We got spring about two months early for a few days this year. Temperate days in February always remind me of my Grandpa. He’d get overwhelmed by the warm winds, take a long sniff of the air, and smile, “By God, that air reminds me of my old Model T... just enough spring in it to make yer ass ache.” As much as we wished for an early end to winter, we all knew it was going to get cold again.
The good thing was, spring fishing was right around the corner. Trout season finally arrived, fighting off cold, bluster and blizzard. It wasn’t too cold to keep me off the streams, though. I’ve seen worse. I remember times when I actually had to slide the guides of my fishing rod into my mouth to melt the ice that formed. Or wind so cold beads of ice formed on my line. (New York always opens their trout season on April 1st. This year, I joined the April Fools and shed Catherine’s Creek. The creek is named for Catherine Montour, the savage Iroquois leader. The banks along her stream are usually lined with eager anglers standing elbow to elbow who hope to hook a rainbow trout working upstream to spawn. It is a sight, indeed. I’ve seen breeding ’bows in water so shallow nearly half the body was above the surface of the water.
On that first day, I followed tradition, just as I will follow the practice in Pennsylvania. I took along my favorite brook trout rod, Ol’ Ever Ready. I named the stick that because it is always ready to catch trout. Whenever companions chuckle at the sight of Ol’ Ever Ready, I snap back, “Laugh all ya want. If I had all the trout this rod has caught, they wouldn’t t in the back of my pick-up.” And I meant it.
Yes, she ain’t pretty but I love her. Ol’ Ever Ready might have been called “Ugly Stick” if a fishing pole company hadn’t already appropriated the name. The rod is, indeed, ugly. It’s a white, fiberglass rod. (You can’t hardly find a fiberglass rod anymore.) The rod stays ready to go year ’round. It stands at attention in my garage with the reel attached and the monofilament line strung through the guides. Maybe the ferrules have rusted together. I don’t know. The rod has been “put together” for years. The tip guide is worn and rutted with grooves where it has had miles and miles of line drawn through it. It’s obvious on first sight that a small section was broken off at one time. So Ol’ Ever Ready was cobbled together and wrapped and glued so that she was still serviceable. But, ugly as she is, I love her.
How I came about owning Ol’ Ever Ready is a story in itself. She isn’t a family heirloom. No, I didn’t use the rod when I was a kid. I found Ol’ Ever Ready at a yard sale. There she stood, in a corner, all kind of sad and droopy. Cobwebs held the two sections together but she caught my eye. A guy can’t explain how a gun or a fishing rod, or a woman for that matter, can catch your eye. But it was love at first sight. There she stood, propped in a corner. But I noticed a dusty red price tag tied to the bottom guide. Ol’ Ever Ready had obviously been in yard sales for years with no takers. The tag read six dollars. I bought the old gal right away. I shed into my pocket, found a five, and dickered for the extra buck.
When I got Ol’ Ever Ready to my garage, I noticed that another angler had once loved her. A little cleaning revealed the break near the ferrule. Someone had lovingly put her back together, taken off the old guides, and rewound the old gal in pretty orange and black thread. The yard sale proprietor had hailed from Galeton at one time, and I guessed that the wrapping was a tribute to the Galeton Tigers school colors. I wiped the dust and spider webbing off Ol’ Ever Ready and she shined like new. She’s been my fishing buddy ever since.
At first, I mistreated her. You know how it is. I figured that she was happy somebody picked her out of the corner and cleaned her up. I didn’t worry about scratching her up as I bushwhacked along a brookie stream. I yanked until the line broke when I got hung up on a rock or a limb in the creek. I figured that at the six dollar price, I’d gotten my use out of her. But over the years, she got attached to me and me to her. Ol’ Ever Ready was as much a part of my fishin’ as ... well, as a can of worms or scarred up hip boots or a frayed vest. She got prettier by the year.
I never changed her line unless I had to. I’d keep the old familiar line running through her guides until I’d had a few breaks when I was hung up on a stick in a nice trout hole. I never broke the line on a trout, but rocks and limbs would snap an old worn out line. I replaced it when I had to. Oh, once in awhile, I tried a bypass. I’d tie a new section of line to the older line to save time. But about once every couple of years I gave her new line. It took Ol’ Ever Ready a few weeks to break in her new line. I could feel her muscles move, and it felt like she was wearing a stiff, new, pair of shoes.
I began to worry that I might someday lose Ol’ Ever Ready. She’d been a fine companion for about twenty years, but I knew that she could break in two anytime. I started searching for another fiberglass rod to have in reserve in case Ol’ Ever Ready just gave it her last shot. The newer fiberglass rod cost twice as much as Ol’ Ever Ready, and I found it behind the line-up of rifles at a gun show. My future everyday rod just doesn’t look as pretty as the old gal. I tried it once, but I could tell she was jealous when the gears on her reel turned green. I promised Ol’ Ever Ready that I would remain faithful to her. Her replacement rod has been relegated to reserve duty in a dusty corner of my garage. I just can’t break Ol’ Ever Ready’s heart and take another rod after brookies. I’ll stick with her as long as we both shall live. I will.