Bill Hensel aka Bamboo Bill makes his own Bamboo Rods, leaders and flys. He is a Master of the Soft Hackled fly.
Bill Hensel aka Bamboo Bill makes his own Bamboo Rods, leaders and flys. He is a Master of the Soft Hackled fly.
Bill Hensel began making Bamboo Rods in 1996 and is still hand crafting Bamboo Fly Rods. He lives in Pine Grove, Colorado.
Bamboo bill Rods : http://bamboobillrods.com/stage/index.html
Nestled in the mountains located in Pine Grove, Colorado, Master Hensel teaches private lessons
in self defense though the Tracy’s Kenpo system.
Master Bill Hensel demonstrates Tracy’s Kenpo with his students in 1990.
Master Hensels web site is: http://pinekenpokarate.com
In Search Of Starlight Creek
A work of Fiction – Another Rick Jason story
It had been a hot August night and Rick sat outside with one of his best friends and old time fishing companion. This took place in a small dieing town in Eastern Colorado and they talked a long while. Rick had made his friend a Bamboo Rod and had spent the better part of a month out at his friends place making the rod. The rod was done and it was time for Rick to travel on. With 500 bucks to his name, thanks to a friend back east who wired him the money Rick was to set out for the East Coast the very next morning.
So the next morning Rick set out with his little popup camper and what rod making tools he owned and some bamboo in search of a new life that would also have Smoky Mountain trout laced in. The West had been kind to Rick but like most people he had taken his my share of punches and felt that a change in geography would be good. You could say he was an Angler at lose ends. In a small envelope on his dash was 100 bucks that his friend had slipped into the truck the night before. As he drove away a tear came to his eye and then a smile wiped across his face.
He was lonely in a way he could not pin down and had been that way most of my life. There was one guy who seemed to touch his heart and soul and that was a writer who wrote a few books that had fly fishing in them. All the loved ones in his life had moved on and he felt alone especially after old man Wong had died. This writer spoke to these issues in a way that made him realize there were others like him. Only his books helped with the pain of life. He and Rick suffered the same malady. They were both addicted to fast mountain streams, mountains and trout. The both loved bamboo fly rods.
So Rick drove out of eastern Colorado and dropped down into Oklahoma and from there he wondered into North Western Arkansas and felt the immediate press of the Boston Mountains. He was in no hurry to make it back East, in fact he was attempting to discover the mystical creek that Harry had written about; its name was Starlight Creek. Perhaps if he found Starlight Creek his pain would be would ease a bit. He wanted to get as close to Harry as he could. He wanted to fish the mystical creek. Maybe his ghost might pay him a visit…anything was possible. Though none of those possibilities seemed likely but there was always hope.
He pulled into Harrison and stopped by a little cafe for a cup of coffee. He started asking a few questions about Harry and the lady who brought him coffee over to his table came back when she had time and sat down at the table. She brought two pieces of lemon pie over, one for her and one for Rick. She said, “Ain’t nothing like good old fashioned Lemon pie for a traveling pilgrim”. She had been to Colorado when she was younger so naturally she wanted to talk about Colorado. She said, “So you want to know about that writer, Middleton and Rick said, “yep I kind of do, you know anything about him?” She said ,”she had a pretty young pretty that was his distant cousin that was a waitress down at a bed and breakfast not to far from the cafe”. After the pie was eaten they had small talk that centered on the little town of Harrison and when they finished their pie she walked behind the counter and called the girl. She came back and said her girl friend would meet Rick at the such and such bar at 10pm that night. The waitress asked Rick if he wanted to pull his truck up in her yard for the night. Rick said, “Sure” and she said, “we will be having spaghetti and Rick was invited for supper. Her husband would love to see one of your fishing poles”.
Rick wondered around town and asked some questions. No one seemed to know who he was asking about and none of them had read any of Harrys books. Around 6pm he wondered into a bar for a beer and had an interesting chat with a real old timer. He was about 80 years old as far as Rick estimated. Seems the old man had read the book. He said that Rick needed to drive down into Marble Falls and poke around down there. He had said he personally new the developer of the theme park down in Marble Falls area back in those days. The old man mentioned his name and said he actually spends his summers in Colorado these days. Had Rick heard of him? Rick said “no”. The old man mentioned in a stoic tone that people don’t want to remember Dog Patch because too many people lost their shirts on that deal. He said you might find the creek and drew a little map that showed some little ponds near the creek, on the property that the theme park had existed on years ago. Rick bought him another round of drinks said thanks to the old man and headed back to the waitress’s house and had dinner with them. Then after a delightful dinner he headed over to the bar to meet the girl who was the cousin of the dead writer.
She was red headed and would be wearing a blue skirt with a red blouse. Rick walked through the door and wondered over to the bar and asked the bar tender if she was around. He got a big smile on his face and pointec over in the back corner of the bar. She was sitting at a table all by herself and she waved and Rick walked over. She stood up and shook his hand. Her hand was warm to the touch and she had a confident grip. She had green eyes and was a good looking lady maybe about 30 he would guess. She was too young for him or was she? She was drinking a scotch so he bought her another and ordered a beer for himself. The story she told was interesting. Seems, she had been at a few family get togethers and Harry had been there too. She said he was a quite guy and nobody talked much about his book. “The Earth Was Enough” wasn’t that the title. She said she had it in her purse. She pulled it out and handed it to me. Harry had signed the book for her. Rick thumbed through it hoping to see another clue. She said that Harry’s aunt was at the family get togethers aslo. The aunt mentioned that Harry had given one of his books to his grand father. He had hand written a note that said something like, “Grand dad you would have liked these guys”…That was one of the first major clues Rick had to go on. She said, “There was an older guy, some guide from down near the White river who came up to Harrison with his wife and stayed at the bed and breakfast. She said he had been a guide for Harry and had asked some questions too. Seemed he wanted one of Harry’s books since he had guided Harry a few times. She had ridden down to Marble Falls and snooped around a bit. She said people just did not know much so she ended her search. Not being a fisherman she said her interest was possibly to light. She was impressed that Rick would travel so far. They spent the rest of the evening dancing and they rode down to Marble Falls the next morning. They ended up sneaking into the old dilapidated Dog Patch theme park and even caught a few trout in a pond there. The creek that ran through the valley was probably the mystical creek. Rick located a spot that was cold enough for trout but not to impressive. They drove back to Harrison and she left Rick a hand written note with instructions not to read it until he was down on the Buffalo River where he had planed to go next. She gave him a big hug and kisses that left Rick a bit dizzy. Her last comments were, “sometimes the truth doesn’t set you free if you won’t make an effort to let it… Perhaps Starlight Creek exist in many places. Therefore it might just be a place that you hold close to your heart even if you never actually go there”
Rick looked in his side mirror and saw an old Chevy pickup following him as he drove out of Harrison. He had seen the same pickup off in the distance when he and the girl were snooping around Dog Patch down at Marble Falls.
When he arrived at the Buffalo River he pulled off the rode and sipped on a cold Root Beer and reached for the envelope containing the note the girl had left for him. It said:
I hope this information helps you in your search. I only hope it doesn’t ruin your love for the stories in the book The Earth Is Enough. As far as I know what I’m going to tell you is true. Harry’s grandfathers name was Travis Jones. He was not a hunting or fishing type of person and he never owned a ranch. In fact Harry had spent some summers with him. Travis was a highly religious man and I for one wonder if Harry was a bit sorry that his grand father who he loved so much did not fish or hunt etc. and probably felt a bit of pressure applied to him regarding religion. I could be wrong about this. I think that’s why the grandfather in the story basically saw life without a Personal God and therefore the Earth was enough. Also, Travis Jones out lived Harry. Remember in the book, in the last chapter Harry travels back to see the three old men’s grave. Well, Travis Jones would have been alive if that part of the story happened. Oh yes, I once asked Harry’s father if he had ever read the book The Earth Is Enough and he said “no he hadn’t”. I thought this was strange but actually I don’t think Harry had a good relationship with his father so maybe his father was ashamed of him because he did not enter the military. Who knows? If I find out more I’ll let you know. Take care my pilgrim, I already miss you.
Rick camped at a camp site along the Buffalo River. The next morning he hiked along the river and caught a few small sun fish. They came nicely to his spiders. The small mouth was not there. He was amazed at the beauty of the Bluffs that hung over the river. He wished he had his canoe with him. That day was an interested one and Rick had even seen a small heard of Elk and some wild pigs.
That night he had a small camp fire out side his camper. A couple from Texas came over to join him. They shared stories of Colorado trout fishing and everyone had a great time. The guy’s wife had a smile that reminded him of an old girl friend back in California. Around mid night the couple wondered back to their camp site. Rick sat there with his dog by his side poking at the coals that were still red hot.
That next morning Rick headed up toward the White River. He had heard that Harry’s guide was somewhere around there. Maybe, just maybe Rick might run into him. If not, that was ok he wanted to fish the famous White River down below Bull Shoals. As luck would have it Rick stayed at a fish camp and the owners let him camp for free. They had great respect for his bamboo rod making skills. So he stayed two nights.
The fishing on the White River was superb in every way a fly fisherman could ask for. Rick was able to catch a dozen Brown trout 16 inches and up over the two days. He especially enjoyed the fog that rose from the river in the morning. He had mentioned that to the owners of the camp that he was looking for a specific guide and they thought they knew who he was talking about. They said,” that would be Jack and they would call Gaskins, other fish camp up river from them and ask if he had guided Harry”.
Sure enough Jack was the guide. Jack said he would meet with Rick at a local pub. Rick set off for the pub and happened to look in his side mirror and low and behold that old Chevy pickup was following him. He turned into the Pubs parking lot and noticed the truck drove on by real slow like. Rick could not get a good view of the driver. Now Rick was suspicious and knew he was being followed by someone in the truck. The whole adventure regarding Starlight Creek was beginning to look like something very interesting was going to happen. The girl up in Harrison had left her phone number and outside the bar was a phone both so he gave her a call. They had some small talk that lasted a couple of minutes and they said their goodbyes. He told her he would call her again after he spent some time up Deep Creek.
Rick walked into the bar and quickly noticed Jack the guide. He was wearing a hat with flees all around the hat band. They had a few beers and a couple of shots. When the whiskey hit, Jack told Rick that his wife had called the family when they found out Harry had died. The person that answered the phone said that everything Harry wrote was a lie and that they all hated fly fishing…then hung the phone up. Jack said, in his mind he did not think that Harry died the way everyone said. Rick asked, how do you think he died? Jack in a stoic tone of voice said, Rick leave it alone just leave it alone. Rick then asked him if he thought he knew where Starlight Creek was. Jack said, it’s my guess that it was Mill Creek and that Harry actually had made up the mystical Starlight Creek that it might be a composite of many creeks that he had fished. Jack then got up and shook Rick’s hand. Then he reached in his pocket and pulled out a small bone handled bodkin and gave it to Rick as a gift. Rick looked at the small tying tool and said, “Thanks, in fact thanks for everything. Jack left out the front door. Rick sat back down and ordered another beer and spent the next half hour listening to the country band that was just starting to play music. He thought to himself, wow this trip is really getting interesting. He looked at the beautiful bone handle bodkin before he put it into his shirt pocket. Rick got up and walked outside the bar and looked sky ward and saw some stars making it through.
The next morning he left the fish camp and headed for the Smoky Mountains. There was no sign of the pickup and he was relieved. He pulled up to the Deep Creek camp ground and got his outback camp permit. The old lady in the booth who gave him the outback pass said to him, you staying up there for 5 days all by your self. Rick said yep if all goes well. She said make sure you hang your food up high the bears have been coming out a lot. He asked her if she had heard of Harry Middleton. She said well yes, he was that writer who wrote such a nice book about the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. She said once she even gave him one of his outback passes. Other than that she did not know anything about him. He seemed like a quite kind of guy.
The first part of the hike was fairly easy but then Rick reached a point on the trail that one had to pull himself up a rope about five feet. Shadow wondered around and found another route, she was good at that. When Rick finally got up the rope he noticed it was tied with a slip knot so he retied it with a safer knot. He realized how lucky he was that the knot hadn’t pulled lose. He thought to himself, “You would think a backpacker or Park ranger would know how to tie a good knot”. .he shook his head and mumbled dumb f….Kers under his breath. Cussing was one of his bad habits. One that was hard to break. He was no angel.
The second night on Deep creek took him up to about 7 miles in. He had caught some nice brown trout and had released them all. He was fishing the Lost Creek bamboo rod. It was a little 6’6” 4wt and performed perfect on the small stream. Rick was surprised about how much moss and liken existed on the rocks…it was all over the rocks and in so many beautiful colors. There was nothing like it in Colorado.
The evening came fast and Rick pulled his food up high on the cables that were provided at the primitive camp sites. He started a camp fire and heated some dehydrated food. The sound of the insects was unbelievable. The coffee pot was beginning to percolate when a voice called from the shadows. “You mind if I join you for a cup of coffee, I’m camped over there about 100 feet. If you don’t want any company I just leave you alone”. Rick stood up and said “come on in I have another cup for ya”. The older gentleman held his own cup in his hand. They shook hands.
The old man was full blooded Cherokee Indian. He fished bamboo as well and he had a look in his eye like he had some secret he was hiding and yearning to tell Rick. Rick decided to just let the conversation roll along and see where all this was leading. After a second cup of coffee the old man who by the way was in great physical condition said, “I was on your trial way back in Harrison”. One of the locals told me about you, that you had been asking lots of people questions about Harry and Starlight creek. So I thought I might just see what you were up to. I ain’t got nothing but time on my hands. You see I knew Harry and in fact fished with him now and then. I guess we all enjoyed his books. On the Spine of Time had some truth written into it…a few of the Characters were real people. The girl with the dog was real and the dude from New York was a real person. I fished with the both of them. The money dude was not from New York, he was from the South and had the accent to go with it. Rick now, realized that maybe some of the lose ends might just come together.
The old Indian asked Rick what he knew about Harry and Starlight Creek. Rick told him everything straight up front, thinking if he was in error the old man might take it upon himself to make the corrections. Then again…. perhaps not. Rick had nothing to lose. For all he knew he was on one hell of a Goose chase.
The old Indian went back to his camp and then reappeared with a nice bottle of moonshine. It was really smooth and he confessed that it was of his own making. The old man asked Rick if he could see his bamboo rod and Rick handed him the tube. The Indian slowly twisted the brass cap off and eased the rod out of the tube. His eyes were twinkling as he joined the tip and butt section together. He wiggled it and said, “nice rod pilgrim, the perfect rod for Deep Creek. Harry would of liked this rod. Feels like there are fish in it. Then he said the character named Wonder was real and he fished a three piece bamboo rod that was miss matched. The rod was composed of three sections from different rods. The old man took a long draw off the bottle and said, “that old rod always caught fish”. Harry had the rod in his possession and was going have some rod maker in the North East re-varnish and wrap it with new guides. But I don’t think it ever got re-varnished. Harry had a few dreams that just never came true. He sighed and said, “I guess we all do for that matter”.
Rick said, “ what do you know about his personal life?” The old man said, “ not much, Harry was very secretive. Even his close friends were kept somewhat in the dark, if you get my drift. I do know that he had some rough times in his final years. He could not afford the meds he needed for his depression. I heard from the grapevine he had a friend that let him live in a cabin toward the end of his life. His family life was not good. He needed money badly so he sold all his fly rods and if my memory serves me correctly some lawyer got the rods for a steal. His family might have some of his bamboo rods. Back in those days neither of his boys were interested in Fly Fishing. He had a favorite creek that he liked to fish with a lady friend of his. I think they were just good friends not lovers. But the creek they fished together might have been Starlight Creek in Harry’s heart. It might not have been a trout stream but then again it might have been. I don’t think Harry ever had enough time on the creeks. There are some people who claim they see his Ghost up on Hazel creek. He said, “it might be so…but he could not say for sure”. The old man looked at Rick and said, “ perhaps it is all made up and even what I told you tonight is pure smoke and little else”. You know disinformation can lead a guy away from the truth. Some say the government did the same thing with good honest folks that saw UFOs. He chuckled.
The moonshine might have been the cause of the aura that seemed to surround the old Indians head. But there was a glow that Rick could not help but see. The old Indian stood up and shook Ricks hand and said, “enjoy Deep Creek and keep care”. Then he walked off into the darkness.
The next morning Rick was up early and had made coffee. He walked in the direction of where the old man said he was camping. Only there was no one camping there and the ground did not look like anyone had camped there. No foot prints, no nothing. Rick felt a sense of bewilderment and walked back to his camp fire and hot coffee.
Rick fished and hiked up deep Creek the next two days and made it up to Clingmans Dome. He stuck out his thumb and a lady in a Voltswagon bus stopped and picked Rick and his dog up. She was headed back down the mountain in to Bryson and was more than glad to drop Rick off at the trail head to Deep Creek where Rick’s truck was parked. When they pulled to a stop at the trail head she said in a soft tone, “she had a dog once and his name was just plan “dog”. The dog had died about ten years ago and she missed that dog. They had hiked all over the Smoky Mountains together.
Rick walked around to the driver’s side. He shook her hand and thanked her for the ride. The old women in the volunteer shack saw Rick and called for him to come over. She asked, him if he saw any bears while he was up there on Deep Creek. Rick said “no”. but the creek was beautiful beyond words and the solitude was great. She just smiled and said “come back again”. Rick walked over to his truck, Shadow jumped into the cab and they drove off down the road. He would have years to ponder all the information that he had stumbled into. But one thing was for sure, there is a Starlight Creek waiting for every fisherman and it might be just around the next bend. Such is life…it comes and goes …it comes and goes as harry often wrote in his lovely stories. END
For a year I concentrated mainly on my breathing. Did I stumble up against any talisman of knowledge? It all started one evening after meeting a Zen monk some where on the East Coast of this vast country before I was 20 years old. That meeting would change my life forever. ( for more insight read the article “Well Cast” )
After practicing and teaching the Art of Kenpo most of my life, I am left with an empty vessel not felled as much as it was, before I met this monk. I now have fun looking at the illusions of life, much as a child views his first “falling star”. Most poor souls have more of a classical view of life. Perhaps, mine, is simply looking through rose colored glasses.
Though, I take an analytical stand regarding the making of a bamboo fly rod, there is much that floats around in a sea of intuition. My fingers transmit to my mind information that my micrometer does not.
Bamboo rods ask the fly fisherman to listen, to feel its action. Because the action is slower, meaning that it is expressed during a longer time component the caster can gain much kenesetic insight into the cast. Thus accuracy is generally the byproduct of a bamboo rods nature. In time, the caster relaxes more and is less hurried in his motions. This physical manifestation actually offers the practitioner an opportunity to gain insight into the very “moment” and it seeps slowly into and deep into the “marrow” of meaning and understanding.
Consider the “tight focus “that the skillful fly fisherman automatically falls into as soon as his eye is trained on a spot on the water. This focus is so complete in some of us that, it alone frees us from the “illusions of life” that tend to keep us narrow in our thinking regarding: stewardship, love, the entire process of life and death and the highest form of art, simply “life”.
Perhaps everything I have said here is empty with no meaning just another illusion.
Like the handcrafted Japanese Sword, it was thought that the makers soul entered the Sword. So it is with my Bamboo Rods. When a Bamboo Rod that I make is given to another person it is the greatist gift I can give. Most Americans cannot understand the meaning of this last statement.
It is important that a man finds a place, a piece of wildness that he fits into not unlike that of a soft leather jacket. If it happens to be mountains with cold mountain streams then he is sentenced to a life of total addiction. For almost 30 years I lived in the Shadow of Denver and every chance I got that would allow me to slip into the mountains west of the city and I seized it with a total hunger.
I would find myself going as far into the high country as I could. Solitude and wilderness was what I was seeking. Backbreaking hikes into high mountain alpine lakes and streams and long drives back to Denver was the price paid. There was one problem, once back in the shadow of the city, within a couple days I longed to leave once again.
I now live in the foothills of the Rockies 40 miles south west of Shadow City. It was not by accident that I moved here. I fell in love with the streams and the mountains surrounding them. The boulders the size of small houses resting in the streams left me breathless. My addiction is just as bad as it was years ago. The thing is, I no longer have to cope with it, deny its hold on me. Everyday, I feel the press of the mountains; the starlight falls gently in the mountains as does the sunlight that dances so lightly upon the rippling cold mountain streams. So most everyday, I take a fly rod in hand with my companion my dog Shadow and spend a little time on a stream only minutes from my house. The young boy in me is liberated by doing so.
The other morning I hiked into a Falcon breeding area and enjoyed the cool mountain air as I gained elevation. The fog danced below the rocky formations that rose 500 feet above me. Shadows fell gently across the trail leaving me in the feeling “of a wonderland” a reality, another form of paradise. There are so many awaiting the mountain wonderer.
When I am alone on a trail or fishing along a cold mountain stream I am alone but never lonely. Loneliness has something to do with being around other humans that I share nothing in common with. I like the one on one meaningful conversations where there is focus and emotional content.
After a nice lunch and a long deserved nap Rick decided to take a short hike into Falcons nest area. The long silences that are laced into the sport of fly fishing naturally have led many fishermen to bird watching. Over the past two days he had spotted over twenty different birds. The black lab was out in front of Rick being the best guide he could have. It was a nice hike that climbed about 700 feet in elevation above the North Fork. This hike was recommended by his student as a day hike and would be a nice way to kill a little time while waiting for the evening fishing. The Rock formation named the Spirals was the benchmark of the area. There was a spot on the beginning part of the trail that rendered a nice view of the lovely North Fork below. Rick gazed down at the mountain stream. He could see it was sprinkled with boulders the size of VW buses and some were even bigger. He thought to him self the words, “bone yard”. This would be a nice name for this area of the stream. He liked to attach names to sections of streams that he fished. Above and below the bone yard were a couple of nice runs and riffles that provided oxygen and habituate for trout. In his mind he fished one of those sections of the stream. He made a mental note to actually come back to that part of the stream some time and give it a try.
Back at the cabin Rick tied some soft hackle patterns. They were designed as impressionistic flys that might trick a trout into thinking it was a caddis emerger. He had set up his vice on the little table out on the front porch. A black eared Abert Squirrel sat in the pine tree out front and was telling Rick an exciting story of some sort. The lab was sound asleep beside Rick’s chair. Occasionally she would whimper and her little feet would move, she was having another sweet dream. If reincarnation was real, Rick thought he would like to come back as a black lab. It was then that Rick remembered that he had actually had a dream while taking his nap after eating lunch. It vaguely came back to him. The old man that he had met earlier that morning was in the dream. He was fly fishing with a bamboo rod down in the same area that Rick had fished that morning. Then the dream stopped or perhaps Rick just could not remember it any longer. He throat was dry so made his way back into the cabin to grab a root beer. He saw a dusty trail beginning from under the bed extending out into the cabin floor about three feet. It was clear something had been pulled out from under the bed. Rick walked over , got down on his knees and looked under the bed. To his surprise there was a small cedar chest with a leather handle attached to its end. Rick reached under the bed and pulled the cedar chest out into the open room. There were finger prints on the top of the cedar chest. He slowly opened the chest and to his surprise he saw an entire assortment of vintage tackle. On top of the vast assortment of tackle was a silk fly line in absolutely perfect condition. There was a Hardy reel, an old leather fly book that housed dozens of antique wet flys. As Rick mingled through the old fly book he discovered the old flies were snelled with silk gut. They had flamboyant wings made from duck feathers. Most of these flies looked nothing like the natural insects that made their home on these mountain streams. Names like Red Ibis, Silver Doctor, and Rio Grande King came jumping out of the old fly book. Rick had the feeling that he had stepped into a time machine. There was a wicker creel and inside of it was a small locked leather dairy and a leather fishing log with wonderful hand-made drawings of the cabin and near surroundings inside it. Each page was signed CTL and dated. Lovely drawings of mayflies perched on the shaft of a bamboo rod were sprinkled throughout the fishing log. There was one page that had been burnt. Perhaps a hot pipe or cigar had come in contact with it.
Rick spent the next few hours reading the fishing log. The first entry was dated July 2, 1910 and the last entry was September 3, 1935. There were many details of CTLs fishing, that included the time of day, weight of fish and the fly that successfully caught the trout in question. It was obvious that CTL was an educated man and had a fond love for fishing bamboo rods. For he mentioned how his fine Leonard split cane fly rod was bent to the cork when a very large trout was on his line. It was an important fishing rod no doubt. Written neatly in the margin of one page were the words, bamboo is an honest material that never gives out… unlike the old fisherman that I am becoming.
Rick realized that the rod over the door way was the one mentioned in the old leather fishing log. He gently removed the rod from above the door and took it outside for a better look see. It was a lightly flamed rod with red silk wraps. Expertly crafted and there were no glue lines visible along its splines. Located above the hook keeper the initials CTL were written on the shaft. Yes, this was the rod in the log book and the tackle was CTLs as well. It all was making sense after all.
It was getting late and time had slipped by faster than Rick had been aware of. If he would hurry he might be able to catch the last hour of sun light before the sun dropped below the western ridge lines.
He put on his fly fishing shirt that housed all the tackle he would need . He considered himself a minimalist when it came to his approach to fly fishing. Grabbing up his cane rod he and the black lab hurried along the game trail that led down to the stream. A cotton tail and grouse were flushed out. The fishing was good in the twilight of the shallow canyon. He managed to catch a number of nice brown trout before the sun disappeared and a slight chill rippled down through the small canyon. Each trout sent vibrations down Ricks small cane rod into his hands and downalong his arms and each one landed in his heart. After the last trout was caught and released Rick stood quietly and very still in the middle of the stream. This moment was always dear to him and he felt he was standing right outside heavens gate. The moment was filled with memories of old man Wong and his deceased best friend. He had been fishing for the two of them.
When Rick got back to the cabin he made a pot of coffee and sat outside on the front porch. Shadow was on her doggie bed inside, keeping a watchful eye on the front door. Rick wiped down his little bamboo fly rod removing any moisture clinging to the varnished shaft. Rick propped his feet up on the small table and sipped his coffee. He took in a slow breath and released it just as slowly thus relaxing his mind. His mind drifted back to the bamboo rod and the cedar chest inside the cabin. Strange that his friend never mentioned the cedar chest and all the antique tackle residing inside of it. Surely he knew about it or did he? Humm……
Shadow came out onto the porch and stood attentively beside Rick. She was focused on the small dirt road leading away from the cabin. Rick took a long draw on the coffee cup and looked in the direction that the lab was focused on. Perhaps a deer would emerge out of the brush and pine trees. Watching deer was a favorite thing for Shadow to do, she loved these creatures and so did Rick. After the war he had stopped hunting deer.
His coffee cup was empty so he went inside to refill it. He could hear some one talking outside and when he went to the doorway to see what all the commotion was he was astounded to see the old man in the tweed coat petting Shadow. The old man looked up and said, “good evening we met near the stream the other day”. Rick smiled and said, “Sure did but you kind of disappeared into thin air” the old man smiled a big smile, like a kid who had been caught with his hand in the cookie jar The lab brought the old man over to Rick. Rick asked the gentleman if he wanted a cup of coffee. He nodded his head in the affirmative and said “sure would sonny”, “nice evening isn’t it” and sat down in the other wooden chair across from Rick. He reached inside his jacket and pulled out a pipe and lit it. Rick went inside to get another cup of coffee for this guest.
The old man was holding on to Rick’s bamboo rod eyeing it up and down. He then looked at Rick and said, “mighty fine cane rod, are you the maker”? Rick smiled and said “Rick Jason rod maker at your service.” The old man took the cup of coffee that Rick handed to him saying , “thank you” then placing the cup gently down next to the cane rod.
He lifted the corn cob pipe up to his lips and took a couple of long draws on it. Then he slowly blew out a smoke ring that slowly expanded and rose directly above his head. Rick could see a twinkle in his eye as he said, “sonny only three things worth living for and that’s trout fishing with a cane rod, a fine corn cob pipe with fine tobacco and a good dog. All the rest in life is just extra wrappings.”
The old man talked about fly fishing with a reverence, like nothing Rick had ever heard or read about before. He told Rick how he had once owned a fine Leonard fly rod, a three-piece, 9 footer. He mentioned that he was a blood relative of Hiram Leonard himself. He had even worked for a couple of years in his uncle’s shop before they moved it from Maine down to New York State. He said he played a fiddle and that all the workers in the Leonard shop were musicians. He said the early days were the best and he had fond memories from those years making rods.
The old man said, that it seemed to him that fly fishing had been reduced to a bunch of spoiled brats beating the trout with plastic rods. That trout were a noble creature and deserved to be fished and caught on nothingbut a artificial fly and a bamboo fly rod. Anything less just was not acceptable. He did like the idea of catch and release but mentioned he did like to eat a trout now and then. They talked for hours, like long-lost brothers of the angle. A full moon was rising over the eastern ridge of mountains. It lit up the front porch and Rick could see the old mans face clear as a day in the moon light. The wrinkles on his face reminded Rick of the small streams that flowed with fits and starts down the snowy mountains in the high country. Those rings of smoke would just sit over top his head like some type of aura then disappear into thin air. The aroma that attached itself to the smoke was slightly intoxicating. This gave the old man a mystical sense to his being.
The old man leaned forward in his chair and looked Rick straight in his eyes and said, “Sonny you keep making those canerods and make em with only those hand plans leave the bevellers out of the picture. That way your put a little more of your soul into those rods. They will live forever sonny with a little soul attached to them. A good rod todaywill be a good rod fifty to seventy years from now.” Then he slowly got up from his chair and while leaning against the porch railing he loaded up his pipe and lit it. Rick rose from his chair out of gentlemanly respect. The old fisherman slowly extended his hand toward Rick and he shook his hand. He said, “It’s been real nice chatting with another bamboo rod maker such as your self. See you around sonny.”
The old man started walking slowly down the path, he blew out a large smoke ring and it settled directly over his head. The moon light passingthrough it gave it had a hazy blue-green cast. Shadow came and stood by Rick watching the old man walk down the dirt road. Then out of thin air his image slowly weakened and finally disappeared. Only the smell of tobacco and a smoke ring lingered in the cool thin mountain air.
That night Rick dreamed that the old man had come into the cabin and was standing over his bed looking at him, he stared down at Rick and said, “fish the rod now and then Sony, do it for me, old Charlie Leonard.”
The next morning upon waking Rick remembered the dream. He looked up over the door and the rod was gone. He stood up shaking his head wondering if he was really awake or was he still dreaming. He pinched himself just for a reality check. He walked over to the rod tube which was leaning in the corner of the small room. He unscrewed the brass cap and to his surprise the bamboo rod was inside the tube. The cedar chest was pulled out from under the bed and the top was open. The old fishing log was lying on top the silk line and opened to the last page which had been left blank. These words were written on the page, “sonny fish the old girl now and then…fish it for Charlie”.
Slowly as Rick emerged from that grey area of consciousness where one slips in an out of dreams , slowly he became aware of normal reality. The squawking of a Stellar Blue Jay which was standing on the window sell near his bed brought him to full consciousness. The dream he had of an old man fly fishing in a tweed jacket faded away into the canyons of his mind. Shadow his black lab was sitting up right entranced by this lovely blue bird. Rick swung his feet over the edge of the bed, his arms supporting his upper body. The black labs tail was waggling with excitement. Rick said, “Good morning Shadow” and she put her front paws up on top of Ricks bent thighs and gave him a gentle kiss on his cheek. He thought there is isn’t a better way to wake up. A kiss from his favorite animal and the fresh cool mountain air washing over his bare torso, he flexed his developed chest muscles and raised his arms above his head to stretch. Shadow barked letting him know she wanted to go outside and greet her new day.
Rick fired up the propane stove and placed a small pot of coffee on the burner. The sun had not hit his cabin and the wooden floor had a chill to it. Rick walked over to the corner where the rod tubes stood. He picked his tube up and walked over to the front door and placed it just off the dead bolt.
Shadow was barking up a storm so he walked outside and stood on the front porch. There, he saw that she had tree’d a baby raccoon. Rick called to her and she came running over to him and sat on the porch with a watchful eye on the raccoon that was now slowly climbing down from the tree.
Rick went back into the cabin and poured his first cup of coffee, the aroma and fresh mountain air coupled with the bird song was a heady indeed. He cooked up some pancakes, scrambled eggs and cooked scrapple. This gave his black lab and him the perfect start of their fishing day together. They ate their breakfast out on the little porch, the little table was surprisingly stable and Rick thought he would tie some soft hackle flies around noon time. High noon was not the best time to be fishing. Trout shy away from direct sunlight.
He gathered up his little split cane bamboo rod. It was a 7 foot two piece rod made for a number 4 weight line. This rod was special to Rick. It was the first of three bamboo rods he had made with his own hands. It remained his favorite small stream rod. He carried with him his special net, it was a bamboo net made by a noted net maker out on the west coast. He had on a light brown fly fishing shirt that had two nice large Brest pockets. He had all his small stream flies in this one box. It was a Wheatly box made in England and had been a gift from a past girlfriend who he still loved in a special way and probably always would. Rick was what many would define as a minimalist when it came to fly fishing. Carrying a bamboo rod, one box of flies and no fishing vest, just a fishing shirt put him in a pack of his own. He no longer had to catch-all the fish and certainly had no need to be shoulder to shoulder with his brothers of the angle. Actually spending a day poking around a small stream casting his drys and small wet flies was all he really desired to do. An occasional trout on his line was icing on the cake. Never far from his thoughts while fishing were those of his adopted father a Chinese man who had escaped the communist take over of mainland China and come to San Francisco. When he fished; he fished for two other men, Wong and his beloved son also.
Old man Wong was his Sifu San Francisco. He had introduced him to the Chinese Martial Arts and also the fine art of crafting bamboo fly rods. Wong’s son had served on the same Delta force team with Rick during the Vietnam War. His friend got it one night on a recon mission. Once Rick was discharged he met Sifu Wong. Wong spiritually adopted Rick as his own son. Wong son’s last request as he was dieing in Ricks arms was that Rick would go see Wong. It was one of the best things that had ever happened to Rick meeting Wong.
His lab and he walked briskly down the game trail from behind the cabin, it led to the stream. Within a few minutes he was standing above the stream. There was a couple of Boulders the size of houses in the middle of the stream. Above the boulders was a nice long riffle maybe 30 yards long. He could see a large Hawk perched in the top of a Pine tree across from the boulders. He and Shadow found a place to sit down and they watched the stream. It was about 9:30am and Rick could see a small hatch of insects above the riffle. They continued walking down to the stream and heard a loud noise in a bush to their left. Ricks eyes were wide open and Shadow started whining. It was big, maybe a Bear or Deer, Rick could hear the branches breaking as the large animal traveled on up the slope of the mountain. Then as clear as day a large female Black bear appeared with two cubs. Ricks heart rate was elevated and he felt totally alive.
Rick fished the riffle slowly, fishing close at first then probing with his yellow soft hackled fly out farther with each cast. The hatch was good enough that Rick thought a trout might start feeding. He had cast his soft hackle fly up-stream, letting it drift down stream on the far side of the stream. A trout took the fly with a hard hit as it swung across the current below him. He could feel the weight of a good trout on his little split cane rod. An old good time feeling filled his chest and he took in a big breath and slowly exhaled the mountain air. He felt more alive that moment thanhe had for a long time. Within a couple of minutes Rick brought into his streamwalker net a 15 inch brown trout. Thick in the shoulders with bright red and black spots along his sides. This trout had that buttery brown belly that was so appealing. He lifted the trout out of the water and the lab touched it with her nose. Slowly he submerged the beautiful wild fish into the current the trouts head facing up-stream. After 30 seconds or so the trout flexed his tail muscles and he swam slowly out of Ricks hands. The fish disappeared into the dark water and became only a shadow against the light-colored gravel bottom of the stream. There is a very special feeling that Rick gets down deep in his being when he releases a trout. Maybe it was his way of giving life back to another creature. If war was pure hell then fly fishing and releasing a noble trout was pure heaven.
Rick caught another trout, a nice rainbow. He then decided to head down to the two large boulders. A small midge hatch was going on and there were a number of trout feeding in the foam lines created by the boulders.
He positioned him self down stream from these rising trout. Holding his rod under his right arm he changed his fly to a small #20 Griffiths Gnat. He put a touch of fly floatant on the little fly. He then false cast his line away from the feeding trout until he had worked out about the right distance of line that would be needed to cast the dry-fly above the feeding trout. He then cast his dry-fly and terminated the cast with a parachute cast thus dropping the fly soft as cotton seed falling on top of the water. It drifted down on top of the trout closest to him and he picked him off. Rick began picking off each trout that was slightly farther up the stream. There was a large trout feeding at the top of the run and Rick did not want to cast a line over all the other fish to get to him thus scaring them off.
A Red Quill hatch broke out and Rick decided to change his fly to a Red Quill pattern. The fly had been tied beautifully and had that crisp look to it. A few false casts and he put the fly right on top the feeding lane above the large trout. The trout took the fly aggressively and dove deep into the pool attempting get under the house size boulder. Rick put the wood to him, turning his head. The large trout broke out into the main current and headed down stream past Rick. Trying to capture his line and holding his rod high above his head, he watched the big fish swim down stream. Rick gave him line as the large fish leaped out of the water. For a moment, time stood still as the great fish threw the water off his flanks. A small rainbow formed around him. Then the trout hit the water the fight was back on. There were another two runs and each time Rick gave the trout line. After a good ten minutes Rick brought the fish to his Streamwalker Bamboo net. It was a large Rainbow with a beautiful rainbow stripe running down his lateral line of his body. Rick messaged the great fish and watched him slowly swim out of view. Shadow barked one loud bark. She only barked if Rick caught a large fish. The small ones did not merit any reaction other than a nose kiss now and then.
As Rick walked out of the stream upon looking up the game trail that he was intending to take he saw an old man dressed in a tweed jacket and a nice eastern style hat sitting on a felled Evergreen smoking a pipe. He must have been watching the passion play unfold on the stream. He took the pipe from his mouth and said “nice fish sonny, nice looking rod”…Shadow barked at a deer and Rick looked back at her. When he turned his head back to where the old man had been sitting, the old man was nowhere to be found. There was only a circular ring of smoke hovering above the tree he had been sitting on. Rick wanted to say thanks for the compliment. He listened to see if he could hear any sound of the old man walking away. But there was only the quite back ground noise of the forest coupled with the energetic sound of the mountain stream down below. Rick reached into his trouser pockets and pulled out a doggy bone and the lab gobbled it down all the while wagging her tail. Off down the trail they went. The sun was getting higher in the sky and the two of them were getting hungry. Rick kept wondering, where did that old man go to? He just disappeared into the thin mountain air. To be continued………..