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.