Tuesday, May 26, 2020

A fine gift indeed ~ my column for the weekend

I ran by the Riverside Fly Shop this week and had a long sit-down talk with Randy Jackson. He has been my fly-fishing mentor for years. When I first met him, he asked me what I fished with. Stepping back to the truck, I reached behind the seat and pulled out the old Shakespeare fly rod that my dad had given me. He smiled when I placed it in his hand. “This is a fine gift,” he said. I agreed.

It turns out that when Jackson was a boy he had a Shakespeare fly rod too. We talked for a long time about the love of fishing and spending time on the water.

The Shakespeare was the perfect gift to give me, but what I didn’t realize at the time was that by giving me his old fly rod, dad was giving me an even greater gift – the love of fly fishing.

Through the years, I’ve spent countless hours waist-deep in the frigid water below Lewis Smith Dam. There were times I caught fish one after another. I’m a catch and release kind of guy, but there are few things more thrilling than trying to land a beautiful rainbow trout.

Several years ago, when I had some mad money in my pocket, I stopped by the fly shop to look for a new rod. Randy asked me to get the Shakespeare and meet him out back. I demonstrated my casting technique.

Casting an artificial fly that weighs just slightly more than a feather, I could only send it about 20 feet. He then handed me a graphite rod with the same fly, and I sent it twice as far as I did with the old rod. I was sold.

Even though I bought the new rod, I couldn’t stand the thoughts of getting rid of the old Shakespeare.

This week was the 35th anniversary of my dad’s death. I ran by the Green Top and got a BBQ, fries, and a Styrofoam cup of ice tea. Dad loved those sandwiches, but he preferred a cold beer with his.

I decided to visit my dad for a while as I ate my lunch. Heading toward Davis Cemetery, I rolled down the windows on my truck and rested my arm on the door as I drove. If you rode anywhere with my dad in the spring or summer, the windows were down. We had to talk loudly to compensate for the sound of the wind rushing by the open window.

Clicking on my blinker, I turned into the historic cemetery and drove slowly to the top of the hill. The gravel crunched under my tires as I pulled up close to his grave at the top of the hill.

Stepping outside, I flipped down the tailgate and sat down to eat my BBQ. The sun was warm. It’s peaceful in that cemetery. I could hear doves off in the distance.

I sat for a long while and told dad all the news that had happened since the last time I visited. I could almost imagine him asking me if I’d done and fly fishing.

Had he asked, I would have told him that it’s been too long since I last wet a hook.

Finishing my sandwich, I tossed the bag into the floorboard of my truck, and I stepped over to my dad’s grave. As I pulled the grass around the edge of the tombstone, I promised him that Shakespeare and I would be on the water before the end of the week.


  1. It is such a lovely and loving memory.

  2. Your readers gonna love this one. I do admire the fly fisherman, I just never acquired the knack. BUT I have a niece who has a debilitating disease, I do not know it's name, but someone introduced fly fishing to her and she is a master. Something about that cold mountain water gives her strength beyond what the DR can understand. PLUS she had caught thousands of beauties and always releases. She is also beautiful, could be a model but at times cannot walk except in the water with waders where she is a wonder.
    Very good article.
    Sherry & jack.

  3. Oh the memories. My father was a fly fisherman (he made his own flies too). As a child we often followed him along the riverbank with a frypan. When he caught was when we ate. And there is very little which tastes as good as a rainbow trout simply cooked less than half an hour after it was caught. When money was stretched he often went fishing or hunting. Trout (rainbow or brown) was MUCH more welcome than rabbit.

  4. I grew up with an indoor dad. So fishing was not on his radar. But I married a fisherman. He can no longer fish from the bank or wade in the water because of age and medical issues, but turn him loose in his boat and he is the happiest guy on earth. He is a walleye Fisher. Goid eating.

  5. Good to see you got your feet wet and made good on the promise to your dad. That is a great tribute to your dad

  6. Learning to fly fish is on Jack's bucket list. The photo above is really good and says it all...peaceful, beautiful, and keeping a memory alive. Lovely tribute to your Dad. I'm sorry for your loss so many years ago but so glad you have wonderful memories to share here. I bet your readers enjoyed this one!

  7. Not a fisherperson myself but still this was a damn good post


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