That’s what an old, well known, Fly Fisherman from the Florida Keys told me once as I pondered buying a classic fly rod that is not made any longer. It was used, in great shape and hard to find….yet the last thing I needed was another expensive fly rod. As I held it and felt the action on it, my cousin Mark and I chatted with “Bonefish Bob” (Robert E. Berger) about the old days of bonefishing in Islamorada – he even told me about the fly fishing guide who owned that rod and all the Tarpon that had been caught using it. Who knows if that were true – but I loved hearing about it. Bob was known for his fly fishing passion, his tackle shop (Ye Old Tackle Shop it as called) and the stories he told while you were there. He told us stories for about an hour – stories of his childhood and of leaving his shop every afternoon back in the 60’s and 70’s fly fishing with the great Ted Williams and catching 12lb bonefish with him like they were bass fishing in a pond out back. It was mesmerizing to listen to him talk while looking through his amazing eclectic collection of old and new fly fishing tackle and art.
So anyway, maybe he was just a damn fine salesman or maybe what he said to me hit home – either way – this was his plan. He said (as I was putting the fly rod back on the rack and clearly not going to get it)…”Wes, you only come through here once”. At first, I thought he meant his shop. Then I thought he meant Islamorada. Then, after a moment of silence, I realized he meant life. You only come through here once. He was right. And given the scene I was a part of that day – talking to him as if he were a friend – in his fly shop – looking at a classic fly rod not made any longer that had been connected to countless Tarpon….I had to buy it. I had no other choice. It was a perfect cast he made to me…and I ate the fly.
Sadly, Bonefish Bob took his own life the next year (this was 5 or 6 years ago). We found this out as we motored out of the famous Bud and Mary’s marina headed out to find some Tarpon and were reminiscing about our trip last year and a visit to his shop. I was holding the fly rod I bought from Bob, telling our friend and guide about it. He told us he was gone.
I think about that advice he gave me now and then when faced with a decision. It’s so simple, yet so applicable to just about anything in your life. I am so glad I bought that rod and I am glad I got to meet Bob.