A few weeks ago I was cleaning some old junk out of the basement at my mom’s place, and amid the clutter was a pile of rods wedged in the corner. Most them were beaten to death, missing guides, and not worth saving. But in the cluster were four I just had to keep, because they all represent milestones in my fishing history. There was my first spinning rod (1), an Olympic 2000 that, if memory serves correctly, my dad cut down for 7-year-old me. It only has three guides. Then there’s my first fly rod (2), an Eagle Claw Feather Light. I got the rod in 6th grade, and used it until my sophomore year of high school. That Christmas Santa brought me a G. Loomis 5-weight.


Number 3 is the first (and last) rod I ever built. Note the chunks of deer horn expertly worked into the handle. You can’t see it in the photo, but I non-expertly didn’t realize you had to buy a tip guide separately. Being too lazy and impatient to order one, I just spun a regular guide onto the tip. I caught one bass on the rod and retired it. The blank is so cheap it would probably snap if you looked at it wrong.

Finally, there is my old Shakespeare Alpha (4). Dubbed “Great White,” it was the first surf rod I ever owned. The 10-footer did a fine job of lobbing bait into the waves, but when I got serious about chasing stripers in the surf, it didn’t take long to switch to a rod that was a little less of a telephone pole and could actually cast a light plug more than 15 feet. What were some of your milestone rods? Do you still have any of them?