference. My very
first was a home-made number with a thumb screw to tighten the
jaws. It made a fine book-end for many years. I invested in a
state-of-the-art Thompson. Went right to the top of the line
about fifty years ago.
Twelve bucks. That's what I shelled out for my first hackle neck,
a grizzly and boy was it a dandy. Figured I was set for life.
I remember the hesitation when I plucked the first feather from
it, jeeze, now it wasn't new anymore. You remember the first
rim-drag reel you ever saw? I think I do, very impressive, had
to have one of those right away too. Seemed like as soon as I
got something, there was a new thing out to replace it. Not
a lot has changed there though.
Waders. How many pair have I had. How many did not leak. All
waders come with leaks built in. The more expensive ones are
just slower to show up. Standard equipment were the inner-tube
patches from a tire shop. Had a special pocket in my vest for
them. The thought of sending waders back because they leaked?
You out of your mind? I bought them, they were mine. They leak,
I fix them. That's the way things were then. The canvas always
wore through at the boot-tops first, then the seams went.
Breathable gear was not even a gleam in Mr. Gore's eye yet. If
it rained, you got wet, if it was a warm rain, you sweat and
got wet. If it was a cold rain you got wet and cold. Things
were much simpler then. Not as much to figure out. I had little
to make do with, less to forget. One rod, one reel, one line.
I guess it was just about one of anything I had, but for flies.
And yet, why do I remember them as the good old days. Perhaps it
was the anticipation, learning and all of the other excitement
that goes with our game. Back then a rise was a rise, I had not
yet learned all the different kinds there are. There was more
magic in it then I guess. Most of the time I had no idea what
the trout were doing, nor what I was doing either. But, it sure
was great to be out there doing whatever it was.
I got fish too. Probably there were more of them then, I have
no way of being sure now, must have been though. My casting was
poor, fly knowledge about the same and my gear not much better.
A lot of the bad habits I learned then I still retain, some say
it gives me character, others are not so generous with their
compliments when we fish together.
I think I am glad I got into fly fishing back then, it gives me
an opportunity to compare with today's great gear. We have come
a long way, lots of new things now, I don't need the band-aids
nor the tire patches, but, somehow they were part of the magic,
part of the trappings of fly-fishing. I think I sometimes miss
them, in fact, I know I do. ~ James Castwell