Route 7 Review - Page 112

in this case, he struggled for words to follow the old man. “Not sure about that. But what I do know…is the time has come…to catch fish,” he said emphatically, and offered up the rod with a dramatic bow, perhaps like a samurai warrior handed a sword to the next. The old man shuffled into the water until the bottoms of his scuffed cowhide boots were submerged. His daughter would have some type of cardiac event if she knew what he was doing, but Mark also knew that a river was magnetic to some people, and there was just no way around it. The water seemed to lubricate the old man’s joints and he started casting with surprisingly smooth motions, unfurling beautiful loops across the river in front of him. Mark thought he heard a chuckle, but it could have been another cough. After a dozen casts, the old man started vigorously stripping in line. “Nope.” The old man said flatly. “What’s the matter?” Mark asked. “Wrong fly.” Mark raised his eyebrows and almost took the comment personally, but kept his mouth shut. Walt tucked the rod under one arm with practiced grace and pulled a small leather fly wallet out his denim jacket, about the size of a pack of cigarettes. It took him a minute to coordinate unzipping it and he examined the bristly backs of several flies. After trying to pinch his sluggish fingers on the one he wanted, he cussed at the sheepskin and waved Mark to his side. The old man pointed with a shaky finger at one particularly distraught looking nymph. “Tie that damn thing on my line,” he said in a voice dripping with humility. Mark did it without saying a word. “Yessir,” the old man mumbled when Mark stepped away, lengthening his cast until the nymph mended nicely through the edge of the hole. After a half dozen casts, Walt lifted his arm and set the hook on what Mark could immediately tell was a nice fish. It wasn’t big by the river’s standards – maybe 16 or 17 inches – but it seemed larger as it tested Walt’s aging muscles. The old man made several exclamations to the water where his line cut the surface in jagged rips. Mark spoke words of encouragement as Walt worked to reel in line and keep pressure on the fish. One final run made the rod bow hard, the tip almost touching the water’s surface. When he could resist the urge no longer, Mark stepped forward and carefully put his hand over Walt’s, helping him lever the fish back up. “There we go,” was all the old man said. Mark soon netted the fish gently. It was a Brown Trout flush with golden autumn spots and hook jaw brimming with wait-a-minute teeth. Mark expertly popped the fly from the mouth with forceps and helped the old man lift the fish from the net. Walt knelt in the water and set the fish in gentle current to help it recover. The water was frigid, but the old man showed it no mind as he cradled the fish gently and rocked it back and forth. The trout’s back bore scars from a close call with talons, and he ran his rough, blunt fingers over the old wounds. “Yessir,” he whispered. Mark snapped a few photos. After a minute, the trout kicked its tail and slowly swam back into the darkness of the river, dignified. The old man gazed after him for a long time and turned to Mark with a crooked smile on his face. He reached over and grabbed clippers hanging o