Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Broken Glasses

Funny, don't you think, how easily we become attached to things. Not people. Not places. Not ideas. Things. Consider, for example, that I own three bamboo rods. This is barely the hint of a collection, and I am hardly a connoisseur, but I do cherish the rods nonetheless. Truthfully, I'm infatuated with them in a way that borders on clinical obsession, especially when one considers that they rarely ever see the water. I tell myself that I'm holding tightly to the trio so that I may someday pass them onto my three children, but that's not entirely true. I would like for my kids to appreciate fly fishing and bamboo rods as I do, but in the end I expect the rods will be buried with me.

My 7' 4# Quadrate ... love that little stick.
But not everyone is drawn to rods as I am. If you're a reader or follower of this blog then I suppose there's a chance you appreciate over-priced tomato stakes as I do, but there's as good a chance that bamboo does nothing for you. Instead, you've likely a favorite fly box or lucky hat. Maybe for fifteen years or so you've been driving the same, slowly disintegrating Nissan pickup - she's carried you to every river you've fished for nearly two decades. You might cherish your old Hardy Lightweights, or it could be you collect flies designed and tied by notable tyers. Regardless, I think it fair to say that you each own at least one item - probably an item in some way related to fly fishing - with which you would never part. For my good friend and fishing partner, Ben Jose, that item is - or rather was - a pair of sunglasses.

Future's so bright ... he has to wear shades.
Sunglasses? Hey, I'm right there with you. I don't understand it either. I mean, they're sunglasses, right? Most of us lose at least one pair a year, but to hear Ben tell it, these sunglasses were special. They had traveled the country and the countryside as Ben's loyal companions; they had been witnesses to some of his finest and worst moments as a fly fisher. They fit like an infant fits into the bosom of his mother: warm, safe, and loved. They were a comfort. They were essential.

They were.

And now they're gone, having been crushed under the weight of a linebacker sized man and a studded wading boot. Their paths collided in the early morning haze of the river, and now this object that was so very precious, simply is not. Ben's prized sunglasses - trusted friends who had traveled with him to Minnesota, Colorado, Idaho, and numerous points in between - are nothing more than mangled plastic and glass.

In the moments after the sickening crunch of polarized glass filled the otherwise silent morning air, Ben was struck by an unexpected thought: his glasses simply did not matter. We were on the third day of a four day steelheading binge. We had caught fish when river reports were almost universally bleak. Ben took his first steelhead on the swing, and we were sharing a great piece of water with the best of bug chuckers. How could Bennie possibly be upset over the demise of his sunglasses when so much else was going so well? For four days at least, sunglasses and bamboo rods just did not matter. Moments mattered and the people who shared those moments mattered. For Ben, the moments that most mattered on this particular trip were those he spent with his father.

Make no mistake, Milo showed the boys how to get the job done
Milo Jose - septuagenarian, devoted husband, father of three, himself one of 15 children, long time bug chucker, and former Exulted Ruler of the local Elks lodge - was joining us for the final two days of our four day annual odyssey. Milo had never caught a steelhead. Milo had never hooked a steelhead.



A steelhead.

Imagine you have the opportunity to take someone to the river, and put him into his first chromer. Imagine the pressure, the anxiety you might feel, as you stand by your sport's side hoping for that first hookup. Imagine seeing him make that first solid cast. Imagine his fly making just the right drift. Imagine the line going taught as a ten pound, silver jump-jet spools the reel of its line. Imagine the smile on your sport's face, the grin spread from ear to ear. Now, imagine that sport is your dad.

Could there possibly be a better moment, a better gift for a son to give his father?

So what if Milo's first fish wasn't a ten-pounder? This little guy may be even more memorable.
I hope that Milo enjoyed the day as much as his son and I did. I hope that Ben finds a new pair of sunglasses to replace the old, but more to the point I hope Bennie remembers fondly those streamside moments he spent with his dad. More than anything perhaps, I hope that when the time comes, my own son will think enough of me to share with his old man a day on his favorite steelhead run.

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