I’m guilty of judging a book by its cover. Or, more appropriately, a fly rod by its filthy handle and crusty blank.
For nearly ten years, I’ve had a decorative rod holder with a number of rods displayed on it. They’re all hand-me-downs or yard sale, five dollar grabs. After all, as a fly fisherman I had to make my office look appropriately fishy. There are the trout prints, kitschy wet fly and wicker creel knickknacks, and the rod holder. Replete with antique, stream-worn (not be me, mind you) rods, I achieved the illusion of someone who reminisces about the days when pawpaw chased native trout in unmolested streams with the ‘ol pole. That didn’t keep me from using my high-modulus graphite, top-of-the-line rod. Let’s not be silly.
But there is something to be said for fly fishing décor. I’ve stayed in a Vermont B&B where the proprietor must have gone to Orvis, walked to the home section, and said, “I’ll take one of each.” After spending a small fortune on stuffed bear ottomans and trout-etched stone coasters, he made sure that no square foot would give any guest the impression that this room wasn’t all about fly fishing. Of course, I liked it. Of course, my wife was immediately suspicious of why I really brought her on this “vacation.”
Thinking about it, I’ve never been in a fly shop or fishing lodge that has this sort of aesthetic. No shadow boxes with size 10 royal coachman or faux reels, no distressed wood fish lithographs. It’s usually legitimate pictures from an owner or loyal customer. Paintings of the local water, vintage (and authentic) tackle signs, and more often than not, actual merchandise (with a price tag) fill the space.
Years ago I discovered that some of the conventional lures that I was displaying weren’t worth anything. This, of course, flew in the face of my assumption that they were worth something. Furthermore, there wasn’t any sentimental value. Dad or Grandpa didn’t use them with me. All they were was old. They looked old, mainly because they were dirty.
That should have clued me in to look at my other fishing décor. What else was I overlooking? What else was hooked on a lampshade that I could catch a smallmouth bass with, and save $8 from not buying another Rapala to boot?
Although I’m relatively late to the party, this whole fiberglass revolution finally clicked with me. I’ve not touched fiberglass since a friend and I laughed about his dad’s mustard yellow Eagle Claw nearly 20 years ago. Now, bright blanks and more reserved tapers are in vogue. Post after post, article after article, I began to think that I needed to go out and buy another rod – something neon, slow and hip.
Then, something (probably my budget) prompted me to explore the old rods in my office display. I saw the old steel rod, the telescopic spinning number, and then I knew I hit pay dirt. It was that tell-tale translucent blank. I’d surely touched it, even given it that “I’m holding a fly rod, so I better wiggle it” wiggle. But it wasn’t bamboo, and it wasn’t a brand new rod, so I forsook it.
Timidly, I crept into the seedy underbelly of the online fiberglass community to get tips on cleaning the rod. I discovered that there is a segment of aficionados that appreciate and encourage leaving the patina that formed in the half century since it was built. After gently bringing it back to the land of the living, I discovered that grandpa’s Wright & McGill Sweetheart wasn’t half bad. I threw a six weight line on it, and was pleasantly surprised at the action. I didn’t have to spend $400, just a pad of steel wool and some Dawn dish soap.
It was the only real find that day, but it did provide me with an opportunity to look at some of the junk I have on my walls and my desk. On one hand a lot of it is just there because it is vaguely fly fishing related. Some of it I put up to appreciate, but I haven’t appreciated it much at all. Most of all, it was a reminder that I pretty much have what I need – even if I don’t know or appreciate it.