September 6th, 2004

Vests?
By James Castwell


When I was a little kid, L.L. Bean had the neatest stuff, especially those Main Guide Hunting boots. High-tops, leather over rubber. The images of dreams to a twelve year old like me. I never had any though, but settled for a local knock-off, but mine did have a small sheath for a pocket knife at the top of the right boot. Image was important to me then. What I wore told those around me who I was, or at least who I thought I was.

The war was on and I needed a coat for school, it had to be a P-Coat of course. Wheaties supplied a 'Breakfast of Champions' arm patch for it after I sent in the dime. My car during highschool had no hood, it had one but with it on you couldn't see the chrome carb and goodies on the engine. When I decided to go all the way into fly-fishing I realized soon that I qualified for the great image of the times, the Vest.

You do realize, of course, that as a spinfisher one is not allowed to even own a vest. Vests are the sole property of those of the long rod. Orvis was the place for me to buy mine, a proper vest, no knock-offs for me at this stage in life. I had to make an impression, even if it was just on myself. Well, I did invest in a somewhat silly hat, but I will leave that out for now. My 'Tackle-Pak' arrived and now I was complete.

Can you still remember the first time you tried on your new vest? Fit well, all the pockets closed nicely, nothing bulged out and it weighed practically nothing. My, my, how some things can change. I still have it, buried deeply in one of my back room closets. And, yes, I did wash it once, didn't seem to hurt it at all.

Over the years I managed to sew a few 'patches' on it. Actually I had to remove some to make room for others. Well, heck I was into a lot of groups and companies. And they all had 'patches.' There were times when it really was appropriate for me to wear the thing, mostly at shows and schools. For sure not fishing.

At first I did though. But then it only had a few things in it and even had a few empty pockets. That did not last long. The Orvis catalog came to my rescue. Then the winters game became, shuffle stuff from one pocket to another one, move things around, rearrange my gear. Before long it was full, then over-full, and now it weighed a lot. A whole lot. Way too much. Take things out, retreat, go minimalist, cut back, reduce weight.

When I fished I never wore it again. But I have it and if ever confronted by someone with a bedazzled fly-vest I can jangle mine in opposition and even have a chance of looking as silly as he. Status symbols are very important at all stages of our life and a fly vest is certainly one of them. But, it needs to be earned. You must be a fly-fisher. It must be unique. It will be because you will dress it up with patches and pins and zingers and bottles and clippers and wool chunks and just about anything else you can get to adhere.

You see, back before Lee invented the fly-fishing vest we all had to carry our things in our pockets. I remember the great shirts and coats that L. L. Bean sold. Red and black plaid. You used a layered effect back then, multiple layers of clothes. You could keep warm in any weather. And you know what? You didn't need a vest. You had lots of pockets.

Does the LF have a vest? Well, it started out with 'Buster Brown' shoes, then on to a skirt with a picture of a poodle on it...


~ JC


Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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