I have drug the old man to the Somerset Fly Fishing show in North Jersey damn near every year since high school. Even tricked my brothers into attending a few times, no chance this year with the admission fee jumping up to $18. I promised myself we wouldn’t go this year. Especially with the pond frozen, it was time for hockey, not fishing. It always ends in an impulse buy or me discovering the next must have piece of equipment. Despite the frozen pond, this year had brought us a fresh reason to take the trip. So the old man and I hit the road. When we got there he even asked the woman collecting the entrance fee if he could get a half day pass. Jokingly, (Kinda).
Despite his attempt at a custom half day/ half price pass George and I do both agree it to be money well spent. Its packed with fishing and tying stuff, art and its nice to grab some of the exotic location brochures as day-dream material. A particular outfitter in Labrador has sent us a Christmas card every year since I signed a form for updates on the outfit. The cards are always hung somewhere as they typically sport a hand painted brook trout. Last time I checked, the price was over 5,000.00 for a week of heaven in Labrador. Thanks for the card boys, but this guy ain’t making it in this lifetime.
As I said this year was different, I would have not gone. But I’m now extremely glad that I had. Sante Guiliani had emailed me telling me he would be attending and bringing along “a pile of Fred Thomas rods” for me to check out. A freaking pile of Thomas fly rods?! I’m in. Even pushed back my planned pond hockey game. The rods were awesome, and so was Sante. I had never met him in person, only email. Its weird meeting someone you have known only via internet, its almost as if they are not real until you physically see and speak with them. But real he was, and possibly the nicest guy I have ever met. We talked Thomas fly rods for about an hour. He showed me his collection, one by one. Even made me smell one, and F.E Thomas mahogany. Like the smell of my Dads old pick-up truck he had when I was a child, I hope it never leaves me. I can’t say enough nice things about him, if you get the opportunity to meet Sante, do it.
After that we stopped to say hello to Jim Downes, and show him my Thomas rod. Really just stopping by to b.s. We did end up spending money, but not on a whim. As planned we met with Fred Kretchman and purchased a vintage Stanley 9.5 plane. Even though we have a lie-nielsen pops and I both thought it important to purchase the plane that most historic makers started with. Its awesome, and more comfortable in my hand than the Nielsen plane. Then stopped by the Wanigas Rod Company to purchase a few blanks of spanish cedar that were left over from the Payne rod shop.
I arrived home to a chewed up sheet of ice. The result of my old team mates and brothers skating all day. I laced em up, skated by myself till it was too dark to see, threw in some chew, enjoyed the silence and thought about those Thomas rods. It was a beautiful moment, as I grabbed my gear and looked back at our rink, then headed for the house. A great day. I took five steps and my left leg plunked through the ice up to my knee, sending me and my gear flying, (still don’t know how the hell I managed to keep the rest of my body above water). Flock me, was my first thought. Then I realized that after meeting Sante my Thomas rod purchase was complete, and it was perfect. The rest of my life will continue to be some what of a shit-show. But the Thomas will be with me, I’ll manage.