Tuesday, November 2, 2010


I have a couple of old baitcasting reels. One is a Shakespeare 1920 Wondereel and the other is a Shakespeare 1932 Tru-Axis reel. Both are beautiful little machines with very similar designs. The Wondereel was given to me by my in-laws - I think they found it in an antique (second-hand) store up the coast a few years ago. The Tru-Axis reel was given to me by my Uncle Gichi about 50 years ago. It's mounted on an aluminum 5 foot long South Bend baitcasting rod. That rod and reel combo, although old, dusty and beat up, is a treasured piece of my childhood. It hangs on the wall next to my fly tying desk. I caught dozens of bluegill with it, plus a few catfish and crawdads. I'm sure I'll always have it.

Uncle Gichi was a grape farmer in Reedley, California - an area sometimes known as "America's Fruitbasket." He loved to fish. As a kid, I remember that he had all sorts of fishing equipment in my grandparent's garage. I was fascinated with an automatic fly reel that retrieved its line at the push of a button. I had no idea how one would use it to catch fish, but it was pretty cool. I would see him once, occasionally twice a year - not really enough to base a real strong relationship. But I think he always related to my little sister and I because the three of us were pretty much the "black sheep" of the family. He was smart, proud and could be quite stubborn. He was his own person and didn't worry about being like everyone else. My sister and I were the smart-mouthed, tie-dye and bead wearing hippies of the family from Los Angeles. My cousins weren't so overtly rebellious - they were saints while we were...well, we weren't necessarily sinners, but we sure were a lot closer to burning in hell than they were.

Uncle Gichi passed away seven or eight years ago. We were on vacation at the time and didn't get the bad news until we got home, missing his funeral. Sometimes I'll think about him and his brother, Uncle George who also loved fishing, when I'm out on a trout stream. I'm sure that, in spirit, they're out there with me. I'm also sure that if they actually were there, they'd easily out-fish me, too.