My eventual goal is to become a colorful, outspoken, cranky geezer of an angler – but not just yet.
I realized this past weekend that I’m getting closer to that state of being, and here’s why:
There was a time when I really, truly believed that the newest high-tech, high-modulous – whatever that is – graphite fly rod would bring longer casts and more fish into my life.
No matter what it cost.
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I once scuttled out, almost on command, to buy the newest lines, flourocarbon leaders and waders.
My wader story during the past 30 years started with baggy, fabric waders, moved to sleek rubber waders, then to neoprene waders – and now we’re back to baggy, fabric waders, albeit made with cloth that lets hot air escape while keeping wet water out.
That’s the idea anyway.
All this madness, at least for me, ended a while back .
Maybe it happened when paying my daughter’s university tuition became the biggest priority in my life, or when I noticed that I kept using an old rod while the new miracle rod stayed home.
Anyway, at the risk of sounding like a wannabe crank, there’s a lot to be said for tackle that has grown on you over some years.
New isn’t always better.
I know some anglers who have closets – garages – full of tackle. Some rods get used for a year or two, then go into hibernation for years.
Fishing, like high fashion, changes every year, and what was once hot can vanish.
When I was a teenager, a tackle company came out with plastic worms that sported tiny little rings from the nose of the worm to the tail.
The rings were supposed to trap air, which would make them gleam with a lifelike glow under the water.
Everyone at Lake Casitas, Lake Cachuma and Lake Castiac – the Southern California bass lakes I haunted in the early 1980s – fished these worms.
Then the worms fell out of fashion.
The ring worms gathered too many chunks of moss or lake gunk, at least that is what people started saying.
Imagine how surprised I was a few years ago to see that ring worms were back in fashion, for the same reasons that they were in fashion 20 years before.
Nowadays, I find myself listening to the fish, and sometimes that quiet, sensible little voice we all carry around in our head. After all, fish don’t care what’s new.
Why would I want to drop $800 on a new, high-tech Sage fly rod when my Sage 4-weight VPS rod, bought for about $350 quite a few years ago, still puts a dry fly where my mind wants it to go?
Spending $350 on a fly rod sounds crazy, but it’s less crazy when you figure that I’ve cast that rod about 100 days a year for many years.
I know that rod as well as any rod I’ve ever cast, and I don’t have to think when I’m waving that stick around. The fly goes to where I want it to go, and that is most of the game when dry fly fishing for picky wild trout.
I cast the new rods that come out each year, and some of them are really, really nice. But they’re not that much nicer than most of the rods – I already own too many fly rods – that fit into my right hand so well.
At this point, it would take an exceptional rod to get my wallet open. That will happen someday, but most new rods these days are, at best, a slight improvement over last year’s model.
There is even a thriving market for good used Sage fly rods on the Internet these days. Just log onto eBay or Craigslist and type “Sage RPL” or “Sage RPLX” or “Sage LL” or “Sage VPS” or “Sage SP.”
You’ll find a lot of really good fly rods, and see how much they cost. Then check out how much a brand-new, top-end Sage rod costs this summer. Other fine rod-makers, such as Scott, also have a thriving used-rod market.
All this said, Sage and other fly rod makers are putting out some very high-quality rods for $300 or less. I suspect that rod companies have realized that quite a few fly anglers can’t, or won’t, pay $800 for a new fly rod.
And new fly anglers should realize that they don’t have to spend tons of money to gear up for the sport.
I’m sure this same deal plays out with reels, spinning rods, casting rods and even lures.
I could go on and on and talk about how all of my favorite largemouth bass surface poppers have been around since the 1950s – and I was born in 1961.
But there is no fire to spit into right now, and there are no handy sticks to whittle.
I guess I’m getting closer to Crankdom, but I still have a ways to go.
Chester Allen 360-754-4226