"This is how we used to catch trout on the Laramie River, Zak" my grandpa told me. He was referring the hackle wet fly that he pulled out of an old rusty tackle box that was stuffed in the corner of his Pittsburgh basement in the house he and my grandmother purchased for a mere $10,000 back in the 1930's and resided in until this past year. I remember looking at that fly and thinking 'man, that thing has to be 50 years old. In fact it was 60 years old haha. There was a whole pile of fishing stuff there. Old reels, cat gut fly tippet, old fly line, some spoons, old fishing line, etc. He pulled out an old Montegue 2-piece bamboo fly rod and a Shakespeare 'Tony Accetta Model" bamboo spinning rod, both made in the 1930's. He told me the story of how when he was young he and his buddies, growing up in Wyoming, would read fishing stories from champion fly caster Tony Accetta. I used to be fascinated by how things must have been out west in the 30s and 40s. Lots of stories about days trout fishing in the 'Snowy Range' section of Wyoming. The adventures seemed so spectacular for a young boy such as myself. Heck, he used to take his shotgun to school with him and during recess he and his buddies would walk out in to the prairie and shoot jack rabbits which, apparently, were quite plentiful. My my how things have changed I suppose. The last time he trout fished was in 1956 shortly after moving from Wyoming to Pittsburgh. At least a dozen times he told me about the story of 20-30 anglers lining the stream that he could never recall the name of. He was about 34 at the time and said that he's never seen so many people fishing the same spot. Coming from Wyoming, a state about double the size of Pennylvania, but with a population of only a little more than 200,000 at the time...it was no surprise to hear this. Needless to say he was completely turned off and only fished on his rare trips back out west to visit family after that. He remains a fisherman at heart, however, and in more recent times I've become the story teller. I'll never forget how he would and does look at me with a lot of puzzlement in his eyes at my tales of hundred trout days, spinners, large fish, and wilderness adventures. Somehow I think that all he ever sees in his head is that crowded day back in the 1950's and wonders how I deal with it haha.
Back to that day in his basement in the 80's. After showing me all that tackle and rods, and knowing my love for trout fishing at the time, and fly-fishing to be exact, he told me that he wanted me to have it all since he as done using it. I was excited and honored. I put those rods and that tackle box in a safe place and although I would look at them annually when I came across them I never really considered anything more than that. That was until the last time I cleaned out my garage in early September. As I reached back on the second shelf of my work bench and saw the old dusty brown vinyl rod case a little spark went off in my head. I pulled out the 70+ year old bamboo rod and decided right then and there, "I'm going to fish with this thing!". So with that I hashed my game plan.
As we all know the weather has been atrocious for trout fishing this fall. With only a few exceptions, water has been entirely too high for the longest period of time I can ever recall. We're 17" above normal on the year so finding a window to make this trip happen was a real struggle. Finally I found the right day in late October and off I went. As I drove up the highway I wondered if the rod was going to hold up after all these years of not being used. I specifically chose a stream where the likelihood of catching a very large trout wasn't good. While I wanted to fish with the rod I really didn't wanna break it haha. A storm system was approaching so I was greeted by one of the most amazing skies I'd ever seen when I arrived. It was like fire in the sky...
The stream was flowing perfect and I quickly suited up and got ready to go. I was relieved that my modern day spinning reel fit the very small vintage reel seat. The rod was a comfy 5' so the length was familiar. The action of the rod was pretty 'slow' and not at all like the Xfast action on my normal custom made spinner rod. "I'll make it work" I thought to myself. My first cast showed that the stream was full of aggressive fish as I got a savage strike that I promptly missed. several other trout followed that same retrieve all the way in. I proceeded to miss trout after trout as I tried to get my footing with the different rod. Finally at the top of the pool the rod doubled over and I was into the rods first trout in long long time. It fought the fish smooth and softly all the to hand. I scooped the trout up with excitement and couldn't wait to get a pic to show grandpa.
After the rough start I settled in and started to figure out the 'spring' to a bamboo rod. It's a much different feel from graphite to be sure. Once I had the action down I as able to enjoy the lovely fall morning a bit more.
The fishing was excellent too! Trout were hitting often and aggressively. I couldn't have asked for anything more.
Even though I wanted to fish a lot longer a phone call from my daughters school about her being in the nurses office put an end to that. None the less the several hours I spent with a little piece of family history was worth it's weight in gold.
After I got home I sent all the photo's along with a story to my aunt to take to my Grandpa to share. I'm looking forward to heading back for Thanksgiving to really break it all down for him. At 96 he's not going to be around much longer so my hope was that this put a smile on his face and gave him something to take him back a 'few' years ;-) The guys been my fishing hero ever since I was old enough to listen. He along with my Dad are the reason I have such a passion for the outdoors. I hope this story warms his heart.