Our Man In Canada
May 30th, 2005

Rainbow Renewal
By R. Richard Walsh

The angler dtood knee-deep in the water, tossing a number 18 Adams at a rainbow trout that was rising steadily in front of a boulder at the junction of the feeder creek and the main river. A knowledgeable observer would easily ascertain that the man was an experienced fly fisher, although he was obviously a little rusty. A closer approach would reveal a visibly fit man in his early 30s, with closely cropped hair and a weather-beaten tan from long hours exposed to the hot sun. As it was early June, the observer might be curious about how the angler had got such a deep tan, probably concluding that he'd used a tanning bed.

The angler was glad to be chasing rainbows on his favourite stream and he'd been dreaming about the moment for the last 2 months. However, now that he was here, he was unable to find the peace he was so desperately searching for. His mind kept wandering back to Kabul and his troops. He prayed that they were all still safe. Although his second-in-command was a good soldier, he still felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility. He felt his place was with his troops, even though it was his turn for a 3-week holiday.

The rainbow rose, took his fly, and the fight was on. The angler gently coaxed the trout away from the boulder and its sharp edges, not wanting to break the light tippet, and fought it in the deeper water of the pool. Even now, his thoughts were still on Afghanistan and the patrol one week ago. Someone had thrown a grenade at an Afghan army checkpoint, and there had been casualties. His section was the closest and was dispatched to secure the area. As a crowd gathered to watch the spectacle, he had felt the tension rising in his troops. Everyone hated situations like this, since anyone in the crowd could be targeting them and they probably wouldn't know it until too late. As the medics worked on the wounded, he walked from soldier to soldier, calming them down by cracking jokes, trying hard not to let them see he had the same fears—not for himself, but for them.

The trout was tiring and the angler played it into shallower water. But as soon as it saw him, it made a desperate bid for freedom and made another run into the deeper water.

While he let it run, the angler reflected on his world. Just 96 hours previously, he had boarded an airplane to come home. One moment he was in one of the most dangerous countries in the world, and hours later he was in one of the worlds most peaceful and beautiful—home. But unlike his grandfather, who had fought through Italy in the same regiment, the angler did not have months to decompress with his friends before arriving home. One of the "miracles" of the modern world!

It was his wife who had suggested the fishing trip. She knew he had to relax. He was constantly watching the news for any word out of Kabul. However, there wasn't any. There never was unless the news was bad. The clincher came when she saw him tense and nearly dive for cover when the neighbour's car backfired. Habits and reflexes die hard, particularly since he had been living at a heightened state of alert for the last four months. At first he had refused to go fishing, feeling he should stay with her. After all, it was his wife who had stayed behind to care for the kids while he went off to Bosnia 2 years ago, and again while he was in Afghanistan. But she insisted, saying he'd be no good to anyone if he didn't relax.

The rainbow was finally giving up the fight. The angler gently raised his rod above his head and eased the trout into the soft net. He stared down at the 16-inch trout and marvelled at its beauty. The trout was strong and healthy—a lot like his country. He swiftly removed the hook from the trout's lower jaw and began to revive it in the slow moving current.

Current Issue Canadian Fly Fisher

As it regained its strength, he felt himself finally beginning to relax, letting the tensions of the last 4 months flow out of him and down the river. When the trout finally swam away he stood up, looked around at the hills, and smiled. He would still worry about his troops, after all that was his job, but he was determined to enjoy his time off. As he spotted another trout rising along the far bank, he thought of his wife and smiled again. She knew that fishing would renew his spirit, help make him whole again. As he stripped line and made several false casts to dry the Adams, he reflected that his wife was one smart woman. ~ R. Richard Walsh

Credits: We thank the Canadian Fly Fisher and R. Richard Walsh, author of this article, for use permission.

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