A Little Bit of Me

Jottings and Writing, miscellanous misgivings

the fly in the ointment

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I’m a fly fisherman. There. I have said it. I don’t know what happened in the first fifty-three years of my life but I came to fly fishing after half a century of scorn of men and women in chest high rubber and intense concentration. My first and second wives would turn in their graves if they could see me now. Up in a back country river, flicking a small, smelly, grizzly, concoction of dead rabbit fur, feathers, string and copper wire into a pool of seemingly empty water. I have two stories to tell, that I hope will tell why I have come to this watershed in my life. They will tell how I came to meet Catherine and how I lost her love. They will tell how I finally lost my son.

I met Catherine at fly-fishing school. A strange assortment of people assemble to learn the art and science of fly-fishing. Young boys – dropped off by flummoxed parents keen for a few hours of respite. Young men, looking for something to bring them into contact with someone who could end their years of solitude. People like me. Aged, used up, bored, looking for something new to challenge them. Re-invention, re-invigoration, realism. And people like Catherine. Some women hold themselves in way that shows their inner strength, their vulnerability, their breeding. She was first to try the difficult long cast. She waded into the ice-cold lake and tried the impossible roll cast. No one laughed at Catherine, even when her line was full of wind knots. She did that to people. I fell in love with her by the second class.

We were learning to tie flies. For those who don’t know this dark art, you have to imitate or mimic a likely food source that your wily opponent, the trout, is feeding on. Some say an exact replica does the job, others, something that attracts or interests. I painstakingly constructed a fly that looked like an emerging nymph. A fly that could lure a trout to the surface. A fly that would be gulped as the poor insect struggled to leave its watery home for a few hours of brief, aerial, life, where it would ultimately mate and die. Catherine presented her fly to the rest of the class. This time, colleagues could not suppress their mirth. My love for her deepened as I felt the depths of, what for me, would have been humiliation. Catherine seemed oblivious and wryly smiled.  Her gaudy attractor fly was a maze of fluorescent tape, feather, rubber, and ribbon. It looked like a birds nest on steroids. We were expected to test our inventions.

I came back from two hours of flicking my perfect replica of a nymph with barely a legal length brown. I emerged into a clearing where the ten other class members were grouped together, silently staring at something on the ground. They surrounded an obviously glowing Catherine. Before her, beside the gaudy birds nest, lay three perfect rainbow trout. The birds nest looked spent, bedraggled, raped, and violated. It had done the job asked of it by its creator.

My second story comes from a time closer to the present. I have children from my previous two unions. My son, Justin, still lives with Catherine and I. He also shares our passion for fresh water fishing although he is not as obsessed as me. We had decided to fish an inland river before it meanders across a plain, now largely given over to dairy farming and thus consequent pollution of pristine fishing water. This portion of the river has deep pools separated by rapid patches of fast flowing waters. Pools where fantails will swoop from the surrounding bush and dance at the end of your rod, then suddenly, descend on an insect gliding by. Here is where you may have your fishing interrupted by a disgruntled rabbit or hare who has been basking in the sun after a night of feeding and now dashes across a paddock to a hidden lair.

We had decided to separate and slowly fish different pools over a stretch of the river that backed upon itself. This way we would eventually end up at the same place. I had tried a Hare & Copper and then a Conchu d Bundhu rather unproductively and had finally decided that a snooze on the river bank under the mid autumn sun. Then for no apparent reason I decided to find Catherine and watch her fish. The day had suddenly turned cold and that may have influenced me in some way. A soft mist had rolled in and it hung around the yellowed willow dripping in the river. Scrambling around the riverside sheep tacks I came upon a two tiered pool where Catherine and Justin fished, standing side by side. Although they weren’t entirely intent on the large dimple I could plainly see at the top of the pool, Catherine was casting badly in that direction. I suddenly saw why she was so distracted. Justin moved over to her side and gently stroked her cheek, then lovingly inclined his head to hers and brushed her lips with his. I could tell by the look in both of their eyes that I was being cuckolded by my own son. That thought flashed through my head, and then I thought of other explanations, then came back to the same conclusion. Caroline was so distracted that her back cast met the water each time she presented her fly. Suddenly her reel screamed as a fish at the opposite end of the pool took her back cast line. I watched as she expertly played and landed the fish. A fluke catch and I wondered if she would call it that but my musings was overshadowed by the enormity of what I had seen.

I started all this by saying I had two stories to tell. Actually there are three. Picture me sitting before an open fireplace, stockinged feet, a woollen hat on my head. My jersey has holes in the sleeves and I have the beginnings of a beard. I have not washed nor shaved for three days, my skin has a grey pallor. I am crying silent tears. My heart feels like a lump of cold coal. I have been sitting before this pale fire since last night. I have been sitting here long after Christine finally told me the truth about her fish but not about her adultery. I looked into the yes of my son but saw no remorse or regret. What I saw was contempt. A pine cone softly exploded and red embers pepper the wooden floor. I no longer care enough to brush them away. I feel empty, I feel broken. I know what I should do – I have prepared myself for what I will do. It is said that a veil of peace descends at moments like this. I don’t feel anything.

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