Dave Micus, Plum Island Sound

September 6th, 2004

Jack's Vise
By Dave Micus

I was perusing eBay, a $100 a month habit, when I noticed a Renzetti Salt Water Traveler vise up for auction. I already own a Renzetti Traveler, a nice vise that is a true rotary, and I didn't have any intentions of purchasing a vise during this foray into eBay; more just killing time at work (but that's between us). However, there was something exceptional about this vise. No, not the make, nor the price, but the seller-more specifically the seller's location.

Usually I don't even notice the location of the seller, just giving it a cursory glance to make sure it is in the United States as my experience with foreign sellers, especially those from the U.K., is that they grossly overcharge for shipping. But the location of this seller raised a flag. He was located in Winthrop, Massachusetts, not exactly a fly fishing Mecca, and I happened to know that author, fly tier, and raconteur Jack Garside had recently moved to Winthrop. I decided to do some sleuthing.

If you're just an eBaby you might be surprised to learn that you can very easily discover a heck of a lot about a buyer or a seller with just a few clicks of the mouse-things like other items sold, items purchase, and comments from both sellers and purchasers. With only the location pointing at Gartside, I delved a little deeper. I checked the other items he was selling-an old Orvis 5/6 multiplier, an aged Orvis hat, and some boat rod holders-maybe the kind of thing you might part with shortly before or after a move. Next I checked what he had sold in the past, which was mostly fly tying material. The puzzle was coming together. Then I looked at items he purchased. Only one was recent enough that I could still access the site, and it was an ashtray painted with a Picasso style fish, just the sort of thing Jack might own. And although I couldn't access other items he bought, I could see the sellers of these items, and one provided the largest clue. This seller specialized in, of all things, antique nude French postcards, and I knew from Gartside's website that he sold similar postcards, only with large fish superimposed, an odd item that is wildly popular in Japan (just what is with these Japanese?)

Now I'm 95% certain this is Gartside's vise, and the final piece of the puzzle comes from a buyer's feedback. "Great service," it reads. "See you in Wilmington." Wilmington is Wilmington, Massachusetts, home of the annual fly-fishing exposition, and Gartside is always a featured speaker. With the puzzle complete I start to bid, smug in my conviction that I'm about to make one of those rare eBay coups.

I bid on three of the four items, eliminating the boat rod holders because I don't own a boat. I don't think any of the remaining things will be as valuable as, say, a rod owned by Theodore Gordon or a streamer tied by Carrie Stevens, but they are a little piece of fly-fishing history, and I hope the hat is the one Gartside wore on the now infamous photo of Jack fishing from an inflatable giraffe pool toy that graced the cover of Saltwater Fly Fishing magazine.

The bids escalate, and I'm wondering if someone else has made the same astute deductions I have. I really only need one item but the timing of the end of the sale is such that I can't just choose one and run the risk of losing it. The bidding on the reel goes past my max, so I drop out, but I continue to bid on the vise and the hat, and when the bidding finally closes, I'm the proud owner of both. I spent $100 on the vise, which for a used Renzetti Salt Water Traveler isn't a bad buy even if it isn't Gartside's. I pay $20 for the hat, which is more than I intended to pay for an old hat no matter who owned it, but I tell myself it is interesting fly fishing memorabilia. And I'm pretty excited about the whole thing, thinking, wow, I'll be tying flies on Jack Gartside's vise. I sent an email to Jack inquiring about payment and shipping, and I brag to colleagues at work of my shrewd purchase even though they don't know who, or what, I'm talking about.

You've probably guessed by now, but my sleuthing turns out to be less like Holmes and more like Clouseau. When Jack responds it isn't Jack but another fly tyer from Winthrop (who apparently also likes antique French nudie postcards-what are the odds?), and though I want to bail on the whole deal I feel honor-bound to keep up my end of the bargain so I do. And, like Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden, I learn a valuable lesson: even when the evidence is overwhelming, the outcome isn't assured.

Anyone want to buy a fishing hat? ~ Dave

About Dave:

Dave Micus lives in Ipswich, Massachusetts. He is an avid striped bass fly fisherman, writer and instructor. He writes a fly fishing column for the Port City Planet newspaper of Newburyport, MA (home of Plum Island and Joppa Flats) and teaches a fly fishing course at Boston University.

Previous Dave Micus Columns

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