Still excited, I went ashore. He couldn't see me, I thought. But I could find no one even though I searched under the bridge and crossed the freeway to look on the other side. I felt a sense of loss, an uneasy melancholy. I went home.
Months later I found out Walt had died earlier that spring.
I row behind Frank. The bass are there, making heavy swirls as they feed. Traffic on the bridge is picking up. Early commuters. They are too low in their cars to see us but the truck drivers usually wave or give a blast of the horn. It is getting light, a gray dawn that could be seriously depressing to a man looking forward to eight hours on the production line.
"The coldest winter I ever spent," someone once wrote, "was a summer in San Francisco." Perhaps this explains, in part, the centesimal suicides and high alcohol intake for which the City by the Bay is known.
We are virtually within sight of well over a million people, yet alone. We are perhaps out of step, ill-placed and ill-timed, in a sphere where cogs must mesh and all parts syncopate to keep the system running.
Even within the framework of angling as a popular endeavor, our methods are archaic: fly rods and rowboats. But we are touching something unrestricted, wild and arcane, beyond the reach of those who carefully maintain one-dimensional lives. There are people in the city nearby whose sole contact today with unreconstructed nature will be to step into diminutive piles of poodle excrement.
When I looked into the mirror during the late 1950s I saw a striped-bass fisherman who imagined, wrongly, that he was doing something remarkable and unique. The thought used to please me.
At the time, an elderly gent by the name of Ellis Springer was pierkeeper at the Marin Rod and Gun Club, whose facilities are situated only a few feet from the bridge. Ellis would let me use the club's launching ramp, dock and fish-cleaning table even though I was not a member. Always in a light blue captain's hat and smoking a stubby cigar, he was one of those people who talked at you. What made this particularly amusing was that his speech had a quality that made it impossible to understand anything he said.
I did not think he knew what fly-fishing was and wanted to let him in on my discovery. So one day when we were down at the dock I gave him a demonstration that seemed to fill him with what I thought to be a proper sense of wonder. I finished the exhibition by showing him some flies, which he studied for a moment. Then he looked at me with an expression of total confusion and exclaimed, "Yeehhh! Hoopty poopty! Hoopty poopty!"
Such exclamations were a part of all subsequent conversations.