January 28th, 2002

Old Fly Gear
By James Castwell


Last week I was driving into town to mail some prizes at the post-office and coming at me in the opposite lane was Jake Fanortney, I hadn't seen him in twenty years. Jake was likable, never had much in worldly goods and just a tad on the odd side. Seeing him brought back memories of a conversation we had at a lunch counter well before the invention of latte's, mocha's, and espresso's.

Peering over the top of his half-glasses he explained that his grandfather, a inveterate fly-flinger, had passed on many years before and his grandmother had managed to hang on for a few more years at rest-home. Some meager belongings had been 'passed-down' to his folks but, since they didn't fish, had been stuffed in closets and attics for several years. Eventually Jake fell heir to it and sought me out for some free advise. Not that I had been in the habit of selling my advise, there being a startling lack of customers. I ordered a roll to go with my coffee, Jake had a habit of takin' his time getting to the point.

Now, Jake's idea of fishing was a mix of those dangling hook-arms in the glass cages in gas-stations and the occasional venture with a cane-pole. Don't confuse that with a cane-fly-rod; a cane pole, those twelve to sixteen foot models.

Jake was trying to tell me about all the fishin' stuff he had got, and he wanted me to give him some idea of what, if anything, it might be worth. He knew I was deep into the sport and assumed I possessed all the necessary qualifications. He had scribbled some names down on the back of a candy wrapper and as he unscrunched the wad he started reciting names like a kid at the front of a 6th grade class room.

"Leonard," he pronounced, and "Powell." (He was not a great hand at reading writing, often complaining it was so close to the paper it was difficult.) I sat trying to enjoy my coffee and make some degree of sense of the other names he read off, some of which I had treasured for years, some I had only seen in print. It looked like Jake had inherited a godawful fortune of very old, very good fly fishing gear.

I was immediately seized with a nearly undeniable impulse to offer him a few bucks and take the problem off his hands, but then that terrible nagging voice came upon me. No, not that one, the voice of my wife wondering, "where the hell did you get all that new fishing stuff?" So I decided to give him a realistic evaluation as best I could and made arrangements to go over to his place.

As I said, that was years ago and ever since I have wondered about all the rods, reels, lines, creels and other various bits of fly gear that get passed-down from generation to generation for the rest of us. Many times to folks who have no clue of their value or what to do with any of it. I told myself that some day when I had everything caught up I would write a column on how to avoid the situation, but never did seem to get to it. Perhaps to recommend hang-tags on things when you get old, or think you are getting very sick, but, neither of those ideas seemed to work. I had a few others equally as poor and just gave up on the whole process.

It seems like there should be a way so it doesn't happen, but have no idea how to avoid it, unless it is just not to 'go,' so to speak. I, myself, am thinking of appointing Orvis, or Cabelas to be in charge of any estate I my leave. They are about the only ones who could make head and tails out of it.

Jake? He found a buyer, sold everything, gave up fishing all together, invested the money in a new stock venture, made a bundle, married a cute little blond thing and settled down to a relative life of ease. He did give me an old creel for my help but I have no idea what ever happened to it, must be around here somewhere. ~ James Castwell
Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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