Monday, August 9, 2010

I saw the future in his eyes

Last week Dan, Josh and yours truly at Orvis Milwaukee taught the last installment of Fly-Fishing 101 for the month of July.
This event is designed to get interested individuals involved in the sport through a free introductory program, and erase all the mystery and ‘elitist’ aura from the process.

In the class was a young African American boy of about ten. His name was Peter. He was as shy as they come, and was accompanied by his big-brother, a middle-aged gentleman who participates in the Big-Brother, Big Sister mentoring program. Peter loves to fish. Although silent and shy, when he was signed up for the course, he could not wait for the day to arrive. Remember that level of anticipation? Remember when you were ten? Remember when you dreamt of ponds, rivers, and trees to climb in the freedom of summer vacation?

He arrived in our store on the day of the event with wide eyes in a room filled with adult white males. During the casting portion, although he had small arms, and struggled, he never gave up. By the end of the class, he was laying out 20 feet of flyline. The smile on his face should grace the cover of a fly fishing magazine, and replace those ubiquitous grip-and-grin photos. When I gave all the students a chance to play a fish (me) on the rod, he did an unexpected thing: he brought the rod up and used side pressure to control me. How about that! In all the years of teaching fly-fishing, I had never had anyone show so much instinct.

I knelt down by his side and gave him a compliment. “You are a heck of a fine fisherman,” I said.
For a moment, our eyes locked. His were deep brown, and a window into his young soul. Mine were tired and old.

Then I saw it. I saw in this poor child’s eyes the future of our sport; the pure joy, the curiosity, the passion.

My eyes are not so old now.

Thank you Peter.

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