Skip’s Loose Threads, May 1, 2023

It’s been a brutal Winter! Too much snow, too much cold, too much inside. About all you can do is organize fly tying stuff, put parafin on already lubricated ferrules, and think about prior years when Winter fishing was fun and possible. I remember a Winter day on the South Branch of the Root when I found out that felt soles are a magnet for snow. Every step I took, I gained an inch in height! At least until my added length made it impossible to stand.

A few days past, I was looking at my fly rods, wishing I had the Sage 4711LL which now belongs to my younger son who lives in Colorado. At that time, I also owned an ultra light weight Sage 279LL which had a ring and hood reel seat, instead of the screw-locking one installed on the 4711LL, and that memory caused me to recall an incident where it failed.

Several years ago, I was in Aspen, Colorado to play the harpsichord in performances of all six of Bach’s Brandenburg concertos. I had been asked by my violinist friend Jaime Laredo to join him in this project. I had been to Aspen before, and was aware of the free trolley that made a round trip through town every half hour or so. At the end of the trolley line was Slaughterhouse Road, where a stone foot-bridge spanned the Roaring Fork. One bright, sunny afternoon, when rehearsing was done, I gathered my fishing gear, stepped onto the trolley, and was driven to the bridge. The trolley man asked me when I would be done, and I asked him when his last trip to the bridge would be. He said 9pm, and I told him I would be at his turn-around spot at that hour.

When I arrived, PMD spinners were laying eggs in the shadows that the bridge cast on the water, little yellow mayflies dancing vertically under the stone arch. I had brought two rods in my case: the Sage 4711LL and an almost eight-foot two weight, a Sage 279LL. Pretty soon I was thigh-deep in the Roaring Fork, casting to rising Rainbows under the bridge. I had an audience, too…hikers on the footpath parallelling the river stopped to watch. I’d tied on a long 6X tippet, and had turned the two pawls in my reel to provide the least possible resistance to a hooked fish. The reel was a Hardy-built Orvis CFO123. I had just hooked my third trout, when the hooded butt cap fell off the rod into the water, followed in quick succession by my reel and the little knurled ring that secured the front reel foot. I reached for the line, and with the rod tucked under my arm, managed to net and release the fish. I could see the reel in the clear water, but every time I moved my feet, the water clouded up. The audience was getting larger, with a few scantily-clad teenage nymphs just downstream of me. I started to pull on the fly line, but the reel on the bottom just revolved and let out more without moving. I hoped my fly line to backing knot was good. I wondered how much backing was on the reel. I tried to spot the butt cap and ring in the water to no avail. Eventually, after ten minutes or so of frustration, I just reached down with my right arm and picked up the reel off the bottom, retreated to shore thoroughly soaked, thankful for the warm sun, even though all the bugs were in the deep shadow. Still wet, I made it back to town on the next trolley. The trolley man laughed when I told him my story. When I got back to the Twin Cities, I sent the little rod to Sage on Bainbridge Island to be refitted with a new butt cap and knurled ring. Cost me eighty bucks. To this day, I don’t know why the glue under the butt cap decided to dry out. Was it the altitude? By the way, the Bach Brandenburgs went very well, thankyou. 

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