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"That feels much better," said the hydraulic engineer's wife as she turned round away from the river, while I gazed approvingly into her purple eyes.
I tightened my clasp ever so slightly on her right hand, which itself grasped the cork grip of my fly rod. This was a new and not unpleasurable experiment—teaching by standing behind her with my right arm encircling.
We made our combined cast for the 78th time.
It had been a long, hard day. I suppose I learned to cast a fly when I was about 9, in the wide open spaces of a Scottish loch.
Thirty years later, when I took a small house and 700 yards of strictly dry fly water on the Wiltshire Wylye, friends rallied to my aid. They arrived in carloads, bearing whisky, gin, tonic and other staple foods such as green vegetables to make sure I did not go down with scurvy. Naturally, in return they wanted to catch trout. And so I became a teacher. Not for hire, mind you—only for the fun of it.
I had little idea how to teach, but I picked it up bit by bit, with pupils like the hydraulic engineer's wife. We started in the traditional way, on the lawn with no fly on the cast. I gave a little demonstration, rather a good one I thought. "Slowly back, let the rod do the work, let the line extend almost full behind you, then slowly forward—like that.
Next morning an American couple arrived. The husband sloped away to photograph some thatched houses in the village, and I undertook to teach fly-casting to his wife.
Before long she started casting in earnest, using an immense amount of energy, and I devoted a full 20 minutes to extracting the hook from an intimate section of the upper leg of her priceless Abercrombie & Fitch stretch pants.
Shortly afterward various things occurred which finished my stock of Gold-Ribbed Hare's Ears, and we went back to the house so that I could nip into Salisbury for another dozen or so. My other guests, including the American camera buff, were sunning themselves on the terrace.
I handed the rod to the camera-bedecked American. "You have a try."