Bamboo by David Rivet
At ten years old, I was adopted by a wonderful couple who took a frail and frightened boy from poverty to a warm, loving household. My new found father and mother started taking me fishing the following summer. Never having fished a day in my life before, it truly was an unforgettable experience that stays afresh in my mind this very day, 43 years later.
My father gave me a bamboo fly rod with an automatic reel on it. I thought I was really hot stuff then. They both started out showing me how to fish for bluegills, yellow sun perch, googleyes and sac-a-lait (crappie).
The reel was spooled with regular green fly line, 4 foot of monofilament tied to it with a cork, b-b-shot and #8 long shaft hook. I was taught how to fish with crickets, red wigglers, shinners and grass shrimp. Never knew until then just how much enjoyment there was in fishing. I often use to think ‘if the kids in the foster home could see me now’!
Well, a few years gone by and I turned the age of thirteen. The age of discovery. That year I truly learned what fishing was all about.
I was almost as tall as my father was then now. I remember him wearing that old grey hat with a bill on it that looked like a diving board. Use to wear (what we called a jump suit back then) a leisure suit and a handkerchief tied around his neck. I remember him saying, “son, you are now old enough for me to teach you the most exciting way to catch fish called fly fishing”. Ok, dad (I thought). Now I have to catch a bug with wings? What’s wrong with the bait we’ve been using, I wondered.
It was a Friday evening and we went to a store called Gibsons Discount Store. Man, they had everything in there. Nice bikes for sure. We walked into the sporting section. We browsed up and down every aisle until we came upon the one section he was looking for. There were fly rods, fly reels, fly lines and lo and behold, there they were….FLIES (fly baits).
Wow!!! They were so neat (pretty in girls language). They were made out of cork, feathers, rubber legs and of course there was a hook. Rather tiny looking when stuck in the cork. My father bought white, yellow, green and orange baits. He also bought some line cleaner, brand new line and yes, a diving board hat for me.
When we arrived home, he took me step by step through loading the fly line onto the reel, how to clean and dress it, how to tie a leader onto the eye of the hook on the bait and with a baking pan filled with water, showed me how flies would look on the water.
After tossing and turning all night from being eager to get out on the water Saturday morning, breakfast came early. Mom, was not coming. Perhaps she had something to do that day or was in fear of her life from what was about to take place. Anyway, it didn’t matter. I was eating my breakfast while dad was loading up the boat and hooking it to the car.
About two hours later, dawn was cracking and I had my life preserver on riding in dad’s Yellow Jacket V-hull boat with a Johnson motor that looked like the size of a Volkeswagon Beetle. That didn’t matter either. I was going to learn how to fly fish today.
When we arrived at our destination, I looked around the lake. There was a light fog on the water, cypress trees about 10 or 15 feet from the bank and spotted grass beds everywhere. I could hear the bream hitting insects along the trees and grassbeds. Every now and then a black bass would shatter the stillness of the water feeding on smaller fish and frogs.
After a brief instruction from my dad and watching him hook up the lines with those popping bugs, I was off on the adventure of a lifetime.
I can still see him now now laughing away as I tried to co-ordinate pulling the line down with my left hand while raising the rod back with my right and then trying to feed the line as I would cast out. I can’t tell you how many times that tip of the rod slapped the water in front of me. Also, dad was truly wise in his years keeping the boat far away enough from the trees so I wouldn’t start fishing for squirrrels and birds.
After casting the fly out, which seemed to have been hundreds of times, the water exploded around my bait. I jumped up from the seat, yanked on that bamboo pole and my first fish caught on the fly came jetting towards me like a bullet. I ducked down to avoid the collision. Turned around and pulled that wall hanger into the boat. Wow, what a catch he was too. Every bit of about 2 1/2 inches long. My dad almost peed on himself laughing so much.
That day, that fishing trip and that one tiny fish changed my life forever.
I think of my dad often. I think of the patience he had to take that time out to teach a child the pleasure of fly fishing. I look above me on the wall as I wrote this story and there hangs that old bamboo rod. I know dad is smiling down and enjoying every minute of this.
Now my own two sons have bamboo fly rods of their own today. I hope that the memories will come across their minds also in their later years.