On Fine Rods and Reels

I started fly fishing in 1957 at age 8. After some coaching from a step-uncle with his old Shakespeare glass WonderRod and a handful of cork popping bugs used to slay my first farm pond bream and bass, the passion of fly fishing started and I caught fire.   The site was Sedgefield Lakes in the Jamestown section of Greensboro, where said step-uncle resided. He was my mentor in the beginning of a life long sport for which I had no other to help.

Once I returned home from that wonderful week, I read every Field and Stream magazine I could get my hands upon and absorbed anything that was related to fly fishing.  Being financially lacking, my first fly rod was a Sears rod which set me back the terrible price of 4 dollars. For weeks until placing the order, I ate with and slept with the catalog until wearing out the 2 or 3 pages containing their fly gear offerings.  My excitement could not be contained on the day the lady called our house and said: “Your order is here.”  My mother somehow found time to take me to the store.   I distinctly remember paying for it with a pocket full of nickels and dimes. The rod was 7 1/2 feet for a # 6 line. The first reel was a stamped Japanese skeleton affair: cost; 1 dollar. The matching fly line was a level line by Gladding: cost; 1 dollar. The leader was a 4 foot piece of monofilament stripped from my push button spinning reel. My flies came 2 to the package for a quarter with the brand name: Glen L. Evans, printed on the blister pack. Four packs equaled 8 flies, enough to get me started. Essentially, my first fly fishing outfit was a whopping 7 dollars. For me, those dollars were hard to come by.

As I graduated up the ladder, the next rod was an 8 dollar rod, also from Sears. As I thought I needed a different length, this one was 8 feet and also for a # 6 line. The next was a luxurious Fenwick Feralite fiberglass, 7 feet, for a # 6 line. The year was 1969.   The price was 30 dollars.  By this time I was becoming somewhat accomplished and that rod accounted for hundreds of local trout of 3 species. Within a week of college graduation, a brand new Orvis bamboo “Flea” found its way to my hands with the last dollars I had in my college savings account, never mind that I owed the government over $3,000 for a student loan. Thus were my priorities: No job, no money, owed money, but I had a single tipped Madison bamboo 6 1/2 foot rod that would become my right arm for the next 10 years, cost: $89. The year was 1971.

We move up the rungs. We pay our dues. Some with means choose to start cheap and are never satisfied with what they purchase. This leads to spending more money than necessary as a person runs through a gamut of fly rods and reels that do not make them happy. They spend more money seeking the perfect rod, all in an effort toavoid the purchase of a truly premium rod to start. Some have to acquire what they can afford and this is understood. I certainly understand this as well as anyone. My first pair of “waders” for icy streams were a pair of Converse canvas basketball shoes, no felt, but many hours of numb, wet legs had to be endured as I had no other choice.

I put these thoughts down for readers as I reflect. A potential rod customer called me who appreciates Winston but was hesitant to spend the bucks for the premium models. He has means. At his age and his serious long time fishing passion, I see no reason for him to deny himself the best. When one casts a finely tuned rod that they call their own, they have the satisfaction of knowing that the hunt for the perfect rod is over.

This customer made the decision to go for the best and plans to do so on our next meeting. A life long fly fisherman in his late 50’s is replacing a recently broken 35 year old Fenwick graphite and has committed to a premium rod that will last him the rest of his life.

Before he made his final decision, I shared with him my ” Tackle Buying Philosophy of Life:”

Life is short.

If you are truly and passionately serious about this sport and feeling a finely tuned fly rod unload its line after a well timed cast, buying a top grade Winston is cheap. It is not like you are purchasing a Ranger Bass Boat, 200 HP Mercury motor that costs as much as your first house, and a Suburban to pull it all with. You are just buying a fly rod for a few hundred dollars that should be with you and a part of you for the rest of your life, with an unlimited life warranty backed by people that do not want you to be unhappy. When personal fishing, I fish the best rods and reels. This is not because I am a show-off but those rods have a different feel and I cannot ever get enough of it. Fishing the best brings me personal pleasure and I also know that I do not have to question whether I should have looked at another brand or a cheaper model. I cannot place a monetary value on that feeling.

Life is short.

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