“Nope. I got trout on the brain. Let’s do it.â€
“Talk to Miller.â€
“You think Landry might want to go?â€
“Doubt it, but you could ask him.â€
Charlie was often like this when it came to trout. I knew that invariably he would catch more fish than me on Saturday and he would make it look easy. As we were hiking along the stream he would suddenly stop and watch the river — seemingly deaf — for five minutes. Then he would agonize over a fly to tie on and he would retie his tippet and tie on the fly, some unbelievably realistic nymph pattern usually. I wouldn’t complain. I might go upstream or downstream a bit and make a few casts with whatever I had on while I waited, or just have a cigarette and look around and enjoy the day and being out there, looking forward to maybe seeing him fool a big smart trout. He would then get into casting position slower than a turtle, taking some strange route to a little bar where he could stand, and he’d send a few casts into a hole, usually a deep one. Chances are there wouldn’t be a strike and he’d only send a few casts up. Then he might tie on another pattern, muttering about it, and try a few more casts, to my eyes not seemign to spend nearly enough time working the water, and then he’d walk right out of the river and continue along the bank, carefully watching the water again. At the end of the day, he would catch twice as many fish than me and if a big one was hooked it was probably him that would do it.
When I was fishing, he would try to explain some things to me about the bugs and the water and the fish, and I’d try to follow most of his advice and tie on the flies he suggested, but he’d eventually wander away and go fish and I would just keep standing there, eventually casting a No. 16 Adams to a likely looking bank or slowly working a generic beadhead nymph through the same eddy way longer than he would tell me I should and I wouldn’t catch a lot of fish doing it. I’d linger over lunch, he’d eat standing in the stream; I’d take frequent smoke breaks sitting on the bank; he is a master at casting with a cigarette in hand; I’d point out a cloud of bugs swirling in the bushes streamside; he’d point out flashes of white in the water where the trout were feeding on the nymphs and emergers below the surface.
But for some reason, I was the one trying to convince him to go.
That night, we got together at the Lighthouse. It was the bar we usually went to. Comfortable, walls covered in beer paraphanelia, Leinenkugel’s mirrors, Summit neon signs, Miller Lite NASCAR stuff, a big Sam Adams wall sign that was supposed to look like it had been bolted to the side of an old building but which was made out of plastic.
Charlie and I went down to the bar together and Miller showed up shortly after we got there. Seemed that Landry was working on a girl and was waiting to see if she’d call when she got off work and maybe he’d join us. Maybe not.
“Why doesn’t he get a goddamn cell phone?â€ Charlie said.
“I don’t think he believes in them,â€ I replied.
We drank some beer.
“So Mike,â€ I said, “You want to go fishing on Saturday?â€
“Spring Creek. Go after some trout.â€
“Goddamn it, why are you two so damn reluctant to go trout fishing? We’ve only gone once this year and I don’t think that time should even really counts.â€
“I’m in! I’m in. Calm down, I’ve just got some stuff that I was going to do on Saturday, that’s all. It’ll wait.”
“You?” I asked Charlie.
“Right on. To the trout,” I hoisted my glass and they did too.
“What about the kids? You going to ask them if they want to come?” Charlie asked me.
“I thought about it. I don’t think so. Not this time. It’d be a hassle getting them all geared out and whatnot.”
I was pretty stoked now and I drank that beer and a couple more pretty quick. The images of the stream became fuzzy and I could just feel the rush of a strike and the quivering of a fish on the other end of my line, that feeling of success I get from a day on the stream, success not in hooking fish but in being alive and living.
“You think anything might be hatching on Saturday?” I asked Charlie.
“Who knows. You seen the forecast? Maybe some Olives.”
“Where do you want to go? Wonderland? Stonehammer?”
“Wherever there are the least cars. I sure like Wonderland though. Or we could go downstream of Hwy 91. Big fish down there.”
“Sure, whatever. This is gonna be great.”
“Yeah. Yeah, I think we should go downstream of 91. There are some deep holes down there.”
“We should probably get limbered up on Friday. Want to go up to Shoe after work?”
“Miller, you want to go to Shoe on Friday after work?” Charlie asked.
“Or the river. We could make it up there and get a few hour float in before dark.”
“Yes, the river!”
“We could bring the kids along there,” I said.