Mrs. UA and I recently moved, and in our new home the office of the Unaccomplished Angler is on the first floor, immediately off the entry, on display for all who enter via the front door. Because of this prominent location, I’ve been instructed to keep my workplace clutter to a minimum and refrain from working in my skivvies. The adjustment has been challenging but I’m slowly learning to keep clutter to a minimum.
Aside from the aforementioned challenges, a big part of settling into the new first floor digs has been choosing office decor that meets with the discerning approval of Mrs. UA while still suiting my interests. After hanging some family photos and other meaningful display items I was left with a rather large, blank wall that needed something special. It was decided that my grandfather’s old bamboo rod would hang proudly along the top 1/3 of the space. I’ve had the rod for years but it has, until recently, sat in a closet tucked safely inside it’s vintage tube. I’d always intended to display the rod, but there was never a space that was quite right, until now. The rod is a “Challenger” model from the Old Faithful Rod Company of Denver, Colorado. Giving it a place of honor on the wall was an easy decision, but before that could be done I had to find an era-appropriate reel to compliment the rod (which is from the 1940’s-1050’s). Fortunately I was able to find a Pfleuger Medalist 1496 1/2 reel that was manufactured during that same time period. The rod and reel pair nicely—neither of which was a fancy, top-shelf piece of equipment during their respective days of employ. My grandfather was a notoriously cheap man. He would not have owned fancy, expensive gear. Nor would he have shied away from criticizing those who did.
With the rod and reel hung in place, I built crafted a rustic, floating shelf from reclaimed barn wood and affixed some equally rustic, forged steel hooks. A 1950’s era hand net from the Ed Cummings Company out of Flint, Michigan, dangles from one hook. From another is an old, unbranded fisherman’s creel (made in Japan). Both net and creel were acquired from Etsy. Who knew there was such a magical place as Etsy? It’s a crafter’s dream!
Sitting atop the shelf are a few old aluminum fly boxes (including a couple of Wheatleys) each containing a variety of vintage-esque flies. I also have a couple of old aluminum leader dispensers and a Cortland Crown reel, identical to the first reel I had as a kid in the mid 1970’s (I still haven’t found a rod to replace that which was lost). Of course no fly fishing display would be complete without some classic books, one of which is A River Runs Through it (first edition, 4th printing, so not terribly valuable as a collector’s edition, nor too pricey). A set of priceless Olive the Woolly Bugger books is also displayed on the table below the shelf of knick knacks, as well as a couple of personal fishing photos: one of the UA and his son, Schpanky, on the Hoh River in 2011 after Schpanky had caught his second (or was it third?) wild steelhead of the day. The other photo is of the UA with his first respectable fish on the Yakima River many years before the other photo was taken. I’ve still not bested that fish on the Yakima River.
The Wall of Fly Fishing was nearly complete save for a gaping hole between the floating shelf and the rod. With the approval from Mrs. UA I went rogue and decided that a wood carving of a trout would look good there, so I found a “Hand Carved Brown Trout” from an online seller (the one that offered the lowest price and cheapest shipping for this commodity, which can be found elsewhere online). While perhaps not jaw-droppingly beautiful, the online photos actually looked pretty darn good for a mass-produced albeit allegedly hand-carved item. When it arrived I was excited to get the last piece of the puzzle hung on the Wall of Fly Fishing. When I opened the box my enthusiasm ebbed as I instantly noticed that something was horribly amiss.
If you look at an actual brown trout (or any other trout for that matter), the eye is well forward of the trailing edge of the maxilla and fairly high up toward the top of the trout’s head. The Hand Carved Brown Trout I received looks as if it has a lazy eye after having met the business end of priest. Now before you get your shorts all twisted in a nail knot, realize that a “priest” is a tool also known as a fish bat, or “persuader”. Imagine knocking a fish upside the head with a weighted baton and you start to get the sense of things. The Hand Carved Brown Trout I received appears to have eye placement more akin to a Bighead carp, which is quite low on the head and well behind the maxilla.
The tag affixed to the Hand Carved Brown Trout states (verbatim):
Certified Hand Crafted
This art piece is a genuine handicraft, in a world of stamped out, mass produced, faux finished products, our crafts remain hand carved and forged using centuries old techniques in a natural village environment. Each piece is designed by American artist and brought to life Balinese artisans using free trade principles. To learn more about this artwork, the partnership of artist and artisan, free trade principles and the magical island of Bali, please go to: www.tidesign-info.com
I will say the Hand Carved Brown Trout does appear to have been carved and painted by hand, and therefore I accept—and would expect—subtle differences between the item displayed online and the item I received. After all, no two hand-crafted items are going to be identical and I reckon that is the beauty of something not created by a computerized machine. I can excuse subtle differences in paint and even some of the small carving details, but the misplacement of the eye is troubling. Rather than a regal example of a majestic brown trout, what I have is more akin to an inbred, cousin-kissing brown trout. It almost seems like a classic example of bait and switch but I’m not sending the Hand Carved Brown Trout back to the seller, despite its challenged appearance. No, I shall instead embrace said Hand Carved Brown Trout for what it is: a truly unique and less-than-perfect piece of genuine handicraft carved by an artisan in a village in a far-off land who has probably a much better chance of seeing an actual bighead carp than a brown trout. At the very least it’s a good conversation piece and draws attention away from the fact that I’m sitting in my office, in my skivvies.