It was innocent enough. The Little League field is right out back behind my house. I was walking Carter to the entrance for a Saturday morning of fall ball, and we only had to pass my neighbor’s house on the left before we’d be through the gate and the sounds of kids and baseballs smacking leather gloves would take over the rest of the morning. But most things happen innocently enough I suppose. As we walked past the house, we saw the garage sale set up. Harmlessly enough my eyes scanned the few tables and odds and ends as we walked by. At first my eyes caught sight of what I thought was a nice wooden book shelf. My collection of books on anything to do with fishing has filled the one book shelf I own, and I’d been thinking of adding another in the living room. You can never have enough books on fishing, but you can have too little shelf space for them. But on closer inspection, it wasn’t a book shelf at all, it was a nice wooden gun cabinet. I didn’t need a gun cabinet, I needed a book shelf. So my eyes kept searching as we walked.
Then they fell on the card table closest to the open garage. I suggested to Carter that we cut through the garage sale to get to the baseball field gate. The suggestion may or may not have been motivated by the table full of old fishing rods surrounded by a small pile of tackle boxes. This is where innocently enough turns into intent. I ended up walking Carter back to the field, then running back home, driving the Jeep over to the gas station to get money out of the ATM, and adding two more fly rods and an old rod tube with several old and disheveled bamboo rod tips inside it to an already obnoxious tangle of antique fishing rods of both the spin and fly fishing genres. Honestly, I use the word antique for two reasons. For one, yes, they all range in age from fairly old to pretty old. But for the other, well, antique sounds a lot more sophisticated than a bunch of old worthless rods that no one else wanted but are too old and ratty to use.
This type of thing’s been going on now for months. Before the divorce, I had one little room in my house that I had stuffed with all my fishing paraphernalia. Now I’ve got my own house. A whole house. I bought a small house because I didn’t need much room. So what have I done? Filled it with everything and anything that would follow me home that has something, anything to do with fishing. I thought the worse thing about a divorce was the divorce. Now I’m thinking the worse thing about being divorced is not having anyone to tell me no.
I’ve got four corners in my living room. But I’ve got old rods standing upright in five. There’s a narrow shelf above my coat rack in the kitchen, it spans the length of the wall. When I filled it with old whiskey bottles shaped like fish, I went and acquired a corner shelf from a buddies garage and stuck it in the dining room so that I’d have more room for the other fishing themed whiskey bottles that wouldn’t fit in the kitchen.
I haven’t come across and old fly reel that I didn’t like yet. And by like, I mean bring home. Don’t even ask about the curio cabinet full of ancient rotten wooden lures and bait caster reels full of old black nylon line. And yeah, those two Wheatley fly boxes full of old flies hanging over my writing desk? I found them in two large cardboard boxes full of “stuff” ranging in anything from the old Florida fly fishing club patch to the some old and musty rooster capes that I had to throw out after exhuming them from their resting places in the bottom of the boxes.
But I’ll admit that I’m rather attached to the “Herter’s Flies” store counter cabinet full of everything from old salmon flies to cat gut leaders still in the original packaging. I’m using it as kind of an end table by the couch. It must have sat on a store counter with the drawers facing the clerk, because on the back side is a black and white diagram of the flies that would have been in the drawers. I can imagine anglers walking up to the counter and studying the black and white pictures of all the different flies and asking for half a dozen Quill Gordons or three Pink Ladies and three Silver Doctors, please. I didn’t need it until I saw it, but now I couldn’t imagine setting my hand painted salmon fly candy dish, my mounted rooster Bitchface Malone, or sword fish bottle opener on anything else.
I hung the nicest rods I’ve acquired above the book shelf to display them. The only problem with that is that they took up wall space. Wall space I could’ve used to hang the myriad old paintings and posters of trout and pike and fishing scenes of old men in funny hats fighting mystical fish on mountain streams in cracked and fragile frames.
I told my oldest son while we sat and ate dinner the other day that maybe I’d have a garage sale next spring and it’d be full of all this old fishing stuff cluttering up the house. He laughed at me. Told me I’d just end up buying it back at other garage sales. I almost asked him if he thought he was a real wise guy. Then I bit my tongue because I realized he was probably right, and instead I asked him to pass the fishing bobber salt shaker. The struggle is real.
Mark Usyk is the author of Reflections of a Fly Rod, available on Amazon, Barnes and Nobel, and signed copies ready for purchase on this site, jprossflyrods.com.