My first Fly Rod was a Redington Redstart. I purchased it when I was in my twenties and at the time I was about as broke as a twenty year old could be. I knew I wanted to fly fish, I knew I didn’t want to buy my fly rod from K-mart and my soon to be full time Fly Fishing mentor suggested that if I could come up 300 dollars, I could buy a package deal and be off to a great start. My goal took awhile, a lot of pennies saved, a mini-car wreck with a $240 dollar pain and suffering check (yay me!) and I was finally able to purchase Red, my new best friend.
A full time relationship blossomed. There should have been a commitment ceremony to symbolize the love, trust and monogamous relationship that formed between Red and I. An ordained Entomologist could have wrapped leader around my hand and the cork of my Red and pronounced us, ’till death do you part.”
Like any true relationship, Red and I were put to the test occasionally. A 7 year inch almost ruined our relationship when my eyes wandered to the sleek new designs of younger, more flexible models. I learned it was safer to stay out of the red light district, specifically, the ”Fly Shop Brothel” and ignore the sexy options with first names like Sage and Loomis. Each time I put myself in front of the almighty temptation–rows and rows of new fancy fly rods, I walked away a one rod loyaltist rather then succumbing to the allure of fly rod polygamy.
I also wasn’t into swinging with my Red. For the most part, but not always, I kept Red out of affairs and trists, with other hands. But swinging seemed the unavoidable pitfall of fishing with others. It would always start out innocent enough, someone would ask to ‘give ‘er a try’ and if I couldn’t come up with a dire enough reason to say no, I would reluctantly relinquish my tight hold and pass Red off with a Mama Bear list of cautions and warnings.
If life was fair and just, I would have been the one to eventually kill old Red, but life generally doesn’t subscribe to the fair philosophy. Robert, Russ and I traveled to No’tellum creek in Wyoming for a weekend of fish frolicking fun. They with their spinning rods, me with reliable Fly Flinging Red. The first morning I was up and on the fish. Big Fish. Beautiful Fish. I couldn’t not catch a fish it was so good. Red and I were beyond thrilled and even delighted in the jealous spinning rod eyes trained on our good fortune.
Hat and sunscreen, I had forgotten both and the sun was blazing down on my skin. I told myself, “One more fish and then you have to run to town, the fish can live without you for 30 minutes.” So I caught that one more fish, and in hindsight, I thank the river gawds I asked Robert to take a picture of the beauty. As I told the boyz I was running to town, one them, who shall remain un-named spoke up, “Hey, if you’re running to town, can I use your fly rod while you’re gone?” Gasp. Double Gasp. Alone I thought? Without my supervision?
But since I didn’t think, “Hell no, old Red needs to rest up, it’s had a strenuous morning” would pacify the eager (jealous) guy, I buckled under the pressure. I gave my normal run down of instructions, rules & regulations and abandoned Red for 30 minutes.
Him: I broke your fly rod.
Me….Stunned silence… Blink, Blink…Blink….
Until that point, I’d always wondered how a person “snaps’ or goes to the lands of lala in the blink of an eye. The defining catalyst that spirals a person into a moment that would blacken the sky and sound would suck into a vortex of silence where all sense of reality evaporates. I know that place now, sat right down in the lap of crazed devastation. I didn’t commit murder which seemed a reasonable retaliation for such an atrocious crime, instead I gathered up Red in my arms, and walked to a serene place next to the river to (curse the day the fly rod murderer was born) soothe my broken heart.
I had been fishing with Red for over 12 years without so much as a eyelet guide breaking and in the absence of 30 minutes, Red was in pieces. I’m quite certain the story the boyz offered up was intended to paint a good light on Reds final moments, but it sounded rather fishy. Supposedly a huge fish was on the line, so ginormous that the strain didn’t break the line, oh no, instead the raw power of that fish magically transferred into my Red and snap, snap, a two piece became a four piece…..Although I would like to imagine Reds last hoorah was fighting a fish, I’m still not buying it.
For almost two years now I’ve felt like a fly rod widow. At first I thought I’d never be able to see another fly rod without thinking only of Red, but as time eased the pain I started dating again. My first purchase was another Redington. I imagine I did that because there was comfort in the name, but I’ve used it, a lot, and it still doesn’t feel the same. My next dating came in the form of a Sage rod. It’s fine as well, does the job and all that, but it still doesn’t feel like commitment time.
Maybe I’ll never commit to another fly rod again the way I did with Red. Maybe each fly fisherman only gets one true love and after that love is broken all fly rods will simply be stand ins…just fly rods. Only time will tell……….