I recently spent some time at my local fly shop and at the urging of the
owner operator tried my hand casting some of the better rods he had
available. Prices ranged from $110.00 all the way up to a beautiful 9ft 5
weight that felt like a wisp in my hand. Wow! $1000.00 for a single rod!
Plus $500.00 for the reel! I could see perhaps spending $110.00 for the
lower priced ones but $1500.00 of my hard earned money for a rod seems just
Still I fantasized about owning one just like it some day. When I win the
lottery pops to mind.
When they had a 40% off sale I bought a new 9ft Sage 5 weight that is a
dream to cast.
I have been out practicing with it every day since I got it. My casting
improved immediately due I think to me being finally able to feel the rod
loading. It is truly a thing of wonder to me. I was thinking that this would
probably turn out to be my favorite rod. Then I got to thinking..Perhaps not
my favorite after all. There are two fly rods from my past worth more. Out
of 25 or 30 fishing rods of all types that I have owned over the years, they
are at the head of the list. I realized that the $1000.00 rod wouldn't even
Number one would be my first fishing rod. It was a homemade six foot willow
wand cut from an old weeping willow down by the creek. Willow not because of
the suppleness of it but because to a kid willow peels easily and makes neat
whips. It was not a fly rod to be sure but I flung the thick mono line out
like casting a fly line as the rod had no reel. It got wind knots a lot so
for those reasons I classified it as a fly rod. It was decked out with
custom guides made by bending the eyes of safety pins at right angles then
held fast with hockey tape. It never occurred to me that the lack of a reel
made the addition of guides to the rod completely unnecessary. What the heck
it made it look like a real fishing rod. When the tape idea didn't work I
wrapped the pins with miles and miles of my moms black sewing thread. The
thread was my Grand Dad's Idea. Then my dad supplied me with some varnish to
hold the threads fast. When finished it was a thing of beauty! I proudly
showed it to my two sisters thinking to make them jealous. Forgetting of
course that they cared not a whit about fishing or any other boy stuff for
that matter. They promptly ratted me out yelling MOM! MOM, Roger took your
thread Roger took your pins. Did I mention that my sisters were stinky
meanie tattle tail brats in those days? I spent the next two hours facing
the corner without supper as punishment for the thread and pins without
Even though it cost me my next three weeks 25 cents allowance to pay for them
and a trip to the woodshed, (not go get wood either) it turned out to be
worth it. All summer long I fished the creek and the oxbows for lunkers I
just knew had to be living there. I never caught a lunker but I just knew
they were there never the less. Many a bull head and sunfish met their
match facing that marvelous rod. Still for all its glory it would every
once in a while let me down when a thread would loosen wrapping around and
around my line in a kind of death grip. Some of those tangles rivaled the
Gordian knot for their stubbornness in the undoing. I loved that rod, for
without it I couldn't reach out and try for the really big ones in the
middle of the creek. Sadly one day I broke it when a hog nosed sucker
surprised me. It grabbed so hard that my tired old willow, sagged in the
middle with a sickening snap. The long hot summer had dried the suppleness
right out of the willow. A splint made with some hockey tape and a willow
twig got me thru the rest of the day. I was in denial for a while but during
the bike ride home I finally came to the realization that its time had truly
come. I gave it a nice send off by depositing it in our neighbors ever
My Mom hearing of my tragedy and seeing my obvious dismay left the room,
returning shortly handing me a fresh spool of black thread and a box of
safety pins. Here, you can use these to make another one. I took these
treasures from my Mom's out stretched hand heading straight for my bike to
go get another willow wand. "No! not now it's too late, you can get a new
stick tomorrow, besides don't you have homework?"
I reluctantly agreed, tomorrow was Saturday and I would have the whole day
to make a new rod. It would be two feet longer and I would figure out how to
put a reel on it.
Bright and early I arose, eager to get my chores done. I wanted to be off
to pick out the very best willow branch for the new rod. Half way through
feeding and watering the chickens I heard a call from the house. It was my
Granddad. "Come on Laddie-buck We're going to town. I need you to help me
with the bags." Those gentle readers not blessed with a Scottish Granddad,
perhaps are unaware of the dire things that can befall one so foolish that
they talk back to their Granddad. Even worse fate awaits him who calls him
grampa. He is Granddad, head of the clan. He must at all costs be listened to
and obeyed. Experience had taught me well. I didn't dare refuse or even
grumble under my breath in the presence of granddads incredibly sensitive
hearing. Devastated at the delay I rode in silence hoping against hope that
we would shop and be home by noon. Granddad had many friends and was known
for taking hours to shop for a single item. I had spent many long boring
hours while he and his cronies re-fought the war to end all wars.
I was surprised when Granddad stopped in front of "Tinks" the local
combination Sports shop /bike repair store/feed and supply store. Granddad
shopped at his friends stores. No sense dealing with strangers. I hadn't
thought Tink the store owner was a particular friend of his.
As we entered the store we were greeted by Tink himself, with goods in hand,
I've got the items you called about right here all put together ready to go.
He handed my Granddad a long wooden box and a paper bag. Money changed hands
and I was hustled out of the store. Never in my memory had my grandparent
been in and out of a store with such dispatch as happened on that day. "Come
on Boy get the lead out! We've got things to do places to go and it's
getting late." We sped along towards home in the battered old family truck,
the mysterious purchases resting between me and Granddad. I figured it was
probably a rake handle to fix the one I broke so I could clean out the
chicken house. Surprised, we sail right past the front gate not even slowing
down just a blast of the horn in salute to my dad working on the tractor.
Luckily I am with Granddad the head of the clan, my sisters will have to do
their chores as well as mine ha! ha! an unexpected bonus! We travel down
past the lake to where the river begins. No use me fishing there because it
is too far a cast for my meager equipment. Granddad stopped the truck sets
the brake and leaps out all in one motion, "Come on Boy haven't got all day."
I slide out wondering what we are getting at the riverbank. "Here open this!" He
thrusts the wooden box in my hands. Startled I just stand there. "Go on open
it Laddie it won't bite you!" I flip the small brass latch and open the lid.
I am speechless. Laying there on the red cloth lining is the most beautiful
bamboo fishing rod I had ever seen. "You'll need this too he growls, handing
me the bag."
I see a smile begin to spread across my Granddads face. I don't remember him
ever smiling at me before. I am still speechless. There, in the bag, is a box with a
reel pictured on it. I open it to find that the reel is already filled with
line, backing and leader. A half dozen flies of different types lay
scattered in the bottom of the bag. I am stunned, my eyes fill with tears,
"for, for me," I stammer?
"Quit yer blubbering boy, of course for you, do you see anyone
else around here? Tie one of them things on and get fishing."
He quickly hauls my bike out of the back of the truck from
under a tarp, sets it against a tree and jumps back in the truck.
"You worked hard for this with my chickens. You showed grit
fishing with that dammed stick like that, you remind me of
your dad so you earned this. You be home by noon, hear? Them
dammed chickens don't feed themselves you know." I detect
a tiny catch in his voice and what looks like the beginnings
of a tear at the corner of his eye. I had always thought that
my Granddad didn't like me because I was always in some trouble
or other. Then as the truck disappeared down the road
I was totally overcome by it all so much so that I begin to
quietly sob with the joy of it; glad Granddad was gone and
couldn't see me crying. My Granddad comes from a time and
background that allows little emotion to surface. I
knew his gruff words as he drove away had cost him a
great deal of effort.
I have always cherished that bamboo rod. It cast much like Castwell's broom
does and over time it developed a distinct bend to the right. The bend gave
it a kind of unsettling twitch during casting as I waved it about in a vain
attempt to get some distance. It came with two different tips and I alternated
breaking them off several times till each was about 6 inches shorter than it
should be. About all you could say for the aluminum reel was it held line
and jammed every once in a while whenever I dropped it in the sand which was
a lot. You could not tell me they were not the best rod and reel in the
world. They were from my Granddad! Sadly It didn't make it to our new house
when we moved about 35 years ago. I miss it.
Today I probably would dismiss out of hand, any rod as poor as either of my
first two were.
But as a boy of 10, long before I was taught to judge a things worth by its
price tag, I still recognized a thing for its worth and beauty and not what
it cost. Besides $1000.00 is just plain nuts! ~ Roger Murray