Lying In The Sweetgrass

A grassy meadow along the hallowed LeTort

My winter fishing is about to take a terrible turn. Highs well below freezing already reign, and now ten to twenty inches of snow are expected tonight. I must retreat, retreat into the dream world of memory and anticipation…

If I close my eyes I can feel the sun upon my chest, lying here in the sweet grass of the river bank, the only sounds the gentle music of birdsong and the river. My vest is laid out on the grass and my rod, propped against it, waits for the sound of rising trout: five strips of bamboo united to form a perfect pentagon. It is early afternoon and the sun feels wonderful as I doze in and out of consciousness.

A splash nearby nudges me awake, and I stretch before rising into a sitting position. There are sulfurs riding the soft current near the bank, just a few right now, but they bring another splash from a small trout eager to feed. I ease over to the edge and let my legs dangle in the water as I pull my vest over my shoulders. Within a few minutes there is a bulging rise fifty feet out.

Rising, I take the fly from the hook keeper, pull leader and line from the reel and out through the tip as I begin a short, careful stalk. Once I am in position I wait for another bulge in the flat water. It isn’t long in coming.

My false casts are few, off to the side and well downstream of my target, then the gentle turnover of my wrist sends the fly out to alight with a whisper… six inches of drift, a foot… and then the bulge takes it softly from the surface. The sun glints golden on the arc of varnished cane as I pull the rod up and back, the trout boils in a shower of spray, then turns and brings the click of the reel to a screaming crescendo!

I have lived that moment over and over, never once the same. The beauty, the poetry of the dry fly, makes my very spirit smile. Ah summer, the glory of a Catskill summer!

My Sweetgrass Pent waits for summer by my side. Eight feet for a four weight line, this sublime rod was designed and crafted for me by Jerry Kustich and Glenn Brackett of Sweetgrass Rods, masters of the craft.

The Pent waits there in the rod rack, for summer is only a dream right now. Autumn departs with a savage blow, leaving winter to offer respite.

I met Jerry Kustich several years ago at the Backwater Angler shop on Maryland’s Gunpowder Falls. I had just reviewed his latest book when Theaux, the shop owner, invited me to a bamboo day with Jerry taking center stage. I enjoyed our talk, and casting a number of the fine Sweetgrass Rods Jerry arrayed in the shop that day. Kustich had retired from full time rod making in Montana and moved, settling in northern Maryland, while still traveling to shops and angling shows as an ambassador for Sweetgrass. Catching up this summer, I was pleased to find he was still designing and building rods in concert with Glenn Brackett in Montana.

What began as a casual correspondence resulted in the beautiful Sweetgrass Mantra rod pictured above. Jerry has cultivated his interest in five strip bamboo fly rods for many years, producing prototypes that became the first ever Winston Pent. When the Booboys resigned from Winston, his interest continued as he and Glenn founded Sweetgrass Rods. From talking a few times over the ensuing years, Jerry knew I shared his interest in pentagonal rods, and designed and built the eight foot four weight to suit my desires, my ultimate summer dry fly rod for the Catskills. Glenn wrapped and finished the ferruled blank at the Sweetgrass shop in Montana, sending it on it’s second cross country trip to Hancock a week ago.

There is something different about a pent that can be hard to define: some describe it as a crispness, or a subtle touch of extra power compared to a traditional hexagonal rod. A well made pent isn’t stiff, the action is smooth, and tends to be more accurate, at least in my hand. Casting the rod before it’s trip west this summer, I learned that this Sweetgrass design is perfect for the pinpoint casts, whether close in or at distance, that my summer fishing demands. For tiny tricos and those exasperating size 28 flying ants, the rod allows me to drop down to a number three line for even greater delicacy!

Lovely finish and details are a trademark of the Sweetgrass shop: I love the burnt orange silks and bamboo winding check! The color reminds me of summer sunsets and autumn forests along the river.

Hopefully this blizzard will pass and there will be some winter sunshine and warmer days ahead. When the cabin fever gets to me I’ll take the rod from it’s tube, try a reel or two for balance, taking my time to find the perfect match of reel and line. A few casts on a calm, bright winter afternoon will help me close my eyes and dream again.

A summer afternoon on the Delaware

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