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THE CONSUMMATE ANGLER

The phone rang the afternoon of Nov. 4. The friendly voice on the other end was Tom Binnall.

The Spring Hill man was filled with questions about fishing the saltwater. Our conversation then drifted to fly fishing, of which I don't partake much. I can flip a fly, but I am not accomplished at it.

Binnall asked if I would appreciate seeing a few pre World War II split bamboo rods. "Absolutely," I said.

At 83, Binnall seems to be an enigma to the aging process. For him, the day-to-day affairs of fishing, tying flies, maintaining his equipment and preparing for the next outing are a natural.

The day I visited him, Binnall was as animated as any angler.

His memories are many, vivid and go back decades _ from a career in the military to his days as a fly angler. Most memories center around Anne, his doting wife of 60 years. She not only takes good care of her angler, at one time she tied flies for a company from which former baseball great Ted Williams purchased products.

During his military service, Binnall was attached to the U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division and served as a bodyguard for the regimental commander in the Aleutian Islands.

Binnall snow skies like a pro, fishes like one and converses intimately about both. He remembers well his college days at Miami of Ohio. Ex-Notre Dame football coach Ara Parseghian was a classmate, and they sat next to each other.

Binnall has degrees in biology and forestry and a masters in metallurgy. The former two satisfied his love for outdoor adventure, and the latter subject enabled him to support his family. His education has added to his lifelong success as an angler.

To Binnall, success has come more from the enjoyment he has received participating in outdoor adventures _ not in the amount of fish caught. To him, life is a blessing of good family, quiet streams and trout rising to take dry flies on a misty morning.

What Binnall knows of angling are the traditional things.

He fishes from a 16-foot canoe when not searching gurgling mountain streams and brooks. Tempting trout with dry flies is his true passion. Small lightweight fly rods, tiny hand-tied nymphs, larvae and mosquitoes make up his freshwater arsenal. Hand-tied leaders and tippets are, to him, the only way to rig.

Binnall's deliberate hands know with confidence their next move, and his casting abilities are strong. He uses a hand technique known as basket-weaving to retrieve and manipulate the line on his reels.

"Reels are only used for holding line," Binnall said. "When I'm fishing, I can truly feel the fish by basket-weaving the line through my fingers. I can also fight them much better."

Binnall enjoys a sense of fishing by the seat of his pants, of feeling the entire experience in his fingers. Through the use of this time-honored method of line manipulation, the man gets what he's after.

Binnall has fished with rods made from modern materials, but fiberglass and boron don't set his heart afire. He loves the feel of split bamboo in his hands. His favorite rods are an antique English-made Payne and a pre World War II Orvis. Both come with extra tip sections.

"Back when these rods were in fashion, they weren't built to handle heavy loads on the tip section," Binnall explained. "The forward section of the rod was merely to keep light tension on the fish so it wouldn't get away.

"If an angler got too anxious," Binnall said, "tips were known to break. At the time, rod manufacturers incorporated an extra tip section with each rod sold _ just in case a break happened stream-side."

Binnall's favorite vessel other than a pair of waders is his outrigger canoe. The stability provided by the added outriggers is perfect for fly fishing in shallow, quiet waters.

Stealth comes easy when angling from his canoe. "There's no better way to sneak up on the fish," he said.

Binnall found the additional outriggers some years ago in a magazine ad. "They seemed to be a great idea the instant I saw them."

Though they are of rudimentary design, they perform admirably. So does Tom Binnall _ the epitome of what every angler should become.

If you have a question or comment, call Capt. Mike Scarantino, (352) 683-4868.

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