Whip Finish


R.E. Long - Apr 29, 2011

Another winter has come and gone. The Wrens are back to their nest building in my garage gutters and soon the Magnolia will bloom. Our resident jakes are heard gobbling throughout the entire day and strutting around the neighborhood showing off their 1 inch long beards. They feel the need to gobble, but observation leads me to believe they really don’t know why. Everything has that normal spring feel of newness and a calming familiarity. A sense of familiarity that over the years becomes anticipated and quite often needed.

My winter brought a burden that kept me struggling in life’s current. There was no lie in which to rest or a much-needed eddy to settle into and reflect. Headstrong into the current was the only way to cope. You see, I lost my childhood best friend and lifelong outdoor partner. The only person in the world aside from immediate family that knew me inside and out. Knew my parents long passed as well as his own. He had bounced all my children on his knee and read them books. We learned how to fish together in local brookie streams and farm ponds. For 8 years we ran a trapline together. Over the years we would shoot our first whitetail, elk and blacktail together with bow in hand. And this fall while I was on bow hunt, he stood up from his chair not feeling well, and a second later was gone.

The empty feeling was like a cold hard current against my head. When he left there was so much he took with him. Yet if I remained in the current it numbed the loss. So, I stayed. It was selfishly the only way I had to deal with his passing in my day-to-day life.

In January, I attended our annual winter fishing trip. It’s a gathering in my home town and a trip that this year brought along the internal struggle. With feet numbed with cold and ice in my eyelets I stood struggling with myself. Fumbling with knots, dropping split-shot and throwing wind knots into my nymph rigs like it was a competition. I had missed 2 fish in the course of the morning in my incompetent state which did not help. Defeat wasn’t rearing its ugly head yet, but its growling was growing closer. I moved downstream a bit and looked to target an eddy formed by a submerged boulder. It had to hold a fish. For 30 minutes I worked the small pool with perfect casts and flawless drifts. Then I saw it….my fly….was gone. I instantly recalled the loud snap on a backcast just before I had moved, realizing I had fished the pool in front of me with both full confidence….and no fly. A feeling of disgust in myself instantly began to rise but was wiped away with the thought of how much mileage Rob would have enjoyed with this one. For the next 10 years he would have been telling my grandkids all about their Grandpops “abilities” with a fly rod and retelling the story. I began to tie on another fly and dropped it into the current through cold fingers. I laughed out loud and turned from the current and into a much-needed eddy.

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