Jeff McAbee: Thieves |

Jeff McAbee: Thieves

Jeff McAbee

Recently, I was camping out on a “Gold Medal” trout stream here in Summit County. Fact is, I’ve been camping out since the first of August, but that’s another story. I brought all the comforts I could manage: a tent, a two-burner stove, some food, water and my four-piece fly rod.

Being my first night out, the evening really hadn’t been too bad to me. I caught a couple of fish, the second of which was a nice sized one for me. Feeling pretty good after the second fish, I sat down on a rock by the river to listen and watch for whatever.

Because I started my camp-out on a weekend, there were several other people in the campground. The group camped next to me was fairly large, with about five kids running around. I mention the kids only because at some point one of the littler ones went missing. (He was asleep in the car). A panic ran through the camp and they enlisted everyone in the campground to look for “Will.”

I knew about the suspected missing boy because flashlight-toting family members from Denver began cruising the fishing trail along the river shining their lights on me upon my rock until I was compelled to give up my quiet spot and help with the search. I carried my fly rod and reel and my tackle to my tent site, leaned the rod against a tree next to my tent and went next door to see if anyone had checked the vehicles.

Once the boy was found and the search called off, I settled into my tent, slid into my sleeping bag, and went to sleep dreaming of the next morning and the fish I would catch. However, when I woke I got dressed and went to the tree to retrieve my rod, I was amazed to see that the rod and reel were gone. I think that I actually reached my hand out to grab the phantom fly rod. It took me a second look to realize that it was gonzo.

I circled the campground, not thinking I might find the missing rod but to clear my head. Back on the Fourth of July my mountain bike was stolen from me so I was beginning to let myself drift into self pity, if not despair. I walked back into my campsite and took a third look. The rod and reel were still gone but the thief had basically left everything else there.

I didn’t do any fishing that day. It was Sunday so I drove to town and went to church, told some of my friends there my sad story and gathered some pity. Not too long ago, I got divorced. I told one of my friends at church that the rod and reel were a gift from my ex-wife. He laughed and called it the “work of God.” The symbolism was not been lost on me.

After church, I headed back out to the campsite. I felt a little violated, betrayed by my fellow man, a little naïve, and also a little asleep on the watch – like a sentinel who has let the opposing army into camp without raising an alarm. So, I decided that I needed to do something to gain a little closure.

Like I mentioned, the thief left the rod case, and the reel case behind. So I gathered those things together, stuffed the soft sleeve for the rod pieces into the hard case and screwed the top on tightly. Then I tied the reel case’s cinch straps around the strap for the rod case so they would not separate in a wind. And I dug the “Orvis Fly-Fishing Guide” out of my car, opened the book to a blank page and wrote:

“To the person who lifted that four piece fly rod from my campsite last night: Here is the rod case. When you break the rod down you should put it in here for protection. I have also included the reel case. The outside is soft and somewhat water resistant and can be used to dry the reel before you stuff it inside. “And this book is a pretty good reference for someone interested in learning the quiet sport of fly fishing. -Jeff

I left the two cases and the book opened to the page where I wrote the note by the bathroom doors at the campground.

I love camping out. The sound of the river puts me to sleep at night and then wakes me up at first light. I’ve also learned to not grow to attached to my ephemeral possessions. But I rose to nature’s call that next morning more than slightly curious about what transpired during my second evening on the river. I dressed, put on shoes and shuffled over to the john. I opened the door and looked down on the spot where I had left the note and there it was again … empty space. The cases and the book … gone.

Thanks for reading it.

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