It's not often that I take the Granger out.
I guess I treasure it too much and am wary
of damaging it. Not that I think it can't
handle any fish I might hook into in these
waters, but because of the chance of some
freak accident or my own stupid and often
The rod was given to me by a good friend from
Connecticut (see my column
Convergences in the Bamboo section of
FAOL for the story). It belonged to his grandfather.
I've been through a lot of rods, and I've only
been fly fishing again for two years after
giving it up in my early teens, in favor of
far less important pursuits. But the Granger
is special. It's got a special history, came
from a good friend, and is simply a marvelous
It's a nine-foot Victory. Sings hymns like a
celestial choir when I cast it with a six-weight
line, becomes a stunning soloist with a seven-weight.
Though it's a heavy rod by any measure, it weighs
about the same as the South Bend 24 I have. Yet
the Granger feels much lighter in the hand, much
I take it from its tube and sock rarely. Perhaps
a dozen times this year. It doesn't go in the boat,
ever. Only my graphites go in the boat where there
are far more chances for accidents.
Besides the Granger, I have the South Bend
mentioned and an eight-and-a-half foot Rapidan.
Both are very nice rods, but they can't hold a
candle to the Victory.
One evening after work, knowing I had less than
an hour of daylight left, I decided I need a
trip to the pond. I stopped at the house,
grabbed my tackle bag and, fully intending
to pull out the tube with my Redington, reached
for the Granger instead. How long had it been?
I figured around July. Maybe August. With winter
breathing chilly on the nape of my neck already,
I knew before long I'd be shut down until spring.
The bamboo needed, deserved even, to be fished.
I love my graphites, don't misunderstand me. I
am not a Sage, Orvis or Winston angler. I can't
afford it. My graphites are decidedly modest:
Redington, Temple Forks, Diamondback. I also
have two mint Heddon fiberglass rods that I
enjoy very much. But when I covet what Harry
Middleton called "a deeper immersion" into the
world through fishing, I reach for cane. When
I do, the Rapidan takes me a while to find my
stroke, but it lays out line nicely; the South
Bend handles big bass like a champ, and I would
like to challenge it to redfish this fall.
But the Granger remains my favorite. I arrived
at the pond and assembled the Victory on the
tailgate of the truck. With a heavy Okuma large
arbor reel, it balances nicely. This near dusk,
of course, I reached for an Accardo Spook, my
favorite popper. On a seven-and-a-half foot 1x
leader, it was probably overkill for the small
bass and bluegill I usually encounter on this
pond, but I knew there were some bigger fish
lurking in there. I had chanced upon them before.
Golden hour. That time of the day just after
dawn and just before dusk which photographers
adore so mightily. Gossamer sunbeams, so deep
and saturated with golden dust they almost
seemed touchable, streaked out over the pond.
The Victory glowed in answer, Granger's patent
ammonia-treated cane matching the colors of dusk.
We walked over to the edge of the water, and the
wind was just dying down as the sun retreated
there near the edge of the horizon.
I wiggled out a few feet of line and made a cast.
I love the sound of line singing through the
guides of a bamboo rod. No other rod can make
that sound. It's a whizzing, lilting sound.
I've never cast silk, but I'd like to try it
sometime, just to hear it. Just to let it
whisper to me.
We fished for nearly an hour, that old Victory
and I. We caught a few small bass in the first
half of that period. There in the dragonfire
of a fading day, I thought about the decades
this old rod had seen. It had fished trout,
perhaps smallmouth, perhaps steelhead, in my
friend's grandfather's hand. For untold years
after his death, it had sat in storage, almost
forgotten. Those northern latitudes exist in
my imagination, but they are almost alien to a
south Louisiana boy who has never seen the likes
of a freshwater trout. Yet for at least half a
century, depending on its manufacture date, the
Granger knew trout. It knew rainbows and brookies,
most likely, cutthroats and browns. It surely
knew silk line, and it certainly felt cold,
running water. It's owner's hand gripped the
same cork, worked the same taper.
Fly anglers it seems are probably most devoted
and loving of their tackle of all anglers. We
treat our rods like they are part of the family,
like treasures. And surely they are. We also pass
them down, sell or trade them, and they move out
of the sphere of our acknowledgment. Most times
we buy new rods, factory-fresh and smelling of
newness. Often we buy "used" rods, too, and some
of us buy collectibles and nostalgics.
But as I cast along the edge of the pond that
evening, an old newspaper man's bamboo Victory
the connection between myself, the dusk and the
small bass attacking the popper, I knew his
grandson and I had done right by an old rod,
and an old fisherman who departed this world
almost twenty years ago. I still don't take
the Granger out often. Perhaps it entrances
me too greatly. The stories it tells, in a
voice of whizzing line through the guides,
are of mountains and valleys, river-smoothed
rocks and pools holding brilliant-skinned trout.
If I look closely enough, at the golden hour
especially, into the gloss of the varnish,
the reflection of an old man's face is almost
there, distorted along the bridge of his nose
by the angle of the strips of cane and the
junctures they make with each other.
My friend sent me the rod for perusal first.
I knew at once that a Granger, even a long one,
was a valuable rod. I told him that I could not
drum up that kind of money.
"Do you want to buy, sell and trade?" he asked
me. "Or do you want to fish with it?"
I confirmed, of course, that I wanted to fish.
"Then it's yours," he said to me. "Send me
some Louisiana crawdads when you get a chance."
I understood. A good rod's got to be fished,
especially one made of cane. Otherwise, it's
just so much wood, and the fingertips that
touched it, the trout that bent it, the
careful strokes that polished the nickel
silver fade forever, departing the world
from dusty barns and dark, lonely places.
We spent an hour at the pond, that old
Victory and I. Nothing very large took the
fly, but a good many small bass and sunfish
put a little bend to the tip. Just before
dark, I headed back to the truck, broke
down the rod and dried it with a soft
terry cloth. As I put it in its sock, I
noticed not for the first time how straight
the tips still are, that the ferrules still
pop nicely when separated. A quality product
of quality craftsmanship. Then I went on home,
and put my pack down in my little piddling
room in the house, slipped the Granger's tube
into the rack with my other rods.
It'll wait there, until I'm ready to take
it out again. Probably in the spring. We'll
chase bluegill and bass again after the winter
has subsided. I wonder if I hadn't acquired it,
where would it be? Perhaps its absurdly melancholy,
but I am glad that it doesn't still sit in a
dusty storehouse, that my friend thought enough
of me to entrust me with his grandfather's rod,
a good rod that needed to be fished.
These are the little victories in the "deeper
immersion" of life Harry Middleton wrote of.
These are the little victories of convergences.
Thanks to a grandson, I'll continue to put a
little bend to it's tips, and the Victory will
sing sweeping songs to me through the guides.
A good rod's got to be fished. If not, it's
only so much wood. ~ Roger