Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Forget the shotgun, get a fly rod holder!

Staff Writer | August 13, 2020 1:00 AM

Windshield wipers are made for bugs and dust.

In a more perfect world the wipers work hand in hand with fluid that is part detergent and part streak-free glass cleaner, or at least a relative of both.

If it’s a clean windshield you’re after, a slosh of water works in a pinch.

Unless it’s rain water and your fly rods are being held in place by the wipers as you drive.

In that case, things won’t work out for you.

I had a No. 4 Orvis that was light as the longest feather from the tail of a wild, rooster pheasant.

It shared its ochre hue with roasted chestnuts and when you went to whip a fly, it laid your small midge pattern so delicately on water dappled by sipping fish, that shedding a tear was expected.

When they witnessed this phenomenon, fellow anglers stopped to hold their ball caps over their hearts.

“Oops,” my buddy said one day as we headed upriver. The sky which had been sunny one moment, darkened and cut loose the next.

Raindrops like spitballs popped on the hood where the rusty wiper arms and their half-hearted blades — sun and ice chewed from years of misuse — held our fly rods snugly against the windshield.

When my pal snapped on the wipers the fly rods went in different directions, but mostly overboard.

He turned to me and grinned like a seller of used cars who had swallowed a stick of chewing gum.

“Shouldna done that,” he said.

“Probably not,” I replied.

And we backtracked.

The rods were fine.

They were just a little scuffed from the pavement, which was already drying as the sun again came out. Bugs now swarmed from the water as if the cloudburst provided new incentive for them to get out there and dance.

It wasn’t long after that my pal snapped the tip off the Orvis with a car door.

It was my fault, however, and I told him so.

“Don’t worry about it,” I said.

And then I grieved.

On another trip on the same river a fill-in fly rod took the heat. This time a slight drizzle prompted the flip of the windshield wiper switch.

“Oops,” my pal said. “I keep doing that.”

We backtracked and found the fly rods. One was without a tip, but we fished with it anyhow.

Streamer chucking or fly hurling doesn’t have to be pretty and often — as on that day — it isn’t.

It was for this reason that I sat in a lawn chair all afternoon in the sweltering driveway last month waiting for the delivery van.

I was waiting for the arrival of one of the greatest inventions of all time.

It wasn’t American made, but the fact gave me little pause.

The invention was incepted, i.e. birthed and likely conceived in the land of sea trout, the infamous salmo trutta. These are sea run browns so surly it takes a pint, maybe two, to fully wrap one’s head around the concept.

My new rod holders with their magnetic strips that made them cling to a car hood, and fine elastic straps that cinched both rod and cork, were made in Wales.

Britain that is.

I expected Old World craft, and I expected it soon.

The ratty lawn chair was getting the best of me as I sat, shades on, wearing short pants, dangling a flip flop on the end of an untanned foot draped over a knee.

I had tracked the package and it was on its way. To my house.

No more relying on $12 wiper blades to hold fly rods that cost more than that.

No more driving through downpours gritting one’s teeth as a hand flinched, or moved haltingly toward the wiper knob.

No white-knuckle shouts from passengers during a gully washer — “For Gawdsake! Slow down! I can’t see!” — while we raced with a head out the window to the next fishing hole.

Nuh uh.

So when the delivery van drove up, I casually strolled over. I was jittery as a pointer pup, full of adrenaline and anticipation.

“How’s it going?” I said.

It was rhetorical.

The man rummaged in the back of the van.

Then he rummaged some more. I heard boxes being tossed and a long sigh.

Then he came forward, sat in the driver seat of the toaster-shaped van with its open, sliding door and reliable emblem, and said, “I got nothing.”

“Yes, you do.”

He sensed my urgency.

My teeth chattered and my knees started to knock.

“What you waiting for?” He asked.

“Fly rod holder,” I barely knit the words together. “It is supposed to be here today.”

“You going fishing?” He asked.

I nodded and uttered the sacred words: “A week on the river.”

He knew then.

His gazed bored into my pupils, and he rose from his spring seat and went to the back of the van again to rummage some more. Minutes later he returned and handed a battered package — all the way from Wales — down to me.

“Sorry I couldn’t find it earlier,” he said. “Summer help never puts things in their place.”

Somewhere I think a bell tolled.

“Thank you,” I said.

“Good luck fishing,” the man said and before he accelerated, he paused.

We shared a requiem for broken fly rod tips, rain showers, bugs and dust.

He nodded, and then drove away leaving me standing in a cloud of exhaust looking skyward, with my ball cap held over my heart.

Then I bolted into the garage to slap the holder to my hood and unwrap the rods.


Ralph Bartholdt writes from North Idaho. He can be reached at ralphbartholdt@gmail.com