Friday, March 7, 2008

by guest blogger Barb E

I received Pat’s invitation first with interest, then with hesitation. While I have always enjoyed writing, for many years my forays into the experience have been few and far between. Typically a heart felt letter to a loved one on a special occasion or during a period of difficulty, the majority of the writing done throughout my life has been deeply personal- a sharing of emotions & thoughts too intimate to be spoken; an exposure of my very soul.

With this in mind, I postponed my response, viewing it as a major, and possibly difficult, undertaking. As I pondered possible topics, I remembered Pat’s comments about our e-mail musings and a recent discussion on hobbies. I realized that our brief exchanges offer glimpses into each others lives in much the same manner that an in depth biography would- only in installments.

With that thought as my guide, I opted for the anecdotal offering below.


My first experience with fly fishing began well. It was an opportunity to share an activity that my fiancé loved and to be part of a pastime that his two daughters enjoyed as well.

I had fished before, with some success; but apparently fly fishing was an art! The painstaking creation of minuscule insects from bits of feathers & colored thread and materials unknown to me- some purchased in tiny packets, others gathered from the wild. The completed replicas were ornate enough to be worn as jewelry and often identical to their counterparts found in nature. Casting the line properly was also a skill- one that Pete had demonstrated for me on occasion in the back yard. A precise arm movement was needed to send the lure in a graceful arc through the air, landing in the desired spot, far in the distance. While I retained little of the many details that he relayed to me, I did respect Pete’s passion for & knowledge of the sport.

We were on vacation, so I was allowed to awaken past daybreak- although that was unheard of on previous excursions. The day was to be partly cloudy, but the temperature would be comfortable and no rain was expected. Pete & the girls looked so cute in their gear- high rubber wading boots for walking in the stream & vests with many pockets to hold all the necessary supplies. Being the novice, I made do with shorts and an old pair of sneakers. We packed our lunches and sunscreen and a myriad of fishing rods & tackle boxes into the truck and made the trek from the cabin where we were staying to Pete’s favorite fishing spot. I had never been there, but I knew it well. A painting of the waterfall cascading into rippling waters and surrounded by green foliage hangs on our wall- courtesy of his dad’s skillful brush. The reality turned out to be a bit different, though- as we soon found out. It was late in the season & the summer had been very dry. The lack of rain had actually dried up the waterfall! Pete’s disappointment was apparent- he had so looked forward to sharing his hidden paradise with us, but with his typical resolve, he unloaded the gear. He was here to fish, and a little less ambiance would not deter him!

Having joined her father on these excursions almost as soon as she had learned to walk; nineteen year old Katie was a pro. She baited her hook, waded out into the water and cast her line beautifully, just as she had been taught. Twelve year old Shannon and I were a bit slower to start, waiting for Pete’s guidance. Baiting one’s own hook was required, but the dyed fluorescent colored fish eggs slipped out of our fingers and off of the hooks. Pete briefly assisted, and then eagerly headed into the water himself. Shannon followed soon after, as the previously learned techniques came back to her. She came back to help me along, but I urged her on then managed to join her.

The graceful casting thing was much harder than it looked. I whipped the rod too quickly or at the wrong angle. The line waved wildly in the air and the lure would land too close, in the shallow fishless waters a few feet away. This is work, I thought- fishing is supposed to be relaxing! I reeled it in, replaced my missing bait once again, and released more line, hoping to cast further. My target was the dark pools below the now defunct waterfall, which Pete indicated were preferable. I came close, but my line kept drifting back towards me- something no one else’s seemed to be doing! I tried again, but cast without reeling in some of the fishing line, and wound up with a tangled mess. Shannon noticed my struggles & came to help, having tangled a few lines of her own in the past. My more experienced partners shared stories of their own past mishaps and I continued my efforts in much the same manner.

Finally, I hooked something. Normally a potential catch is indicated by a tug on the line and a twitching at the end of your rod. This was different- my realization came as a sudden sting on my leg. My dangling hook had impaled my left thigh! I could see that it wasn’t imbedded deeply, and I’m not usually squeamish, but I had to look away. Fish hooks are tipped with tiny barbs to prevent the captives escape- removal could be unpleasant!

“I caught something!” I called out to the others, who quickly came to my rescue. This again was not an unknown occurrence and Pete quickly & painlessly performed the extraction.

At this point I made the decision to gather my camp chair & reading materials from the truck and spend the remainder of the outing on the bank, pursuing a more leisurely activity. While I don’t think that day’s experience would deter me from future attempts at fly fishing, I do know that I’d be equally content with participating in this particular activity from the sidelines.

No one caught any fish that day, anyway.

Barb currently resides in Bensalem, PA with her fiancé Pete & his daughters Katie & Shannon. Their blended family also includes her 22 year old son Bobby, a yellow lab named Gracie & Phoenix, the world’s coolest cat.

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