by Les Booth
by Les Booth
The water flowed over my rod, now half in and half out of the stream. A gentle gurgle that normally awakens my spirit, now only lulled me deeper into the state of numbness I was entering. All about me the water was covered with the casts of dozens of mayflies. Mayflies which only ten minutes earlier were like manna from heaven. Now only flotsam in my dimming periphery.
eLITHOGRAPH - ©2010 les booth
The light of late afternoon draws my soul; from deep down inside, rising on gentle ripples to the surface. There it mingles with the haze of the day's events – tossing the mix, to-n-fro – then gently repacking the essence of longing for peace, on a quick ride to be refreshed by a gentle hush of a breeze. I know this time well. I long for it. It’s my moment in recharge mode. It's why I came to the water. It's where I collect those thoughts lost in the embattled storms of stress and life. It’s where I reconnect and recollect my soul.
A few casts to warm up amplified what I’d already assumed... I was seriously overdue in my stream-side appointments. To say I was a bit rusty, would be like describing Rip Van Winkle as being a bit ‘out-of-step’ with time. Yeah, sure. But, nothing 20 minutes or so wouldn’t fix. Flying the new line and potential hot-off-the-post fly over the surface of the water; skimming the snares and snags in the back-cast, then finding the landing spot – making more than a few futile-to-success attempts toward an acceptable presentation. This, too was a great part of the mending my inner-lining needed. Needed real bad.
It was working.
Working the pent up bundles of tensed muscles, from far too-long-in-the-Aeron-position. Feeling the intravenous timing tug of the line, gathering speed and energy, resisting the air-drag and my ignominious European-descent-sense-of-timing. Sensing the slight air currents, watching the water's ever changing variants, formulating all of these variables- then computing the outcome of hitting -my- mark. All of it was slicing away - thick, greasy, festered and decayed layers - the crust of society and work-related-stress.
It felt good.
Hannibal was right. It is good when a plan comes together.
As I stood there taking in the energy of the place, my mind washed over the details of WHY I was there at all. I was here - on the water - preparing for the fish residency - in the midst of natural wonder - tingling with enjoyment - not because I wanted to catch fish. No, not implicitly. Of course that is always an enjoyable benefit, but ‘catching fish’ can be done in a pay-pond, surrounded by hundred thousand dollar RV’s in the middle of a Midwest cornfield. No, I was here for something else. Better said, I was here BECAUSE of something else. Even more correct .. because of SOMEONE else. I was here because of a long line of others who had enjoyed the outdoors long before me. Those who over the years influenced my desire for the outdoors.
The list is long, but highlights begin with my dad - who first awakened the love for the outdoors in me - to people I’d never met; 50 years worth of between-the-ends influence; and my virtual fly-fishing friends. I have a lot of those, ‘digital-connection’ folks in my life.
People from all over the world; literally! People whom, the only thing I’ve ever seen of them have been the resulting characters of bits and bytes translated and reassembled into characters for reading onto a computer screen . Digital fishing commentary careening from all corners of the earth. A few others I’ve actually ‘seen’ their likenesses in photos they have shared online, or from others fortunate enough to have had the ‘face-to-face’ connection. A connection that is - at least at this stage of the game - is lost in the online world. And a smidgling few of them, I’ve actually had the pleasure of meeting. With a handful, I’ve been blessed to have shared fishing water.
So, it’s people with whom I share a kindred spirit - of sorts - toward fly-fishing, outdoors and the related gamut, that I come to the waters for. Fascinating, isn’t it.But I am not alone.
There are tens of thousands of others just like me - more likely hundreds of thousands, really! - who share these connections with others of the fly-fishing persuasion. Intimate connections. Some of the most truly intimate connections possible. So intimate that each of us feels the grief - honest grief - when one of our ‘virtual family’ suffers a blow from life’s storms.
I begin to notice the beginnings of a hatch. Whether or not it’s the mayfly species I’m here for, I’m not sure of yet. I think about getting out the new smart phone, to take a few still shots and maybe some video to share with the virtual companions... but something stops me. A thought: This one is for you. A gift. Specially for you. There will be more you can share. Sure your new gadget is burning a hole in your ‘tech-ego’, but cool it. Just enjoy this one.
And I did. I just stood there. In the water. With the current throbbing against the outside of my knee, keeping time with the life flowing all around. As I watched, a veritable explosion of aquatic insect life began it’s ephemeral ritual for this season. Soon I was covered in mayflies. I don’t care what species. I don’t care if they are imago, sub-imago, spinners, males, females .... I don’t care about anything. I’m ... I’m ... I’m ... here. Just me, the water, the gulping fish and the mayflies. Just us.
Then the intrusion occurs. My phone rings.
The ring-tone tune of Ramblin’ Man, in most other frames seemed so fitting, here -at this moment- it was a sharp pin thrust into a precious dream. I couldn’t reach it fast enough, to stop the intrusion . Man! Why hadn’t I chosen something like, ‘Sail Away’ ?
Then I looked. At the screen. The text message. I froze.
“Les - sad day - a palid air hangs over the water - Rich Schaaff has died.”
My legs buckled....
“Where were you when______?”, is a common question preceding tales and regales of moments of history impacting the purveyor of the moment. Lives change in an instant. Missed traffic signal. Bad investment. Wrong word. Text message.
I made my way to the shore. Sat down like a drunk trying to sit in a chair only to land -thuddingly- on the floor. My rod rolled from my hand as I attempted to keep my long-gone balance under control. The rod bounce a couple of times and landed ... reel up, half-in, half-out of the water. I did likewise the other way only to land far less graceful.
Now the pain was both inside and out.
As I stabbed awkwardly to make sense of what I had just heard, the mayflies continued to rise. They continued to fall. The water continued to roll. The fish continued to feed. The world simply continued. When my head clears. My butt stops aching. My heart stops hurting. I reckon I will, too.