One evening we were fishing the East Fork and I broke the tip on the car door. I glued a bent screw eye in the tip and soon was back fishing. It did not cast as well but I still used it.
One afternoon I cast a gopher tail fly in a deep run near the Zentner ranch. A large brown ht the fly and made a blistering run upstream, swishing my line the water like Jaws. I landed an eighteen inch brown that time.
I had been looking at new rods at Peterson’s Hardware for months. Soon I earned enough money mowing lawns to buy a new rod for nineteen dollars.
I took the new rod home and laid it down next to the beat up faded South Bend. I picked up the old rod and put it in my bedroom corner.
It was a good rod. It had etched hundreds of stories in my mind.
Over the years I have fished many new rods made by different companies. I have fished the latest graphite designs made by teams of computer assisted designers. I have fished rods that throw long tight loops with pinpoint accuracy.
I have fished delicate four weight rods that throw small dry flies like a puff of cotton. I have fished stiff eight weight rods that shoot lines across saltwater flats for bonefish and barracuda.
One of my favorite rods is the old crippled South Bed fiberglass with the bent screw eye in the tip, my first fly rod. The old rod performs poorly but it has a magic of its own.
Every time I open the closet door the inside lights up like a chrome neon time machine.
The pungent smell of river willows comes bursting out. Black and white magpies squawk and flap their wings in the blue Montana sky. Summer rain streaks down, thunder and lightning booms across the Smith River Valley.
Records go round and round playing Elvis’ greatest hits. My sister becomes homecoming queen.
Our old green Chevy station wagon loaded with fly rods in the back goes down red gravel roads leaving a cloud of red dust forming leaping trout in the wind.
I put a size twelve renegade in Audrey’s wrinkled hand. Doug and I walk back from the river with creel full of trout, wet trousers and sneakers squishing at ever step. Ice cold coke goes down like a dream on a hot summer day.
My hand shakes when I tie on a dry fly as trout are rising all around me. My brother Larry throws a long spiral pass for a touchdown. May flies emerge from deep sparkling streams.
We hunt pheasants on the day my brother Dan is born. I crawl through tall grass to cast a fly at rising brookies. We ride out of the mountains at night in a white out blizzard, letting the horses find their way home.
Windows of our house glow bright orange and smoke comes out of the chimney as I tie flies on a December night.
A flock of blue grouse explodes out of aspens and our shotguns blast away on a November day. I walk home with a big smile and a nineteen inch October brown trout that has a palette colored in neon.
I close the closet door again and smile at my golden memories.
Bern Sundell’s original paintings and prints are available at RiverStone Gallery.
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Copyright © Bern Sundell 2007. All Rights Reserved.