December 24th, 2001

Christmas 1947
By James Castwell


'Twas the night before Christmas... and I finally got to sleep, not easy when a guy is only twelve. The winter snows had blessed my holiday world. My wonderland of snow-ball fights, tunnels scrounged out of mountains piled up when a neighbor would shovel his driveway, and of course school was out. As normal my grandparents joined us in Bay City, Michigan for a few days on their way to Florida and with them came lots of you know what. Presents, that's what.

Not that many were needed, it seemed that our tree was held up by a montage of reddish and greenish shapes hopefully mostly for me, unless you count the time it was so darn crooked my dad had to wire it to the curtain rods. Those were the war years and trees were not cheap and not easy to find when you lived in town like we did.

The big morning had arrived and we all gathered in our livingroom my mother doled out the gifts. My Swedish grandad got his carton of Lucky Strikes (the white label ones, Lucky Strike 'green' had gone to war back then) and I got a box of fly line. Silk fly line. Now, I was young but not that young and it didn't take me very long to figure out I was being thrust into the sport of my uncle John's (he was from Kalamazoo, he fly fished). I was a very unsuspecting, but more than willing thrustee. You know the brand, the line was King Eider and with it came my very own Montague bamboo fly rod.

Now I suppose I got some other things that morning but to this day I have not a clue as to what they may have been. Sorry Santa, I just got carried away with my very own fly rod. Wow, I was like a 'kid at Christmas!' So I went outside.

I put on my 'P' coat, (a navy style for you land-lubbers, I liked it because my uncle Bob wore one and he was in the real Navy) strung up the rod and went out to fly cast, flycast in fifteen degree weather over a foot of snow in a moderately small back-yard.

It took. And it is still 'took..' To this day I love it, perhaps because outside of some often ill-fated steelheading I did in later years on the Pere Marquette, I never attempted to flycast in worse conditions.

I think I remember a leader came with it, but I was not into details. 'Cast the rod' was my goal and cast it I did. Well, I called it casting, others may have different descriptions of whatever I was doing, but it was flycasting to me. My uncle John was not there that day and I never did get to go fly-fishing with him, in fact no one in my close family fly fished. But I somehow learned to cast well enough over the years to pester a fair number of unsuspecting trout.

I remember many rods I have had since, Grangers, Charlie Ritz, Orvis and others, none though can replace that first one, that Montague Sunbeam split bamboo fly rod.

Santa JC

That was over a half-century ago but the thrill is still with me, the magic of the long rod, the power of the rod and line as the combine to become a winged tool, a bit of tackle which can at anytime take me to places and times of my own choosing. My 'magic-wand' to be waved when times become tense and troubles assail, when the real world seems a bit too real and I just want to get off and let the old globe make a few spins without me. My fly rod can do that. I hope yours can do that for you too.

Merry Christmas gang. ~ James Castwell

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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