The sun glares through my elevated window, and amid shards of clouds there is blue sky visible. It looks too inviting, the warmth of that glorious light, and I nearly run out to the river, breathless for the chance to cast a line and find a trout. I stop myself short of that headlong rush, as I know it is all a charade.
The wind blows the tiny, icy snowflakes nearly horizontal as I embark upon my morning river walk. Ah yes, the light is warm, but the moving air is well below freezing! Just a walk today, no rod, no reel.
The East Branch has cleared, its flow still strong enough to repel the icy hands of winter. I’ve pulled the collar of my old down vest up tight around my throat to keep that wind away from my arthritic neck. That vest’s age is apparent with one look, it’s tag revealing the fill as goose down. When I was younger down vest or down jacket meant goose down, but no more. Today every company with some nylon and a zipper advertises down jackets, but you don’t want to read their tags. It is a different time. Nothing means what it says these days, except the old things, the things we keep.
Perhaps that is why I have such an affinity for old fishing tackle. One can read all manner of claims for synthetic this, and computer machined that, but I know that an old cane dry fly rod is just that; a wand intended and skillfully made to cast a dry fly gently and accurately to a rising trout. A handmade Hardy reel is a piece of craftsmanship that a proper English gentleman made carefully with hand tools, adjusting the fit of spool to frame precisely. That reel will wind smoothly as fast as the angler’s hand can turn it, and sing beautifully when the shoe is on the other foot, the trout streaking away, away from the bend of the rod.
How many of you recall the days when people routinely spoke the truth, when you got what you paid for as a matter of course, expected it, and weren’t disappointed.
I guess that may have something to do with why I prefer to fish older tackle. I get what I expect, though the price may be dear, but there is much more to it than that. I like to wonder during the quiet moments, just where my rod and reel have been before. Might they have laid on this same river bank decades ago, while another angler gazed at the placid surface with hope for a rise?
I confess to a fondness for times past, times we didn’t have terms like combat fishing, for there was no need to describe such behavior. One could enjoy solitude, and if others were encountered, they were lady and gentleman anglers, quietly enjoying the beauty of bright water and wild trout, with a pleasant greeting if one passed their way. No one crowded into an occupied pool, content to move on or sit quietly on the bank until the angler they encountered there fished through.
In some way the vintage rods and reels I fish are time machines, for when I am alone on bright water they can transport me to a quieter and gentler time. Would that their magic could affect us all alike, and foster kindness and blissful enjoyment on each river for everyone, each day.