Hidden Lakes press

Hidden Lakes Press

Information for Recreation in Colorado and the Rockies

THE FISH POLE THIEF

© Al Marlowe

The 16-inch rainbow smashed my fly with abandon and ran downstream. Because I was concentrating on the fish and worrying about the 7-X tippet, I didn't notice the scruffy looking young man on the bank until I finally led the heavy-bodied fish to the net to unhook it. I said hello or some such greeting. He didn’t reply.

Instead, he took a step closer to me and put his hands in the pockets of the dirty and tattered camo jacket he wore. He indicated that he had a weapon in his pocket, and then finally spoke. “Gimme your fish pole,” he said, sort of grunting.

“What?” I asked.

“Gimme your fish pole,” he said again. I hesitated. He stepped closer; reaching out with his left hand while keeping his right in the pocket that supposedly contained a gun.

“You gotta be kidding,” I said. “You want this stuff? Why?”

Instead of being agitated, he began to offer an explanation of why he wanted my fishing tackle. “There’s too much risk and too little return from knocking off a gas station or quick stop,” he said. “I’ve noticed all the yuppies who’ve taken up fly fishing. I know their poles cost lots of money. I can get a lot more from selling your pole than I could by holding up some joint. Now gimme your stuff.”

“Well,” I said trying to stall while thinking of a plan to keep from getting ripped off, “You’re certainly right about the yuppies. In fact, they’ve ruined the sport of fly-fishing. But you’d do much better by finding a real yuppie to rob.”

“Huh?” he said, “Whadda ya mean?”

I had judged this would-be fish pole thief correctly. He knew nothing about fishing tackle except that yuppies bought expensive stuff. I motioned for him to come closer.

“You really want this rod?” I asked incredulously. “Look closer.”

I showed him my handmade rod I had built on a Sage blank.

“Looks alright tuh me,” he said, “Now gimme it.”

“Not so fast,” I said. “First, you need to see what you’re getting. See these wraps,” I said, letting him examine the rod. “I couldn’t afford to buy a factory made rod like the yuppie anglers. So, I built this one. No, I didn’t build the graphite blank. But what I did was buy a kit. I don’t have a lot of money like the yuppies do so it was a way to save a few bucks. Trouble is, I screwed up on this one. Look at how bad those wraps are. And the guide spacing’s all wrong.”

He grunted as though he knew what I was showing him.

“Now, read the name on the rod,” I said.

“Age,” he said, not noticing that the “S” had worn off the decal. “So what?”

“So what,” I said, “So it shows you have a lot to learn. It used to read “Osage” before part of the name wore off. Osage is one of the cheapest rods you can buy. Definitely not worth stealing. In fact, if you want it, take it. You’ll be doing me a favor.”

“Huh,” he said in surprise, “I don’t understand.”

“If you plan to get rich stealing fish poles,” I said, “you better start reading Field & Stream. Then you’d know that Osage is a cheap foreign made copy of the Sage rod. Wish I could afford one. That’s what all those yuppies are buying”

“But you seemed to throw that string pretty good with it. If it’s junk, how come it works OK for you?”

“If you still think it’s so good,” I said, “Here. You try it.” I handed him the rod. On his first cast, he snagged the brush behind us. After I unhooked it, he tried again and piled the line in front of his feet.

“I see what you mean,” he said. “But how come you throw it so good?”

“I’ve been using it for nearly six years,” I explained, “When you use something that long, you learn to adjust even if it is inferior.”

“What about that winch?” he asked, “It looks pretty good to me.”

At first I wasn’t sure what he meant. Then I figured out he was talking about my Hardy Marquis reel.

“Oh, you mean this reel,” I said with disgust. “Take it, too, if you want it. I’ll file a claim with my insurance company and tell them I had some good stuff. Then maybe I could afford to get something decent.”

“But it don’t look junky,” he said.

“Look at the name,” I said sarcastically.

“Hardly,” he said as if proud of his reading skills.

“Now look at where it was made,” I said.

He squinted, and then said, “Made in England.”

“Right,” I said.

“I don’t get it,” he said.

“If you’re going to survive as a fish pole thief,” I said, “I can see you need someone to teach you the finer points of the sport. Everyone knows that the finest British reel made is the Hardy. This Hardly is a cheap imitation. Bought it at Wal Mart. It’s made for people like me who can hardly afford a Hardy.” With the reel being scratched from so much use (but not worn out) he didn’t even notice the missing letter “L” that would have it read Hardly instead of Hardy.

I chuckled disgustedly at my own joke. The scruffy looking man chuckled too, as if he was beginning to understand.

“While we’re on the subject of reels, not winches as you called them,” I said, “you might as well learn about some of the other names you’ll encounter among yuppie anglers. One to definitely avoid is an Alvin. They’re cheap copies of Galvin reels. The Alvin sells for just a couple of bucks. Steal one and you might as well throw it in the nearest dumpster. But if you should find a genuine Galvin, well that’s something else.”

“Oh,” I said as an afterthought, “another name to avoid is the Disabel. They give those Disabels away in boxes of Cracker Jacks.”

He gave me a puzzled look.

I went on to explain that he should avoid any named Disabel. “They’re called that because any fish caught with it is supposed to be permanently disabled. It’s junk, a very poor copy of an Abel reel but one even I can afford.”

“Yeah,” he said grinning, “I get it.”

The smirk left his face and he began to look despondent. “I was thinking about taking your rubber overalls but I suppose they’re cheap, too,” he said.

“You got it,” I said. “These Scotch waders leak like a sieve. In fact, I wonder why I bother wearing them. Underneath, my pants are soaking wet. I might as well be wading without ‘em.”

I paused to let my words soak in. He looked at me kind of puzzled.

“Sure wish I could afford some of those Scott waders,” I said with a far away look.

“Scott?” he asked. “But I thought Scott was whiskey.”

“You got it,” I replied. “In fact, I could stand a drink right now. Scott is the name of the finest waders available. But, man, they’re sure expensive. Just like a fine 12-year old single-malt Scott, … I mean Scotch.”

He looked at me as if questioning what I had just told him.

“Look,” I said as I pulled my waders down to my knees and showed him my sweat-dampened jeans. “If I was wearing Scott waders, I’d be dry as a bone.”

“But why do you wear these if they don’t keep you dry,” the young man asked.

“It’s all I can afford,” I replied meekly. “If I had money like those yuppies, I’d have some good waders, too.” I made the word “yuppie” sound almost vulgar every time I had used it.

He was silent for a moment. Then he noticed my vest and five boxes of flies. He pointed to one box and demanded to see it. I opened the box and handed it to him.

“Gimme all your boxes of these feather bugs,” he said. “They gotta be worth something.”

“They’re called flies,” I said, showing a little contempt as I gained confidence that I was winning the battle of wits. After all, he was unarmed, defenseless. Well, maybe he was only half armed. “And I made them myself, just like I made my pole, I mean rod.”

“You made these?” he asked in surprise.

“Right,” I said. “Couldn’t afford to pay two dollars for one of those feather bugs at a fishing shop. So, I make ‘em myself. They work. Of course, they’re not as good as the ones you buy.”

The young man handed me my fly box as Glen Smedley, the local game warden stepped out of the willows along the bank.

“How’s fishing, Al?” he asked, “Doing any good? Whose your buddy?”

“Caught and released a 16-incher a few minutes ago,” I said. “And this man isn’t a friend. In fact, he just tried to rob me.”

The young man started to run but was halted by Glen’s strong hand gripping his arm. Glen soon had him cuffed and his rights read.

“You know, I think this feller’s the one who just held up the Yummie Freeze in town. Got away with $17.54. He take your money?”

“Nope,” I said, “He just tried to take my fish pole.”

“Well,” Glen said, “It looks like his thieving days are over. Now go back to your fishing. There’s a two-footer in that hole around the bend. Saw ‘im just yesterday. Oh. I’ll probly have to subpoena you for this case. Don’t catch more’n your limit, Al.”

As Glen left with his prisoner, I began shaking. I struggled to fasten my waders and walked down to the bend pool on rubbery legs to try for the fish he told me about. My casting wasn’t much better than that of the man who had tried to take my fine Sage rod. In spite of the splash I made with the No. 18 BWO, the fish took. I forgot about the 7-X leader and set the hook too hard. The fish was gone, taking my hand-tied feather bug, I mean fly with him.

Deciding that I had had enough for one day, I waded ashore, nearly falling in when I bumped against a submerged log. I headed back to the truck. I stored my tackle and was about to open the door when I saw a scruffy looking man wearing a dirty camo jacket heading my way. “Any luck?” he asked when he came closer. “Yeah,” I told my brother, “all bad. Now get in and let’s go.”