To the best of my knowledge, it has been sixty years since I first held a bamboo fly rod. My grandfather was the fly fisherman in our family, born in Massachusetts’ Berkshire Hills, he returned when he could to fish the brooks and rivers he grew up on. Pieces of his old, broken bamboo rods I found in his garage early on became my playthings. When I was five, he strung up the rod he fished with and placed it in my hand, showing me how to wave it back and forth to cast the line. That brief moment left an impression.
In 1990 we moved from Southern Maryland to Ellicott City, an historic old town west of Baltimore, and I found myself at last close to trout streams. The Patapsco River, Morgan Run and the Gunpowder Falls drew me to their bright waters, where I fished for trout with an ultralight spinning rod. It was a beautiful experience, something I had longed for since boyhood, but there was something missing.
On the Gunpowder I chanced upon a fly fisherman, and there before me was that old rhythm. As I watched the line roll back and forth in the air, then thrilled as the rod arched with a splashing trout, I understood my path. When next I visited the stream, I carried an eight-foot fly rod. I learned some from reading, and watching Scientific Anglers’ video series that was broadcast on our cable TV, but most of all I learned from time on the water. My fly rod took me further afield as I discovered the limestone country of the Cumberland Valley and the glorious Catskill Mountains.
Seemingly before I knew it, I found myself thirty years downstream, living in those same Catskill Mountains and taking my soul’s sustenance from the bright waters which rush and glide from their summits. A bamboo fly rod simply belongs in my hand now, a part of me as inseparable as the hand itself.
Life is measured in time, but for me the value of life may be measured in river miles. The years twist and turn, following the meanders of the flow. It is a continuous journey, for even though I may tread the banks by trails my feet have grown accustomed to, no river remains the same; it is new each moment of each and every day, vibrant and magical.
Looking back there has always been wonder in my time along rivers. Much that I struggled to learn has been folded into my mind and my heart now, thirty years of experiences, trials and errors, victories and defeats. Though I am counted an old hand at this fly fishing game, all of that wonder remains. In the quiet moments of solitude, working a trout rising to something I cannot see, the magic and mystery of it all tantalizes my imagination. Those of us touched by waters live for that moment!