Last weekend I went dove hunting.
It was the first time out for my new shotgun, a lovely Weatherby Orion I stocked with with a particularly good piece of wood. I find pass shooting doves as they come into roost a pretty boring affair, so I tend to hunt on foot, treating the doves as smaller, more nimble quail. Shots are close but but snappy and bring the sport back into what can be a pretty sport-less activity.
Storms were rolling in fast and I knew that there wouldn’t be time to walk to the area I had planned. Instead picked out a small area that appeared to be slightly more riparian along the way and started busting through the bushes. Within a moment I heard a flush, raised the shotgun, and after a boom I smiled. The Weatherby had gone one for one and the gun was not cursed.
I wish I could say the same for my Orvis Helios 3D.
When I bought the H3 I was excited. This was my graduation present for finishing my PhD and the first truly top tier rod I had ever purchased. I compared the 3F and 3D at my local, and beloved, Orvis dealer and within two casts I knew the 3D, particularly in the 9 ft 4 wt guise, was the one for me.
I was in love. Completely and totally enamoured. The rod matched my casting stroke perfectly. It shot tons of line but still had the feel of a 4 wt. It was beautifully crafted, with perfect cork and an extremely noticible white section along the blank that spoke directly to the part of my soul that loves Instagram likes. I was young and in love and even bought the matching blue Mirage reel because people who are young and in love do stupid things. That night images of long casts, big fish, and crippling credit card statements danced in my head. I was happy.
My first trip out didn’t go so well. I say this as a compliment, but the H3 had a way of rewarding you for making good casts and punishing you for making bad ones. It is hard to describe, but think about it this way: with some of my other rods I can make a bad cast, get upset about where it lands, make the exact same cast, and have the fly end up in a different, maybe better, place because the rod isn’t very precise. In short, I can cheat. That isn’t the case with the H3. If you make the same cast twice the fly is going to the same place twice, whether you like it or not. Make a good cast and this is wonderful. Repeat a bad cast and get ready to take a hit to your self-esteem. In general I’m not a big believer in marketing hype, but to this rod’s immense credit its accuracy has improved my stroke.
Because I was a worse caster than I knew, I spent a lot more time on my first trip cleaning up my bad habits than fishing. I managed to avoid catching any fish, but I did run into this excellently designed erosion control feature.
At this point I was disappointed but not stressed. Yes, I wanted to catch a fish on the first trip with the rod, but certainly this was not a portent of things to come. Next up was casing Apache Trout on the LCR.
Skunked. Then some rainbows at Lee’s Ferry.
Skunked. Then some browns in Chevelon Creek.
Skunked. There was even a trip to Canyon Creek where I got so skunked and so upset with myself that I didn’t take a single picture. Going into last summer I hadn’t been skunked for years and all the sudden I couldn’t catch anything.
And that’s when the thought first crept into my mind: the H3 is cursed.
As summer rolled around it came time to pick which rod I would take on the annual fishyoneering trips. The 9 ft H3’s ability to reach cast above the bushes beckoned, but my trustly and vaguely fishy smelling Superfine called to me. Maybe I should break out the old rod, I thought, not because the H3 is cursed or anything, that would be ridiculous, but just for nostalgia’s sake.
Not skunked. Then I decided to break out the Sage Foundation.
Not skunked. Things were looking bleak.
Incredible claims require incredible evidence, and claiming a rod is cursed is certainly incredible. Worried I might be right, I roped Curry into testing the fishy-iest place I know of this side of Fossil Creek: a reliable pool along the Black River.
Over the years I have caught countless fish here. Not always big, but sometimes excellent, this is a go to pool with tons of browns.
So at 1 in the morning Curry and hopped in the Mighty Forester and took off across the state. We timed things perfectly and right at dawn our first flies hit the pool. Nothing. We rested the fish. Nothing. We switched flies. Nothing.
Things were getting dire, so we pushed downstream into some really rough country.
But no matter how remote the pool we found, nothing. Around noon we finally had to admit the obvious: this rod was cursed as hell.
In the name of full disclosure, I should mention that the H3 has brought in one very nice fish.
And yes, we did catch one tiny fish while working our way back to the car on the Black that afternoon. But none of this shook our conclusion. This rod was as cursed as a rod could be.
Of course, the very idea of a rod being cursed is patently ridiculous. A more likely explanation is that I just don’t fish as much as I used to an I’ve lost my edge. Or, that if you fish long enough you’re bound to Wayatt Earp a string of bad luck that will make it seem like your gear is the problem when it really is all chance. Plus, of all the rods in the world why would my rod be the one that is cursed? I haven’t robbed and tombs or kicked any puppies, this rod was my reward for a decade of hard work! Most of all, the H3 can’t be cursed because curses aren’t real.
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Max Wilson is a born and raised Arizonan with a love for all that is beautiful and strange about the Southwest. He studied at Arizona State University, where he received his PhD in ecology. He writes here at Lesser Places, occasionally for Backpacker, and even more occasionally for scientific journals. You can follow him on twitter @maxomillions.