A few days ago, I spoke at the memorial service of my neighbor and hiking buddy. It brought back memories from nearly 20 years of hiking, cutting firewood, repairing household problems and even fishing together. I say “even fishing” because my neighbor, who loved long dog walks but didn’t know one end of a fly rod from the other (that’s the way it is with those CIA types), decided a few summers ago to give in and let me teach him to fly fish.
Not that it was a “do as I do” thing; it was more an “ignore how I do it, and do as I say” thing.
After he got over the idea of the hook hurting the fish’s jaw, he advanced to the point of making an occasional passable cast and bought a pair of waders. A big leap of faith, that was. So, one day I suggested he try out his new waders in my favorite trout hangout (no, I won’t tell where that is).
We started at the “smokehouse,” the hole on the creek that usually rewards a decent cast with a strike or two, if not a fish. I got a nice small brown trout, 12-14 inches or so (put more weight on the “or so”).
Then I lost him after netting him, between the net and the creel!
We ambled on down the stream, and the patron saint of fly fishermen decided to smile on us. One side of the creek is heavily rocked, with the current moving down that side. We took turns casting into those enchanted waters, and were rewarded with nine more trout, ranging up to 14 inches.
A nice rainbow surfaced and splashed some 15 yards down the creek; my neighbor made a lucky cast and apparently put the lure in the fish’s mouth. That was a nice trout!
The only fly in the ointment was that my neighbor caught the biggest, a brown that really lived up to his name. As I told my neighbor, “It doesn’t get much better for a fly fisherman than this.” I think, for the first time, he actually understood the pull of fly fishing.
I went back the next morning before breakfast. Did I hook a big one at the “smokehouse?” Not on your tintype. In fact, in an hour of retracing the route of a day earlier, I got only one little tap on the lure.
Well, the next night, we invited my neighbor and his wife over for a fish dinner. It was a perfect ending to the fish story.
My friend is missed and I often think of him when I pass a hiking trail sign or see a good trout stream. I’m grateful that a CIA retiree and an unsuccessfully retired Baptist minister could have the fellowship we had. It reminds me that we should keep both the enjoyment of this world and our relationship with God up to date; time passes so quickly.
Now here’s how I fixed those trout: clean them, split or fillet them, and then first dip them in an egg dip. Then, dip them, flesh side down, in a coating of seasoned meal and flour and butter and chopped pecans. Then, on your old homemade gas grill — it’s like a blowtorch on legs! — saute them daddies for about 2 minutes on each side, and you’re ready for some good eating.
Oh, yeah — don’t forget the hushpuppies. Maybe even throw a few into the woods for the raccoons.