Some view my love for fish and fishing as excessive. To other fly fishers, it is normal. It is a recessive trait in my family as there aren’t too many others as driven to fish as me. Fortunately, my grandchildren appear to have the fishing gene.
As a kid, I was blessed with relatives that understood and fostered my passion for fishing. Trips with Dad, Pop Pop and Uncle Bud were always a thrill. I love fishing with my grandkids and recently fished with my older grandsons for a few days.
This particular fishing time with the boys was made even more special by a friend of mine, Bob McKeon, and his loan of two bamboo fly rods. Bob is the editor of the Desert Flycasters’ Newsletter and a fabulous artist. He has illustrated several well-known books on making bamboo rods and aquatic insects. He has even illustrated a children’s book.
Bob contacted me and said that he had two fly rods that “needed some fishing.” They had been resting too long under his bed and longed for the bend of a well-placed cast and the tug of some hefty fish. His only request for the loan was that I provide him with some photos of the rods in action.
I have some treasured bamboo rods that belonged to my uncle that I have yet to introduce to Owen and Ayden. They are nine-foot rods and are heavier than the modern fly rods that the boys fish with regularly. I know that they will treasure them some day as I do, but I wanted their first experience with a bamboo rod to be fun.
The rods that Bob loaned me were perfect introductory bamboo rods for the boys, as well as being special. They were built by expert bamboo rod builders, friends and collaborators of Bob. One is a 7’3” rod built by Robert Hoekstra, and the other is a 7’9” rod built by Ron Barch. In addition, both rods are in handcrafted cases built by Ron Barch.
These rods and cases are works of art. They also fit the hands of my grandsons perfectly. Ayden can now say that he caught his very first Gila trout ever on a bamboo rod made by a bamboo rod building master. Owen did not want to put the Barch rod down. He kept saying that he loved how the rod cast his line, and how each fish he caught felt even livelier on a bamboo rod.
Besides successfully fishing for Gila trout, both boys continued to out-fish me on Green Valley Lake too as they pulled in bluegills and crappies at a rate of two to three times better than me.
Ayden was interested in the flies we were using on the East Verde and also one of his favorite flies at Green Valley Lake, so we had our first fly tying session. He tied a couple leeches and zebra midges and was pleased to get a fly box from me to put them in. Later that evening, we went to Green Valley Lake and he had the thrill of catching several fish with a red zebra midge that he tied.
Owen already is a skilled fly tyer, so I supplied them with hooks, beads and materials to make wooly buggers and zebra midges for me. They promised to deliver, at a reasonable fee, all the flies that I will ever need. I look forward to catching fish with these special flies the next time I see them.
When Owen and Ayden come for a visit, it is always fun to watch their skills improve as they become more independent in their fishing. While the boys are familiar with fishing lakes with fly rods, they only get a chance to fish streams with a fly rod when they fish Rim Country streams with me. They are learning to read the water well, and have an excellent sense of where the fish will be, and where they should cast their flies. Both boys have figured out how to mend their line to create a perfect drift and make a great hook set when the fish grabs the fly.
These boys also have a profound respect for the fish and take great care in their release. Passing fishing traditions and skills along to grandkids is a grandfather’s dream.