There was always the chance it could happen. I know
myself well enough by now that at the outset I feared
it might happen. Now I wonder if it actually has happened.
Have I become a fly rod tramp?
Between March of 2004 when Rick Zieger's panfishing
stories in FAOL motivated me to buy a longer fly rod -
a mere 21 months ago, mind you - between then and
November of 2005 I've bought three new fly rods. One
of those I gave to a buddy as a gift, the other two I
still have 'em and use 'em.
I was doing just fine with two rods. They've helped
me catch lots of pannies and brought me lots of fun.
Which had me thinking that I was done with rod-buying;
I felt confident the urge was under control. I was
doing fine, that is, until I rose to take a couple of
FAOL Bulletin Board "presentations" - threads discussing
the use of 1-wt. and 2-wt. fly rods for panfish.
And it wasn't just Jim Hatch and those short, light rods
he employs in swamp wars with monster redear sunfish. No,
also setting the hook in me were comments posted by
Bulletin Board regulars Beedleech, Angler Dave, Eight
Thumbs, Billknepp, Royal Wulff, Jeremy, EdD...the list is
long. It's tempting to "blame" the above for what
transpired over the Christmas holiday, but really, it was
my own doing.
My problem, if you want to call it that (and someone should)
is that I can't get enough of the fight put up by a good
bluegill. And I love the now strong/now weak fight of a
crappie. I'm also getting addicted to the bitter struggles
of red ear, and the smashing hit and hard runs of green
sunfish. Understand: it's exciting enough just being on
the water searching for these fish, finding them, feeling
the hits, boating them, cleaning and eating them. But for
me the heart of it is the battle. So after going into action
in March of 2004 with a new 9-ft. 4-wt. rod, then dropping
down to a 9-ft. 3-wt., followed in 2005 by a softer action
8½-ft. 3-wt, it still felt many times like I was over-gunned
for my intended quarry.
I can buy food in grocery stores; I won't starve to death
if a few panfish manage to get away per trip. And normally
I don't take home more than two dozen fish. So I asked
myself, why not go even lighter on my rod and terminal
tackle? Give all these fish a better chance to flex
their muscle and escape the skillet? If they make me
look and feel like an idiot with a 2-wt. rod, well,
I've had practice with a 3-wt.
It was sobering, though, that the first 2-wt. fly rod
I touched costs $500. Then and there I almost abandoned
the hunt. But FAOL's Bulletin Board soon bolstered my
spirits with occasional threads in which various people
mentioned 2-wt. rods of good quality that are easier
on a poor boy's wallet.
Being basically agreeable to losing more fish but not
lots of fish, I settled on a 2-wt. rod. Entering Cabela's
fly shop in Kansas City, KS in hopes of finding one to
examine, I ran into Tim, a salesman there who's helped
me many times before. Tim showed me a two piece Cabela's
Clear Creek 2-wt. (a rod whose existence I'd learned about
thanks to EightThumbs on the Bulletin Board). Wow, did
this rod feel great in my hand. After giving it a few
test wiggles I put it back in the rack and left the store,
allowing memories of the rod's feel to work on my mind.
Decisions like this take time.
A couple of days later I returned, mind made up, intent
on buying the rod. Tim wasn't on duty now but Andy was.
I walked to the rack and picked up the rod in question,
moved to a safe spot and began waving it gently with its
butt held in against my stomach - the best way to gauge
a rod's spine. Again, the rod felt great. Another customer
came in. Since I already knew what I was buying I suggested
to Andy that he take care of the incoming guy; I was good.
I set the 2-wt. back in the rod rack and waited.
When Andy returned, I mentioned how lucky I'd been that
the shop had a 2-wt. rod on display two days earlier. I
turned just then, and standing there on a rotating floor
rack was another rod that looked to be a 7-ft. Clear Creek
2-wt. I picked it up to show Andy that he has more than
just one 2-wt. rod to show folks. But reading this second
rod's markings, I saw it wasn't a 2-wt. It was a 7-ft.
Clear Creek rod, all right, except this was a 1-wt. It was
the first 1-wt. fly rod I've ever seen on the hoof. Carrying
it to an open area in the shop, I began gingerly test-waving
Lord, have mercy...
What's a guy supposed to do when he's already got a date
lined up with Miss America and out of nowhere Miss Universe
calls him saying she ain't got nothin' goin' on Saturday
night, either? Both are super sweet, both have these curves
that move exactly how you like curves to move. So I spent
the next 15 minutes carefully comparing each rod's flex,
imagining as best I could the thrilling, protracted battles
I'd be fighting no matter which rod I selected.
The 1-wt. was definitely more flexible, choosing it would
constitute a leap of faith in my use of lightweight tackle.
That gamble held strong appeal; at the same time, I needed
to balance this bit of daring by considering not just the
occasional hog bluegill but also the 9-to-12 inch crappies
I would certainly encounter come spring of 2006. Thoughts
of crappie in particular had me doubting the wisdom of
choosing the 1-wt. rod. Maybe the 2-wt., as I'd initially
intended, would be best?
Andy was standing beside me, silent but alert, like a
red-tailed hawk on a telephone pole crossbar.
Wave-testing first the 1-wt. then the 2-wt., then the 1-wt.
again, over and over, favoring first one then the other, my
brain was beginning to fog up. I began mumbling to each rod,
talking to them, silently at first, then out loud: "You are
so fine" I told the 1-wt. while gazing again at its slow,
deep, smooth flex, "but eventually I do want to LAND the fish?"
"No you don't," Andy broke in. His refutation burned
through my fog like a laser beam, cutting to the heart
of the matter.
That's the plain truth, I had to concede: I DON'T want to
land the fish. What I want is to better enjoy the thrill
of fighting it, I want to extend those tension-packed
moments spent bringing in each fish. Andy clarified
the whole issue for me in just three words, and he said
And yes, I DO want to land the fish; a big part of me
always wants to do that. But an equal part of me doesn't
need the victory, not all the time, not in order to have
a good time. I'm willing to surrender more advantages to
each fish I hook.
Long story short, I left the shop owning the 1-wt. rod.
It's now outfitted with a reel, backing, WF-2-F (yes, I
overlined, and don't ask why because I'm not sure it was
the right thing to do). I'll also be using a 7 ½-ft. 6X
leader; I feel a leader with only 3-lb. test breaking
strength is necessary to protect this fragile rod in
What will this spring's fishing be like for us fly
fishers? For me, having this new outfit in my canoe
will sure make things different. No doubt I'll lose
more fish than before, and each time I lose one I'll
be angry, I'll be happy, I'll be thrilled, I'll be
Billy and Betty Bluegill don't know it yet, but for
me they just became Mr. and Mrs. Moby Dick. Every
time we cross paths, if they should bang me up in
the process of getting free I'll survive, too, and
it won't be the end of the story. ~ Joe
From Douglas County, Kansas, Joe is a former municipal and
federal police officer. In addition to fishing, he hunts
upland birds and waterfowl, and for the last 15 years
has pursued the sport of solo canoeing. On the nearby
Kansas River he has now logged nearly 5,000 river miles
while doing some 400 wilderness style canoe camping
trips. A musician/singer/songwriter as well, Joe's
'day job' is with the U.S. General Services Adminstration.
Joe at one time was a freelance photojournalist who wrote the
Sunday Outdoors column for his city newspaper. Outdoor
sports, writing and music have never earned him any money,
but remain priceless activities essential to surviving the