June 7th, 1999
The Borrowed Rod

by Peter Gorinsky

Flyfishing, as my primary sportfishing interest, did not actually happen until I was about sixteen years old. Already I was known as an avid angler and had got accustomed to taking people on fishing trips to areas I had 'discovered' and where my joy was always to share my fishing experiences with people and have a good time.

One day, when I was in the capital of Guyana (then British Guiana) I received a phone call from a friend of mine, Tony Cole. He invited me to accompany him on a short fishing trip to some nearby irrigation canals where he had found some truly big lukunanni (tucunaré) in a deeper dredged section.

I sadly had to inform him that I had not brought any of my usual fishing tackle and that I would therefore have to borrow a rod from someone else. At that time, there were very few sport anglers in Guyana and even less in the capital, Georgetown. My friend told me he had a fishing rod for me and that he would be there at my house in just a few minutes. We left in his Land Rover and headed for the sugarcane canals crossing many old wooden bridges and bumped along mud dams to a very large dark black water canal. As was his custom, Tony always wanted to be the first to catch a fish and therefore the very first to cast into a fishing hole. I remained behind looking for the fishing rod he was supposed to loan me. I saw nothing but this beautiful old wooden box with a leather handle looking all together more like a prized shotgun or musical instrument case. It lay there like an abandoned polished treasure.

Somehow I knew that this coming experience soon would have a great lasting effect upon my future fishing activity and that a new chapter in my life was about to begin. I flipped the stiff brass latches and slowly opened the wooden case. There in green velvet lined compartments were thin polished greenheart rod sections, neatly positioned and ready to be assembled. The reel was in a leather compartment on the right side along with some rather aged stiff and gummy lines. I had never ever seen a rod like this and shouted to Tony for some assistance or explanation on what I was dealing with. I first really thought it was some sort of gun cleaning rod assembly … until I saw the rod guides and cork handle.

Tony shouted back some basic negative garbled instructions on the box and contents. He said it was a gift from his grandfather that he really did not know what to do with it and thought I would be able to figure it out somehow. It was a sort of fishing rod, and that was all he could tell me. "Oh yes … Peter! I think you have to use flies with it!"

"Flies!… Flies? …Tony, what flies? What sort? … Hell! ... No way!" I could not think of a single respectable fish that would eat a single fly. I felt duped, stupid and helpless. There was Tony already into his third lukunanni with his casting rod bent nearly double and I had still no rod ready. Carefully, I removed the individual rod pieces and fitted them together. I found a small reel and positioned it on the cork handle at a spot I had noticed was well worn from past use. The silver slide rings fell right into position as if embracing an old friend. I pulled some line off the reel and slid it up through the thin wire snake guides . . . it felt right in my hand as I wiggled and tested its action. It was very long and looked far too fragile to handle a normal lukunanni. Then came the real big question "What lure to use?"

"Flies" Tony shouted again after I demanded to know where he had placed the obviously special lures for this rod. "Look in one of the compartments in the wooden case - they are sort of small and made of colored feathers"

"Hmmm . . .Yes, here is one!" I held a small envelope which contained a blue/white silver single hooked lure. On it was pen written in broad script 'Silver Doctor - Salmon' Thinking of the appetite of a tropical lukunanni, I knew that it would not refuse an offering meant for a stupid cold water Scottish salmon.

I tied on the lure and headed reluctantly to the pool above where Tony was having such great fishing success. This pool had a lot of water plants and I waded out to get a chance to cast into some clear water. Rather than cast, I sort of lobbed and dappled the lure out just about three meters from the edge. No sooner had the Silver Doctor landed into the pool, a huge splash erupted and it disappeared into the mouth of a huge lukunanni. It pulled line out into the clear water and I heard for the first time the music of a stripping fly reel. The aged Hardy sang its song and whirred with the accompanying zip of the rough silk line stripping through the wire guides. It was perfect harmony - a wonderful feeling of control and benefit for using such direct contact light tackle. I could feel nearly every beat of the fish's tail and shake of its head. The fish did not fight long - and I landed it with a sense of enjoyment rarely experienced before. I had not noticed Tony standing behind me . . . he had a broad smile. "You figured that rod out… it is now yours. The two of you belong to each other, have lots of fun with it!" And so I did, my marriage to flyfishing had begun and it will probably last the remainder of my life. Peter became finally - the flyfisherman.

I fished for a few years with this old rod. It sort of taught me to fish carefully with respect for the tackle and the fish, to cast with precision and use the fly on many other tropical fish species. Eventually, it finally broke during a great fight with a morocoto (tambaqui) and could be repaired no more. I have since owned many fly rods, made of different materials, but not one of these has ever given me more joy and satisfaction than that old rod, my very first and only fly rod made of greenheart wood. ~ Peter Gorinsky (aka Host Tropic)

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