Just Something about Fishing (part two)
Through the year that followed my first catch on a fly rod, I spent at least one day every weekend somewhere on a river casting, trying to hone the skill. So many different casts, each having its own unique purpose. A narrow spot amongst some trees, use a D-cast. A pretty tight spot with trees all around, a slingshot cast will do the trick. A super tight spot, with trees hugging you like your mom before the first day of school, go find another spot, there are fish somewhere else I promise. Windy, cast with the wind, and do not ever take your eyes off the hook, Mother Nature likes to play tricks on fly fishermen and sometimes a sacrifice of blood is required. She will give a light kiss of wind at just the right moment causing the fly to whip far behind the back, so as it starts forward it catches your ear perfectly. I am not sure how many times I have done this, but it never becomes pleasant.
Getting flies, artificial bait, was a bit more of a challenge. Again I was faced with the fact that fly fishing just wasn’t that big in Texas so getting gear was proving extremely difficult. This was before the era of online shopping, and driving all the way to Oklahoma didn’t exactly appeal to me. Then Old Man Tom from work said, “Try Cabela’s Sporting Goods, or Bass Pro Shop.” I looked at him confused and responded, “What’s that?” The 69 year old man wearing jean overalls, a white t-shirt and his grey hair whisking like flames from under his hard hat, smiled at me then ordered me to roll up the tools and get in the truck. I looked at my watch, it was barely two o’clock and the work day was supposed to end at five, but it clearly wasn’t up for discussion. I got in Tom’s truck, another thing that wasn’t a suggestion, and Tom put in an old Dolly Parton cassette tape, I couldn’t help but laugh at how excited this old man was getting over a sporting goods store.
We turned on to a street, and I noticed the name, “Bass Pro Drive.” “It has its own street?” I remember thinking. Then we pulled into the parking lot, and my eyes widened. “Wow,” I muttered through an exhaling breath. There were an assortment of large fishing boats, for sale, all through the lot, and the structure before me must have been where Santa Claus vacationed. We parked the vehicle and Tom and I both were out of the truck almost before it came to a stop. We walked inside and it was a toy store for outdoor folks. I was overwhelmed, I gave Tom a big ole hug, like he had just gifted me the store. Then he said, “Don’t thank me, you’ll never have extra money again.” Inside the store were Bass boats, a whole, large house sized, section for hunting, another for fishing, and upstairs a section specifically for fly fishing. If you have never been to a Bass Pro Shop, stop reading this, find the one nearest you and go. You can hug me later. Thanks Tom, you were right, but thanks.
After about a year, work started to become more stressful, I was now leading my own large projects, and the expectations were high. I would still carve out at least half a day on Sundays to drive to one of the tributaries, known as forks, of the Trinity River and do some fishing. I would fill a backpack with my box of flies, a couple of bottles of water or a thermos of coffee depending on the season, a pack of cigarettes, and a six pack of beer. Then affix my reel to my rod, thread the eyelets with the fishing line, look at what type of bug seemed to be dominating the sky; then find a fly pattern that matched to attach to my line. Placing my special fishing hat on my head I would light up a cigarette, open a beer, don my backpack, turn toward the fork, and begin strolling along the bank up stream till I came to a spot I liked; normally the first spot I saw after finishing the beer, and cigarette. If the water wasn’t too deep or cold, and the situation dictated it necessary, I would walk out into the water in order to facilitate a good cast. It was during one of these times, it occured to me, I hadn’t caught anything in weeks, but yet here I stand casting a fly I had no intention of changing, in a spot I had no intention of leaving, and if honest with myself, I had no desire to truly catch anything. It was then I stopped, looked around and realized, all this time I thought I was here trying to catch the big one; when in reality, it was nature trying to catch me. I sat down on the bank, opened another beer, and just listened to water running over the rocks, the birds chirping and the crickets playing their tune. I took a deep breath and let it out. Something happened just then, the stress eased, and everything seemed to balance. I sat on the bank until dusk, then mozzied back to my truck. I remember sleeping significantly well that night. This became a ritual much as Church is for other people, I could clear my mind of the week, and reset for the one following. Every now and then I would be more determined to catch something, and normally I would, but generally it was just to get out, spend some time with the Mother of us all, and heal the wounds left from the whip of work.
Through the next few years, I would always tell my boss I could work till noon on Sunday if I had to work, but I had other commitments. He wouldn’t argue; so at noon I would leave, stop, grab some lunch while deciding where to go, then head off. Sometimes I would catch something while in half a daze, and while always welcome it was no longer a requirement. Now I would just listen to the words we are often too busy to hear, and appreciate that there is just something about fishing.
To be continued...