The family all sat around in the living room discussing numerous things including the preparations for my father’s funeral. Everyone’s emotions were so on the surface as we laughed and cried about our beloved Dad. Somehow the topic came up about how we would handle selling Dad’s things for my Mom.
In tears I said to everyone, “I will sell Dad’s fishing stuff, but there is one thing that I want if I can find it. When I took Dad fly fishing for the first time at Birch Creek, he bought us these matching yellow Eagle Claw Rods with Pflueger Reels from Walmart. I gave mine to Scotty a long time ago, but I would love to have Dad’s to remember that special day.” Mom readily agreed to let me have it.
In my book, Heaven on Earth: Stories of Fly Fishing, Fun & Faith, in the chapter, “The Teacher is Taught,” I wrote about when Dad bought us these wonderful rods 15 years ago:
Shortly after I pulled into my parent’s driveway in Rupert, Idaho, Dad declared to me with a huge grin on his face, “I’ve got a surprise for you.”
As I sat on the porch, he came outside with two brand new seven and a half foot yellow Eagleclaw fly rods, two Pflueger Medalist reels, and two green Cortland lines, which he had purchased at Walmart for this very occasion, one for him and one for me. As we put the rods together and wound the line on the reels, I was excited about the prospects for the morning and the chance to spend some quality time with my favorite outdoor companion. We naively thought they were the best rods money could buy as we practiced casting on the lawn. Dad caught on to casting pretty quick. Throughout the night, I felt like a kid eagerly waiting for Christmas morning . . . .
We went on to have a banner day of fishing the next day at Birch Creek and Dad was hooked on fly fishing for the rest of his life. From then on, we shared that passion.
As I acquired better rods (most were gifts from Dad), I soon lost the appreciation for the Old Yellow Rod and ended up giving mine to my brother Scotty so that he too could learn the joys of fly fishing. Over the years, however, I began to realize the underlying value of what I had so quickly given up and the connection it had to my father and wished I still had the Old Yellow Rod.
The weeks following the funeral, I looked high and low for Dad’s matching rod and reel, but it was nowhere to be found. My brother Jake found a Yellow Eagle Claw rod with a Pflueger reel out in the shed that looked a little like the rod and at first, I even thought it was. However, as I looked closer, the rod was the wrong weight and it was too long. I began to suspect that my generous Dad had given the Old Yellow Rod away to another newcomer to the sport and that I’d never see it again.
Over the Fourth of July, my family went to Rupert for the holiday and the Wayment family reunion. Tuesday night, Robbie reported to me that his father-in-Law, who had purchased my parent’s camp trailer, found a rod in the trailer that was stored in a Sage metal rod tube. I found that interesting because I had looked through the trailer for rods and reels before it sold, but I did not see any.
Curious to know which rod it was, I asked Robbie to bring it over Wednesday night so I could see it. Upon receiving it, I pulled it from the white Sage rod tube and instantly recognized it as the counterpart to my Old Yellow Rod and still attached was the Pflueger reel with green Cortland line. The Old Yellow Rod had aged well as it looked almost as new as the day Dad fished it at Birch Creek all those years ago. As I held it in my hands again, it transported me to that special day; I reminisced about Dad running up the creek bank with the Old Yellow Rod in hand and his net bulging with trout wearing a smile the size of Texas. I raved about how excited I was to find it.
“This is a real treasure to me!” I stated emphatically with tears in my eyes.
Mom then said, “Andy, you better quit or you’re going to make me cry.” She again agreed to let me have it.
The following day Scotty and I took two of Scotty’s boys, Easton and Steele, his two daugthers, Hadley and Avery, and two of Robbie’s sons, Carson and Nate, fishing to a spring creek, I call “Joshua Creek,” after my nephew, Josh (although that is not its real name). Dad too loved to fish this tiny creek during his life. Our hope was to catch a few trout with the kids. Of Course, I opted to fish with the Old Yellow Rod. In some ways the trip seemed like a pilgrimage.
Upon arrival, we found the creek in bad shape because of numerous cattle that had trampled its banks into oblivion. However, the water was still ice cold and held brown trout in decent numbers–although not like in years past.
The young boys, Carson, Nate, Easton and Steele, all opted to follow me because maybe they thought I was the guy who knew what he was doing. As I handled and cast the Old Yellow Rod, it had an instant familiarity. I cast into a narrow grass-lined run and got a short drift of about a foot and a small brown trout pounced on the fly. I handed the rod to Nate and he reeled in his first trout ever. Yep, the boys followed the right guy!: I thought to myself.
However, as the good book says, “Pride goeth before the fall.” The next hour I spent the majority of the time snagged up in the weeds, busting off and retying on flies, pulling my sandals out of the mud, and swatting horseflies. Needless to say, the boys soon got bored with the so-called mighty fisherman. Scotty decided to take the kids to shoot my .22, but I was not ready to call it quits on the Old Yellow Rod or this beloved, decimated stream.
I continued to work upstream to where the creek runs up against the hillside. On the left-hand side the bank is choked with ten-foot high willows and on the right-hand hillside, the quakies come right down to the stream. Most of this area is unfishable for all of the foliage. I climbed my way upstream through the thick maze hoping to soon find a fishable stretch. As I stepped around a bend, I spied the perfect looking run. I cast the caddis fly about ten feet ahead of me, let it drift down, and a nice sized brownie pounced on it. Though I was by myself, I hooted and hollered with glee as I brought the buttery brown to hand. Over the next few minutes I caught a few more browns and rainbows, which made my whole morning. I walked back down the road with a smile on my face.
When I got back home, I sent a few photos of the day to Shawn and I told him that we found Dad’s Old Yellow Rod. Shawn, who, as of late, has fallen in love with fiberglass fly rods, texted me and asked, “What’s the make of that rod? Is it glass?”
“I don’t know. I’ll have to check it when I get back from tacos.” I replied.
After I checked the rod, I wrote back, “I think the rod is glass. It’s Eagle Claw, but made by Wright & McGill. Sure looks like glass.”
Shawn responded back, “I know on the glass rod Facebook page there were people looking for that rod.”
While I thought that was pretty cool, I do not pretend to be a glass rod aficionado. It’s a great little rod, whatever the make. Frankly, I don’t really care what the rod is made of; it could be a willow switch and it would still be priceless to me. In fact, I have no qualms with saying that of all the rods that I own (most of which were given to me or inherited from Dad and some of which, including my bamboo rod, are dang nice), this one means the most to me because of its history with Dad. The Old Yellow Rod is a true treasure.