Soothing Words for the Fly Rod Owner’s Soul

Some of the most encouraging words I ever read appeared on a little card I received back in 1996 when I purchased my first Orvis fly rod. The card simply said: “We will repair your broken rod for 25 full years, no matter how you broke it.”

Those are soothing words for the fly rod owner’s soul.

Of course, I didn’t realize that at the time. I thought, “That’s nice. But I won’t need it. All I need to do is be careful.”

After all, I grew up being careful with sporting goods.

When I was eight, my dad drilled it into my head that baseball players do not throw their baseball gloves. They oil them and otherwise keep them dry. But they do not slam them to the ground or fling them high into the air to free fall to the ground. When I was ten, my dad was emphatic that I take care of the 20 gauge shotgun he gave me for my birthday. If I handled it carefully, I would not break the stock if I fell, and I might not even scratch it. And I didn’t. I didn’t throw my baseball glove. It’s still in use forty-five years later. I also took good care of my 20 gauge shotgun. My sons both used it, and it’s ready for my grandsons to shoot when they get a little bit older.

So taking care of a fly rod would be no problem. I knew the old adage: “Most fly rods are broken getting in and out of a vehicle.” Or, they get stepped on when they are leaning in a closet or in the corner of a room. What kind of a fool lets that happen?

Uh, that would be me.

About a year after I purchased my first Orvis fly rod, I wandered into our mud room (what Montanans affectionately call a little room you enter from the side entrance of your house or from your garage). As its name suggests, a mud room is a place where you can take off your muddy boots or shoes. We had a coat rack in ours and some shelves where we stored canned goods. More importantly, at the far end, just beneath a window with a great view of the mountains to the north, I had a fly tying bench.

One night, I entered the dark room to grab a coat I had placed on my fly tying bench. When I stepped near my fly-tying bench, I heard a splintering, cracking sound. I felt sick, realizing that that I had just stepped on my fly rod. I remembered that it was leaning against my fly tying bench. I had placed it there to dry after a day of fishing in the rain. Now I had cracked it between the handle and the first guide.

Suddenly I remembered the words on the card: “We will repair your broken rod for 25 full years, no matter how you broke it.” Ah, what soothing words for the fly rod owner’s soul! A day later, I took my fractured rod to Fins and Feathers, the Orvis shop in Bozeman, Montana. I had to laugh when I signed the “Orvis Rod Repair Form.” Under the description of how the break occurred, the guy behind the counter simply wrote: “Stepped on it in the dark.”

If you’re going to invest in a fly rod, make sure you buy from a manufacturer that offers a rod-breakage guarantee — unless you’re buying a low-end rod and intend to upgrade. Most of the higher end rods come with generous replacement policies.

But don’t assume this.

Confirm it before you complete your purchase. You may think, “It won’t happen to me.” But it’s only a matter of time until it does. And when it does, you’ll want to hear or read those soothing words for the fly fisher’s soul: “We will repair your broken rod for 25 full years, no matter how you broke it.”

Even if you step on your rod in the dark.

4 Replies to “Soothing Words for the Fly Rod Owner’s Soul”

  1. Love your article.

    What you say is very true. If you take care of your tools, and other equipment, it will always be there for you. I have passed down “cared for” shotguns to my sons that were in as good, or if not better, condition than they were 50 years ago. The same goes for fishing equipment.

    I know for some this doesn’t sound like much but, my pride and joy fly rod is an Orvis 6 weight Silver Label I purchased band new and unused from my best friend. He had gotten it at Orvis, along with several others, from the discount bin for discontinued items. The rod originally listed for around $250 but he only asked for the $100 he paid for it. And, it comes with the “Guarantee”. It says 25 years, but I have heard of folks getting their rods fixed long after that.

    Ever since I was a kid, Orvis had always been the Holy Grail of fly-rods. to own one meant that you had arrived and were worthy of standing in the water and casting the fur and feathers with the best of them. I keep and guard that rod with my life, and it has always been there for the smallest to largest trout the Deerfield River in Southern Vermont and Western Mass. has to offer.

    Fran “Digger” DeGere…a very close friend to my dad and “plank owner” of our local Trout Unlimited Chapter and bamboo rod builder extraordinaire…always stressed proper care for your equipment…rod, reels, lines and terminal tackle (flies, lures, etc.). Fran would always take time to help the kids get into fishing. And, he would always repair a broken rod or reel they brought him; and do so for free. He would also refurbish donated fishing equipment and give it to the youngsters who could not afford to buy any.

    Fran never married and lived in the same house as he grew up in. To Fran, money was not an object. In fact, even though he had a “Day Job” at W.R. Grace with my dad, he made enough from the sale of his rods to support his Spartan life-style. So much so that the company would have to tell him to cash his paychecks as them sitting in his bureau uncashed was screwing up their books.

    I knew Digger all my life but never knew just how great he was until after he was gone.

    I hold up a cold one and say, “Here’s to you. And, here’s to Digger (even though he didn’t drink). And, here is to all those who follow in the footsteps of those who brought so much to so many with their words, publications and their actions. And, those who pass on the love and respect for the fish, the ways, and their preservation for generations to come. Salaunte! ”

    Here is a link to an article on Fran… 🙂

  2. Great advice. Just got my Sage rod back from Sage after snapping the tip in the back door of my truck. Even after telling myself “your rod is leaning near the door, be careful,” I slammed the door shut and . . . SNAP. A few years after shelling out a lot of hard earned money to buy the rod, I am glad I did. A small fee from Sage, a box from FedEx, and few weeks of waiting, and my rod is now back and ready to fish Colorado tail waters this winter.

    1. Yes! Man, is that a bad feeling to hear the snap.

      I snapped off the tip of my rod while fishing the Yellowstone several years back. In fact, I hadn’t even made one cast yet. Had walked back almost four miles, and as I was scrambling up a small cliff, the tip caught on a tree branch. I was so ripped.

      So, I fished with no tip for the day. A bit hard to cast, but we were fishing hoppers and the runs were close to the bank! Still managed to catch a few.


  3. Nice story. I am also a flyfisherman and tyer since 1969 and feel very attached to some of my older tackle items.

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