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Thread: "Comes a time, when the blind man takes your hand, says "Don't you see?"

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 1999
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    Sedro Woolley, Washington, USA
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    Default "Comes a time, when the blind man takes your hand, says "Don't you see?"

    From a different forum......this was written by Derek Young, 2011 Orvis Endorsed Fly Fishing Guide of the Year, enjoy...

    It is with that thought that I began my day early, waking up 14 minutes before the alarm went off. Today was to be no "ordinary" day of guiding, but something unusual and special, and yet I was nervous as the first time I put the oars in the water with a paid client despite hundreds of trips over the last five years - today's trip was with a gentleman who was born blind in one eye, became blind in the other after an accident 20 years later, and after years of industrial work, hard of hearing as well.

    In the months then weeks then days leading up to this trip, I wondered many times how it would all shake out. My confidence did waiver, at times - after many trips with functional (skill and experience levels varied) clients who could both hear and see, how exactly would this work? I fished familiar water and new water with my eyes closed, relying on only the sense of feel. But deep down, it wasn't the same. I was no further to a solution but had many ideas on how I might be the most helpful - marking the line somehow, was the first idea. The ideas came and went...

    He had fished the river many times before when he still had vision in the one eye, and on the drive over we talked of the stretches he knew, back when the homes weren't there, when the fishing was less regulated, when "catch and release" meant you went hungry that night. We had a common language now, describing the runs and pools with such clarity that his eagerness expounded and my nervousness slowly faded away. Perhaps I had been over-thinking it - that the disparity of faculties might not be a "handicap" at all. In fact, with a history of archery hunting and fishing prior, this was a man with a desire to re-learn fly fishing, not solely for the catching, but for simply being outdoors again, in the pursuit.

    I always stress safety, and the river is running high and fast now. Risk management is covered first. "Feel the rope in the throw-bag, here's how to grab it" took on a much more serious meaning now. Imagine, floating downstream without being able to see or hear what was coming, and being asked to calmly orient yourself, and not to worry - we'll come and get you if needed. I lighten the mood by sharing a story from a few years ago, about an older angler who nearly fell out of my boat in the lower canyon, swinging a black Wooly Booger into a fat 18" cold-as-hell-February-day-Rainbow's mouth as he folded over towards the water, yelling at me as I pulled him back in - "Don't make me lose this goddamned fish!" and it worked - grins all around. Life jackets snugged, whistles ready - we're off.

    I want to tell you that we hooked and caught a lot of fish, and it would be partly true. The sense of feel on the water came quickly and swinging wet flies during a PMD and caddis hatch was easy for him, coming to terms with direction and orientation on the boat - rod tip down, feel the line and anticipate the strike, drop that loop when the line comes straight noon, don't "trout set!" The first fish nearly flies over the boat as the pure excitement of the take sends a laugh through the warm morning air. "Ok, that was really good. Perfect swing, you didn't pull the line through the drift, feel the fly in the water" was met with a nod. I could sense he had this and to be honest, I think the lack of sight made his focus that much better.

    The day progressed well, with fewer flies in the trees than I expected. We worked out how many strips of line equaled what distance, he "called his shots" by pointing where I gave verbal hints - met with "fire away" and tight, efficient loops - most of the time. At the end of the windless day, under a bright hot sun, he didn't want to stop fishing. But, old hands and joints weren't disguised that well. I could sense a bit of frustration and didn't want to push it, so we stopped short of the take-out, in fishy water. "Have another dozen or so casts left" I asked him, and he paused in answering. It had been a great day already - "I think I need to practice more and get a rod of my own again" he said, so we talked about the $1500 rod and reel he'd been using all day. "That cost more than my first car!" drew the same laughs we shared earlier in the day. We agreed that it wasn't necessary, and for sure not to tell his wife how much he spent anyways.

    I share this as a reflection of one of my most valuable days spent on the water, not just as a guide but as a human being, as an angler. I learned that being able to describe this pursuit in the simplest of ways, to teach a blind man to cast a fly to a rising fish was much simpler than I imagined it would be. I simply saw the river through different eyes, and fished it through the sometimes elegant strokes of another. As the drive home ended, and he described how that last fish chased his fly down and grabbed tight, I listened to what I can only describe as pure joy. Just exactly how was he able to describe it so accurately, I'll never know. Perhaps it was through my eyes, my words, my encouragement. But I believe that on this day, he was able to see just fine.

    "Comes a time, when the blind man takes your hand, says "Don't you see?"
    "The reason you have a good vision is you're standing on the shoulders of giants." ~ Andy Batcho

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
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    Tennessee
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    Absolutely beautiful! Thanks so much for sharing.....
    Warren
    Fly fishing and fly tying are two things that I do, and when I am doing them, they are the only 2 things I think about. They clear my mind.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2002
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    Very moving! Thanks!

  4. #4
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    Jun 2006
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    NE Gwinnett Co., GA
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    Good story Kerry, thanks for taking the time to share it.
    It's easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled. Mark Twain

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Carlisle, Pa
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    Inspiring story. Years ago I was an Area Supervisor for a chain of restaurants. One of our goals was "community service". We decided to have a tour and "hands on" training for some blind children. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the young kids putting their hands into the mixing bowl, standing in the proofer to feel the heat when dough was proofing. Those kids made some fabulous pizzas that morning. Totally by themselves...what a thrill for me!!!!
    Bernie

  6. #6

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    Kerry, thanks for sharing this one with all of us. Sort of shows us what CAN be done, in spite of disabilities. Thanks again, John.

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