People do the same things. The instincts of fishermen find identical paths upstream through the river — watery trails lead to the best water with the greatest efficiency. You can easily see where everybody else fishes. And I guess the flies and tippet-tangles in streamside branches signal that we all make the same casting errors too. Presented with the same problems, fishermen come up with the same solutions, and we make the same mistakes.
That’s all pretty harmless and kind of fascinating. But then there’s that thing we (all) do where we leave our rod on top of the vehicle and drive away. WTF?
I have to stop it. I had a pretty nice run of consistency where I wouldn’t allow myself to lay the rod on the roof rack. I just didn’t do it for a few years — no matter what. But lately I’m back at it: Ya know, I’m just gonna lay this there for a minute. . . My friend, Rene, says things like that open up a new mental pathway. If you make the mistake once, you’ll probably do it again soon enough. This happens to me when I forget the zipper on my pants, too. I create a new bad habit and can’t seem to remember the basics in life. Does the zipper thing happen to anyone else?
It seems everyone I fish with has a tragic story about leaving his rod on the roof of the vehicle. So I wonder, do I just fish with a bunch of dummies, or does this foolishness cross the spectrum of anglers?
My buddy, Sloop, lost the whole deal one day and never recovered it: rod, reel, line, leader. A thousand-dollar investment sliding right off the top of his car as he pulled away. Unaware, he probably had that happy Sloop John B. smile on his face too. He realized it about an hour later. No, it wasn’t in the lot when he went back.
My uncle left his rod on the tonneau cover of his pickup. Again, the whole rig. Got home, unpacked his gear and his heart sank. He never found it either.
Same with Phillip: Rooftop. Forgot. Drove away. Lost and never found.
Darkness makes the chances of recovery worse. Dad and I drove slowly back to camp one night, climbing the long road of dirt and limestone after a good evening of fishing. We dropped the dusty tailgate to unpack, and that’s when Dad realized what had happened. He’d left his fly rod on the rooftop. We spent the next two hours shining dim flashlights and bright headlights into the roadside brush, retracing the path, cursing and hoping. Our situation was better than most because we knew for certain the rod was somewhere within that one mile stretch of road. No one else had gone up or down the mountain and neither had we, so the fly rod had to be there — somewhere. With persistence and some dumb luck, we found the rod and saved the investment.
If you get a little kick out of the misfortune of others (and you know you do) — e.g., if you laugh at your fishing buddy when he falls in the river — then this is all kinda funny when it happens to somebody else.
I’ve never lost mine, but I’ve had some close calls. Last time, I pulled out of the lot at dusk, traveled about fifty yards and heard it fall:
It took me another fifty yards of confusion to realize what happened. Then I stopped the truck in the middle of the road and jumped out. I ran back, raised my arms and frantically flagged down the approaching car behind me. I’m sure I seemed a little nuts, but I got him to stop instead of running over my fly rod.
I really must break this bad habit again. I’ve got to create a new pathway.
Just one question: Where are all the stories of guys finding this lost stuff — new rods and reels, all spooled up and ready to fish? Somebody out there must feel pretty damn lucky.
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N