In My Hands

What a difference the rod makes...

  • By: Maximilian Werner
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Give me my hands:

I will take the fire.

Theodore Roethke

I had been fishing for almost a year before I bought my first fly rod. My friend Nole introduced me to the art and he was kind enough to loan me one of his rods while I became competent and interested enough to justify the expense.

I don’t remember what type of rod it was, but I probably wasn’t ready for it in the same way a first time Scotch drinker isn’t prepared to appreciate the nuances of a 24-year-old, single-malt Scotch.

In any case, apart from the awe and envy I felt whenever I saw what was said to be an especially fine fly rod, I simply hadn’t given much thought to what was really involved in fishing one. But lately and with the help of a Hexagraph fly rod (a 7-foot 3-inch, two-piece, 5-weight from the Curtis Creek Small Stream Series, to be exact), I have begun to understand how a high performance rod can improve an angler’s orientation to the sport.

First a little history: My first fly rod was a 9-weight, two-piece, 5-weight Snow that cost me around $125. As is indicated by the price, this was a basic model and as such it was perfect for a beginner like me.

The rod was stiff and well-suited for rolling nymphs and casting big dry flies that didn’t require much precision. In other words, it was a very forgiving rod that didn’t ask much of me. Since I have been fishing the Hexagraph, I’ve been wondering if fly rods aren’t actually similar to the anglers who use them inasmuch as they embody a certain energy and potential.

The question then becomes, “What must an angler do to realize both his own and the rod’s potential?” So far as the Hexagraph is concerned, the answer is that he must cast the rod with his mind as well as his body. I know this distinction is for the most part academic, and normally I would not make it, but something remarkable happens when an experienced angler fishes an exceptional fly rod: He becomes unified. Obviously, some rods have this effect on the angler and some rods don’t. The Hexagraph I’ve been fishing for the last 6 months is among the former. It’s a thinking person’s rod.

The first time I saw a Hexagraph, I was flipping through a sporting magazine that advertises fine merchandise.

Not surprisingly, what attracted me to the rod was its unparalleled beauty. Anglers who see me fishing with it are quick to comment on its beauty and bamboo construction, to which I reply “Yes, it is beautiful, but it’s not bamboo.”

If anything, the Hexagraph is a contemporary revision of bamboo (for discussions of both, see www.hexagraph.com and http://kenmorrow. blogspot.com/2009/10/hexagraph-fly-rods-will-change-way-you.html).

 

 

I’ve never fished bamboo, so beyond aesthetics, I have no basis for comparison. All I know is that the Hexagraph has forced me to completely rethink what it means to fly fish at all, let alone with an exquisite fly rod.

For me, fishing the Hexagraph has been like asking a trusted friend who is known for his candor to come fishing with me and tell me what he thinks of me as an angler. In fact, the first thing the Hexagraph “told” me was that while I am physically adept, mentally I am limited.

“Surely,” I replied, “confronting an angler with his limitations is a risky thing for a rod (and a friend) to do. A rod could easily end up becoming firewood that way.” “Firewood indeed,” said the rod. Always at least one step ahead of its user (isn’t all technology?), the rod then reminded me that that is precisely what an exceptional rod should do: Encourage its user to be more thoughtful (more artful, really) about what he is doing—or not doing—each and every time he runs his line, ties on his fly, and steps into that river.

Of course an angler cannot be anything except for what he is at the moment, and no fly rod is going to change that. A rod does not make an angler better so much as it shows him what he already is.

As someone who has benefited from tutelage with the Hexagraph, what is clear to me now is how much I relied on physical strength alone when casting. If the rod’s potential is to be realized, the angler using it must bring his entire being to bear on the act of casting. After fishing the Hexagraph and casting everything from #28 dry flies to portly nymphs and heavy streamers, I saw how much I had developed as an angler. I saw what I had become. I had been given my hands: I had taken the fire.