February 19th, 2001
The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
Archive of Readers Casts
This is where our readers tell their stories . . .
Last Fish of a Grand Old Rod
By Joe Sanders, Rockford WA
I can't tell you when I first saw the rod, because I can't remember when I
first started fishing. I'm sure it was sometime before I could walk. My
first memory of the rod was seeing it stacked in the corner of dad's closet
with about six or seven others. It was wrapped in khaki colored muslin with
a fabric tie string and had that special "old" smell. I asked dad where he
got the rods and he told me they were his fathers. His dad left home one day
and never came back, so dad inherited the rods. I always figured they were
made circa 1917, but I think pre-WWII would be more accurate. They were all
spit bamboo. One was a Southbend and one was a Montaque Flash. The others
were names I don't remember.
One day when I was about 10, my dad and I were fishing on Silver Lake just
outside of Spokane and dad handed me the Southbend. We were still fishing
at the south end of the lake, on the west side, in front of the A-Frame
cabin. I still do fish that spot. The rod was a 3-piece, 9 footer, and was
limber enough at the tip to tell if a fish was swimming close, let alone
nibbling at the bait. Yes it was bait, but it was also fishing with dad. I
don't remember what kind of reel dad was using but I was using a heavy
Perrine automatic. One of those reels you have to wind up, pull the trigger
and the reel would do the rest.
We were doing so well that everyone around us was asking, "What are you using"?
We were limit fishermen, the limit was twelve apiece, and we caught fish
until all limits were filled. That was the 'Old Days' and we loved to eat fried
rainbows, hash browns, and corn on the cob. We went back to that spot
many times. As good as the fishing was, on many occasions the fishing
was slow. That was when dad taught me about patience. I would fall asleep
with the rod in my hand, or watch birds along the shore, or do what ever
I could to make the slow time pass faster. When I
did that, my rod tip would have a tendency to dip into the lake and stay
there. Dad would nudge me and say "Your tip's wet". I heard that a lot.
After several years, as you can imagine, the tip got dry rot and decomposed.
For some years after that I lost track of the rod. Adolescence, the Army,
college and a few other things seemed to take precedence over fishing.
Probably 10 years were lost to the nonsense of non-fishing. Then one day I
saw the rod in it's khaki wrapping and got it out to look at it. It was
still rotten and decomposed on about the last 6-7 inches of the tip. I
decided to try and fix it. So I cut off the dry rot end and reinstalled the
tiptop. I moved a couple of snake guides to better balance the way fly line
would travel through them and finished the wrappings with color preserver
and a clear lacquer. Next step was to see how the rod fished.
I bought an inexpensive Martin reel and some new line. Some tapered leader
and an assortment of about a dozen flies and I was ready to go fishing. A
friend of mine had built a couple of ponds on his property where he stocked
and fed rainbows. The top pond was really no larger than a back yard
swimming pool. The lower pond was larger but you could still pitch a rock
easily from one end to the other. It was gourd shaped and had a small
island in the deep end. He would pump water from the lower pond to the top
pond, and had a waterfall from the top pond to the lower. That would keep
the water aerated and the fish healthier. He fed nothing but Purina fish
chow and the fish grew rapidly to 5 and 6 pounds. Some even bigger. He said
I could fish his pond.
I did. I made a nice long cast toward the island on
the lower pond. I like the feeling of fly line whistling through snake
guides as a result of a good cast. The only thing better is when it's
caused by a fish pulling your line through the guides. It must have been
hellgrammite season, because my hellgrammite was attacked by an old hook
jawed brute, and I got real busy for about 10 minutes. I didn't have a net
of course so I had to try and drag the fish on shore. The bank was a little
steep and when I pulled him ashore, the rod snapped in half next to one of
the ferrules. I got a really sick feeling in the pit of my stomach and
landed the fish.
My friend took a picture of me holding the fish. This was
a good fish and I vowed never to fish the rod again. I did however, fix it.
I drilled out the ferrule and trimmed the broken end of the rod to fit. I
used ferrule tight hot cement to reattach the two pieces. I rewrapped the
joint, added some color preservative and refinished it. It looked pretty
good, but by now was getting close to a foot shorter than original. I don't
know how it fishes because I've never fished it again. I mounted it, rod,
reel, line & fly, on a nice piece of wood and framed it. I also added the
picture of me holding the fish under a piece of plexiglass. I went to a
local trophy shop in the Spokane Valley and had them make a brass plaque
that reads, "LAST FISH OF A GRAND OLD ROD." I added the plaque
and gave the whole shootin' match back to my dad.
That rod hung on the wall of his bedroom until I lost him in September of
'99. That's when I got it back, and it hangs on the wall of my bedroom now.
Every time I walk past it or look at it I have to smile and remember all the
good times. Most all of those good times either had dad or fishing or both
in them. ~ Joe Sanders
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