March 2, 2010


Memory that yearns to join the centre, a limb remembering the body from which it has been severed, like those bamboo thighs of the god.
Derek Walcott

Habits change into character.

It might have been due to the environment I found myself in after a due amount of time spent simply but earnestly relearning, rethinking, being re-educated; away for such an extended time from anything even remotely connected to the desire to cast flies to trout...
... but, as consciousness returned and I regained, or, more specifically, finally discovered my equilibrium, my awakening was akin to a child's first visit to a toy store...
Although working at a fly shop can actually, at times, faintly resemble real work, don't let anyone fool you into thinking they're busting their butt there every day all day long. In fact, there were many occasions wherein I had to consciously stifle the big grin that demanded space on my face, because it was just so damned wonderful that I had become a member of this select group of guys who, between the 4 of us, had close to a century's worth of flyfishing experience on salt and fresh water, from rivers to lakes. And that's mostly what made us so popular, and business so good. Well, that and the fact that we also sold predominantly high-end gear. Only top shelf stuff. And our tying section was second-to-none anywhere, or so we were told repeatedly by customers familiar and not. I think they were right, too. All of us tied and were very good at our individual specialties, from conception through construction into knowing how to fish them.
But me? I was in heaven. Surrounded by all this fabulous stuff. And I was most enthralled by the particular piece of equipment that dealt with the delivery of a fly. The rod.
We carried a full complement of a certain manufacturer's fastest, most comprehensively high-tech rods you could imagine. A box behind the counter held a score of reels, lined, and ready. And out behind the shop was a hundred yards or so of paved parking lot. Perfect. The lab. Where we took prospective buyers to prove to them that this was the rod they needed to own. I spent every last idle second I could possibly get away with out there, casting, researching, testing the rods. I sold hundreds of them, because I knew them, their characteristics, nuances, inside and out.
But I was also working undercover. For me.
At the time, it was my sweetest dream to own nothing but the most lethal of fishing weapons, the fast rod. And, I wanted to have in my possession several different weights and lengths. You need to understand that from where I was coming, there couldn't be anything else. I'd fished for so long with such pedestrian gear. Now that I had the chance, I hungered for the feel of a real rocket launcher in my hands. A rod that had the ability to jet my fly into the next county. A rod that painted a picture overlaying perfectly on my vision of a tight loop carrying my fly,weightlessly, endlessly, into places I'd only dreamed of reaching before.
Fast was good, I thought, and faster is better. Technology is where it's at. How could there be anything that might even come close.
Well, ultimately, the shop died, unable to survive the onslaught of evils wrought by what else but technology. The internet and its on-line catalogs. The huge, multi-faceted box stores. The economy. The rod manufacturers own warrantees. The dollars and dollars needed for advertising on increasingly diverse levels weren't coming in anymore, and it was painfully sad to be a witness to the slow death of a long-time fixture in the local flyfishing community.
Now, years later, I have my rods, and I love them still. They are my bread and butter. I can think of no finer way to fish the waters I call my home than with them.
I do, however, have a new weapon in my quiver. It is a rod of a very different nature. From a time I once thought long past. A time when there was no reason, no need, to hurry. A time when it was about the experience as much as it was about the fish. It is the antithesis of what I thought I had come to believe about my needs. And, in that regard, it is a teacher.
My newest rod, a two-piece seven and half foot four-weight, is a bamboo rod. It is strikingly beautiful to see; an absolute joy to cast and surprisingly agile in the fight. It was a gift from my son, who sees so much further into the heart of things than I seem to ever give him credit for.
It was made in Bellingham, Washington by my son's friend, a craftsman, a fireman, who loves, lives, his craft and his passion.
We are, all of us, never too old to learn; it's the part that we might learn something about ourselves along the way that keeps many of us from ever understanding that. I am reminded of that every time I hold this rod in my hands. I am also now aware that progress may indeed be made, but it is not always in the direction we think it will, or should take us.
Sometimes it takes us on journeys we might never have thought to take.
And that's a very good thing indeed.

1 comment:

  1. And, yet again, it should not be surprising how fishing mirrors life. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say how life mirrors fishing.