JP Ross is thoughtful guy. I’m not talking about the “oh, isn’t he nice?” kind of thoughtful, though he’s probably that, too. I mean to say that from what I can tell, he approaches everything he does with focus and a great deal of thought. As though it matters. Because to him, it does. He’s also a rod designer and builder who believes, passionately, that a fly rod is more than merely a tool to catch fish, it’s an instrument of zen. Which is probably why we hit it off from the start.

My interview with him meandered from a doctor’s office parking lot in Utica, NY, where he was first introduced to fly fishing as a child, to his experience owning a fly shop and designing fly rods, and ultimately, to a discussion about the human and Devine forces that compel him. Terms you don’t often hear in conversations about fishing came up—like happiness, belonging, and believe it or not, even enchantment.

I stood at the open slider of the #CariVan feeling the late afternoon sun warm the back of my neck between my hat and my shirt collar. As I worked to clear the Tetris level that was getting my gear to fit into my favorite pack, I wondered for a moment if this little excursion was even worth the trouble. It was a fleeting thought born of the traditional values one picks up as a young angler where the proportion of the effort is weighed only against the size of the catch. Old habits die hard, I suppose. But this outing would be nothing like my youthful pursuits f   or either glory or groceries. I had a very particular goal in mind, driven by curiosity more than conquest. The plan was hatched last time I had visited this favorite TX State park, and I was bound to see it through.

Both the Yeti and the Simms are viable options for shuttling your favorite beverage with you to the river or on the trail. If they were boxers, one would be the heavyweight and one would be the flyweight.

Earlier today, guided by a cobbled-together plan consisting of basic knowledge, general guidance and personal perseverance, I ventured eastward from Portland, Oregon through the shadow of the Mt. Hood National Forest. After an hour or so winding through old-growth redwoods, I rather abruptly emerged onto the straw-colored expanse of high desert. Windows down, I caught the whiff of woodsmoke even before catching sight of the mounting haze that had visited often on this trip. Though I hadn’t encountered a live burn at this point, distant wildfires have a persistent way of making their presence known.

I’ve been following the work of JP Ross for a while now. I first ran across his Muir pack rod, a 7-foot-5-piece fiberglass 3wt, several years ago when looking for a backpacking companion to chase…