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Final Cast
By Bob Nunley, Rodmaker

This past Thanksgiving was a little different for me. I have always had my father around and we would usually, weather allowing, go to one of the stock ponds on his ranch and drag out our cane rods and flyfish until dark. It wasn't the fish, or even the fishing itself, it was the camaraderie of father and son, casting cane and telling tales.

The rod my father always used was a 6'9" four weight I built for him on Father's Day years ago. The script under the varnish read, "Happy Father's Day - 1994." This Thanksgiving Day would be its last day in action. Dad died in September of 1999 after a 20 year battle with heart disease. In his honor, my oldest son and I would spend the holiday afternoon on a small pond in the south pasture, casting to the Bluegill thriving there.

Stuffed with turkey, dressing, yams and mashed potatoes, Nick my oldest son, and I went to Dad's closet and dug out the hex-shaped maple case containing dad's favorite rod. I strapped it across my shoulder and we started our trek down the south slope of the ridge behind the house. The day was unusually warm for Thanksgiving, even in Oklahoma. We wore short sleeve shirts, and still worked up a sweat walking down the hill to the pond.

We arrived at the pond and readied our rods for action . . . Nick with his 7' 2 wt, and me with dad's rod. As though a greater power knew how important this ritual was, the stiff south wind stalled, and the enclosed little world along the banks of the pond became silent. We could hear nothing but the birds in the trees and the soft whisper of our lines cutting through the fall air. A whisper that brought back memories of dad and me standing in the waters of the many lakes and streams we had fished in our lives. Every time I felt the tug of the line on the rod tip at the end of the backcast, visions of dad popping a fly off in the grass along the edge of a river ran through my mind, bringing a smile to my face.

For my entire life, it had been dad and me, traveling from place to place, enjoying the scenery, fishing the great rivers and streams of this country, but this would be our last trip together. Even though he was no longer here his presence was. We could almost see his smile, hear his laugh as we worked the water's edges for the fish. Now, I am the elder, my son is standing downstream and I can see the look in his eyes that I used to have, hoping dad would set the hook on the biggest fish of his life. I could see the excitement in his eyes as the cane rod bowed to the fish. Now, I am the one with the wrinkled face and slightly crooked hands and my son is watching me. I'm hoping the same for him, wanting to see that same look of joy in his eyes.

We both cast for hours, without even so much as a lift on a fish, but that really didn't matter. It didn't matter how many fish we caught or even if we caught any at all. The importance of this day was not the landing of a fish, but the retiring of my dad's split cane fly rod. It will never again see the banks of a lake, river or pond. I will remove it from it's case from time to time, but never to be fished, only to reflect upon the memories it holds of the many days a father and a son stood side by side on the waters edge, cane in hand, casting into the wind. ~ RL (Bob) Nunley, Rodmaker

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