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FAOL Fish In 2001
Ok, so either I'm going senile at 35 or my kids have just made it seem like I am. I've been a reader of FAOL (Fly Anglers Online) for a few years now, so I must have, at some point in the last year, learned that their "Fish In 2001" was going to be held just down the road from me. Damned if I wasn't surprised when I saw a post from Bob Venneri on a rod building board asking if any other rod builders were going to attend the "Cane Day" at the Fish In.
FAOL Fish In? Here? Hancock? Delaware River Club? Really??
The Ladyfisher herself flew across the country, passing countless wonderful trout rivers, to come and fish in my back yard, the West Branch of the Delaware. I just had to go.
So plans were made at home and work to get Friday off so I could go enjoy "Cane Day" at the FAOL Fish In 2001.
Since I couldn't get a solid answer from anyone about where they'd be Friday morning (gee, was I really expecting people from 3000 miles away to know exactly where they'd be fishing more than a week in advance), I decided to go to the Beaverkill - Cairns Pool in particular - a place that is quickly becoming my favorite place to fish for trout. I arrived to find I had the pool to myself. Man - that doesn't happen very often.
The cool weather the past few evenings and the 40 degree overnight temps cooled the river down nicely and created quite a ground fog that didn't leave until almost 9am. Water was in the low 60's and trout were rising sporadically. This day I finally felt like I cracked it - I managed to land my share of trout and had a really great time. I've been skunked and frustrated in that pool more times than I care to admit, so "getting into them" for once was quite satisfying. Most of the fish came to low riding flies - a tiny Klinkhamer variation, and a little Snowshoe Emerger. If I got a good drift over a trout, it would strike. I missed many more than I hooked, but the action was steady right up till I decided to pack it in and head toward Hancock.
The Delaware River Club is toward the lower part of the West Branch of the Delaware River on a back road that follows the south shore of the river. While it is technical Pennsylvania property, NY trout licenses are good in the water. Al Caucci, co-author of Hatches with Bob Nastasi, is part owner of the club.
I arrived to find the FAOL gang AWOL - out fishing I presumed. No matter. I strung up a couple rods and cast on the lawn until I saw the FAOL Executive Car (a black jeep) pull in. Soon after, another car pulls in, the fellow signs the board, and walks around the corner. I put my junk away (except my new Boyd cane), checked the board and saw that Bob Venneri added his name after mine. I guess it's party time.
I rounded the corner and called out "Did I see Bob Venneri sign in?" After introductions, I was lucky enough to get a chance to cast one of Ron Kusse's beautiful cane rods. Although I couldn't quite get the timing down, Ron should could make it perform marvelously.
Soon after, Ladyfisher said "You must be Bob Petti". Funny, although I've only exchanged a couple notes with her and never once met her in peron, she immediately made me feel like an old friend. She spied my rod and I met her questioning gaze with a "It's a Harry Boyd" response.
"Be my guest."
Watching an accomplished caster perform is always a wonderful experience, but seeing them do it with one of your own rods makes it that much better. Ladyfisher certainly qualifies as an accomplished caster. She gave me one of those looks like "Oh boy" and called over to Jim Castwell "Hey Jim - you gotta come over here".
Jim - a phenomenal caster - took the rod and gave me the same look. "This is a very fine rod, Bob", he said. Well - I knew that (heh heh) - but it's always nice to get confirmation from the likes of Deanna and Jim. I was positively glowing, and could hardly wait to get back home and tell Harry all about it. I think his rod is an exceptionally smooth and crisp casting rod (and a great fishing rod), but I was thrilled to hear the same sentiments echoed by such experienced people.
Soon, rods came out of rooms and it was a cast-a-thon. I had the pleasure of casting a pair of Gatti rods which surprised me with their power and smoothness. Any rod that makes my loops look nice is special. The highlight for me, however, was casting Ladyfisher's CF Burkheimer built Russ Peak rod. This time, it was my turn for the "Oh boy" reaction. A little heavy, maybe, compared to other graphite rods, but as smooth and powerful as I ever could imagine a fly rod being. It was - in a word - sensual.
Between rods, I was positively drooling over a box of Bob Venneri's reel seats. His seats adorn some of the best rods in the world, and here I was with a whole box of them to poke through, ooo'ing and ahhh'ing at all the marvelous woods. I was so taken with one that had a burled (spalted?) cherry spacer that I had to buy it. I don't know what rod it's going to go on yet, but we'll figure something out. It's beautiful.
Soon enough it was time to put the toys away and listen to Ron Kusse's talk about cane rods. Ok - I admit it. I had no idea who he was. Yes, I live in a cave. Yes, I am ignorant of "who's who" in the world of cane rods. But hey - I'll listen to anyone talk about fly rods.
Ha! Wasn't I surprised to find out that Ron Kusse was at one point vice president of HL Leonard Rod Company. That soon he will complete his 3000th bamboo fly rod. That he knew Wes Jordan, Everett Garrison, Tom Maxwell, and any other "who's who" in the world of rod building.
Ron's talk was a running mix of instruction, demonstration, war stories, and criticisms of today's independent bamboo rod makers. It made for an entertaining hour and half. Among the things I learned:
It was quite a treat to see Ron's rods, hear his stories of the past masters, and even listen to his criticisms of modern rod makers. A very educational and entertaining session for everyone, I am sure.
All too soon, it was time to leave. I was already late (had promised to take my family out to dinner that evening), so I had to quickly get out of Dodge.
My brief visit to the FAOL Fish In 2001 won't soon be forgotten, nor will the warm welcome offered by the Ladyfisher. Thanks again for a great time.