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A......TJB Part 5

Posted by Mark Tuesday, May 23, 2017



Part 5
It was way past dark when I got home. In fact close to bedtime actually. I knew I was in for it from Mom. I attended to the essential chores of feeding the animals and left the rest for the morning. I slipped in the front door quietly trying not to announce my arrival too loudly.
“Anders, is that you?”
“Yeah Mom” I said sheepishly
I walked into the living room where she was sitting in Dad’s favorite big chair. She had a smile on her face, which eased the situation somewhat.
“You were with Walt weren’t you”?
“Yeah Mom, and it was so fun!” 
The next 10 minutes was a non-stop recounting of the entire afternoon and evening from working on the old Jeep to the hanging out in his shop to the mule ride to the river. I explained with wide-eyed wonderment what it was like to watch Walt cast and fish.
She could see in my eyes that I had experienced something remarkable and knew at that point what I would be focused on.
“You are just like your Dad,” she said with a sigh.  “There’s no cure for that fly fishing bug, I knew it when I married him, I knew that’s how it was gonna be. Now I can see the bug has bit you too.”
“You know I haven’t seen you this excited about anything in a long time Anders. You’ve been a loner since your Dad’s been gone, its good to see you make a friend, even if it is that heathen Walt Mcleod!”
We laughed and talked more about Walt and she told a few good fishing stories about Walt and Dad. Her eyes twinkled and she cried a couple times and I could tell that despite her initial caution and the recent hard times Walt had experienced, she had a respect and love for him that went back many years.
“Get to bed now, you have school in the morning and I know you didn’t do all your chores tonight cause you were out messing around!”  
She swatted me on the rear with a rolled up newspaper, more out of love than discipline and I scooted out of the room in a flash.
“Yes mamma” I said as I ran to my room in the back of the house.
She was playing the stern role but inside I could tell she was happy to see me interested in something again.

School dragged on as usual the next day. I couldn’t wait to get to Walt’s and learn more about fly-casting, fishing and those steelhead!  The bell signaling the end of school again shattered the daydream I was in. I hopped on my bike and raced straight away to Walt’s.
The big lab met me out front on the long driveway and escorted me into a place that would fast become my second home. As I got close, I got off my bike and leaned it up against the shed. Walt walked around the back of the shop with an enormous yellow chainsaw in one hand and an Olympia beer in the other.


“Well don’t just stand there Kid, we got work to do!”
“A big fir came down last night in that wind and it’s laid up on the hay barn roof. You ever driven a tractor Kid?”
“I’m only 12 Walt, not really…”
“Well, today is your lucky day Kid!”
He threw the McCullough 35 saw in the bucket of the old Massey Ferguson and fired it up.

“Get on Kid, let’s go!”
I jumped up into the seat next to him, half sitting half standing and he jammed the thing in gear and we lurched down the rutted road to the barn at the back of the pasture. He swilled beer expertly with one hand while steering with his knee and shifting with the other.
We got to the barn and I could see the big fir on the side of the roof. The tree had broken off mid stem and hung into another tree before finally crashing through and resting on the barn. The other tree had broken the initial fall so the barn had actually sustained minimal damage. The trick now was getting it off without causing any more havoc.
Walt jumped out and drank the last of his beer before assessing the situation. Tossing the empty can into the grass next to the barn he grabbed a bull rope out of the bucket of the Massey and in two minutes had scaled the roof and had the rope tied to the upper part of the tree.
“Now I’m gonna cut this thing down at the base and you are gonna pull it toward the field when I tell you” Walt said excitedly.
I don’t know Walt, that thing is huge, what if I cant do it?”
“Its easy Kid, just do what I tell ya!”
I jumped into the seat, pretty unsure of how this was going to go. The rope was attached to the bucket and the bucket arms were raised up to 10 feet or so. He explained the levers and controls of the tractor, looked at the tree height and had me back up a bit more, and wished me luck. 
“I’m hoping I can just get you to curl the bucket a little and that will pull it where we want it to go, its not gonna need much.” Walt said as he reached for the pull cord on the big saw.
Walt’s plan was to cut and hinge the big tree in the lower trunk so that the bottom went one way and the top came towards the field. The tree was resting pretty vertical now and this would prevent the tree from crashing through the roof and ruining the barn badly.
Walt pulled the cord 6 times and the saw started on the 7th.  He expertly faced and notched the tree putting in what he called a Dutchman to keep the tree away from the barn. The sawdust came out in long ribbons as the saw made quick work of the fir. When he had the tree faced, he motioned to me to curl the bucket up slowly. The rope tightened as the bucket curled and Walt stayed near with the saw, watching the movement of the tree making small cuts to open the back cut when needed. I continued to slowly curl the bucket and could see the tree starting to move. All of the sudden, the tree did exactly what Walt said it would. The bottom of the tree below the cut went backwards and the top swung around and came straight away from the barn and landed in the field out in front of the tractor, perfectly placed, 20 feet short of my position.
“ Glad I backed you up a little there Anders, I love it when a plan comes together!”
Walt gathered up the rope, saw and other tools and laid them in the bucket and climbed into the seat of the tractor as I moved to the side.
“ We can save bucking this up for later, I just wanted to get this thing on the ground. Thanks for the help, you may make a good hand around here yet.”
“Walt, can we go fishing at the home pool again?” I asked hopefully.
“I want to catch one of those things bad!” I continued
“Patience Kid. I want you to practice with the fly rod before you go down there. You have a lot to learn still before I just turn you loose on those fish. I don’t want you stumbling and bumbling around without proper instruction son. If you are gonna do it I want you to do it right. I have a few tips to give ya. These fish deserve respect, they have made a long journey here and they should get our best!”
We got back to the barn at 5:30 and the shadows were getting long. Walt parked the tractor and stowed the saw and gear in the shed. He grabbed a rod off the rack at the side of the barn already strung up from the night before.  He clipped off the fly and plucked a head of rye grass from a nearby stalk and secured it to the end of the fly line.
“There, now you wont hook yourself” Walt chuckled, as he looked me in the eye.
“It will give the fly line the feel of the fly without the possibility of hooking yourself in the backside or something”. He laughed again while nudging me in the arm with a grin.
He quickly pulled off a couple handfuls of line and started false casting in front of me. I memorized the slow and easy motion making note of hand and arm and rod tip position.
“Its OK to turn and watch the line behind you until you start feel the load of the rod. The timing comes with practice”
“Here, you try it” Walt said as he handed me the rod.
It was bamboo and it was beautiful. The rod felt different than the fiberglass rod I had felt and fished briefly last summer.
I tried to remember Walt’s stroke and timing and started casting the rod.  I immediately knew I was going too fast and the line was tailing terribly behind and crashing into itself ending in a pile on the grass. I tried again, and my timing was still horrible. I was forcing it and not feeling it. I knew Walt was going to chime in and I was ready when it came.
“That’s not a buggy whip you’re holding onto there Kid, SLOW down for Pete’s sake!”
‘ I need a beer” Walt said as he disappeared back into the shop and went to the refrigerator.
He emerged with an Oly for himself and a cold Coke for me.  He set the Coke down on the back of an old Studabaker rusting in the grass near me and leaned against the trunk to watch. He tore the tab of the Oly and tossed it in the burn barrel to his right.


“Now kid, remember I said to watch your line on the back cast, wait until it is straight behind you before you go forward. That will help get rid of that tailing loop you have going. And for crying out load, go slow.” And don’t break your wrist, more forearm and less wrist.
“Get your hand a little higher, that’s right, above your shoulder a little more, that’s it!”
He sat and sipped quietly on his beer while I flailed away for the next ten minutes. Eventually, I felt like I was getting the hang of it, carrying 30 feet of line in the air without getting too many tailing loops. My forearm hurt but it was fun and challenging.
I laid the rod against the car and drank heartily from the icy Coke as I watched Walt walk over on the grass and set up a beer can he grabbed from a pile on the side of the old car. He set up 6 cans in all. The cans formed a circle, about 40 feet from the center. Walt motioned to me and I put my Coke down and walked to the center with the rod.


“Now try to hit and knock over the cans with the end of that line. That head of rye will have enough weight if you do it right.” Walt said.
 I tried in vain to hit a can, any can. I was not even close.
Walt grabbed the rod from me after a few minutes, obviously impatient with my progress. He measured out line in the air getting closer and closer to the can with perfect control. When he knew his distance was good, he cast the line and fake fly, hitting the first can and knocking it down. Around the circle he went measuring distance and hitting cans till they were all knocked down.
He set the rod down and guzzled the last of his Oly.
“That’s how its done son. You need precision and grace to cast to these fish. If you are whipping the water to a froth there’s not a fish in the county that will lay around long enough for you to get a shot at them, especially in these smaller creeks.  In low and clear water these fish can see you from a mile away.”

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And the lessons were just beginning………..

2 comments

  1. Jian Zhuo Says:
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