The old creel hung from an antler peg on our log cabin porch. It was a heavy reed weave, bound and trimmed with a russet brown leather, stitched with sinew. It’s held the test of time for it was Grandfather’s and he lived on the Rogue River and the Umpqua.
Among those flashing sparkling treasures held inside were the flies he tied during the winter by kerosene lamp, with meticulous care and attention to detail. His caddis and nymph, deadly, indeed for their purpose was to fill that creel for his growing family. Oh, how memories flood with aroma of sizzling trout that Grandma prepared to everyone’s delight.
My early memories reach back to the times Grandfather let me hold and carry this treasure of tackle. I’d have to double up the sling and hoist it up as I scrambled over moss-covered trails, ferns nearly as tall as myself, clambering over boulders, always careful of my charge. The creel was a badge of honor that always held the sparkling rainbow prizes.
We’d put the sneak on as we neared the bank of the river, only exchanging glances (eyebrows tell everything) to wait, to go on. Grandpa assembled the fly rod of bamboo and deftly made his casts out over the water to a pool, to this or that riffle, his motions were fluid and rhythmic. Soon, surface water would boil and the line became taut as the rod arched and the real excitement would begin.
My grandfather knew how to hook more than trout: He had his grandson hooked as he beckoned me near, my hands clutching the reel, tugging against the fish. Cradling his arms around me, holding the rod firmly, together we worked the monsters to shore. After the struggle he’d carefully disengage the hook, we’d appraise our prize, and slip him into the creel. In an hour we’d caught our supper and my neck would feel the burden on the journey back up through the woods. Somehow I always beat Grandpa to the cabin and bursting through the door, showed Grandma our catch. She’d ooh and aah and shoo me back out to where we cleaned the fish and fed her cats.
They are gone now. Grandpa went quick, a clot in his leg after crossing the fence. Grandma passed quietly shortly after.
The rod is mine now. The creel hangs around my son’s neck and shoulder: He is eight and casting. Grandpa would be so proud. Fishing is our tradition, our way of sharing and bonding with nature. The creel so thoughtfully constructed hangs on the antler peg. With it hangs the richest catch of all: love.