Stolen Moments

A Summer Afternoon

It had been more than a month since I had the benefit of some company on the river. My friend John and I enjoyed a morning fishing apart, as dictated by the continuing threat of Coronavirus. Our time was short we knew, for it would not be long before the throngs arrived at this quiet stretch of river and chased us back to hot, dry land. We made the most of the time we had.

John is one of those rare friends who enjoys the day outdoors, whatever comes. If we catch fish he is smiling; the same if we don’t. If the grouse fly or the whitetails pass our stands, he enjoys the time spent whether a shot connects or not; and he finds equal joy and fulfillment from those days when game is scarce. Kindred spirits. I felt it more than twenty years ago when he walked into my fly shop for a chat.

John is beyond “handy” as well. His abilities reach the level of artistic and inspired. Fly tier, artist, and now bamboo rod maker. That last time we met along the river he brought his second rod, an 8 foot four weight built upon a taper devised by another friend, Tom Smithwick, the man I have called the Taper Wizard. Of course John didn’t just build an amazing cane flyrod. He made a beautiful walnut rod tube to complement it. Even before he heard my admiration, he insisted upon making a walnut case for me.

John’s Art: His tie of a full dress Queen of Waters Atlantic Salmon fly with original artwork and framing. It made my office special for twenty years and now adorns my tying room.

As we readied our gear for fishing yesterday morning, he placed the case on my car and stepped away, both of us mindful of our duty to protect our own health and that of our families. The morning light enflamed the figuring in the walnut as I turned the six sided case in my hands, the craftsmanship truly as beautiful as the wood, and the very special Thomas & Thomas fly rod it was destined for. I will cherish the gift as long as I continue.

Circumstances have kept us from spending time upon the rivers we both love this spring. There were float trips envisioned during the peak hatches, and afternoons reveling in the glory of the Green Drake hatch, dreams doused, if not by the threat of the growing public health crisis, then by the vagaries of Mother Nature’s whims. John found a different way to spend precious hours with his friend. I will share in those each time I take that rod case in hand and journey to the river.

Six Sides, Joined as the cane itself by a rod maker’s hands…

There’s rain coming they say. Dare we believe them? Predicting the actions of hurricanes is chancy at best. The Catskills appears somewhere in limbo between the forecasts and models: perhaps one to two inches of rain, perhaps as much as five to eight inches. If I could place my order I would opt for something along the lines of three or four inches, spread out over two to three days and nights. Fill the groundwaters which feed the springs which feed the brooks… and on to the rivers. Fill the reservoirs too, so the releases may give new life to the embattled Mainstem of the Delaware, where this summer has been truly harsh.

If I get my wish, perhaps August will shine as last year, and my friend and I will find good fishing, maybe even take that float trip. And of course there is autumn…

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