On Saturday, I had some good luck finding fish, including a really stunning 17″ buttery brown and a 16″ feisty male. At lunch time, I went back to the car and heard a car stop behind me.
“Did you catch many fish?” I heard a kind voice and turned around. It was an older lady, with a quick smile, in a green car with her window down to chat with me.
“A few, but I saved the others for you,” I smiled.
“I don’t fish, but my husband did. He loved this river.”
I paused for a bit. “Is he no longer with us?” I asked.
She pointed upwards. “No, but his spirit must have been with you.”
“He’s my lucky charm, then.”
We chatted amiably. She mentioned that she was eagerly waiting for a call to get her vaccine, that she was tired of being in the house, and wanted to go out for a drive to break up the monotony.
“Well, we’re nearly there,” I said. “You’ll get the vaccine very soon, and everything will be back to normal.”
We spoke again for a bit, and she then said she had to go, that it was nice to talk with me, and I wished her all the best.
“See you again soon,” she said.
“Yes, ma’am. Until then, you take care.”
After lunch, I didn’t get any more fish. I tried all sorts of techniques, flies, and spots. But that’s fly fishing (and, life) for you: sometimes it all comes together, and for reasons we can never know, sometimes it doesn’t.
When I was new to fly fishing, I nervously went to one of the glamorous spots on a glamorous river. All the spots were taken, and I sat on a bench to contemplate my next move. An older lady slowly ambled down the dirt trail and sat next to me.
“My husband used to fish here,” she said. “In fact, that’s his picture.”
I turned to see that a laminated photo of him was on the bench.
“We dedicated this bench in his memory,” she said.
“I am so sorry for your loss,” I said.
We chatted periodically, pausing here and there, as she looked out at the pool and the dry-fly anglers there casting here and there. She was wearing sunglasses, but I imagined that some tears were welling in her eyes, as she remembered her husband. She was smiling slightly. But it was a sad smile. I felt that she needed her peace and her own space.
“Well, it was wonderful to meet you,” I said.
“Same,” she said. I quietly walked away.
When I fly fish, everything seems new when I’m trying new water, new flies, or a new technique. But I’m part of a long line of fly anglers that stretches across time. Chances are, someone has already tried the same strategies at the same waters.
We each have our turn to fish and learn, rejoice about our wins, and brood over our slow days. One day, we will no longer be in that line and younger anglers will take our place. There’s something both sad and comforting about that. We are anglers and we are also stewards.
Maybe it’s because I’m over 50 now, but I was thinking during the drive home how amazing fly fishing is, how it has touched my life in deep and profound ways, and the many happy memories I’ve incurred involving friends and family. Maybe our friends, life partners, and children will one day drive the roads that we anglers have driven and visit the pools and runs that we used to fish to remember us and to honor us. So many anglers before us have walked the same trails and fished the same rivers. We are, each of us, part of a greater whole that started well before us and hopefully will continue long after us.
Last year, I went back to that bench. The photo is still there, but faded and tattered. It made me think of the widow.
A wonderful Passover for those who celebrate it, and a thoughtful Holy Week for those who are readying for Easter.