- Tuesday, September 02, 2008
The boy set his pack down next to the man's, opened the flap, pulled out a small aluminum fly box and selected a mosquito-size dry fly, an Adams pattern. He held it up to the man, who shrugged and said, "Good as any, I suppose. But I don't suspect they'll be buyin' what you're sellin'."
Scowling, the boy took pliers from his rucksack and bent the fly's barb flat to the bend of its hook. He pulled the tippet from the fly reel, threaded it through the rod guides, and tied on the fly with a practiced clinch knot. He glanced at the man, who said, "Gift-wrap it if you want. Won't make no difference."
Then the boy pulled nail clippers from his pocket, snipped off the tag end of the tippet, and returned the fly box and pliers to the pack. He glanced up at the man, who had taken a small black book from the chest pocket of his overalls. The man read, looking up every moment or two. He appeared to be following a distant snowcapped skyline with his gaze.
Lips set thin and straight, the boy stepped toward the stream, stopped, backed up, then stooped close to the heather and approached the water again. He moved stealthily, setting his feet without so much as a sound, and stopped completely once he was within sight of the stream's far bank. Slowly lowering himself to all fours, he looked back at the man, who met his gaze for just the tiniest fraction of a second before resuming a leisurely inspection of the distant ridge.
The boy reached the bank and parted the grasses. Near the center of the water, a large trout rose, its brown back bowing the surface before it dipped back down and resettled to the gravel streambed. Tapping his fingertips against his thigh, one beat to each second, the boy watched, and when the big trout rose again he resumed his count: tapping, tapping, tapping.
Five times he watched the big fish rise and fall. When it sounded for the sixth time, he pointed the rod tip through the parted grasses, keeping his thumb on the reel and pulling the tiny fly back toward him with his other hand, the way a prankster might pull back a rubber band in school. The rod tip bowed upward from the pressure, and the boy's lips moved, silently forming the numbers one, two, three ...
Then, just as the fish was due to rise again, the boy released the tiny fly and its hook.
The fly shot out and up on its spider thread of tippet. Then the minuscule ruff of fur around the shank caught air and the dry fly slowed and settled toward the water.
In the creek, a brown shape began rising.
There was a swell of crystal water, a splash, and the fly was gone, the tippet pulling tight and yanking the bamboo rod tip downward.
The boy fed line off the reel, letting the fish pull until the tippet had completely cleared the guides and a foot or two of pale yellow fly line was clear as well, pointing this way and that as the trout raced to and fro in the pool.
Standing, the boy held the rod high, clear of the shrubs near the creek bank, and glanced back at the man, who was slapping his thighs and laughing with delight.
The boy straightened up and did his work, cupping the rim of the fly reel with his hand and letting it run a little. When the fish turned, he took line with it, keeping tension on the barbless hook. He did this three times. Then the fish seemed to tire and the boy stepped down the bank and into the water, gasping as it reached his knees.
He kept the rod high, turning and guiding the fish until it drew next to him. Still keeping tension on the line, he dipped his free hand beneath the surface, cupped the fish behind its pectoral fins and lifted it free of the water. The red mark behind the big trout's gill plate gleamed fiercely in the bright mountain sun.
"Whoo-eee!" The man was standing on the creek bank now, a black Vivitar camera in his hands. "That fella's two pounds if he's two ounces. Hold him up and turn a little this way, Tyler."
Tyler trapped the fly rod between his arm and body and held the fish out with both hands, displaying it like the prize that it was.
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