It was the night before my brother was married. At the end of the rehearsal dinner he spoke to his family and friends, then thanked them for coming. Next, he gave gifts to his groomsmen and thanked them for their friendship. His wife did the same. At the end of it my brother walked over to me and presented a long wooden box with a glass door. Inside was the bamboo fly rod my grandfather had bought after returning from World War II. It was fully restored to its original state. A beautiful piece of art. I wept.
As we embraced, the people clapped loudly and smiled. The glass walls reflected their movements and expressions like ghosts against the darkness outside. I cannot remember the words, but the pictures on the black walls are clear and silent.
The bamboo rod my brother gave me was one of two my grandfather purchased. My brother kept the other. I don’t know how they arrived in our home. We lived far away from my grandparents all my life and my grandfather had died many years earlier. If you ask my father, he will say he does not remember. It was a long time ago.
As I got older, I realized that the bamboo fly rods in our basement were special. But their value to me was as tattered as the threads along the guides. Faded and worn as the bamboo had become. I did not know it. Could not see it then. When I left home, I forgot. It was nearly twenty years before my brother reminded me of how well he knows me and sent them to Montana to be transformed into his gift.
Now, my grandfather’s bamboo fly rod hangs above the desk in my basement where I tie flies, and paint, and write, and play with my son. I keep it there because our time on this Earth is short. Our lives are special but fleeting. It reminds me…
The gift we all have to give is our time. Although my brother’s gift is rooted in the past, its great value to me is that reminder of the future. It reminds me to be with the people I love while I am here. To give them my time. Laugh with my brother and father in the drift boat. Visit family that lives far away. Share my thoughts with my wife. Walk the mountains and the rivers with my son. Take him in the woods with his grandfather.
Am I making use of my time? Am I giving my most important gift?
I never fly fished with my grandfather. Never spent time with him in the mountains. The ones before him I will never know. None of us will know them.
But I hope that as we wade through the currents of a trout stream and move across the stones beneath the water, that we are walking with them. All of them. That even the ones we never knew, wade with us, and know us. And that when we are gone, the gifts we gave in life echo in the hearts of those we love.
Russ McDuffieDecember 24, 2019 at 4:55 pm
What an incredible and touching story. Your brother sure knows how to nail it with a gift. I have the remnants of an old worn out bamboo fly rod I acquired from my Grandfather’s things after he passed. I too, never got to fish with him, as I was too young and had not been introduced to fishing at all yet. I think I’ll find the pieces and put together a tribute to him above my desk also.
Thanks again for helping remember what’s important and keeping it simple.
Wade on my friend…and Merry Christmas to you and your family.
Jason ShemchukDecember 24, 2019 at 5:02 pm
Merry Christmas Russ. So happy that my story brought you some real value. Your idea sounds wonderful . Thanks for reading and the kind words.
Ken CrowneDecember 26, 2019 at 2:02 pm
I hope you can give us a fishing report. The story is beautiful. But like a cheetah or a top line sport cats it’s meant to be fished. It has to. Take your son’s …and let us know how you did or about the trip!
Jason ShemchukDecember 26, 2019 at 2:14 pm
I am 50/50 on fishing it. But you have a great point! Thanks for reading and the kind words. Cheers and Happy Holidays.
Aunt FlossDecember 27, 2019 at 4:32 pm
Thank you for the gift of “The Gift.” It brought joyful tears to my eyes and touched my heart.
Jason ShemchukDecember 27, 2019 at 11:44 pm
I’m very happy that you enjoyed it so much. It was something I had to write. Thank you for reading.
Matt SilvestroDecember 30, 2019 at 11:48 am
I recently heard a radio interview with the virtuoso bass player Victor Wooten ( playing bass is my other passion ) and he described his guitar as containing all the memories and emotions from the gigs he played – the people he made happy and the joy he experienced. I look at my guitars the same way as I look at my outdoor gear. It’s beloved and undoubtedly contains my emotions and memories of the people and places it took me. I can imagine that flyrod is special. Thanks for the story.
Jason ShemchukDecember 30, 2019 at 12:32 pm
Amazing analogy. Yes, it sounds very similar. Thank you for reading and for sharing. So happy you enjoyed it. Cheers.
Gary FosterMay 28, 2020 at 11:35 pm
This is certainly one of my favorite posts you have entered. Wonderful story. Do you ever fish it? What a wonderful thing to have that fly rod to take you back to family and love for each other across the generations.
Jason ShemchukMay 29, 2020 at 2:55 am
So happy you enjoyed it. It is one of my favorite posts I have written. I have not fished it yet. Someday I will. When it’s right. Thanks for reading Gary.
Meandering MikeDecember 28, 2020 at 10:54 am
The memories, the stories, the feelings associated with a gift, are always the best gift of all. And it’s a gift that will keep on giving, as I’m sure your son will someday cherish this prized rod as much as you do. Thanks for the heartwarming, thought-provoking holiday gift of your written words. Looking forward to more of your wisdom in the new year. Hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas!
Jason ShemchukDecember 28, 2020 at 9:40 pm
Thank you so much Mike for those words. And thank you for reading Wadeoutthere. I’m excited for the coming year and hearing things like this, from folks like you, motivates me even more to keep moving forward. Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you as well.
Owen O FreemanDecember 24, 2021 at 2:04 pm
I have my grandfather’s Orvis Battenkill Bamboo fly rod(7 1/2′, 6 wt.) I had it restored and it is better than ever. I have not fished with it yet. The man who restored it said that I should use 5 wt/double taper floating fly line.
I contacted Orvis and gave them the serial number. Orvis said they made that fly rod in 1964. My grandfather took me to a Dude Ranch in Wyoming in 1968 and taught me how to fly fish with that Orvis Battenkill fly rod, and also with a Fenwick fly fod with the same numbers that I still have.
Jason ShemchukJanuary 5, 2022 at 1:47 am
What a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing that Owen. Very special indeed. Cheers.
Joe VDecember 24, 2021 at 3:02 pm
Very nice story, thanks for sharing with us. As with most memories of family members gone, it is not the “things” that matter to us or brings back memories. Sometimes, though, it is THE thing that encapsulates everything. It’s great that your brother had both of these and cared enough to share. Merry Christmas to you and your family.
Jason ShemchukJanuary 5, 2022 at 1:45 am
So true Joe. It’s a symbol more than anything I think. Thanks for reading and the insightful comment. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Rita ShemchukDecember 28, 2021 at 1:46 am
Still a beautiful story.
Jason ShemchukJanuary 5, 2022 at 1:44 am
It always makes me smile. Thanks for reading.