November 24th, 2003

Kits
By James Castwell


Lots of talk these days about kits. Kits for all sorts of fly-fishing related things. Might be that Christmas is on the way, maybe it's the same old seasonal thing, winter is here and we can't fish so we tie flies and build rods and make leaders and find any excuse we can to fiddle with our fly-fishing-tying stuff.

I want to talk to you old timers for a minute here. You remember back a few years when you bought a kit to build an airplane? You opened the box and found a set of plans, diaphanous tissue paper and a few sheets of thin balsa wood. Oh yes, a propeller, some wheels and some small bits of wire for some unknown use at that point. Now, 'that' was a kit.

These days a 'kit' is two halves of a plastic plane. Glue them together (if they do not snap together) and whoopie! You are done! In years past a 'kit' would last me most of a 'Michigan' winter, and that would be with a few coats of special fuel-proof paint too.

What is a rod kit these days? How long will it take you to, 'build you very own fly rod?' Right, not long at all. We need to improve on that. How about fly-tying? Same problem there, but never fear, I, J Castwell, am here with my usual expertise to save the day and solve the situation. The way I see it, if a guy can't read (too young, too old or spent too many hours being pounded behind the windshield of a metal-flake) he shouldn't even be sold a kit, let alone be allowed to try to build something from one.

He should have at least rudimentary tools; a full size drill-press, planer, lathe, joiner, sander, table-saw, router and metal-turning tools. A nice sized outbuilding suitable for raising a few chickens would be in order too. And a nice little wire enclosed yard for them to scratch about in. Now you can see where we are going here. A rod kit should be more than just a few 'already-done-fer-ya pieces.' A fly-tying kit should be equally inclusive and complex.

Let's look at the fly-tying kit I recommend. This is not necessarily the biggest, the best, the best buy or anything like that. This is a 'real' 'Fly-Tying' kit. I like to think there should be some well-cushioned chicken eggs in the kit. At least a few will (with care and diligently followed instructions) probably hatch and that will be part of the tyro-tiers learning-curve. He will value his hackle far more if he raises it and also eats the original owner. A note here; care should be exercised on naming the walking-around-hackles, makes 'snuffin' them at a later date troublesome.

No kit should contain any thread, hell that stuff is everywhere, no point in confusing a new guy with even more of it. Hit the sewing basket, no one will miss a few spools. Make a game of it, a challenge, be creative, swipe stuff. I am sure you can create a kit too.

The same with a fly-reel kit. A solid block of 'aircraft grade aluminum' bar stock (what ever the heck that is). A set of plans and a few sheets of emery cloth in differing grades of grit should do the job nicely and help you while away some of those long winter nights in the process.

For fly rods the options are nearly endless. A pole from a carpet company should get a guy started in bamboo. I have seen some really good looking cane just laying around those discount joints. For a more modern result (fiberglass), my local farm store has some nifty sections of stuff they sell for electric fences. Grind these babies down to a taper, thread them together and ya got a dandy rod that you really did make all by yourself.

These days things are too easy. We need to go back to the 'good-old-days' where winter had a reason to exist. It was for making stuff, visiting folks and changing how we lived. These days stuff comes too easily, winter is a nuisance, folks visit by cell-phone and there is no time to change anything we do; the seasons just flow together.

I wonder if someone makes a 'kit' for life? Something that will make us slow down, take our time, involve others and think things out. Kick back and live life, not just watch it go by.

Ah heck... You're right, they have.

They call it "Fly Fishing." ~ James Castwell


Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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