Why a used fly rod shouldn’t be the only thing you leave behind
I am a self-confessed bargain hunter, or what my friends fondly refer to as a tight-ass. I regularly scour buying-and-selling sites, such as Kijiji and eBay, long before I ever dream of buying something new. If I see a handwritten sign with the words “garage sale,” I am down that back alley faster than you can say, “Selling any fishing gear?”
With masses of people flocking to the outdoors during the pandemic lockdown, I’ve been particularly eager to see if those weekend warriors would stick with their new-found hobbies, or if there would be a mountain of lightly used, marked-down equipment flooding the online markets. Fortunately for me, the latter has been the case.
Oh, what a time I’ve been having, scooping up half-price gear from people happy to have the clutter out of their homes now that the lockdown is in the rear-view mirror. All was good in my frugal world until a recent transaction had me rethinking my entire attitude about the outdoors.
It all happened when I responded to an online ad about a used fly rod for sale. Making my way to an open garage down a back lane, I hopped out of my truck and was met by a comely woman in her fifties. “Was it a hobby that didn’t stick?” I asked with an air of callousness as I scrutinized the rod laid out in front of her.
The woman looked disappointed. “My husband passed away recently,” she replied mournfully.
I awkwardly handed over the agreed upon cash and bashfully left with my tail between my legs. She wasn’t the first widow I’d encountered during my bargain-hunting forays, but she was the first to leave me contemplating the life cycle of the average outdoors person.
Who was this fly-fishing gentleman? He certainly had good taste in rods, but he was obviously more than that to the people in his world. Was his hobby an escape from an otherwise hectic lifestyle? Had he enjoyed companionship during his outings, or did he prefer solitude?
Whether he was a weekend patron of the local stocked pond or an intrepid backcountry explorer, I was certain the guy was the salt of the earth—I just couldn’t bring myself to picture him any other way. Maybe it was because I was now using his fly rod, my only connection to the man, that I created this lofty image of him.
The whole encounter got me pondering the legacy I would leave behind as an angler. What would I pass on, along with my gear, once I am gone? I hope I won’t be remembered as someone who was disrespectful and uneducated in regards to the natural world, but rather as a discerning fellow with a passion for conserving the wild places he had so much enjoyed.
From now on, then, I will strive to make sure I can proudly anoint myself with that description without opposition, and hopefully represent the hunting and angling community as having compassion and kindness. These days, there are far too many outdoorsmen and women—and here I use those terms loosely—who have no problem littering, breaking the law and generally tarring the image of angling and hunting with an ugly brush. For the most part, we are a caring crew of men and women who disdain that type of behaviour, but there will unfortunately always be the few who sully the reputation of our sometimes controversial sports. We must always counter that.
Also from now on, every time I cast that second-hand fly rod, I will be reminded that life is short, fleeting and precious. Hunting and fishing have taught me many things, but the one perspective I am grateful for is that one minute you are here, and the next you could be gone. We should never take life for granted, the same way we should never stop conserving the wild places we love.
When the day finally arrives that I leave behind nothing but a pile of old, yet still useful gear for sale, I hope the new owners can continue to enjoy it in the same wilderness I did.
For a reasonable price, of course.