Lost rods to Ladies (Feb 2011)
A guide friend and I were catching up on each others’ lives, to include fishing, beer and women. While discussing the finer points of each I was reminded of a favorite graphite rod that is now sitting in an ex-girlfriends closet and likely has not seen the light of day since I last put it in its’ tube. During the conversation I came to the realization that that is not the only fly rod abandoned with an old girlfriend. At least two more of my custom built rods are now languishing away in a closet somewhere. The conversation evolved to discussing the actual locations of these lost fly rods. Did other guys come along and take up the sport using one of them? Did any rods get pawned out of spite for my love of fly-fishing? Could a rod have been burned like I burned one of their clothes after I caught her cheating? Did a once fine split cane turn into tomato stakes for another’s garden? It’s hard to say what the scorned fury of a woman could do to an innocent fly rod.

For weeks after this original fly shop conversation I searched out other stories of romantically lost rods. I recalled how a close female friend (who casts better than most men) still owned a “lost rod”. Over beers she detailed the tale of how she came to own this lovely Scott 4wt. How the original owner had passed it over as a peace offering in the break-up. Since I am a guy who understands other guys, I was suspicious. I sure as hell would not have handed over a rod as a piece offering. So, did she really just steal the rod? I likely will not know for certain until I have beers with the original owner.

Yet another angler reminded me of a particular evening back in college. A relationship had ended over a rod. The two were fishing together and at the end of the day—when putting away gear—she closed a car door on the butt section of his old graphite 3wt. He lost his mind. Things were said and the relationship ended promptly. Later that night he and I had drank to the memory of that sweet little 3wt.

Other fishing friends seem to demonstrate better self control with the ladies. These guys are puzzled that I would actually lone a good rod to a girlfriend for the day, let alone entrust her with one as a gift. I understand their skepticism, but do not enjoy spending as many nights alone as they apparently do. I suppose many of us male fly fishermen, above anything else, just hope to introduce our wife or girlfriend to our own joy of fishing. We often speak fondly of times and relationships when things are new and blossoming and the prospect of a lifetime fishing partner is still there. Those were my own feelings as I was building that first lost rod—now most likely hidden in her closet or in a thousand little pieces under a sea of landfill.

In the end, I am left with a decision. Do I contact these women from my past? Do I find out where my fly rods are now? No way. I guess I am left with only hope. I hope they all did the good thing and passed the rod along to some eight-year-old stranger floundering on a local trout stream. In my fantasy, she would hand off the rod to the startled kid, telling him that this object will certainly help his casting, but may be the key to ruining relationships for the rest of his life…


Father-Son Fly-fishing (Sept 2009)
My father and I have fished together for nearly 25 years now. Along the way I’ve fished with many other fathers and sons and it’s been interesting to compare their relationships to my dad and I. I’m sure many of my friends don’t forget fishing with us. We still get invited on trips but I think it’s more to do with having boats than our relationship.

I was fortunate to watch a friend from nine years old grow up fishing with his dad. They have a very fun relationship. The dad would ask me where to take a trip each year and I would pass along ideas from the South Fork of the Snake to the Bow River in Canada. I was always invited but often not able to tag along. The dad spoiled his son with cool trips. At 12 he caught 22” brown on the Henry’s fork. When he was 15 he landed a 34” bull trout on the Bow. I enjoyed days fishing with them on the Platte teaching the son more of the technical details to picky fish. I’d taught the son how to tie and seeing him pick off tough trout on the surface with his own creations was always a treat. The key to their relationship was that the son listened. The dad wasn’t out to teach him everything, just to make sure they had a good time.

Another relationship that has been interesting is watching a father and son get into the sport together. The dad thought the sport would be great for the two of them to do together. The son took to fly-fishing quite quickly and eventually was guiding before high school was up. I’ve always enjoyed fishing with these two. They have also taken some outstanding trips, but it’s great to fish with them on their home waters. The father realizes how much his son knows and welcomes his input. It’s not to say they don’t have a skirmish once in a while, it’s easy to be hard on your dad when he’s not listening.

My father and I have had an interesting time. He helped me get started fly-fishing and quickly I was out fishing with friends from school. One trip to the Bighorn my dad had built a rod holder for the raft. The design didn’t support the entire rod length. Sure enough when dad hopped out of the boat on the rod holder side one time he got caught up and ended up snapping 2 rods. I had built both those rods and I was clear in letting him know my frustration. He was pissed for breaking the rods but probably more pissed at me for yelling at him. On another trip to the Horn, I pulled the boat in at the tail of a nice run. I’d seen a few fish holding as we floated by. I told dad to walk up with me and I’d set him up. He wanted to go down stream. So I take my grandfather up to the fish. After ten minutes and while my Grandfather has his 3rd fish on dad rolls up and wants to take a shot. I politely explained that he had his chance when he chose not to listen to me. 

Over the years I’ve grown up and my father has also accepted that I’m just as stubborn as he is. I may have all the patience in the world when teaching other people how to fish, but I’m still learning to be patient with my dad. At least my dad wasn’t on the trip when I put a 6” tear in a chamber on his raft. He probably would’ve made up for the amount lip I gave him for so many years.

Giving Back (Sept 2006)
Giving Back.  What is giving Back?  It usually implies that you have to be given something first.  How does it relate to conservation and fly-fishing?  Giving Back is something I have put a lot of thought into over the last couple years.  I started trying to flies at age 14.  A article by Gary Lafontaine, about how the PMD’s on the Henry’s Fork have a size 14 wing with a size. 16 body prompted me into fly-tying.  I had a horrendous tying kit from Cabela’s.  I was trying to learn from books.  My Dad didn’t know how to ty, so he couldn’t help.  What got me over the beginner hurdles was the West Denver T.U. Fly0tying Clinic.  The big show with 50 tyers.  These guys donated their time and showed me a ton of neat patterns and tricks.  Just being able to watch them helped the most.  The things I didn’t know to ask, but saw.  I still attend the big Tying Clinic.  Although, now it’s as one of the tyers.  I take lots of pleasure out of coming full circle and having my chance to give back to someone else.  
            For the last year I’ve been teaching an 11-year-old how to ty.  I’ve meet with Jeffery once every one to two weeks.  Jeffery’s a great kid.  He’s always looking forward to tying.   One key lesson that I want to teach him is that it’s important to give back.  I think his parents do a great job.  I hope that when Jeffery is a good fly tyer that he’ll want to teach.  Hopefully he’ll understand that there is more to fly-fishing and tying than insects and fish. 
            How many of us had a mentor or friend who got us into fly-fishing?  For many of us our father or grandfather taught us.  Recently I heard Staton Englehart mention that a few years ago when he was teaching his grand kids, they would take only one rod between the three of them.  Now that his kids are older they still take only one rod when they go fishing with Staton.  Fly-fishing has a faith of family and commrodere to it.  Unfortunately in the last few years we see more and more of people who learned at shops or large classes.  I feel that often the folks who learned at classes do see and respect the beauty of being outside and on the water.  The Giving Back is missing.  The classes don’t teach to offer another angler flies on the stream.  I’m not saying classes are bad.  I teach about 2 dozen beginning classes a year.  I think with classes it’s difficult to teach the concept of Giving Back.
            The fly-fishing industry has an obligation to Giving Back.  Anyone who makes money from the sport of fly-fishing should have an interest in protecting the streams, lakes, and fish.  A guide takes from a river by using it for work.  The guide should give back by having an active role in protecting his/her nearby fisheries.  The same goes for shops or lodge owners, commercial tyers and etc.  The Principle of Giving Back needs to carry well beyond a couple fishermen to the conservation of streams and lakes. 
            I met a fellow by the name of Jim on the Bighorn at Fort Smith a couple years ago.  He had a story about helping out a fellow angler.  Jim was floating the upper 3 miles.  He was fishing the lower part of the glory hole.  Another angler had walked in and started fishing the upper part of the hole.  There was plenty of space and Jim didn’t see any problem.  The trout were rising in the small channel.  Jim was doing pretty well with a PMD.  The other angler seemed to be struggling.  Jim walked up to talk to the other angler.  Jim worked with him and got him catching trout on dries.  The walk in angler was happy with the results.  The next day Jim saw the same walk in angler in the same spot.  Jim pulled up to beach his boat and see how the angler was doing.  As Jim pulled up the walk in angler ran over yelling at him to stay out of his hole.  That’s not quite Giving Back.  My best guess is that the walk in angler had been treated like that in the past and assumed it must be ok or did it because others had done it to him.  While on the idea of streamside help.  Use great discretion, men have such glaring ego’s that they don’t want to be told what to do different.  Unfortunately I don’t have any suggestions about the male ego except that we need to be more open-minded.