Classic Story: The True Value of a Fly Rod

Written by: Colin S. Shaffer

Colin says that this photo captures the essence of his father, when he is untangling my line
as a young Colin stares into the camera. You can clearly make out the Orvis rod, too.
Photo courtesy Colin Shaffer

[Editor’s Note: This story originally ran back in December, 2013. Orvis head of Rod & Tackle Steve Hemkens was in the Orvis rod shop, and rod-repair supervisor Jim West happened to show Steve the letter below, which accompanied a broken fly rod. Steve was touched by the letter, and asked Jim to show him the rod in question. We reached out to to the letter’s author and asked for some pictures, which are included here. It’s a wonderful story that really requires no further comment.]

Dear Orvis,

I wanted to share a story with you about this pole.

When my father was in his early 20s, in the early 1970s, he left Portland, Oregon—with not much more than the clothes on his back—for Idaho to follow his passion for fly fishing. With what little money he had, he bought the rod enclosed in this case. He and that rod spent the next decade fishing all of the big rivers in southern Idaho and western Montana. In 1982, I was born, and my father found his second passion: being a parent. He still fished regularly, and I remember watching him cast with grace and wishing I could someday fish like him. When I was 10 years old, my father decided it was time for me to give up the Zebco spinning rod for fly fishing, and what better pole to do it with than the tried-and-true Orvis. Although my father would take a few casts here and there (on his newer, lighter Orvis rod), he preferred to sit back and help me hone my skills to become the master fisher he was. For the next decade, I fished all over western Idaho and eastern Oregon until 2001, when my father tragically passed away.

Colin’s father preferred to watch his boy fish, rather than fishing himself.
Photo courtesy Colin Shaffer

After my father’s death, fishing just wasn’t quite the same, and for the next six years I spent most of my time studying and going to school. Of course, I still fished as often as possible, but education was my priority. Once I graduated college and entered the workforce, I picked up a 9-foot, 60weight Orvis rod and started fishing all over central California, from the Kern River to Bishop. About two years ago, I was on a narrow river and needed a smaller pole than my 9-footer. I pulled out the old 8-foot rod and began placing perfect casts right through the brush into the channel. For the next two years, I used that old 8-footer probably more than my 9-foot Orvis. About 6 months ago, I caught a snag, and the old rod finally gave way and snapped. I was devastated, as I saw 40 nearly 40 years of native browns and Yellowstone cutthroats lying in pieces on the banks of the Lower Owens. I felt awful, but at the same time was shocked at the quality of that rod that had, after decades of use, held up and still casts beautifully until its final day. I let that rod sit for the next six months, when yesterday I decided to give Orvis a call and see what they could do. So here we are.

Today, Colin continues to spend time on the water, which bonds him to those childhood memories.
Photo courtesy Colin Shaffer

I think it is important for any fisherman to understand the story and life that every rod carries. This rod’s story is one of father and son, bonding and love. Never did I spend more quality time with my father than on the banks of the rivers of Idaho and Oregon. And in each of these quality moments sits this rod. I know that you may not be able to fix this rod, and that is fine, but I hope that there is a rod that will carry a similar story someday for me and my children.

Thank you, Orvis, for the quality. Thank you for the service. And most importantly, thank you for the memories.

Warmest regards,

Colin S. Schaffer – Second generation lifetime Orvis customer

Rod-repair technician Keegan Petrossi was tasked with repairing the old 8-footer at our Manchester rod shop.
Photo by Steve Hemkens

6 thoughts on “Classic Story: The True Value of a Fly Rod”

  1. That’s a great story and would love to know if the rod was ever fixed. It sounds like a story that a lot of fly fishermen and fishermen alike can relate to.

  2. I think a good fly rod has “soul” which other types of rods and tackle don’t have. This story really illustrates that.

  3. Great story and great writing. My guess is the essay was more a goodbye than request. I had a similar rod of my grandfather’s. I left it broke and put in up in our modest family cabin. Fly fishing is like life, and nothing and no one lives forever. Thanks for sharing the photo and loving memory of a good man. Kind Regards.

  4. On April 24th 2014 my family suffered a massive basement fire in where we were lucky to escape the upper floors with our two labs. The loses were great. After going thru the debris I found the remains of two 5 wt 9′ Orvis rods.
    A handle with a reel and another burnt handle with a few strands of graphite remaining.
    My daughter said why don’t you send the remains back to Orvis. I laughed at the thought but I did send them back.
    I was contacted by Jim in rod repair and he said he would see what he could do. I was sent back two brand new rods and a new reel!! Much more than I ever thought would happen.
    A Orvis customer for life,
    Ralph Daviet(a happy man)

  5. Every fly rod has a memory.action,history and persna behavior. Have a bunch from 40’s to 80’s.My best friends of me and my Dad.Days on the Battenkill.

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