Snap!

A 23 inch wild brown trout, the last fish for my beloved 8040 Granger?

It was a typical misty Catskill summer morning, a bit cooler, with a welcome 58 degrees in Hancock at five o’clock. The mist hung along the sides of the mountains, the strong July sun still unable to burn it off as I waded the river at eight. I had swung a wet fly further up at the top of the riffle to no avail, gladly knotting up a new 5X tippet and changing to a dry fly as the sun began to dispel the gloom.

The rushing riffle and the rocks along the bank made me reach for the Halo Isonychia on the fly patch inside my vest. Iso’s are popular with the trout all summer and, though they are an afternoon hatch that I hadn’t seen on the water this season, I simply had a feeling that my big, juicy comparadun might tempt a lurking brownie looking for leftovers.

I worked the foam lines thoroughly with a downstream drift, then turned and made the long casts upstream and across to try the bankside run from a new angle. Trying hard to follow even a size 10 dry fly in a myriad of bubbles and foam, I saw just a little bump in the ruffled surface and knew it was my fly. As the Granger bent into a heavy arch the Bougle` sang its hymn to the morning as a heavy trout streaked full tilt into the rushing current. He didn’t stop until my backing was spinning from the reel, then turned the tables abruptly, heading back down and slightly toward me as I wound the reel frantically. Failing to get slack with that tactic, he turned again and headed toward me, forcing me to abandon the reel and strip armfuls of line as fast as I could.

There are many things on the front of a fishing vest ideal to tangle a fly line, a lesson learned the hard way more than once in my life. Despite my haste, I managed to dump all of that line, nearly an entire fly line, to my right in slack water. He took some back more than once, but the net was in his future.

A gorgeous fish, dark backed and deeply golden on his flank, the crimson spots twinkling with flame, twenty-three inches from nose to tail. I slipped the fly from his jaw and pushed the net deeply into the water while fumbling one handed for my camera. I lifted the net, snapped the photos, hung the camera strap from my teeth and sent him on his way.

The cool morning air and the excitement of that hard running brown had me energized, and I worked my way on down the riffle in search of his twin. Perhaps twenty minutes later I turned upstream once again and cast the longer line to cover that same water from an up and across stream angle. The sun, now peeking around the mountainside was in my eyes and I squinted trying to follow the fly. Half an hour after I released that fine brown trout I thought another tiny disturbance could be a take. I lifted the rod, heard and felt a gentle snap, and my rod tip fell to the water.

I couldn’t believe the turn in my luck as I grabbed for the trailing line and rescued the tip, a clean break in the precious cane, beneath the silk at the ferrule. The Granger had lasted more years than I but, at least for that tip section, that brown was to be it’s final trout.

Back in Hancock I pulled off the road and dialed Dennis Menscer, catching him in the shop and working on new varnish for another rod tip of mine. He asked if I had ESP, but I told him sadly no, that I am afraid I had more work for him.

Studying the broken end, Dennis showed me a tiny crack and the discolored cane that betrayed the presence of old moisture. My trophy brown had not weakened my rod; water and time had done that job.

Dennis will make two new tips, and the rod will hopefully battle trout for another sixty to seventy years. The remaining original tip I will likely preserve, fishing the new ones. This is not a collectors rod. It is a fisherman’s rod, a working man’s rod in its day, and a fine casting fish fighting tool deftly crafted by men long dead. It has endured, and it will continue.

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