March 8th, 2004

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
This is where our readers tell their stories . . .

Rod of Ages
By Michael Mead

"Nice bit of timber that."

"Sorry?" I say.

"I said your Pole, it's... Pretty."

Just great, I love driving 50 miles to get away from civilization, only to realize I've dragged something along with me on my mud flap! I give him the condescending smile/smirk that is the minimum required courtesy. You know the one your doctor gives you when you ask, "Oh, is it painful?" "Yes, thank you, it was a gift from a very dear friend." Undeterred by my Arctic response he pauses and gives me that look of 'Oh really and is he a fruity too.' I watch as he lumbers down the trail, his brown neoprene waders creasing from side to side at the butt with every step. Ha, bloody neoprene. I'll see you on the river mate!

As I reach the end of the trail that widens to meet the upcoming water I hear a "Yee Haw." Son of a - he's only been here a minute. His six-foot spinner is arcing like a nine-foot graphite as he checks the fish's run. My ego suddenly waning, a quick right turn puts me facing down the river and hopefully a few steps closer to solitude.

"You better get that fancy stick on the water, this is my second one."

"Right," I barely turn, and raise my rod to acknowledge his advice. Shuffle hurrying, I lift my pace, "damn, damn."

With a few strips of line and delicate shoot my fly is gracefully curling above the water. It alights on the surface and rolls with the current. "Nice presentation," I congratulate myself. A few more casts and all's well with the world. Two more and I've crested that hill of self-satisfaction! "Where's the bloody fish." Furiously I reel in line. "Too early for Caddis - Mayfly!" Off with the 6x and on with 7x. No problem, this "timber" is a perfectly tapered 1938 East coast special. It's amazing what friends will "gift" you when you've presented them with $2700 bucks!

As the afternoon wears on my fly box has been transformed from a neatly regimented array of finely crafted historical representations, to a jumbled nest of limp looking hair and snarled tippet.

"Good fishing eh?"

Holy s#%* where the hell did he come from? I turn and there he is. His "Pole" is angled behind his back; he has one hand in his shirt, the other around a tin of beer. I think the rod is down his waders, in his back pocket!

"You want a beer?"

I don't respond.

"I've been watching your cast. That's about the sexiest loop I've ever seen. But wouldn't you be better off nymphing."

I'm speechless. In the time it's taken my fly to drift and hook a log, he's offered me libation, complemented my form (I think) and schooled me in the art. Rallying to my senses I kindly decline the beer and wonder if I should mention my own hip flask of 18-year single malt. Not a chance! I turn to decide what can be done about my fly on the log only to see the end of my tippet now freely dragging midstream. "You know on second thought's I will take that beer."

Climbing out of the water, I notice he has another beer already in his hand. Cooler? Nope. Wonderful, warm beer and a chance of some devastating repartee! He's already moving to a large fallen tree, so I follow along and we sit looking out over the river.


"No problem, it's always nice to take a break and refresh, away from the water." Surprisingly the beer is cold and extremely tasty. Turning the tin I realize that it's not a label I recognize. "That's a very nice drop, where did you get it?"

"I have a friend who's an importer, every now and again he sends a crate my way. I believe it's Belgian."

"Belgium! That's a far cry from Missouri." I cringe as the obvious judgmental sarcasm rolls off my lips. Looking sideways at my benefactor I notice no emotional stirring. His chin is slightly lifted, eyes calmly surveying some point beyond the river. I try to follow his sightline - just a few Russian olives turning with the breeze.

By the time my drink is 180 degrees we've barley spoken a word. As I rise from my seat and stretch, his attention is once more drawn to my rod.

"My Grandfather used to fish split cane."

I look at the rod that hadn't left my hand from the moment I got out of my truck. "Oh really?"

"Yeah he built them himself."

"Really," I sit and bring the rod round in front of us so we can both look at it. His eyes are keenly surveying its full length. "Here, take a look." I hand the rod over; he turns it in his left hand looking closely at the detail and finish.

"Nice weight."

"Yep, it sure is." Reaching into my jacket I bring out my silver flask, unscrew, flip the lid and offer over the drink. "Scotch?"

He looks at the flask, then at me. "Speyside or Highland?"

"Neither I laugh, Islay."

He, slowly rolls the flask a few inches below his nose, eyes slightly squint as he breathes the aroma. After taking a small pull the drink is offered back. "Thanks."


"Well I suppose we should hit the river again." He rises and turns to offer back my rod.

"Would you like to give it a try?" A smile breaks across his face and he lifts the rod to look at it anew.

"I'm very glad you ask."

Offering up my fly box too he raises a hand. "I'll tie on one of my wets - If that's OK with you?"

"Go for it." He turns and wanders toward the river, his own rod lying against the log to my right. I watch as he pauses at the riverbank tying his fly to the tippet. Seconds later he's stepping down into the water with rod now in his right hand, fly left. Taking a few steps out he starts stripping line and false casting as he steps deeper into the water. "Hmm, done this before."

As he slowly walks back into our resting area, I let the crease out of the corner of my mouth and raise my chin from my upturned palm. "Was it five or six?"

"Five, the last one took my fly."

"Better luck next time then, I guess!"

He hands back the rod with a flat smile. "Like I said, nice bit of timber." He picks up his own and scans around breathing a deep breath. "Well, that's more than enough fun for me today." Offering out his hand, "My names David Harrison by the way." I shake and give him my own.

Alone, I stand looking at the river. David Harrison, that names familiar. Well, should I fish or should I walk? Looking at my rod I notice there's a fly on the keep. 'He said the last one took his fly. So this ones for me eh? Then lets see what I can do!'

Sitting on the tailgate all I can do is smile and smile. "Twenty three inches - wow!" I nip the fly off the line and place it beside me. After retrieving the remainder of line I remove my reel and split the rod. Sliding the butt into its sock I pause and read the makers mark for the umpteenth time. "4/9/1938-002 Roger Harrison." ~ Michael Mead

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