“Do I really need this?” He asked himself while spinning the handle another turn before putting it down. I held my breath as he lifted up another old reel before putting it back on the shelf. I had never seen him use that old Pflueger in all the years I watched him fishing from the boat house float. He then lifted a dusty spool of Ashaway line off the same shelf and said, “What a waste. I bought this a few years ago to re-spool my Penn Squidder then I thought I could squeeze a few more trips out of the old line, but that decision cost me a jumbo tautog.”
Larry had his back to me; talking at me as he rummaged through what appeared to be generations of assorted fishing tackle. He lifted a disintegrating canvas tote bag covered in dust and underneath was a brand new Penn reel box. Turning to make certain I was still there he uttered, “I’ll be damned. This is the new Penn Squidder with the red side plates that I thought was either lost or stolen.” I did not entertain any expectations of ever being gifted that reel. His everyday tackle consisted of an original Penn Squidder with black side plates filled with nine-thread Ashaway line mounted on a handsome 7-foot Montague split bamboo rod that allowed him to make fairly long casts. He opened the box that revealed the familiar Penn white paper with green letters over a shiny new reel that sat atop the tools and lubricant it was shipped with.
“I just found $25. Red offered to buy my old Squidder for $20, but he’ll jump at this one for five more dollars. Damn, I’m back to making money again. Let’s celebrate.” He reached into his front pocket and pulled out his weathered black coin case. Snapping back the solid brass closure he turned away to hide its contents. However, my first glimpse determined it was stuffed with greenbacks. He rooted around the larger bills and extracted a rumpled dollar, then sent me over to Al Macs to get our treat. While I was pleased that he was in a good and generous mood, I was reluctant to have him continue the inventory without me, afraid I’d miss something he might discard. I raced the four blocks and returned with a coffee milk, a large black coffee and two of the diner’s famous jelly donuts.
While I was out getting our food, he uncovered two old Penn Sea Boy reels with the twin wooden handles; one with rotted line, the other, despite a layer of dust and spider webs, looked as though it had never tasted saltwater. “Put this new one in your duffle. It’s very simple, you can put this spool of Ashaway line on and use it, or you can trade it up towards something else,” he said, gifting me the new reel.
My attendance at this tackle evaluation was not at the invitation of the owner. He was called out by the caretaker for being a hoarder and a cheap SOB. “You’ve got a garage full of tackle that’s going to be taken off to the dump. The kid’s fishing with an old frayed and knotted hand line. Why not share some of the tackle you are never going to use again?”
I filled my duffel with the Pflueger, the little Penn Sea Boy, a few boxes of new hooks, a combo fish knife scaler, a skinning tool and three new spools of linen line. As I prepared to leave, a somber Larry took my hand and poured forth a remorseful confession. “I survived the Great Depression; we had nothing, but I had an appetite for everything. Then I began making good money and lost sight of my original goals, salting most of it away. I bought numerous items but hoarded most and seldom put the better tackle into service. Now at the end of my life what do I have left? Money with nothing I need or desire to spend it on.” He put his arm around me and whispered, “Work hard, keep your nose clean, and go fishing every chance you get, but be thoughtful and generous, so you don’t end up like me.” Food for thought during this charitable season.