This month's Product Review is for the Stick, truthfully one of my favorite new tools I've added to my fly fishing gear this year. This past summer I went fishing with some friends on the Savage, which flows out of Deep Creek Lake in Maryland. My friend Ed, whose bright idea it was to go there, accurately described wading the savage as akin to "walking on slime covered bowling balls." Virtually impossible to wade, in my opinion. Although at the time I didn't have two things I now own: studded wading boots, and a stick.
Well with an autumn trip scheduled to the Salmon River in upstate New York, a river that demands utmost respect, I had planned on buying studded boots anyway. But as easy as it is for me to impulse buy fishing gear, I could not bring myself to buy a stick. I've seen them in catalogs, from sticks that fold up and you wear in a holster, to finely crafted wooden sticks from Orvis that you can sometimes find on sale for $11,350. I was told by a trusted stick owner that the fold-up kind is okay, but he greatly preferred the unfolding model. Attach it to your belt with a line long enough that it just floats on your downstream side, and short enough that you can easily grab it.
So I set out to make my own stick. First, on a fishing outing to the nearby Potomac River, I found a stick. I brought it home and, using a utility knife, proceeded to carve it into a similar but slightly smaller stick. I cut it to length (from the floor to about the arm pit). Some sandpaper, outdoor furniture varnish, a rubber chair leg thingy, an eye hook at the top and some thin nylon rope (glued, wrapped and spraypainted black) and the stick was complete. Total cost: Under $5.
The very strong current of the Salmon River proved to be the perfect location for a stick test drive. I used the stick constantly and found it very comforting. The fact that it's floating downstream of you so you pretty much have to pick it up before you move around too much, works very well. It was in my hand on numerous occasions where I unexpectedly lost my balance, saving me from certain immediate moisture overload. It also serves nicely as a walking stick while hiking to those hard to reach spots.
So if you don't already own a stick, and you wade in strong water on slippery rocks, take an evening off from tying flies and make a stick this winter. But don't delay, because I'm thinking of applying for a patent.