The rich hues of its dark-flamed, six-sided surface
were warm and deep, its workmanship superb.
“MIKE, DID YOU ORDER a bamboo fly rod?”
Mary Jane’s unexpected question was steeped in curiosity as she strolled into the room carrying a long triangular box.
“Uh, what?” I responded, completely confused as she handed me the newly arrived package. The box was stamped with the words “Headwaters Bamboo” and as I examined it for some clue as to its origin, the mystery only deepened. So I gingerly opened the box and drew forth a case that held the most exquisite bamboo fly rod I had ever seen.
It was a two-piece, seven-foot four-weight with extra tip. The rich hues of its dark-flamed, six-sided surface were warm and deep, its workmanship superb. But why it had shown up on my doorstep unannounced was still a mystery, and I immediately called the number on the enclosed card. A guy named David Rogers from somewhere in Idaho answered the phone.
“Good afternoon, sir,” I began, then explained why I was calling.
“Oh yes,” he replied. “A gentleman named Tommy Jones ordered this rod for you. He said it was a gift and assured us that you’d know exactly what to do with it.”
Tommy Jones is one of the finest hunters and fishermen I’ve ever known, a true friend and an absolute gentleman. He and I and our families have spent many wonderful days together, from the mountains of northern New Mexico to right here in northeastern Tennessee. And now he had surprised me with this magnificent bamboo fly rod that he knew full well would get lots of use.
I tried fitting a couple of my smaller fly reels to the rod, but neither seemed to balance quite right. So late last Thursday I called David Rogers once more and ordered a perfectly matched #3-4 Clark Fork fly reel with the appropriate fly line. It arrived an hour ago, and I have loaded the fly line to the reel and mounted it to the rod to see how it fits. I’m happy to say that everything balances and flows perfectly, and now the little rod has begun to whisper sweet nothings in my ear. So if you’d be so kind, Dear Reader, as to excuse me for a few hours, I think I’m going to take it up to the Hunter Pool on the Watauga River.
I HAVE FISHED this stretch of water for decades and know it intimately. But I hadn’t fished here for several months, and it seemed to need some reassurance this morning that I still loved it.
It welcomed me back with the same warmth as always, caressing my feet and legs as I eased across its rocky shoreline and into the run that flows down alongside that cunningly concealed beaver lodge that I don’t think anyone but my brothers and I know about.
So now on this warm summer morning, I stripped a few feet of fly line from the little reel and sent my first cast out along the near edge of the current. But nothing showed, and after four more casts I lifted the fly from the surface and sent it directly upstream around a large submerged boulder that you only know is there if you know this run. The tiny fly had drifted only four feet when it suddenly disappeared.
I struck on sight, lightly but firmly, and felt the sweet resistance of something tearing cross-current above me as I let the spare fly line slip through my fingers until it came tight to the reel. The rod arched gracefully, as only exquisitely crafted bamboo can, and the trout took another twenty feet of line before stopping and shaking its head while trying to fathom what was happening.
But I was in no hurry.
I was enjoying the feel of the trout and the finesse of the little grass rod far too much to hurry, and I played that fish meticulously, without stressing it any more than necessary. When I finally brought it to hand, I lightly laid it down in the edge of the run and shot a quick photo of it with the new bamboo rod and then patiently revived and released it.
The remainder of the morning went much the same: a fish here, a fish there, and I quickly lost count of how many fish there were. When I began to grow hungry I returned to the car and, still in my waders, drove across the bridge to the old market and had a couple of hot dogs and a melon, then returned to the river.
Having invested the morning upriver, I now hit the trail downstream, first fishing the tail end of the pool before skirting the willows down to the sand bank.
Trout after trout took the flies I offered, each one carefully played and carefully released. All in all, it was a splendid day on a splendid river with that splendid little wisp of bamboo, and I fervently wish you could have been there to share it with me.
Only when the evening light became so thin that I could no longer see the dry fly did I stop fishing and reel in my line before wading back upstream by the glimmering light of a rising moon. I didn’t take off my waders until I got home.
And now here I sit facing the computer screen afresh—exactly where I was sitting this morning telling you about my dear friend’s gift when the rod and reel and river began calling my name.
But those two hot dogs have long since worn off, and the savory smells of the supper that Mary Jane has kept warm for us in the oven are calling seductively and luring me away from the writing—just as Tommy Jones’ lovely gift of bamboo did this morning.
And so, my friend, if you’d be so kind as to excuse me once more, I must step away yet again.
Michael Altizer’s books, THE LAST BEST DAY, NINETEEN YEARS TO SUNRISE, and RAMBLINGS—TALES FROM THREE HEMISPHERES can be ordered online at SportingClassicsStore.com—click on “BOOKS.” Or call 1-800-849-1004.
You may also purchase Michael’s books at RIVERS AND FEATHERS ‘BOOKS’ page.
The author always welcomes and appreciates your comments, questions, critiques and input. Please keep in touch at Mike@AltizerJournal.com.
© MICHAEL ALTIZER