Same story, but as I said the first was a rough draft. I am using this to show that yes, I do actually revise and re-write my own work. I have added a beginning and shored up the rest. Enjoy. And please let me know what you think in the comments or feel free to message me in the contact section of my page.
I was old then. I am even older now. At the time, I was pretty sure I had seen all that life had to offer. I had married, raised a family and built a home on the backside of a Montana bluff. It was a modest home with a great property that encompassed the surrounding hillside and sweeping valley. Then, as I do now, I would often walk the stream where it wound through the maples and snake grass, enjoying the solace it offered. The snapping wings of the grasshopper and earthy smells would intoxicate and lull me into a trance-like state of mind. The land was, for the most part, untouched by the outside world. In fact, I had never seen an uninvited sole on my land until that lazy afternoon.
It was particularly warm. The long summer days had begun to dry out the grasses. The wind coursing through them sounded like waves of the ocean as they bowed to its presence. As I walked in and out of the shadows along the bank, the trembling maple leaves applauded the tickling breeze. It was when I came to rest under a large tree that I noticed a man standing no more than twenty feet from me looking intently at the river he was currently standing in.
The stranger glanced at me from under the brim of his brown, oil-skin hat and quietly said, “Don’t move.”
Unaware of who this man was, and why he was here, gave me pause. “Excuse me?” I questioned, “But who…”
“Shhh!” he responded cutting me off.
I tried again, “Sir, if you don’t mind, I…”
“Shhh!” was his response once again. “Just wait for it.” He said to me. Wait for what? I thought to myself. He glanced at me again just as I was about to protest. The look in his eyes told me I should listen. Sensing my understanding, he nodded his head and turned his attention back to the water flowing around him. He was short and wore a stubby gray beard. He sported a healthy midsection that seemed to be pushing his rubber hip boots down his legs. It was then I heard a small splash. This river had been part of me for most of my life, I knew it better than anyone, and I knew the sound of a feeding trout when I heard it. And that’s when it happened.
The stranger drew up a long fishing rod that I hadn’t noticed at first. With the tip of his rod now facing directly upstream he grabbed the bright green line, thicker than a normal fishing line. With his left hand, he began stripping line off the oversized real an arm length at a time, letting it pool around his legs. Then all at once he heaved the rod upward with a snap, pulling the line from the water to soar backwards above his head.
Then, just as quickly, he brought the rod forward creating a large, arcing, loop in the line. The line hummed as it turned on itself going the opposite direction cutting gracefully through the air. He repeated this action several times gradually releasing more and more line out with each flick of his wrist. Finally, when he sensed the moment was right, he stopped the rod tip about shoulder height and let the line float gently to the water’s surface, the small yellow fly barley causing a stir as it touched down thirty feet in front of him and into the shade of an overhanging sage.
No sooner had he let the line soar, he began to haul it back in, letting it once again loop around his legs. Then just as before, he started the whole process over again. Back and forth, back and forth, then release, and haul the line back. I had heard of fly-fishing, but had never bore it witness. As I watched him, I began to forget his intrusion into my world and allowed myself become an observer. What at first seemed to be a chaotic mess of rod, reel, line, and arms, had suddenly become something beautiful. Like a brush to a canvas, every motion he made had its purpose.
There was a rhythm to his cast. I felt myself unconsciously rocking back and forth, mimicking the silent cadence. The line coming off the water threw glittering mist into the air. The fluid motion of his cast was hypnotic as it hummed along with the hymns of nature.
A small splash brought me out of my haze, as the man lifted the rod tip abruptly. With a wide grin he worked the fish towards him, and into the small net attached to his waist. The fish netted, he made his way over to where I stood on the bank, watching as a child would after seeing their first magic show.
“Here, hold this will you?” I took a couple hurried steps and reached out quickly and took the rod from his outstretched hand. He dipped his hand into the net and lifted out a small trout. “She (for apparently she was a she) is beautiful isn’t she!” He said, holding her closer for my inspection. It was a statement rather than a question.
Her golden brown scales glowed in sun. She was dark across her dorsal, gradually growing lighter to her underbelly. I could see her mouth and gills working, opening and closing as she tried to draw breath. Just inside the corner of her jaw sat the tiny fly.
“She is indeed beautiful.” Was my response. Then I watched him with a practiced hand slip the fly from her mouth and gently placed her back into the water. He held her until she darted off back to her place in the shadows. He swished his hand through the cold water then brushed it up and down his shirt front before extending it to me. I reached out and took it. He smiled as we shook hands. He released my hand and pushed his hat back from his forehead and stared once more into the river as it flowed toward, and around him. “Hell of a thing isn’t it?” he said before pulling his brim back, shadowing his face. “Hell of a thing!” his final exclamation.
I stepped aside allowing him to climb out of the stream. He removed a small metal box from his shirt pocket and handed it to me. Unsure of myself, I slowly reached out and took the tin. Then with a knowing nod, he turned and walked away. I stood there watching him as he walked out of sight, and longer still. I stood there on the banks of my river well into the evening, not willing to let go of the wonders of the day.
Finally, the chirping crickets broke my trance. In one hand I held a small fly box, in the other, the fly rod. I looked at the river watching the mayflies skate the surface and smiled. “Hell of a thing!” I silently agreed.