Wednesday, April 13, 2011
So, how many fishing poles do you have now? she asked, peering into the back of the closet at the jumble of rod tubes. She knows bloody well that they aren’t “fishing poles”, but she also knows how to yank my chain for a little fun.
Not too many, I responded, and immediately realized the hopeless inadequacy of the answer.
Let me think.
You see, I’m turning into a hopeless fly fishing gearhead, tragically addicted to the feather slinger’s drug of choice - fly rods. And, like any junkie, I always need just one more.
It all started innocently enough with a gift, a seven foot Dogwood Canyon 4wt, an inexpensive Bass Pro starter rod and reel combo, given to me by my step-sons. They’d seen my fascination with the clear mountain streams as we hiked the North Carolina Appalachians and they thought I would enjoy splashing about in them with the small stream rod.
They were right and I’m forever grateful, and forever changed. My problem is their fault.
That starter rod was followed shortly by a sweet nine foot, 6wt Winston IM6, sold to me by my professional and fishing mentor, Frank, for the ridiculous sum of $200. He’d only fished it once, briefly in Scotland, but said he wanted a faster stick. Maybe that’s true, but really I think he just wanted to get me going right. Good friend, that Frank. Pusher.
Now smitten, I absolutely needed an 8wt as visions of redfish, stripers, and Oh Lord please someday bonefish swam through my head. The Yellowstone Angler’s 8wt Shootout got me looking into Redington CPSs and I found them on a crazy good Cabela’s closeout sale. Sadly, only seven-and-a-half foot 4wts remained. I bought one. It may have seemed redundant at the time, duplicating my Dogwood, but the CPS has turned into my go-to stick for those Appalachian streams and has brought to net more trout than the rest of the closet combined. It was a great purchase, of course. They all are. The Dogwood remains a bream catching machine.
So I went another way with the 8wt, purchasing a nine foot TFO Axiom after throwing a raft of rods at the Charlotte Fly Fishing Show. I was blown away by the Axiom’s power, laying out 80ft of line like nothing, even with my crap stroke. Didn’t hurt that it was indoors and loaded with Sharkskin. Sucker. But it’s been an absolutely terrific rod, wrangling stripers and smallies and strings of saltwater speckled trout. Flats redfish and bones still swim in its future. Near future, I hope.
I took the Axiom to the Haw, just to try it out, and quickly found that all those bass I had been losing with the Winston (don’t laugh, I was young and foolish) might have been kept with the solid hookset allowed by a faster rod. That, inevitably, led to a new bass specific 6wt, a Redington Predator, eight feet of jerk-their-bucketmouth-lips-off bass hunting carbon. It’s now my everyday home-water companion, seldom getting broken down. It remains perched over the back sliding glass door, my contribution to our interior decoration, ready to head down the path on a moment’s whim.
Fortune smiled. I won a dainty 2wt, a TFO Lefty Kreh Signature at a club bucket raffle for the price of a handful of $2 tickets. I thoroughly enjoy this delicate twig on the tiny, crawl-through-dem-damn-rhododendron, wild brookie waters of the Smokies. It feels like a toy. I like toys.
Frank bestowed upon me another rod - a gift - a funky old bamboo that he found at a yard sale. 6wt-ish. It’s an odd feeling thing, clunky, but I love it dearly, more for where it came from than for it’s fishing prowess. It’s still got a few more trout in it, for sure, but only on special occasions.
Next, I needed a really big gun. An annual Albright clearance coincided with a planned cobia run so I armed myself with a 10wt XX. No cobia turned up, but the 10 did bring home some mighty stout bluefish that day, prompting my guide to comment Now THAT’S why you own a 10wt. I later carried it deep for mahi-mahi and small sails, but we never saw a fin. It’s waiting to try again. And albies. Oh my yes, it’s ready for Cape Lookout false albacore.
You know I had to have a 5. My first odd number. The classic trout weight, after all, and fits nicely between my small stream fours and my big river sixes. Perfect for the Virginia tailwaters I’ve been frequenting lately. An eight-and-a-half foot ST. Croix Imperial filled the hole and nicely rounding out the arsenal. How could I have lived without it? But it’s my final rod. I promise.
But the Imperial is a bit on the slow side. Maybe I should add a faster five too. Or maybe a seven. And what do I need for steelhead?
I’ve been good. Kept my purchases on the cheap. Avoided the premium rods, did my homework, got solid, functional midrange sticks, usually at less-than-retail opportunities. Haven’t spent more than two bills on any one rod and the combined cost of everything in the closet is little more than the price of a single Helios and a few cases of good beer.
I’ve also carefully avoided bamboo and glass and custom builds, knowing full well that they’d only quadruple my desire. But damn they're tempting.
I’ve managed my addiction well, I think, and for that I deserve a reward. Maybe splurge on a nice BIII, Z-Axis, or NRX. Just one more fishin’ pole. One more. One last special one. I’ll surely be done after that. I’ll never need another.
So how many fishing poles do you have now? she asked.
That’s easy. I have one less than I need. I suspect that I always will.
Note: In an ongoing North American Fly Fishing Forum poll, over 20% of the respondents admitted to having 10 or more fly rods. It appears that I’m in good company. In fact, I may actually have some catching up to do.
P.S. If any of you rod manufacturers wish to show me the error of my frugal ways, feel free to send me your top of the line and I will happily reconsider my position.