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Thoughts at Thanksgiving

November 26, 2014

From the perspective of an angler, there is a lot to be thankful for at this time of year. To begin with, just look at how far we’ve come. In the mid-19th century, fishing was pretty primitive. It had not progressed all that much from the earliest Egyptian hieroglyphic depictions—a cord, a stick and a hook. But in the last 100 years, along came some of the greatest discoveries since fire.

Famed Florida angler Chuck Weber suggests, tongue-in-cheek, that one of the greatest innovations of the 20th century was monofilament line (DuPont, 1938). “Here’s a nearly invisible fiber, easy to handle and cast, with incredible tensile strength,” says Chuck with a grin. “The fish don’t see it, yet if some Goliath takes you into the reef, that 20-pound test will hold your craft against a two-knot current.” Impressive indeed, and something to be thankful for, especially considering that it can be fabricated in 6x or 7x even 8x dimension (.003 of an inch), so that miniscule flies with eyes the size of the period at the end of this sentence can be used.

After the ordinary cane pole of my childhood (75¢ each out of a big bucket of them), my first real rod was a solid glass bait caster with braided nylon. My dad bought it for me at the hardware store. Talk about backlashes and bird nests. You had to use your thumb to “spool” the reel, and do it just right. Too little you got a crow’s nest, too much and you burned your thumb. What a relief when spinning reels came in. My first was a Bache Brown (because it was the least expensive). I seined and sold a lot of bait to get a Mitchell “Cap,” then later the prized Mitchell 300, spooled with “Stren.” This spinning rig was deadly—something to really be thankful for, right?

Later I got a Fenwick 8-foot-6-inch fiberglass flyrod Model FF85 with a Medalist reel. A great outfit, as functional today as the day I got it. That led me through many wonderful rods .to my current favorite, a 9-foot Winston ІM6 that casts like a cannon, perfect for the big Delaware. Of course, the journey finally led me to bamboo, which is a whole story in itself. We can be thankful that that classic art of hand-making split bamboo rods is being taught and preserved at the Rodmakers Workshop of the Catskill Fly Fishing Center.

All these things are great and sure make fishing interesting and fun, but things are not exactly what I am thankful for, not truly thankful.