April 8th, 2002

By James Castwell

I sometimes wonder if we have really made any progress at all. I get to thinking back to the fly rods I have owned and fished. Several seasons ago I remember thinking just how darn smart I was because I always kept a few Band-Aids in my fly vest. They were not for the run-of-the-mill first aid, they were for the blisters I would get every time I fished that rod. Usually got three or four on any day I took it out. Solved the problem when I found out that not all fly rods do that. Sold it shortly thereafter. For the life of me, I can not remember the brand of the thing. But, I do know I enjoyed fishing it. My rods of today do not give me open wounds, I guess I like them better, at least I think I do.

"What the hell is that," I asked? That was the first time I saw a guy tie a fly with a bobbin. Yes, I am that old. I felt very foolish, like I should have known all about those things, well, I didn't and it amazed me. Up 'till that time I had tied off the spool or a length of thread. Try it sometime, you might get an appreciation of how some things used to be. Fun back then. Whip-finisher? Your kidding, right? There was only one way to whip, by hand, those nifty little tools had yet to be invented. I figured I was way ahead of the curve when I learned the whip, before that it was a few half hitches and lots of glue.

I look at the vise I have now, wow, what a difference. My very first was a home-made number with a thumb screw to tighten the jaws. It made a fine book-end for many years. I invested in a state-of-the-art Thompson. Went right to the top of the line about fifty years ago.

Twelve bucks. That's what I shelled out for my first hackle neck, a grizzly and boy was it a dandy. Figured I was set for life. I remember the hesitation when I plucked the first feather from it, jeeze, now it wasn't new anymore. You remember the first rim-drag reel you ever saw? I think I do, very impressive, had to have one of those right away too. Seemed like as soon as I got something, there was a new thing out to replace it. Not a lot has changed there though.

Waders. How many pair have I had. How many did not leak. All waders come with leaks built in. The more expensive ones are just slower to show up. Standard equipment were the inner-tube patches from a tire shop. Had a special pocket in my vest for them. The thought of sending waders back because they leaked? You out of your mind? I bought them, they were mine. They leak, I fix them. That's the way things were then. The canvas always wore through at the boot-tops first, then the seams went.

Breathable gear was not even a gleam in Mr. Gore's eye yet. If it rained, you got wet, if it was a warm rain, you sweat and got wet. If it was a cold rain you got wet and cold. Things were much simpler then. Not as much to figure out. I had little to make do with, less to forget. One rod, one reel, one line. I guess it was just about one of anything I had, but for flies.

And yet, why do I remember them as the good old days. Perhaps it was the anticipation, learning and all of the other excitement that goes with our game. Back then a rise was a rise, I had not yet learned all the different kinds there are. There was more magic in it then I guess. Most of the time I had no idea what the trout were doing, nor what I was doing either. But, it sure was great to be out there doing whatever it was.

I got fish too. Probably there were more of them then, I have no way of being sure now, must have been though. My casting was poor, fly knowledge about the same and my gear not much better. A lot of the bad habits I learned then I still retain, some say it gives me character, others are not so generous with their compliments when we fish together.

I think I am glad I got into fly fishing back then, it gives me an opportunity to compare with today's great gear. We have come a long way, lots of new things now, I don't need the band-aids nor the tire patches, but, somehow they were part of the magic, part of the trappings of fly-fishing. I think I sometimes miss them, in fact, I know I do. ~ James Castwell

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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