The pearlescent fog still hung low on the water as he stooped
to slide through the stream side brush. A slight wind splattered
dew drops off the worn and tattered straw hat. Noiselessly, he
entered the stream, one wadered foot after the other, till he stood
just in the shadow of the sycamore shaded run.
He wasn't a large man; but, the stained and worn vest tended to
round him out like a substitute Santa at Christmas time. No net,
no lanyard, no wading staff were part of his regular routine.
It's all about observation he always said. Sort of like a red light at
an intersection or a stop sign at a four way. You wouldn't just plunge
ahead without looking around first so why should fishing be any different.
The gnawed stemmed pipe came out next followed by a pouch of "Half & Half".
When asked long ago just what it consisted of he replied, " Well - just what it
says. Half of this and half of that!"
With a wreath of "Half & Half" smoke enveloping his upper body there
was no need for generous squirts of "Bugs-B-Gone"or other miracle
insect spray, foam or oil. He said that anything on his hands except
some clear fresh water or the scent of a freshly released trout would
just scare off the fish and ruin the day.
The first pipe bowl full was spent studying the long run; from the foam
tossing bouldered head to the tranquil terminus of its course. A large
blow-down poplar half crossed the stream. Its collection of refuse
provided a screening sluice that deposited a ready meal a nose length
away from a lurking trout.
Above the tree were several submerged boulders of various proportions,
each fashioning arcs of concurrent ripples around, while providing almost
a stagnant flowing lair behind.
The pool tail narrowed as it traversed an undercut on one side and a
tailing rock shelf on the other.
The old man continued to study the water and no dimples were disturbing
the glassy reflections let alone anything leaping from the depths to secure
a crippled or low darting insect.
His vest wasn't crammed with all manner, type or color of every imaginable
fly from the catalogues of some big box store or even a local fly shop. Of
course, that's supporting the supposition that one would still be in business
in the area after the proliferation of cheap imitations from a global
restructuring of the economy.
His entire repertoire revealed various shades of only a few dries,
streamers and nymphs. Never mind all this soul searching hatch
matching nonsense he was fond of saying. Everyone knows that
a trout will eat anything dark, hairy and about half an inch long no
matter what else comes floating by!
It was time to rig up and the wisest choice seemed to indicate some
one of his few nymph imitations would be appropriate for this present
time. The nine foot leader was knotted to a four foot piece of 5x tippet
and onto that he threaded a size 12 bead-headed, hairy looking,
Starting at the lower tail of the run he produced a measured series of
high sticking flips. Each followed the other, in a slowly widening arc,
till coverage of that portion of the stream was concluded.
The stealthy progress continued to the head of the pool without a take
nor a flash that indicated the presence of his quarry.
The deeper and quicker flow at the beginning of the run dictated the
necessity of weighting the nymph somewhat for bottom bouncing it
right into table fare for a waiting diner.
This also brought into play the necessity to carefully negotiate the
slippery streambed and be mindful of topping the chest highs that
might lead to a soap-less, unwanted bath on this cool morning.
Finally! An abrupt slowing of the leader and an almost dead stop
in the swift water attested to the need for an instant hook set.
The first run was down and across towards the safety of the debris
collecting tree. After turning it slightly the next tactic was a multi length
leap that put some slack in the line; but, not enough for freedom.
Several shorter runs brought the large brown to the surface and it
was then possible to gain some line and distance.
In his excitement, the old man hadn't noticed that he had surreptitiously
edged farther out into the streambed little by little. The water was now
almost to his armpit and the lack of a waist belt made the prospect of
a bad situation even worse.
The trout was almost within his grasp when it happened.
He slipped slightly forward and water poured into his waders. He
turned and tried to fling his rod to the near bank and that twisting
motion occasioned a total loss of contact with the stream bed. With
the vest covering his wader shoulder straps there wasn't time to
attempt to pull free from them. He drew in a deep breath as the
fast water pulled him even deeper.
He had a blurry vision of blue sky and then rocky dark bottom as
he rapidly tumbled in the current. Suddenly he felt the bottom with
a hand and soon was able to draw a breath as his head exited the water.
Now, totally exhausted, wet, cold and miserable; but, ever thankful
to be free of the watery obstacle, he staggered to the near bank and
collapsed into the brushy undergrowth.
Regaining some equilibrium his next thought was of his cherished fly
rod and he stumbled back into the stream to search for it. He found
it not far away in a couple of feet of water and bent to pick it up.
What was that strange feeling in his arm? Must be the cold water
exposure taking effect.
No - wait! His chest was now constricting and the pain was starting
it's inexorable march through his entire being.
They found him later in the morning floating face down at the end of the
run. The favorite straw hat nowhere to be seen. The beloved fly rod
clutched in his hand.
As they gently laid him on the gurney and moved to the rescue vehicle
one of the squad was heard to remark, "Was it my imagination or did
the old man have a smile on his face?" ~ Richard A. (Dick) Taylor June 17, 2008