Voices from the river

Voices from the River: Shattered dreams

By Mark Taylor

The linear shape protruding from my truck door looked strange and out of place.

“What the heck is that?” I thought.

I followed the item with my eyes and noted that it went toward the tailgate, where my buddy Sam stood. He was preparing to put a reel onto a fly rod.

I looked back at the door.

Yep, the end of Sam’s fly rod was stuck in the door.

Now, we all remember those old commercials for Ugly Stik rods. You could slam them in car doors, run over them with tractors and stick them in the super-powered Blendtec Blender and they would somehow survive.

This rod wasn’t an Ugly Stik. It was a delicate, 11-foot-long, 3-weight Redington Hydrogen Euro nymph rod.

I opened the door, caught the tip of the rod as it fell, and held it up.

“Here’s the end of your rod,” I said.

“Oh, darn,” Sam said.

Except, he didn’t say “darn.”

I had shut that door. But I didn’t feel any guilt, and I certainly wasn’t going to offer to let Sam use my Euro nymph rod that day.

There is a saying in fishing that if you put your fishing rod anywhere near an open car door, you deserve what you get.

At least this one had a good replacement policy.

Back in the old days there weren’t things like lifetime no-fault warranties.

If you broke a rod you either fixed it (if possible) or you bought a new rod.

I learned this the hard way, as we all did.

One summer afternoon a buddy, my brother and I drove out of town to fish a farm pond that was loaded with stunted largemouth bass.

We parked and were gearing up for the hike across a field to the pond.

My rod was in the back of the truck.

The truck door was open.

My brother shut the truck door.

Before my eyes my trusty little two-piece rod became an unusable three-piece rod.

Unlike Sam I didn’t have a backup. Like me, my friend and brother weren’t sympathetic. I could only sit and watch as they caught bass after bass.

Bushwhacking to fishing spots also put rods at risk. I tripped a lot, but learned to never break my fall with my hands, one of which would be holding the fishing rod.

Instead, when I stumbled I would thrust my rod-holding hand to the side and back, taking the brunt of the fall on my face and chest.

Sacrifice self to save the rod.

This protective attitude has stuck with me. Even though nowadays many of my rods fall under that no-fault warranty protection, I’ve been fortunate to not have to use it much.

I’m the guy whose “insurance” premiums pay for payouts needed for people who aren’t as careful or lucky.

People like Sam.

A number of years ago I loaned him my little Scott 3-weight brook trout rod, which he promptly broke.

I’m pretty sure the reason he borrowed that rod was because every single trout rod he owned was broken at the time and back at the factory for repair or replacement.

Now, this said, when I did finally break through as an abuser of fishing rods, I broke through in blaze of glory.

Last spring the kind folks at Sage loaned me two Little One series rods to use when hosting writers on brook trout fishing trips in the Appalachians.

In the very short time I had the 8-foot-2 1-weight in hand it became my favorite-ever little brook trout stream rod.

I say “very short time” because within one week the 1-weight was broken — not by me, but under my watch. To add insult to injury, I lost the 2-weight.

Yep, just flat-out lost the thing.

“Where did you lose it?” my boss wondered.

“If I knew,” I told him, “it wouldn’t be lost.”

Fortunately my contact at Sage was nice.

“Don’t sweat it,” she said. “I’ve had worse.”

Even so, I haven’t had the nerve to ask for any more loaner rods from her.

And, as much as I fish with Sam, I probably shouldn’t.

Mark Taylor is Trout Unlimited’s eastern communications director. He lives in Roanoke, Va., fishing tiny streams for native trout with his second-favorite brook trout rod, a 17-year-old Sage SP 3-weight.

By Mark Taylor. A native of rural southern Oregon, Mark Taylor has lived in Virginia since serving a stint as a ship-based naval officer in Norfolk. He joined the TU staff in 2014 after a 20-year run as a newspaper journalist, the final 16 as the outdoors editor of the Roanoke Times. A graduate of Northwestern University, he lives in Roanoke with his wife and, when they're home from college, his twin daughters.