It bears no name, only a number — A1305B. I don’t know the origin of A1305B. One of my mother’s good friends passed it along to her. There it rested for years, on a gun rack in a tattered and worn cloth case.
The cloth strings binding the case are dry-rotted. They wouldn’t untie, they just sort of fell to pieces. But inside, A1305B has survived the years fairly well. It is straight as an arrow, never having been stored under stress.
But it can’t hide its age completely. The varnish is scratched or worn away in places, the frayed string of a tie-wrap dangles free, and it took a drop of oil in each ferrule to put the rod together.
Yes, A1305B is a fishing rod, a flyrod to be exact — a very old flyrod. There is no way to know exactly how old, but it is definitely a throwback to years gone. You’ll find no graphite, no boron, not even fiberglass in all of its nine-foot length. It is bamboo, cane, a fishing rod made from grass.
Crude, awkward and extremely heavy by today’s standards, A1305B was once the cream of the crop… a flyrod that the purist of the purists would have been proud to own. Today however, it is destined to be a has-been, a relic that sooner or later would find its way to a dusty corner in a Broad Street antique shop. Except for one thing, I have it.
You might say I stole it. I had eyeballed the rod for years at Mom’s house. Finally I just loaded old A1305B into the car and told Mom, “I’m gonna let some folks look at it to see if it’s worth anything.”
The proprietor of a local flyshop did that part for me.
“As far as I can tell it’s just an old bamboo flyrod,” he said. “They made lots of them years ago. Most of them aren’t really worth much unless somebody famous made them. In that case, they’d usually sign them or something.”
Nobody signed this one. Unless it was made by somebody named A1305B.
No matter. They say possession is nine-tenths of law and I now possess A1305B. At least until Mom repossesses it.
The flyshop helped me put A1305B back into working order. “I’m just gonna mess around with it on some bluegill,” I said.
At home, in the front yard, A1305B went together like we had known each other much longer. As it did, I swear I saw a trout surface in the bird bath. My fingers shook just a little as they slid the line through each guide.
And there, beneath the dogwood tree, a solid 14-inch rainbow dimpled the surface. Line stripped from the reel and fell to my feet on the concrete driveway.
Two more trout swirled over by the mailbox. Three false casts and then on the fourth, the fly tangled in the magnolia tree behind me.
Trout began to rise all over the lawn as I ripped the fly, magnolia leaf and all, from the tree. Finally, one, two, three, four false casts; and on the fifth, the line shot forward like a rocket. Then it slowed, rolling across the green grass like a whisper. The fly settled beneath the dogwood on the very blade of grass I’d aimed for.
The 14-incher couldn’t stand it. He leapt all the way out of the lawn and took the fly on the way back down.
The fish tore the grass to pieces, racing from pool to pool. I struggled in vain to keep him away from the mailbox. He made a half-hitch around the post, crossed the street and the line was cut by a speeding mini-van.
Across the street, a neighbor peered nervously through the venetian blinds. Behind me, my black lab cocked her head into one of those quizzical, “what are you doing,” looks.
With a sheepish grin, I re-cased old A1305B. She’s brought back memories of days gone by. In high school, I fancied myself a flyfisherman. I had two, count ’em, two fly rods.
In one disastrous week, they both went to pieces, literally. The first was taken out by a wayward lawnmower in the back of my pickup truck. The second fell victim when I sat a canoe down on top of it on the Hiwassee River.
Then college came and the distance from good trout water, combined with freshman finances, restricted future flyrod purchases. After that, my excuse has been my affliction with crappie and catfish — not known to fall victim to fly fisherman very often.
But now there’s A1305B.
Mom, I promise I’ll be more careful if you’ll please let me and A1305B go out and play.
(Editor’s Note: This story was original written and published in 1990. It is part of a collection of stories found in Richard Simms’ book, “An Outdoor State of Mind.”)