Ten, 15 minutes
passed. There was a rock under my left knee that an Indian could have used for
an arrowhead, but also there was a shadow in the middle of the pool, a shadow
darker than shade, and it was moving. Two shadows, two fish, two brown trout,
two large brown trout. One of them rose to the surface and nibbled at
something. The other grazed along the bottom. Why the sound of my heart didn't
drive them away in panic I'll never know. The racket was deafening. Any moment
my eardrums would break wide open. Let me get this cast off before that
happens, please! Then my ears can do anything they want to do.
I have made worse
casts. The fly tipped a branch behind me, and there was a horrible moment when
I thought it was carrying a piece of lead on the end of the hook, but that
turned out not to be the case. The fly dropped upstream of the fish five or six
feet. I picked as much line off the water as I could from my kneeling position
and let the fly bob along unattended in the slow current. It passed over one
fish, over the second. Both of them followed it a couple of hundred miles. I
don't know. It could have been thousands. Then one of the fish swam ahead of
the other, a swift, greedy maneuver, and took the fly into its mouth.
I raised the rod,
getting to my feet, and when the fish jumped it took with it all the line I had
stripped from the reel. It ran up to the head of the pool. Following it, I was
dimly aware that one leg was not keeping pace with the other. It wanted to lag
behind. Why this was so I didn't realize until later, when I discovered that
the rock under my knee had gashed a hole in my waders, letting in about 10
gallons. What happened from this point on is something of a blur, as all bouts
with fish generally are. Reconstructing them is impossible without the aid of a
neutral observer. There were more jumps and a number of deep, surging runs, but
eventually the fish wore itself out and lay on its side in the shallows.
Now comes a
shameful admission. When I leaned over to take the fly out of the trout's
mouth, the leader caught in the teeth of a zipper on my marvelous vest and
popped. A moment later the fish found the strength for one more jump. I made a
wild stab but missed. And the fish swam off trailing several feet of
I hadn't the
heart nor the breath, as we were climbing back up the mountain, to tell Wayne
all the details of my misadventure. He had caught several fish and kept one of
them. I hooked one good fish, I told him, but lost it.
bad," he said.
were booming in the hollows. On the way we fell in with a man in overalls who
carried a fly rod and wore tennis shoes and had a canvas bag slung over his
shoulders. He had lived in these mountains all his life, he said. Farmed. Used
to do a little timbering when he was younger. Raised a few cattle, a few pigs.
Still liked to come to Slickrock once or twice a month, as pretty a place as he
knew of anywhere, though he reckoned he wasn't going to be able to do it much
legs'll be stiff as two boards in the morning." His infirmity amused him,
and he grinned through a gray stubble of beard.
We stopped to
rest on a log. I had the feeling he would have continued on his way, but, not
wanting to embarrass us, he sat down with us while we caught our breath.
What did he think
of the road they were talking about putting in to Slick-rock? That would be the
answer to his arthritis. If there was a road, he could drive his car down to
the bottom, and when he got tired of fishing, he could drive it back out