16 01 2012

Recently my girlfriend and I spent a very relaxing weekend at a Bed & Breakfast in Marine City Michigan.  As luck would have it we were the only couple spending the night so we had the whole house to ourselves.  Being the nosy little busy body that I am I found myself poking around and checking out all of the rooms.  Eventually I ended up in the widow’s peak overlooking the St. Clair River.  I have always wanted to own a house with a room like this overlooking a river.  While I was up there I found a copy of “A River Runs Through It” by Norman Maclean.  As I sat down I began to flip through the pages and read some of the quotes from the book.  I could hear Robert Redford reciting them just like in the movie.   Soon I began to think about the fishing history around me, what stories the St. Clair could tell and what part it played in my own family.

I have never fished the St. Clair River but my grandfather and his brother’s did.  My Great Uncle Ed, who manufactured the Schaller Trolling Reel, moved to Algonac and set up his new shop during the early 40’s.  The house still stands where he built hundreds of the reels that became synonymous with hand lining.  Earlier that day I found an old Schaller Trolling reel in a nearby antique store.    It was an earlier model with a wooden spool that he built while he was still living in Detroit.  The older reels are not as popular as the aluminum ones  built in Algonac but I think they have more character.

Early Model Schaller Reel

As I stared out the window I wondered who owned that reel.  Was he an everyday fisherman or a weekend warrior?  Was this reel used on a regular basis or did it sit on a shelf collecting dust?  I began to think of my own fishing stuff and the history behind all of it.  The boat I own was originally built in 1957 and owned by my Great Uncle Hank. He died from a heart attack while fishing near Marysville in 1966.  My Grandfather inherited the boat and several years later it was passed on to my father.  Eventually he gave it to me and over 50 years later it is still going strong.  I spent my whole life in that boat and unfortunately I have forgotten more experiences than I can remember.  People have asked me why I don’t get a new boat but it is hard for me to let go of that history.  I grew up in that boat, why sell it to someone who would never appreciate all that it has experienced?  I know some day it will start to leak and it will have to be replaced but for now I can still day dream about all it has experienced.

Eventually I went back to reading but that soon ended once Norm began to talk about the beauty of the construction of a bamboo fly rod.  His description made it sound more like a work of art and I thought of my own bamboo rods.  I never looked at them that way before.  I used to just view them as an old rod that I would never use because they weren’t as good as today’s graphite rods.  That view changed this past Christmas when my Father gave me a bamboo fly rod that was given to him.  This rod belonged to a friend of both he and his father, Bill Boudrie.  The rod itself was made by Wright & McGill and it is in beautiful shape, except for a crack in one of the tips.  I wonder if that crack was caused by some errant car door or by a 2 pound Brookie on some isolated stream in the Upper Peninsula.  Was it one of Bill’s favorite streams or one that even Ernest Hemingway fished himself?  I will never know for sure but it is a lot of fun to think about.

I never did finish reading that book.  As usual I spent more time day dreaming then actually reading.  This was a problem I had all during my school years as well.  It didn’t do much for my grades but it sure was a lot more interesting.  Guess I will have to go back sometime and try again.