Friday, July 20, 2007

One Small Step for a Man...

Thirty-eight years ago this evening a man named Neil stood up on his hind legs and jumped out of his vehicle into a dusty vacuum a quarter of a million miles away and… did his job.

Of course, you know I’m talking about Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. You may or may not know much about him. I only know a few stories.

One of my favorites is of the time he was testing a new flight vehicle, a precursor to the Lunar Module, when things went terribly wrong. The thing went out of control, flying crazier and crazier until, a few feet off the ground, Armstrong had to eject. He was so close to the ground that ejection could have easily killed him, but he survived without injury. After being checked out and released, he went back to his office … to do some paperwork.

Those of us who are mere mortals would perhaps have taken a day or two off – or at least the rest of the afternoon – to contemplate our mortality and relationship with God. Neil? He just did his job.

No wonder they chose him to be the first…


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Thoughts on Equipment

Someone asked me about equipment the other day. Here's what I wrote to him:

I really don’t know what to say about fit & finish and all with trout rods. The Hexagraphs are as good as any, fit and finish-wise. If you’re on a budget I’d look at Elkhorn. $200 or less gets you an awesome fishing tool and as fishing tools go, I don’t really care what they look like. I have a friend who likes his gear looking all used and about worn out. As long as it catches fish, he doesn’t care what it looks like. I kind of agree. I used a four piece 5wt Elkhorn for seven days straight on the Green River a couple of years ago and broke it the last day. I sent it back with $25 and they sent me a new one.

One of my Orvis rods is a cane rod from about 1965, one is a home made graphite from an Orvis blank that I bought from the woman who taught me to tie flies from probably the early ‘80’s or earlier, and one is a sale rod ($200+ rod from the early ’90’s that I got from their sale flier for $100) from the early days of my love affair with 3wt's – that I always forget I have and never fish. These days with Orvis you’re paying more for the name than you are for the rod. Nice stuff, but buy something else if you like value. I doubt I’d ever buy a new one again.

I’ve always heard that Scott rods are great. A buddy of mine has one and likes it, and Telluride, CO is a cool place to have a rod from. Winston rods are legend, current company ownership soap operas notwithstanding. You might have noticed that I haven’t mentioned Sage. I have one or two, and they’re nice rods. If you want one, watch eBay and get an old one. As with Orvis, you now pay more for the name than you do for the rod.

I dunno. If you have cubic money, buy a quiver-full of Hexes or Winstons – a half dozen for various fishing situations will put you back about $5000 – and go fish. If you’re on a budget, buy a quiver-full of Elkhorns for the same half dozen fishing situations – that will put you back about $1000 or $1200 – and go fish. By the way, the last I knew, Elkhorn had some nice reels that went nicely with their rods. Trouble with Elkhorn is they changed hands since I got mine, and I don’t know what they have for reels OR rods any more, or how much they cost. If you’re buying Hex’s, might as well drop another $1500 - $2000 and get a bag of Hardy Lightweights - Featherweights and LRH’s - and associated spare spools.

Regardless of equipment, fish your brains out and make sure your equipment shows it. Get hot and sweaty and tired. Fish in dangerous places, places where you’re not at the top of the food chain. Get hot, cold, bug-bit, wild-parsnip- and sun-burned, and hungry… and happy. Fish in water so cold your feet go numb. Fish until your hat and clothes are permanently sweat-stained, until the insides of your waders stink. "Trout Bum" and "Trout Hunter" are honorable titles. Gierach once said something like, “Fly fishing is the kind of endeavor that, once people know you do it, they think you’re a little imbalanced – enough so they leave you alone, but not so much that they put you away.” That’s a BAD paraphrase, but you get the idea. And remember, catching fish is about the least important part of fishing.