Fraternity of fishermen
It was an unusually hot day to be on the mountain river. This day, which I penciled onto the calendar weeks ago, had finally come to fruition and I found myself waist-deep in the cold water, with sweat rolling down my forehead. I took my hat off several times and tried to mop the sweat away from the stained wicker hat that was trying to keep my head from being sunburned. I hadnít caught as many trout as I wanted to by this time in the day. I found a nice spot on the river where it just yelled ďfish live here.Ē The hole I decided to work was in an open section of the river nestled in a meadow that somehow managed to ward off the pine trees from encroaching into it for years. Sitting down on the grassy bank I decided to grab a quick snack before I presented my elk hair caddis dry fly to what I suspected was going to be a large trout.
The bank of the river where I sat was lush, and a few flowers were growing along the bank. I took my vest off, for in the back were the snacks I packed for such an occasion. It felt good to get the weight of my fly fishing vest off. It felt like I was carrying half of the sporting goods store on my shoulders, wearing that vest. The back of my vest had its own little river marks where sweat had been wicked up. I was so happy to have thought ahead and packed my snacks in plastic baggies.
I first saw the other fisherman at the parking lot we both parked in. When I pulled in he was walking downriver, which made me decide to walk and fish upstream. He was short in stature and his long fly pole seemed to dwarf him. He wore a black beret and I could see that he walked towards the river with the nature of a hunter trying to stalk his prey. There seemed to be an air of purpose in his walk, like the river had something that belonged to him, and he was going to get it back.
He was on the other side of the river from me now. I couldnít help wonder how he worked himself all the way upstream to me in such a short amount of time. I knew I fished slow and deliberate, but how had he managed to fish below me and now be working his way up the opposite bank of the river, with that hole I wanted to fish separating us?
The apple I bit into was crisp and the juices felt sweet in my parched mouth. I could even catch a hint of the smell of the orchard it was grown in. I wanted to eat my sandwich but the little man with the long pole was working himself towards me at the very hole I intended to fish, so in a hurry, I tried to eat my apple as fast as I could. I couldnít help but watch him as he used a wading stick to help him across the ripples below that hole. He stopped once, raised a hand towards me and then continued coming towards the hole. As I tried to finish the apple in a race of who could get to that hole first, he stopped amongst the ripples and began to let line out of his pole.
His first few casts were jerky, I thought. They didnít follow the way I had been taught to cast. Somehow it was working for him, and the line was becoming more graceful as it arced and retracted itself in a ribbon of color through the air. He seemed to be taking forever to present the fly. I was too busy watching him to put my vest on and claim my section of the river. I could tell that practice and constant usage had perfected his methods.
When he finally presented his fly on the water, it was devoured almost as soon as it hit. His fight of the fish employed a slow deliberate method that ended in netting and then a quick release. As he cast again and again, he effortlessly pulled fish of all sizes out of the water, and I realized that I was watching an artist and he was painting a picture of deliberate beauty. I realized that I had lost my interest in getting back into the water, and claiming that hole. I now didnít want to interrupt the picture that was being created in front of me.
After he caught half a dozen fish, he reeled in his line and started wading to me at the tail end of the pool he had just fished. My apple was long gone and I was working on a bottle of water that I felt should have been champagne to toast this man in his recent accomplishment. When he crossed the river, he walked up to me and took off his beret. His clean-shaved head showed a brightly colored scar that looked new. I could see sweat trickling down his forehead in little streams. He pointed to the area next to me and I realized he wanted to sit down. He sat down beside me and took off his sunglasses. He turned his face towards me and I could see that the eye below the scar wasnít as bright or responsive as the other. I wondered if the recent scar on his head had resulted in the glass eye that was now trying to stare back at me as intently as his other eye was.
He tried to say something to me, but it was so mumbled, I couldnít understand. I felt embarrassed to have him repeat it and I could tell that he knew I didnít know what he was saying. He winked at me with his real eye, pointed to the pool he had just mastered and smiled. I realized what I needed to do, so I smiled back.
Randy Davis is a member of the local Trout Unlimited Club. When not fishing, Randy enjoys spending time in the outdoors as well as writing about those experiences. Randy is currently working on finishing a degree in Creative Writing. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.