By Spencer Durrant | TMTB Managing Editor
October 11, 2017
A good fly rod is just as valuable — if not more so — than a good fishing buddy.
Fishing buddies come and go, much in the same way that early-season blue-winged olive hatches give way to pale morning duns and caddis with the change of seasons.
A good fly rod sticks around for as long as you’re willing and able to fish. Unlike a fishing buddy, a fly rod is along for every single adventure. It’s there for all the big fish — and the bigger ones that got away. Thankfully a fly rod can’t speak up around the campfire or at the bar when you take creative liberties in recounting just how large the fish was that you didn’t land.
Fly rods are, in no small way, a testament to an angler’s life on the water. They’re like an old friend who knows your secrets, the one to whom you turn for advice, and to whom you could never lie.
Is it a stretch to anthropomorphize a fly rod? Maybe. But as a self-proclaimed gear-junkie and antique rod aficionado, I’d be lying if I said I never felt some sort of friend-like connection to a fly rod.
I have a Winston Boron IIIx that, until recently, was my go-to rod for nearly every day on the water. Its soft action and relaxed casting stroke match the laid-back style of fly fishing that permeates the Rocky Mountains.
That Boron IIIx was my first “nice” rod, so I doubt I’ll ever lose my fondness for it. Your first nice fly rod is a lot like your first fun car — it’s not entirely practical, and a cheaper option would work just as well, but dammit if it ain’t fun to own one.
My first fun car was a Camaro. $8,000 and a slew of repairs later I sold the car to some punk in high school who’d just received his license. As I watched him pull out of my driveway in the cherry-red Camaro still sporting a rainbow trout decal on the hatchback window, a vindictive part of me hoped the engine with 208,000 miles would give out on the kid before he had too much fun with it.
My Winston Boron IIIx hasn’t been back to Twin Bridges yet, save for the few trips I’ve made up there to fish the Ruby or the Beaverhead. It’s still plugging along, casting as well as it did the day I bought it.
After I sold my Camaro I settled into an SUV and tried to not feel like a mommy blogger while driving around Utah (a state known for its huge families, disturbing affinity for minivans, and outrageous amount of mommy bloggers per capita). I’ve never forgotten the thrill of driving that Camaro, and I doubt I ever will.
More than once, though, I’ve taken my Winston for granted. A few years ago I had the opportunity to start reviewing fly fishing gear on a consistent basis, and for a while I fished more review-model rods than ones I’d purchased myself. From Orvis to Hardy and every maker in between, I fell headfirst down the rabbit hole. Without a girlfriend, wife, kids, or other costly relationship to stop me, I bought new fly rods with reckless abandon.
A Tom Morgan Rodsmiths 8’6″ 5wt, Winston IM6 8’3wt, Winston pre-IM6 8’6″4wt, Winston Nexus 9’7wt, Orvis Helios 2 8’6″5wt, Fenwick Fenglass 6’3wt, Winston WT TMF 8’4wt, and some miscellaneous bamboo and graphite rods later, I hadn’t really fished my Boron IIIx for a while.
So earlier this year, after finishing reviews on new rods from Hardy, I picked up my old friend and set out for the Green River.
I cut my teeth on the stretch of river below Flaming Gorge Reservoir. Not long after I bought my Boron IIIx I took it to the Green for an outing that’d really break the rod in.
Two and a half days of fishing yielded exactly one rainbow trout. No other bites, missed fish, or trout taking my fly and tippet with them upstream. Just one bite, and one fish.
Of course my buddy Mike stood 30 or 40 feet away and put fish after fish in the net, but that’s just how Mike is.
This most recent trip to the Green, though, stands out not because I caught a lot of fish, or a particularly large one at that. Rather, as I walked the well-worn trail from Little Hole up to Coney Island, I sight-fished to rising trout. I felt the rod come alive in my hands, and after the dozenth fish in two hours I sat down for a bite to eat and some water.
I glanced at the Winston, gleaming in the sunlight, and cracked a grin.
That day felt like fishing with my oldest and dearest friend. And in a way, that’s entirely what happened.
Spencer Durrant is a fly fishing writer, outdoors columnist, and novelist from Utah. His work has appeared in Field & Stream, Hatch Magazine, Sporting Classics Daily, TROUT Magazine, and various other national publications. Find him on Twitter/Instagram, @Spencer_Durrant.