A Fly Rod of Your Own is the tantalizing title for John Gierach’s most recent book, a collection of Gierach’s stories, many of which have previously appeared in magazines such as Fly Rod & Reel.
In this case, the title of the book is a bit misleading. There’s nothing in the book about custom fly rods, or bamboo rods, a topic about which he’s written previously. The book title is just a phrase from the first paragraph in the opening chapter in which he writes about how people get hooked on fly-fishing, and he writes, “If you’re like me, it was the mere sight of a good fly-caster that finally sent you out shopping for a fly rod of your own.”
Still, I’m thoroughly enjoying a leisurely reading of his stories, rationing myself to one or two a day, rather than reading it cover to cover.
Gierach’s stories are often built around fly-fishing and travels to occasionally exotic places for fishing. Still, the magic isn’t in getting tips on how to catch fish, or how great an angler he is.
I particularly enjoy Gierach’s observations on life and people and more often than not it has nothing to do with fishing, though he frequently comes up with sage observations about travel involved with fishing trips. For example, he describes long delays and waits in airports as “fatal boredom,” adding, “There is a mount of an albino beaver at the Anchorage terminal that’s worth seeing, but it’s not what you’d call endlessly entertaining.”
In any event, the book’s title caught my interest because fly rods have been taking up a lot of my time the last few months.
Last summer at a Kiwanis meeting, a friend asked if I would be willing to build a custom fly rod that would be part of a raffle package for a fundraiser for Leadership Montana, a Montana non-profit organization that runs educational programs for potential community leaders. Without much thought I said, “Sure, I could do that.”
Over the years I’ve built a number of fly rods, including, over 50 years ago, my first fly rod, when I’d ordered a rod-building package from Herter’s, the long-defunct mail-order company that pre-dated Cabela’s.
I’ll note that building a rod doesn’t include scientific experiments in fiberglass and graphite. It means you buy the stick—the technical term is “blank”, this one a Sage blank—and then add the handle, guides, hook-keepers and other hardware that transforms that nine-foot length of graphite-infused fiberglass into a fishing rod. I did have some trepidation about building a rod for someone else. I live with my own mistakes, but someone else might not be so easily satisfied.
An Anaconda man won the raffle and we got together in late autumn to go over the options for putting the rod together. I cautioned him to not be in a hurry because the project would have to wait until after the hunting season was over.
A custom rod may not be any better than the equivalent factory rod from a local fly shop, though hopefully it won’t be worse. It might not save much money, either.
The main benefit to a custom rod is that you can make it your own in every way. For example, you can make the wraps in your school colors if you like, instead of black, as most factory rods are. Thus, the wraps on the rod were blue with gold trim. It clashes a bit with a green rod, but the fish won’t care. I also built it with single-foot guides, or “those loopy things,” as my wife called them when she couldn’t think of the technical term.
A final touch was engraving his initials and the year on the butt cap of the rod.
Happily, when it was all done and the winner had a chance to look at it, he was pleased at how well it turned out.
Even better, my wife said, “That was a fun project. You’d better make another one for yourself.”
She didn’t even have to twist my arm.