A few years ago I was getting ready for a trip to the Driftless area in southern Minnesota to chase trout around on little creeks. Most of the water in that area doesn’t get much wider than a two lane highway, which means short rods and light line weights are the name of the game. At the time I was set to go I didn’t have anything shorter than nine feet, or enough money to buy a decent small stream rod, so I bought some blanks and built one.
It was nothing special, just a little four piece seven and a half foot three weight from TFO. I wrapped the guides with alternating green and black thread. At the base of the rod I set some hooks in the epoxy for added show, and spent a little extra money on a nice real seat. Everything else was stock; at the time I didn’t feel like getting to crazy with it considering it was my first build and I didn’t have much time.
Like many homemade rods it had some flaws. Aesthetically the epoxy had dried badly lopsided and the knots in the thread wrappings were obvious. On top of that I forgot to include a hook holder so I had to stick my flies in the cork handle which really tore it up after a few years of hard fishing. Classic rookie mistakes from an impatient teenager. That stuff’s trivial though, especially when the top section of the rod pops off without warning; sometimes on a cast, sometimes on a hookset. I’m sure watching as I chase a section of my rod downstream is pretty funny, but to me its just annoying. All in all I considered these little imperfections to add character to a rod I brought to life.
To cut to the point I broke it last week trying to force a Royal Wulff upstream in a twenty mile an hour wind. The tip had come off, like it often did, only this time it took a chunk of the third section with it. I can’t say I was surprised, in fact I half expected to break it sooner. That didn’t change how I felt though. Now I’ve broken a few rods, and I’m never mad, just kind of shocked then depressed. I always look around as if there will be another pole casually leaning against a nearby tree rigged up and ready to go. There never is.
Walking back to the truck with a broken rod is always a weird feeling too. On a typical day of fishing I either feel satisfied, maybe confused, or even a little upset if it was a tough day. But, I never feel like I do after breaking a pole. It’s difficult to explain, but I’ll try. It’s like when a waitress brings out a plate of food at a restaurant, walks directly toward my table, but instead of handing me a hot plate with a steak on it she just refills my water. Except I had a Sprite.
Then there’s this point where I never quite no what to do with the rod once I get home. Obviously I can’t throw it away, but I want it out of sight because nobody likes to be reminded of such a low moment of their life. I usually think about burying it, but that would be pretty weird. In the end I just tuck it away in a closet with plans to reanimate it in a nice shadow box. Who knows if it will actually happen, but it sounds nice.
Once that’s done the pain and slight humiliation of breaking a rod typically begins to fade away. That’s replaced with yet another feeling, emptiness, which turns into a fairly legitimate reason to buy a new fly rod; which is the only half decent part of breaking one. It’s a bittersweet moment for anyone, but after four to five business days it becomes mostly sweet. Thus the reincarnation of a new fly rod begins it all again. Until the next time when a fish, or car door for that matter, is just to big.