Fishing With An Heirloom

My father-in-law passed away a little over a year ago. Fred Warner was the reason I got serious about fly fishing. He was an avid fly angler; I was dating his daughter. I knew I wouldn't make the cut unless I learned the sport. Right up until he died I joked with him that I could have been a doctor, or a lawyer, or a captain of industry, but for the fact that he gave me that fly fishing bug.

As it happens, we're now helping my wife's mom move to a new place, and as part of that, I just received two things that my father-in-law had earmarked for me: He left me a Benelli Super Black Eagle shotgun with which to shoot ducks, and he left me a fly rod. It's a classic. An H.L. Leonard "Golden Shadow" 9-foot 5-weight.

To be honest with you, I am in somewhat of a quandary over what I should do with that rod. On the one hand, I feel like taking it right to the river, stringing it up with my favorite reel and line, and casting at (and hopefully catching) as many trout as I possibly can. Over and over again.

On the other hand, the possibility I'll break the rod horrifies me. In some ways, I think this rod should be hung on the wall, or tucked safely in the vault, so that I can pass it along to my son, or his son or daughter someday. As I hold it in my casting hand now, the way it glistens and flexes … the spirit the rod possesses is so powerful. I just can't fathom harming it in any way.

But I also think it almost disrespectful not to at least tempt fate, and perhaps with a little mojo sent down from above, land that big-daddy brown I've been working on for several months now.

Do I fish the rod? Do I leave it in safe storage? Take it out once a year in homage to someone who has meant, and always will mean, so much to me? What would you do?