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

11 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.

  6. My Far & Fine turned 30 and is still a great rod. Worked well with ice in the guides a few days ago too. Hope to leave it to my son yet, but not too soon. LOL

  7. My father would enjoy watching my younger brother and I fish more than fishing himself. He was always big on being connected to something in your life. Have a dream , have a passion. Fly fishing , quail hunting, family and work were his. He would always say that Orvis understood the connection between fisherman and the water. Getting our first Orvis rods was a moment like your first car or first kiss. It meant were now trusted to not screw up anything of value. Now that my dad is gone those rods are our connection to him and the gifts he gave us with his time, love and fly fishing. I don’t care who you are something happens when you cast an Orvis rod. It moves you. You get that feeling of being just a little more connected to the water.
    Thank you for that story and allowing me another moment with my father.
    Warmest regards, Steven

  8. Awesome story. Wish more dads could slow down and spend a little more Quality time with the kiddos today……crazy society we live in…(Makes me wanna just pack the Toyota Warrior and hit the road for non-stop fly fishing in Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon……for starters.
    I am a new fly fisher , doing things kinda backwards as I lost my father at a young age in a airplane crash.
    I always yearned to learn fly fishing and hunting skills…..and well life went on and I went to college, got married, had kids etc etc………and now it’s just me……on an adventure of a lifetime following a passion that had always been in the middle of my heart.
    Oh yea… my first Elk last season in Red River…….I’m totally hooked!!!
    I’m 58 yrs young…….and ready to go into semi retirement on the road. Another amazing opportunity I’m about to move on is “Travel Nursing” in my RV…….I think there will be a day or two left over to go fly fishing.
    I would definitely retire that Orvis and hand it on the wall in my living room… what a story piece…..really touched my heart!!

  9. I cannot understand why Orvis stopped repairing PM 10 rods and threw out any PM 10 rod sent in for repair after they decided to stop repairing them. It’s not like my name and phone number were unknown to the Orvis repair department. I’m pretty sure they have it on file because I know that 842 was repaired twice before I sent it in the third time.
    It’s been a long time since that happened and I’d gladly trade the Helios (or whatever rod they sent back; I have no desire to fish a replacement. I’d like to think they’d never do this again without at least contacting the owner before destroying or throwing out their broken rod. Mine had memories as well but I had it repaired twice so why would I hesitate to send it in again? I didn’t know you had to submit a story to get your rod treated with the same respect as other Orvis customers. I keep checking EBay but I’ll never BUY another Orvis rod. I think whoever trashed my rod should be held accountable for trashing and violating my memories.
    Whomever I talked to about this at the time was brusque and seemed annoyed that I had the audacity to question the almighty Oz.
    It’s just bad behavior AND bad business.

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