A KINGDOM FAR AWAY (part 2)
|Part 1 can be found here|
It was barely 8 o'clock as I hurried down the road toward Joe's cabin. Mother thought I should wait until later, but I was too excited to wait. Now I just hoped that Joe wasn't still in bed and maybe it was too early. All my apprehension vanished as I approached Joe's cabin and saw him sitting on the porch drinking a cup of coffee. Hunter saw me instantly and came bounding off the porch to greet me. Over the coming weeks this would become a regular ritual.
"It was getting late," Joe said. "I thought maybe you had decided not to come." Joe smiled and winked. "I don't suppose that you drink coffee but there is some hot chocolate on the stove if you'd like a cup."
Joe's cabin was one large room. A massive natural stone fireplace dominated one wall, and there was the head of a large deer hanging just above the mantle, and on both sides of the fireplace there where book shelves, each shelf groaning under the heavy weight of numerous books. Off to the side there was a neat little kitchen with an old fashioned wood stove, and ancient electric refrigerator, and a small table with two chairs.
"It's not much," said Joe, "but it's comfortable."
Hot chocolate in hand we went back out and settled down on the porch. On the front wall of the porch there were some wooden pegs and there were several long rods resting on the pegs. They looked like the one that I saw Joe using when I saw him at the inlet. Those are fly rods I thought, and suddenly I wondered how I would ever learn to use one of them.
Breaking into my revere Joe said, "Now about fly fishing. It's more about desire than anything else. Oh, you need a bit of coordination and a keen sense of wonder is helpful, but desire is the key to becoming a fly fisher."
Well, I had desire, I thought. Boy did I have desire.
"Now before we can actually go fishing you will need to learn the basics."
Joe finished his coffee and got up and took one of the rods down from the pegs.
"This one should do for a beginner like you. Let's go see how coordinated you are."
With Hunter bounding ahead of us we walked down to the stream where there was a little dock. On two sawhorses next to the dock was a beautiful wooden canoe and alongside the canoe was an old wooden row boat. I recalled seeing someone gliding along the lake in a canoe with a big black dog sitting in the front when my dad and I were out fishing.
"Now this is a fly rod," Joe said holding the rod out in front of him. "It's not a fly pole, or a fishing pole, it's a fly rod. It's just a tool, but it's an important tool. These rods can be quite expensive but the most expensive rod in the world is worthless unless you know how to use it. An expensive rod will never make you a good fly fisher. The value of the fly rod is not in the price but in what you can do with it and the enjoyment you get from using it. If you learn that you will know more than most of the people that call themselves fly fishers."
I nodded my head in agreement, but it would take many more years before I truly understood the wisdom of those words.
Although it has been over 60 years ago now what transpired over the next few weeks are indelibly etched in my mind.
The next few weeks were some of the most wonderful years of my young life. To say that the following years of fishing with Joe transformed my life in unimaginable ways would be an understatement of monumental proportions. This transformation not only changed my way of catching fish but changed my view of life.
On that first day Joe and I walked out onto the little dock and he stripped off about 20 feet of fly line and handed me the rod.
"Make a cast," he said.
I looked at him like he was crazy. Make a cast. How could I make a cast when the only type of casting that I had ever done was with a spinning rod.
"Just show me how you think you would make a cast with a fly rod. Don't worry about whether you think it's right or wrong. Just show me how you think you would cast this fly line."
The line was just lying on the dock behind us so I whipped the rod forward violently. Some of the line went out but most of the line remained on the dock. Joe took the rod, stripped in most of the line, flipped the tip of the rod forward and as the line jumped off the dock he flicked the rod backward stopping it just at the level of his shoulder and then flicked the rod forward and the fly line smoothly flowed out and settled on the water.
"It's not force, its timing. You are not casting the weight of the lure but the weight of the line. You can't start to cast until the tip of the line is moving, and you can't push the line, you have to let the rod do the work. If you provide the power and direction at the right time the rod will do the rest."
Handing me the rod Joe slipped around beside me and took my hand in his hand. Placing my thumb on top of the grip he brought my arm up quickly. I wanted to allow my arm to continue backward but he stopped it when the rod was nearly straight up. After a very brief hesitation he pushed my arm down quickly and then again, as I tried to push my arm down toward the surface of the water he stopped it, and the fly line flowed out smoothly and settled on the water. With Joe's help I had made my first successful cast with a fly rod.
We spent the rest of the morning working on the basics of fly casting, and by the time we quit for lunch I could make a fairly decent forward cast and a roll cast. Most importantly I understood not only how to make a cast but why certain things had to happen if the cast was going to be successful. If I hurried too fast on the back cast the line either failed to come forward smoothly or I heard a sharp pop which indicated that I had come forward too hard and too fast. If I waited too long the line would drop behind me and I risked hooking something behind me or having the line come up and hit me in the back of the head. In any case the cast was not going to do what I wanted it to do. What a glorious morning it had been.
"Hungry?" Joe asked.
I had been having so much fun that I had really not thought much about my stomach which was quite an accomplishment for a 12 year old boy. I nodded my head.
"Well, have a seat on the porch and keep Hunter company while I whip something up."
Joe disappeared inside and after a few minutes he called me inside. Joe motioned me to sit down and I slid into my seat and reached for a fork.
"I don't know how you do things at your house but we always thank God for His provisions before we eat here."
Joe bowed his head and I followed.
"Father we thank you for your bountiful goodness toward us, and thank you for allowing us to enjoy the earth that you created, and for your salvation that you have afforded us through your Son Jesus Christ. In whose name we pray, Amen"
After lunch we sat on the porch sipping on ice tea and talking about fly fishing.
"Today I showed you the basics of how to cast a fly with a fly rod, and of all the things you learned what do you think is the most important?"
Now I had learned so much this morning that it took me a moment to try to answer Joe's question.
"Well," I began, "I think it might be the importance of timing."
"Yep, timing important for sure but there's one other lesson that you learned that's even more important. What's the purpose of fly casting?"
"To cast the fly," I replied. I knew that Joe had said that several times but that seemed so obvious that I didn't believe it was the most important thing that I had learned.
"It may seem silly but lots of very good fly fishers forget that the main purpose of fly casting is to cast the fly. The most important thing to remember is that the purpose of fly casting is to deliver your fly to the fish in such a manner that the fish will think your fly is something that is edible, and unless you are in some type of casting competition that is the only thing that really matters. In life, as in fly fishing, never forget the purpose. When you forget the purpose behind what you're doing it will quickly lose its meaning."
It wasn't until years later that I understood the Joe found fly fishing to be a metaphor for the big lessons of life.
|Part 3 can be found here|