My significant other and I were at our favorite pub having a libation a couple of nights back when I saw an old acquaintance come through the door. I immediately went to the highest DefCon level. Hunkering down as low as I could in my chair while simultaneously pulling my Winston cap almost over my nose caused my longtime companion to snicker in her beer. Hopefully, my best ostrich imitation would work. If I was spotted by my past associate, I knew what I was in for.
The guy had to have been following me or had some type of ESP. He passed through the aural light of the doorway like some evil specter that was invading my holy place, which he was doing. His twelve steps
from the door to my table, I counted, didn’t even give me time to sit up in my chair and lift the bill of my cap. He said my name and hello before I could compose myself. I am sure I looked like I was on my 6th beer and an easy mark for what he would inevitably ask by the time the third sentence came out of his mouth.
Kind of mumbling, I managed a greeting and even held out my hand. Greg, it took me a second to dredge his name out my brain, stood there as if I would invite him to sit with us. He figured it wasn’t going to happen after about ten seconds of awkward silence and he just sat down as he said; “Mind if I join you?”
“You still doing the fly fishing thing?” he asked before I could chug down half of my beer. The sooner we were done with our beverages, the sooner we would have a reason to excuse ourselves somewhat politely. I nodded with the glass still to my lips, sloshing the foam up onto the corners of my mouth.
Greg got straight to the point, even faster than I thought he would. I hate to hear the word “pole” when it has to do with fly fishing. This word is equivalent to the old “Red sky at night….” adage for me. This was my “morn”, so to speak and I was trying to heed my warning. The next thing I heard was; “My father-in-law gave me a new fly pole.”
The scene from “A River Runs Through It” where Paul and Norman are asked to take Rawhide fishing exploded into my mind. Greg sat there with a million teeth showing, his grin was so wide. I thought to myself of ways to extricate myself from the conversation. My cute blond counterpart was also grinning. She has always enjoyed these moments of my discomfort when someone says that we need to go fishing. It was somewhat apparent to me that that the hammer was about to fall on the one cylinder that possessed a cartridge.
Either I was tired or I was feeling charitable for I immediately bit by asking Greg; “What ROD(emphasis on the word “rod” did he give you?” I took a sip of beer to signal my defeat to my girlfriend.
Her glee was palpable. Like I said, she loved nothing more than me being put on the spot.
“Sage with a Galvan reel on it. It is pretty nice one, I think. Isn’t it? I have been practicing in my backyard;” he finished as he ordered himself and us another round. So much for my personal chugging contest.
So he has been practicing and his gear isn’t from Walmart, I thought to myself. This might actually end up being a fishing trip, not a “Sean teaching Greg how to fly fish-101” trip. Bucking up a bit, I relaxed and enjoyed catching up with him surprisingly enough. We left after another beer (he treated). I agreed to meet Greg at his place at 8 AM the next day, thinking that I would get this out of the way as soon as I could.
I have said before that I had visions of “A River Runs Through It” when he brought up fishing. Pulling into his driveway I still expected the worst. Greg did have his waders on already and was sitting on his tailgate when I got there. This was a total newbie move, but they were brand spanking new G3s with matching boots that even had studs, so I took this as a positive (I had promised to be positive all day to someone). Greg jumped up and almost ran up to my window before I could get out. He stuck his hand into my open window to shake my hand, he was almost vibrating! I jerked my head towards my backseat when he asked where to put his gear. I mentioned that we were driving about an hour and a half. He took the hint, looking somewhat sheepishly he said he would be fine in his waders and that he just wanted to get on the road.
We had never been anything more than beer buddies. I had met Greg in the early 90’s at the local pub and I would bump into him here and there around town.
This was the most time I had ever spent with him one on one. I had no idea how the ride there was going to end up, let alone the actual time on the water.
Greg asked me right off if I had been out lately and I told him I had been working a lot lately tying flies and hadn’t been to the river for a week or so. A tad bit of a disappointed look crept across his face. Suddenly he grinned; “I guess we will have to figure it out.”
“Yup, that is what it is all about;” I said. This was my time to unleash my spiel and I wasn’t going to hold back. “A ton of watching before I even tie on a fly. I might roll a rock or two to see what nymphs are crawling around, I might not. But I take my time before I toss a fly. This is me, do your own thing;” I finished with a sip of coffee from my travel mug.
“You’re the boss;” is all he said looking kind of scared.
“There is no boss here, this is one of the joys of fishing. Do your own thing. I learn something new every time I am on the water and most of the time from less experienced people;” I finished with a smile. I thought to myself; “Sean you are a pretentious ass!” Then I told Greg what I had just thought to myself and we both laughed.
The rest of the drive to the river was spent in a comfortable, flowing conversation. He told me about his wife and kid. How he worked for his father-in-law selling real estate and didn’t really like it. But his father-in-law Hal was a super good guy and he likes him a lot. This is why he wanted to learn to catch a trout. I knew Hal and Hal was almost a better fisherman than he was a person and that is saying a bunch.
The trip to the river went quickly. Greg sprang out of my truck almost before I had stopped. One thing I am sure of is that he will never wear waders on a long drive to the river again. He was still pulling at his waders when I set up a chair, sat down and began to string my trusty Winston LS up. He grabbed his gear out of the truck and fumbled around with it, not really sure what he should be doing. Finally he settled in and strung his rod up, even doubling up the fly line like a pro to thread the guides on his rod.
He sat there patiently waiting to see what fly I was going to tie on my tippet. It took him by surprise when I dropped two fly boxes down the front of my waders without tying a fly on and got up, heading to the river’s edge. Greg stumbled a bit when he tried to catch up with me. By the time he caught up with me, I was sitting on a rock watching the water roll by.
My “bank sitting” started when I was a kid. I had gone fishing and had just splashed into the local river. My fly fishing life had just started and I knew nothing about it other than an Adams worked for most everything where I fished. That day it didn’t. After an hour of flailing around, I noticed the local old guy fly fisherman just sitting on the bank about 100 yards below me. He just sat there watching. Then, to make a long story short, he got up and put the rope-a-dope on at least a dozen fish. I had no idea at first why he had watched for so long but my next time out I plopped down for as long as I could take it. Not that I observed anything that my youth would let me interpret as a sign but I saw a little bug and then a trout eat it. I fumbled through my 13 flies and found one that looked like the natural. First cast I caught a little Rainbow. I have been sitting and watching every since that moment.
The silence finally was too much for Greg and he broke it somewhat tentatively. He asked what I was doing. After I explained, he plopped down and sat there too. I saw a bug or two dancing around on the breeze. Looking down the bank I saw a couple of trout slowly start to key in on the mayfly hatch. Trout noses started to appear on the glossy surface as the trout softly sipped a breakfast of Blue Wing Olives. Greg saw this and started acting like a Beagle that just had a herd of squirrels go scampering by. I said; “Don’t wait for me.”
He was on it. There were several bugs clinging to the legs of his waders. Fumbling through his box, he grabbed a fly and showed it to me. I told him it was perfect, secretly wishing I had the pattern he had just shown me. After tying it on he stood up and didn’t move a step. I was just hanging out wishing I hadn’t quit smoking, not paying much attention to him. When I noticed he seemed to be waiting I said; “I could be here awhile. Go ahead. Like I said don’t wait for me.”
“Okie dokie”; he said as he headed towards the feeding fish.
That day I made three casts. All three were to show Greg how I would attack certain fish. I sat on the bank all day, except when I went back to the truck to dig around for a stale smoke. Greg would cast and then mend and then miss a fish and then he caught a fish. He smiled and cussed and had me take pictures. The fishing was good, not great I caught two nice Redsides on two of my casts and he caught around a half dozen. We both had a great time.
On the way home, he thanked me. We made vague future plans to go again. Then the driving silence overtook us as the sun fell behind the mountains. I had to wake Greg up when we got his house. Groggily he grabbed his gear out of the back of my truck. He thanked me one last time as he walked into the glare of his porch light. He waved and said; “I will call you.”
He texted me a few times over the next few weeks but life took hold. We could never hook up to hit the river it seemed. A kid’s ballgame to go to for him or work for me, something was always preventing us from hitting the river. The texts dwindled and then stopped, we had drifted apart again. People drift apart in life and in fishing. The summer came and went and I forgot about our trip.
The phone vibrated on my desk the first week of October. The leaves were changing and my thoughts were all about steelhead. My fingers were slapping the keys on my keyboard when my phone buzzed for the second time. I was annoyed, thoughts were hard to come by that day and I had just crashed through my writer’s block. The third vibration echoed off of my desk. Could be an emergency something with the kids I thought, so I looked at my phone.
There were three pictures. Two were of Greg holding fish and one of Hal holding a nice Rainbow. Both of them had big ol’ grins on their faces. I am sure I was smiling when the last picture came across my phone of them standing by their truck with their rods in one hand and Hal’s arm over Greg’s should. Then another text popped up. It said; “Hal says thanks.”