In the rodmaking world, at the age of 28 I’d be considered on the young end of the spectrum. Unfortunately, I don’t spend all of my time in this proverbial rodmaking world. On most weekends, at least one night is spent with friends at the bar or out and about. And please don’t let pop culture cloud your perception of my friends and me. While I do live in New Jersey, it’s Southern New Jersey. Specifically, a family farm in a small town. Far away from Vinny D, Snookie and the rest of the Jersey Shore fist-pumping cast (most of them aren’t even from Jersey, anyway).
I’m very lucky to have a core group of friends. Despite all of us hanging out since the 6th grade, none of them have any clue what I do with my free time. And as you can imagine, explaining the bamboo fly rod building process and the obsession that follows, is nearly impossible to some of these former football playing, beer-gutted, ex-jocks. We drink, party, tailgate the Eagles games on Sundays, fight, and always have a good time. Anything other than those activities is unheard of to most of these guys.
I guess the closest friend to have any inclination to what I do is Nick. Your typical former high school football playing friend that you have known forever. Loyal, hilarious, and uses his mother’s butter knife as his primary “tool” for around the house chores. His ability to comprehend the rod making process is limited, so I try to not overload him with information. In high school, we spent a typical Saturday night drinking in the woods, which ended with Nick passed out on my bedroom floor. When he woke up the next morning above his head was my fly tying desk, littered with materials and flies from a recent tying session. “What the hell….Whattaya makin? Dragon flies?”….Yikes. Uh yeah, sure Nick, dragon flies. Nick has an entrepreneurial spirit, and immediately pondered the profitability of my “dragon flies.” Later that day he called me. “Nah man, wastin’ your time. They are only worth like, a buck a piece.” Ahhh thanks Nick.
Outside my close friends, it’s random acquaintances or in-law type family members. Conversations start up at gatherings between the men and it eventually comes out. “Hey, Doug over there fly fishes, and makes his own rods.” I can tell right away if the guy inquiring about me has any clue. Nine times out of 10, he doesn’t. You run into bait fisherman or guys that pay $75 to head out on a crowded party boat charter to drop bait for flounder at the Jersey Shore. They reallllllly have no clue. I love telling them how much a rod can cost. “1,000 BUCKS!!” followed by the corny rhetorical question, “Geez does it catch the fish for you? yuck yuck yuck.” Or in true astonishment, “Wow! And that is just the rod? All that money and ya gotta buy the line?”
The one downside to not sharing the in-depth nature of what I do with my weekends is the generalization of how I chose to label it. When I head to Coburn to visit Jim Downes, or just to the shop to work on rods, it’s much easier to tell people I’m going fishing. Ya know, that fly fishing thing I do. Upon seeing anyone whom I tell this to shortly thereafter, the questions are always presented. “Hey Doug, did you catch anything? Got pictures?..No?”
Most of my close friends and acquaintances consider me one of the worst fly fisherman they have ever met. I guess I can live with that.