Transgressing

On Saturday, when Jo and I were departing from the river, I asked if he wanted to write about our day’s adventures or if he wanted me to.  He said it didn’t matter.  He would write something up, but I could too if I wanted to.

“Well, I might if you promise not to edit out anything that I say that is nice about you,” I said.

“That’s a promise I can’t make,” he said.

I decided then that I wouldn’t write anything. I’m leaving for a weeklong trip, and I have a lot to do beforehand. I didn’t want to take the time to write something, when in the end, Jo might downplay my accounts of his fishing prowess with his editorial privilege.  He doesn’t like to bring a lot of attention to himself.

Then I read his article “Regressing” in which Jo was way over-the-top in the attributions he bestowed on me.  I felt transgressed because he lavished kind words on me, but wouldn’t let me say nice things about him.

So, I’ve decided to tell the faithful readers of this blog the account of our fishing trip from my perspective.  You can decide which is more believable.

Rainbow from Saturday’s fishing trip.

Ever since I started reading BlogFlyFish.com about five years ago, I’ve thought:

Man, how cool would it be to be able to fish with the writing team. They’re obviously diligent students of trout fishing; they have all kinds of fishing skills; they have values and principles similar to mine; and they are constantly catching big trout.  The things I could learn from that team….

When the opportunity to write for the blog and join the blog writing team opened up, I jumped at it.  I enjoy writing, I enjoy fishing, and I knew I would enjoy the fishing outings that the blog team go on several times a year.

Wouldn’t you know it. Right when I joined the writing team, the pandemic showed up and not only did the team not go on fishing trips together, it was over a year before I even met them.

But finally, a fishing trip to Maine was planned in May. I made it up to the lodge and met the writers, only to realize that the chemo treatments I was in the midst of had made me too weak to wade and fish. Then, we planned another fishing trip in July to commemorate The Great Drake’s departure to Virginia. But it turned out that we were having too much fun grilling our meal (in the rain) and reminiscing to get out on the river before it got dark.  Drats, foiled again!

Saturday morning, the stars aligned and I was able to go fishing with Jo for the first time.  Normally, Jo wakes about 2:30 am and drives to the river so he can be there before first light. Being super-human, he doesn’t need much sleep.  Not so I.  I’m just making my first trip to the bathroom at 2:30 am, with no intention of getting up until after my second or third. But this past Saturday morning, Jo wasn’t going to be able to leave for the river until 6 am.  That coincided with my departure time so we followed each other to the river.

When we got there, Jo correctly predicted that the fishing might be slow. The late start (for him at least), the bright sun, and the heavy fishing pressure were working against us.  He took me to a stretch of the river I had never fished before.  He showed me the best spot (“there are trout in there”) and walked about 40 yards downstream.

I was having trouble reading the water with the shadows and reflections on it and I probably walked right in the middle of where the fish were hanging out.  I started working my way down to where Jo was fishing, leapfrogged him, and fished on the other side of him.  Nothing.  After an hour and a half, we both smelled like skunk.

Jo kept saying that there were trout everywhere in there.  I kept thinking: “My fishing luck is rubbing off on Jo.  If he doesn’t catch something, he will never want to go fishing with me again.”

With other fishermen beginning to crowd us, I used my long legs to set out for the other side of the river.  Once there, I realized why there were no fishermen on that side.  Big slick, sloping boulders were on the bank. Tree limbs overhung the water to prevent back casting. Too-deep-to-wade pools were strategically placed to swamp anglers who tried to trespass them.  I felt like I was in one of those TV shows where contestants tried to run an obstacle course that was filled with booby traps.

I managed to make my way up river to where I was directly across from Jo.  There, a 14” rainbow who apparently was unaccustomed to having fishermen within casting distance, took a fancy to a Pat’s Rubber Legs. The drought was over.

I think Jo had been patiently waiting for me to catch a fish so that he wouldn’t make me feel bad.  Within a minute after I caught my first, he caught his.  What a guy!  He’d probably been fishing with flies that had the hook broken off just to keep from catching a lot and embarrassing me.

After I crossed back over the river into civilization, I was ready to fish in another stretch, so I walked upstream for a ways to a promising run.  I caught two trout in there, and encouraged Jo to give it a try.  Again, not wanting to show me up, Jo intentionally broke his Euronymphing sighter so he had an excuse not to run the score up on me.

This pattern continued as we stopped at two other fishing spots.  Jo would offer me the best spots, let me have first dibs on them as he feigned problems with his gear and then pretend like I was having a good day while he wasn’t.

Sometimes a kind father will let his little boy beat him in arm wrestling for a while.  The father will act like he’s straining hard, but it’s all a charade as he lets his boy continually win. Eventually, just to show his son who’s the strongest, he’ll easily pin the boys little arm to the table. Just before we were leaving the river, Jo pinned my arm to the table, just to show he could.

I think the mollusk I caught is bigger than the one Jo caught.

I was out traipsing all over the river trying to find a spot where a dozen men hadn’t already gone before me that day.  Jo moved slowly into the spot I had just left.  He tied on a fly that was so small, if it had been a piece of lint, I wouldn’t have bothered removing it from my suit. I was busy landing a mollusk and didn’t see the fight, but Jo netted a big brown trout, as he always does.

I would have been jitterbugging out on the highway if I had caught a trout like that, but with Jo, it was a solemn, well-practiced ritual.  He took it over to the shallow water, knelt down on both knees in front of it as if it were a shrine, and began speaking softly to it.  He pulled out some incense and put it on the bank and began rubbing the trout’s belly to calm it down.  With the trout’s written permission, Jo took several pictures and measured it.  The brown was delighted to hear that he was 19.5″.  To the big fish’s delight, Jo promised to return when he surpassed 20”. The trout was released, feeling better for the experience of having been caught by Jo.  No doubt, he was the envy of the pool.

Meanwhile, I’m going, “How did you do that?”

Jo said something I didn’t understand about regression.

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