A short story Copyright 2009, Erik F. Helm
As Richard listened to the speaker from the Fish and Wildlife Department address the room on the subject of PH levels in area streams, he slowly looked around at his fellow club members. Al had melted into his chair, his pipe intermittently disgorging a cloud of smoke. Henry’s head was slowly nodding forward as sleep took his eyes and brain. Cuthbert was picking at his fingernails as always, and Ed was attempting to show he was paying attention by hitting himself between the eyes repeatedly with the eraser on his pencil.
This brought to Richard’s mind the same problem that had been bugging him for the past six months. The fly-fishing club had become stale. Boredom plagued the members. Richard had attempted to encourage new subjects from speakers, had pushed a membership drive in order to infuse new blood, and tried to interest the members in outings to new places, all to no avail. The club seemed to be happy with the status quo, however sleepy it was. Ennui.
Thinking back on the last several meetings and outings, Richard sighed as he recalled Al’s fly-tying seminar. Al was a good tyer, Richard had to admit, but for some reason, Al limited his fishing to three patterns: a pheasant tail-nymph, an elk-hair caddis, and an Adams. He tied them all perfectly, but that is all he tied. Richard had wondered more than once if his constraint in fishing the three patterns had anything to do with the fact that those flies were the only patterns Al had ever learned to tie. He also seemed to recall that at the last tying seminar the club held only three months ago, Al had demonstrated the same three flies.
Then there were Henry’s outings. Usually around half a dozen of the club’s members would take part in a group fishing day on a local stream. This April it had been Muskrat Creek. It was always Muskrat Creek for trout, or Custer Park Pond for bass. The members would begin arriving late in the morning, put in a desultory few hours of fishing, and then retire to a local watering hole where Al would tell them about his three flies, or Peter would talk about the time he almost met Jack Hemmingway.
The outings had originally been intended as mentoring sessions for newer anglers. However, since there had been few new members in the last seven or eight years, the fishing days became more of a day to get away from the wife for a few hours. What few new members there had been mostly faded away within a few meetings, and never returned.
Therefore, as president, that was Richard’s dilemma: how to infuse new energy into the somnambulant angling club.
Last meeting he had booked a local guide who had a slide show on fishing for Atlantic striped bass from shore. One of the club members, Richard could not remember exactly which one, had followed up the presentation by asking the guide how the tactics he described might be applied on Custer Park Pond. Richard had cringed in embarrassment.
The speaker from the Fish and Wildlife Department had finished and departed, and the lights had been turned back up. Chuck, the club secretary and treasurer, was yawning and wiping sleep from his eyes as he began the formal part of the meeting: reading the minutes and taking care of new business, of which there usually was very little indeed.
She walked in carrying an old canvas rod bag in her left hand, her scent and legs preceding her.
The silence was so complete that Richard could hear Al’s pipe clatter to the floor.
“Hi!” she said with a sweet smile revealing a set of perfect teeth and full lips. “Is this the Peterborough Anglers Club?”
It was in the way she said it. There was no hint of shyness, just clarity and confidence. Her name was Ann, and she was spending her summer with an Aunt before returning to Boston to complete her master’s degree.
She was six feet of Boston Brahmin breeding and curves, topped off by long wavy red hair and green eyes. Her purple skirt flowed as she moved to find a chair and settle in. The green cable-knit sweater she wore complemented her perfectly.
Ann was looking to find some fly-fishing nearby, and had brought her grandfather’s seven-foot Payne bamboo rod with her for the summer. She told the club that she fished the Catskill region from time to time, but had not been on a stream for the past three months. Was there any chance of trout fishing nearby?
Richard sat in his car at the pullout of Muskrat Creek and watched with a wry smile as the club members fished. It was seven a.m., and fully two dozen members were in the creek by now, following Ann slowly through the riffles. Henry seemed to have lost his limp, and left his wading staff back in his car. Cuthbert had a new hat, and was wearing it at a jaunty angle. Chuck had broken out his Bogdan reel, something he said he would never do. Richard grinned as he heard Al explaining to a member how to tie a Quill-Gordon as they walked down to the stream.
Even Stash, the oldest member in his late seventies, had a spring in his step, and had finally managed to stop dropping his rod-tip as he cast.
Richard shook his head in laughter as he reflected on all his attempts to rejuvenate the club, only to have the answer walk right through the door in the form of a feminine fountain of youth.
The next three months sure would be fun, he thought aloud as he pulled on his better pair of waders.
Friday, December 18, 2009
Posted by Erik Helm at 3:35 PM
Labels: fly fishing, short story
I am a middle aged hyper-creative writer, angler, and hopeless romantic.
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Hmmm. Too bad I can't get my wife into a pair of waders.
You sure we don't belong to the same club?ReplyDelete
I think they are the same everywhere, with a few exceptions.ReplyDelete
Type one: Wealthy lawyers and executive trout fishermen.
Type two: The 'get away from the wife for a couple of hours' club
Type three: The old stogies.
Type four: The rare example of chemistry that actually works.
I agree with your examples since on my river you see the same.
I would like to add another. The angler who likes to shake things up a tad bit, that would be me.
Trying different techniques than the standard dry dropper indicator bland salad that is 99% of fishing on my river.
Here I am reading this on National Women's Day. A good reminder that sharing our sport with more women and more youngsters is healthy for our organizations. These newbies, often with little experience, bring fresh eyes,ears and questions to our know-it-allReplyDelete
meetings and outings. Mentoring and sharing does help us to expand the way we see things and encourages us to fresh thinking about the ways we have done things for past decades. Why do you do it like that? is too seldom heard in our old boys clubs.
Yea for Women in fly-fishing!