Brian G. Angevine
Cuba, KS 66940
I Don’t Limp When
I Use My Dad’s Cane
years passed as I impatiently awaited my chance to use my Dad’s cane. That might sound strange to you unless
you are a fly fisher. The cane, of
course, is an old bamboo fly rod with lovely red wrappings. Just how is it that one falls in love
with some inanimate object?
I have seen men adore a certain car they owned, lavishing more money and
tender care on it than any mistress.
I used to watch with envy as Dad, using that gorgeous rod, coaxed
leaping rainbows and burrowing browns out of the South Platte River. To me that rod was not an inanimate
object when in the hands of my father playing a wild trout. It was a thing of beauty as it arched
and pulsed with the strain from the healthy, vibrant fish we pursued.
fishing time was usually spent trying to untangle the loops and knots I somehow
managed to throw into my line.
Then, just as I began to cast with some rhythm and power, I would snag a
high tree branch and have to break off.
Once in a while, by some miracle, I would get the fly to land on the
fantastically beautiful water in the canyon, and a fish would take it. I might manage to play the fish for a
few minutes before the slack line would signal another escape. Often my Dad pointed out that I had
popped the barb and point off the hook by hitting a rock on my back cast.
the trials and tribulations of fly fishing! I finally inherited a bamboo fly
rod from my great-uncle Archer. He
was my rich uncle--at least his $1,000 was the only money I would ever
inherit--so I guess that made him rich.
For some strange reason my Dad gave me Uncle Arch’s Granger Favorite fly
rod. It is a willowy three weight,
nine footer and casts like a dream.
Of course I was just a teenager and had no idea it was far more valuable
than my Dad’s five weight Powr Pakt.
I clearly remember the time I slammed the tiptop of the Granger in the
car door. I don’t remember Dad
getting mad--he just had it fixed.
of the mystique of our fishing trips was the setting. Both the rod and the
canyon figure into the equation of my passion about fishing. We had a fishing camp that consisted
of a cave dug under an enormous
boulder high on the south canyon wall. It had been created by some distant
relative as a trapper’s cabin in the early 1900’s, as chronicled on a piece of
tin around the stovepipe. “Grant Foster, 1912” was the inscription. Absolutely every item in that cave had
been carried four miles on somone’s back up a treacherous trail with many
stretches covered by small gravel that tended to cause one’s foot to slip at
inopportune times. I always felt
that any misstep would cause a fall far down the precipitous wall into the
raging river below. Besides that
there were very few level spots with many huge boulders as big as a house one
had to climb around, up and down, up and down. When I was very young Dad used to help me through those
dangerous areas by having me hang onto the straps on his backpack as we
strained to stay on the trail.
Included in the camp, to provide comfort for the rugged fishermen, was a
double bed mattress and springs, a wood burning stove for cooking, and a few
storage bins covered with tough wire to keep out rats and mice. Another hole
under a rock with no amenities provided a summer camp for overflow visitors,
and our fishing gear was hidden under yet another rock. On the other side of
the river were two or three camps built by men who also were regulars in the
canyon, none of which boasted a double bed. Later, when the canyon became
popular and more people started trudging up the trail and crossing the river,
our camp was destroyed and the equipment stolen by idiots who can’t leave
things alone. It was devastating to Dad and we quit using the camp as our home
Eventually, at the urging of a
representative for Heddon fishing lures who had a camp, my dad and uncle moved
to spin fishing. My Uncle Merle
and Dad seemed to catch more and bigger fish using a Heddon FlatFish than they
could with flies. Of course I
still struggled losing dozens of FlatFish in the river. I never would use the big gray-green
“rockworms” as live bait. But my
Uncle caught huge fish on those disgusting larvae.
Dad died I was finally old enough to appreciate fly fishing again. I had great-uncle Arch’s Granger, Uncle
Merle’s Phillipson, and Dad’s PowrPakt to choose from. By then I was a teacher in Kansas City
and a visiting Japanese educator was an avid fly fisherman, so I decided to
take him to the Canyon below Cheesman Dam to experience great Western trout
Ici Hashimoto had heard of the Canyon even in Japan and he was eager to try its
waters. Watching me erect the tent
at the campground, he rubbed his chin in classic concentration, finally
exclaiming, “Ah! Dome type,” as
the tent sprang into shape. I had
not fished the canyon for over fifteen years and I was eager to finally get to
use Dad’s lovely rod. With tender
caresses I uncased the rod, and imitating Dad rubbed the metal ferrules
alongside my nose to pick up some body oil to help the sections join together
more easily. Often when performing
this ritual I would leave smears of dirty grease by each nostril; perhaps my
war paint for the battle to come.
hiked in along the Gill trail early the next morning with our rods strung up
and ready. I used to think the Gill trail was named for Dad, since his nickname
was Gil. It is strange now to
visit a place I grew up fishing and see signs identifying something that I knew
by a different name. It is almost
comical to read so-called experts describe how to fish the Canyon and
identifying places to fish. Do
they know how “Soldiers’ Crossing” got its name, or “Peg Hole”? I am no expert,
but I have fished that canyon far longer than they have, and I too know how to
fish it. I know all the holes and
riffles by their old names and related to Shin memorable times while I was
growing up on the river. My style
of fishing is to cast a few times, then move. The patient Japanese found a likely looking spot and sat
down to work it.
fished up river for a mile or so until a sudden shower hit. I started working back down river to
see how Shin was doing when I slipped on a wet rock, fell and broke the tip of
Dad’s rod. I was devastated! Dad had been dead only about 3 months
at the time and I had waited a long time to use that rod. I felt like I had
betrayed his memory.
still fishing the same hole, was kind enough to hike back out with me. I had only my spinning rod as a
replacement, so we drove up to Cheesman Dam and hiked down to the river that
way. All afternoon and the next
day I communed with Dad and nature, continually apologizing to Dad for breaking
his rod. I think Dad helped me
catch a number of nice browns and rainbows on FlatFish while Shin caught about
25 out of one hole on nymphs! In his initmitable style he had removed his shirt
on the hot day and sat on a comfortable sand beach casting to different spots
in the braided current. Of course
in the catch and release area we returned all the fish to the water unharmed.
the tiring hike back out of the canyon the irrepresible Shin continued to
practice his false casting while I reflected on the small monument I had built
for my Dad on the riverbank. Arranging small rocks I spelled his name and his
birth and death dates. I like to think it is still there. We drove back to Kansas City holding
great memories of our too brief trip.
And I got Dad’s cane fixed.
cane is now displayed on the wall of my cabin in Colorado, along with the
Granger and the Phillipson. I
don’t use them often since they are so precious in my memories. They may or may not be worth quite a
bit of money, but the memories are far more important to me than their monetary
worth. Dad’s cane will probably
catch another fish or two next summer before it once again retires to a place
of honor in my memories. I love