Photo: Pictured above, Rainbow City Auction owner and Rainbow Fly Fishing founder Frank Roden receives an award commemorating his service to his community.
By Katie Bohannon, News Editor
After years of dedicating himself to the betterment of his community, Rainbow City Auction owner and Rainbow Fly Fishing Club founder Frank Roden received recognition for his endless contributions.
On Thursday, August 6, Rainbow Fly Fishing members presented Roden with a plaque honoring his passion and devotion to Etowah County.
State Representative Craig Lipscomb was among the club members who honored Roden. From a child in Roden’s Sunday school class to an adult, Roden remains an example of excellence and admiration in Lipscomb’s eyes. He encouraged people to look beyond fishing to Roden’s character as a person.
“It was a tremendous honor to make this presentation to Frank,” said Lipscomb. “He doesn’t seek any honor or glory; he just does the right thing, which makes him more than deserving. The funny thing is, he hates the publicity. I don’t care – he is awesome, and I want everyone to know it. He is just a wonderful person.
“Frank and his wife Tammy have become pillars of the Rainbow City community who have a great retail business in addition to the fly shop. If you haven’t been to Rainbow City Auction on Steele Station Road, you should go this weekend! It has something for everyone.”
“I was pleasantly surprised [to receive the award],” said Roden. “I knew that I’d been heavily involved in trying to make this happen through the years, but I never expected or asked for any recognition of it. I’m always wanting people to feel like it’s something they did. I do have a lot of club members [that] when I hear them talk about how ‘we’ started the club, the ‘we’ to me means more than ‘Frank.’ I told them the other night when they did present it, ‘Guys, I appreciate the award, but look out to your left and right at the person who is sitting next to you. This is who made this happen.’ That’s what I want to see – I want to see people involved and them feel like they had a part in what is going on…that’s how we need to treat each other.”
Roden began fly fishing when he was 13 years old. Inspired by outdoorsmen Curt Gowdy and Lee Wulff on the television series American Sportsman, Roden set his sights on a fly fishing rod in a SIDCO service station in Southside and had to have it. While he worked at his father’s body shop earning one dollar per day (since his father provided him with meals and a home), Roden started saving his money for the rod.
“Rods started disappearing off the rack,” said Roden. “It got down to one rod, which is the rod I’d picked out, and I said, ‘Pop, I’ve got so-and-so money, can you loan me the rest where I can get the fly rod? It’s going to sell.’ He said, ‘Son, you don’t spend it ‘til you earn it.’ [Though] he didn’t lend me the money, I feel like they put the bug in the shop owner’s ear, because that rod sat there the rest of the summer while I was making the money.”
Roden earned the money to purchase his first fly rod, spreading crumpled dollar bills and scattering change on the shop counter. Though he had the exact amount to pay for the rod and nothing else, the SIDCO owner gave Roden a net and crate of flies to go with his rod. Roden spent several Saturday afternoons sweeping the store floor or running errands for him, hoping to repay his generosity however he could.
Since the first moment Roden held a rod in his hands, his love for fly fishing never subsided.
“I enjoy the solitude of fly fishing alone a lot,” said Roden. “A number of people like to do it in groups and that’s great, but I like the solitude that gives me time to think and pursue this. Fly fishing is as much of a hunt to me as it is fishing, because I’m stalking these fish and looking for them. Now, I’ve really enjoyed the people I meet along the way, too. Sitting down on a rock on a stream and just having a good conversation or being able to share something with them…I enjoy that as much as anything.”
Though Roden experienced a fly-fishing hiatus while he served in the military, after he married his wife Tammy, she encouraged him to return to the sport he loved. The couple began searching for the proper equipment and eventually met Brad Harvey, a fly fishing representative from South Carolina who offered them his help. Inspired to share his passion for fly fishing with his community, the Rodens collaborated with Harvey to develop a seminar in Rainbow City about the sport. While Harvey anticipated no more than 25 attendants, as the day of the seminar approached, interest grew and grew.
“When Harvey and his people pulled up in the parking lot [the day of the seminar], there were 169 people signed up [for the seminar] sitting under the tent,” said Roden. “One of the presidents of a fly fishing supply company picked up the telephone, called some people in Tennessee (who were fly fishing guides teaching a small course) and said ‘Drop what you’re doing and get to Gadsden now.’ [The guides] were north of Chattanooga and they got here in an hour or less [to help].”
The seminar was constructed to feature hourly sessions, but with such a crowd of enthusiastic people, the original structure transformed into individuals drifting from representatives to company presidents to guides, asking questions, taking casting lessons and looking at rods. During the seminar, former Goodyear employee Greg Lumpkin pitched the idea to Roden about forming a small group of fly fishermen to meet once a month for coffee. When Roden and Lumpkin shared that idea with the seminar attendants, they asked anyone who was interested to meet them under a tree. One hundred and thirty-seven people followed, and the Rainbow Fly Fishing Club was founded in the shade.
Over the years, the RBC Fly Fishing Club continued to expand. From initial meetings in cattle barns to gathering in a classroom in Gadsden State’s Aquaculture Department, member interest overflowed. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the club met at the Rainbow City Community Center, but now hold monthly meetings outdoors at Roden’s business to practice social distancing.
Though the club provides an opportunity for members to socialize and share their knowledge about a common passion, their contributions to their community are dedicated to proving Etowah County is a great catch. While Roden tried to bring trout to Black Creek for eight years, when he rekindled a friendship with Lipscomb, that dream came to fruition. Together, Roden, Lipscomb and State Representative Gil Isbell presented the plan to the city of Gadsden and its parks department to encourage revenue and boost eco-tourism in the community.
Roden commended the city’s cooperation and the parks department’s involvement in the project, emphasizing the kind actions and group efforts that brought the trout to Black Creek. He also applauded Parks & Recreation Director Jen Weathington and Noccalula Falls Supervisor Christina Richardson for their support.
“Frank and I had a dream many years ago to bring trout to Etowah County,” said Lipscomb. “Through hard work, we made that happen. Since I became a state representative, I am extremely sensitive to expanding tourism opportunity to the area and this was an obvious home run. So, you need a team to ensure the success of a venture such as this, and the Rainbow Fly Fishing club members were eager to get involved. They get the fish in the water, make sure they are fed and fat, and do their best to teach people how to respectfully fish for these trophy fish.”
“Even if people just come in for a day or two, there’s revenue for gas, motels, campgrounds and restaurants – everything is involved,” said Roden. “The word got out [about the trout] and people started telling others all over the internet about Gadsden and Etowah County. Everybody is wanting to come see what all this is about. I didn’t have any negative responses from these people. What I had was all good, people taking about how great it was and how they’d never have visited Gadsden if it hadn’t been for the trout.”
Roden noted that the club’s mission is to continue to promote Gadsden and Etowah County. He wants to bring in new groups to help with stream improvements and encourages people to eat at local restaurants, shop at local stores and participate in activities like First Friday and Smoke on the Falls. As someone who avidly cares for his community, Roden’s goal is to shine a spotlight on the area he calls home.
But while the evidence of Roden’s efforts continuously affect the lives of others, he never forgets those who impact his own. His relationship with his wife Tammy remains a source of trust and understanding in his life, the couple creating an unshakable bond and a powerful team eager to accomplish any task. Married for 35 years and co-owners of Rainbow City Auction for the same amount of time, Roden reflected on a man who came into his shop bewildered at how he worked alongside his wife each day. Roden simply replied, ‘It’s good to be able to [work with her], to share that through our life.’
When it comes to fly fishing, Roden shared that if it was not for Tammy, he could never have accomplished what he did. He fondly remembered a trip to north Georgia on a snowy day when they fished in a stream together, and all the other moments they shared in between. While the club members honored Roden at the meeting, Roden paid homage to his wife, proving that two are better than one.
“Our days are a lot like that day [in north Georgia],” said Roden. “We shared a great morning together on the water there, we went and had a nice meal and stopped at a few shops along the way [because] Tammy likes antique shops. We mix that into our days of fly fishing; we try not to make it all about fly fishing. Tammy can take a book sometimes and fish for a few minutes, then sit down streamside while I’m fishing and enjoy her day there. We can look back and think of our time together…we have a lot of good memories together.”