A Favor and a Fly Rod: A Gift 30 Years in the Making

Above photo credit: Bryson Malone

Collectible items are not something you typically use and abuse. But what if that very item was made particularly for you to enjoy? Like literally built for you, and only you. The decision becomes less obvious.

In this episode of Time Tested, GearJunkie editor Kirk Warner tells us all about his favorite piece of gear: a special fly fishing rod his dad gave him.

Custom Powell fly rod with author's name and birth date
Photo credit: Kirk Warner

Walton Powell built rods under his own name beginning in the 1950s and continued to do so until his death in 2001. As with most things produced by a deceased legend of the industry, Powell Rods are now collector’s items and contain tons of history in their build and story.

My dad, Mark, met Walt in the late ’80s while fishing the Sacramento River. Walt’s boat had broken down, and he picked him up to take him back to the boat dock. Quickly, they realized how much they got along and just decided to fish the rest of the day together.

In Walt’s eyes, he owed my dad a debt after that day.

A Fly Rod Built for My Birth

The author using his custom fly rod
Photo credit: Bryson Malone

Walt was known to build rods for folks who helped him out in any way, and this was no exception. Walt and my father stayed friends through the years, and when my dad told Walt that he was expecting a son to be born soon, Walt saw an opportunity. (Spoiler alert: I was that baby.)

Following my birth in September 1991, Walt gifted my father a custom fly fishing rod with my name and birthday handprinted on the rod. Pretty cool, right?

My father worked seasonally as a fishing guide on the Klamath River for every summer I can remember. And as you can expect, one of the earliest skills I learned as a kid was how to fish. My relationship with my father has a deep connection to days spent on the water hooking salmon and steelhead.

An Unexpected Gift

But my dad had a secret. He never talked about the rod Walt had given him. He was waiting for the right moment to give it to me. And boy, was he a patient guy.

I moved to Colorado in 2010 and quickly took interest in fly fishing. This was the moment my father was waiting for. So he casually mentioned he had a fly rod I could use, and next thing I knew, a box arrived at my house.

Custom Powell fly rod
Photo credit: Kirk Warner

Quickly opening the box, I inspected the rod and noticed my name and birthday handwritten on the graphite rod. I was confused because I thought he was sending an old rod he didn’t need, so I immediately called him.

He seemed to answer the phone more quickly than usual that day.

And so it goes, I sat and listened to my dad tell me the amazing story you just read. How he met Walt. How they found friendship. And how eventually I received the most thoughtful present I’d ever received.

The author using his custom fly rod
Photo credit: Bryson Malone

This story is about friendships and family, the randomness of the world, and the value of patience.

Remember when we talked about collector’s items? Well, this is one. And neither my dad nor Walt would want to see it tucked away in a safe place or on display. It was made for fishing.