From Walt: if Hallmark were to make a Christmas movie about fly fishing, it might look something like “Speying For Love.” This story is a sequel to Bill Hager’s “The Christmas Trout,” which appeared on this blog last Christmas.
When last we saw Marcy, she was standing in Willowemoc Creek near Roscoe, NY, flushed from the thrill of landing and releasing a legendary yard-long brown, known as “The Christmas Trout.” But also flushed from her newfound love. It was her high school sweetheart, Earnest, who had suggested and lent her the special red and green midge that finally fooled the old buck, a fly also named for that most wonderful holiday.
Yes, Earnest had recaptured her heart, and that heart was now singing as Marcy skipped down the familiar path to meet her love at their personal honey hole for some lunchtime fishing…and perhaps a mid-stream proposal!
As the creek came into view, Marcy saw that Earnest was already working the pool. Just as she was about to call out and playfully chide her soulmate for starting without her, she noticed something amiss: the flyrod in use was nearly double the length of the one she had personally designed for and given to Earnest on Valentine’s Day.
The long rod then rose skyward and, in a bewildering, yet enchanting series of graceful swoops and swings, eventually propelled the line forward in the longest cast Marcy had ever witnessed. Just then, her screaming-reel-drag text-tone announced the arrival of a message from Earnest: “Honey, sry I can’t meet u 4 our d8. Tied up with a customer at Checkurfly…haha. ttyl”.
“So, who IS that fishing our honey hole?” Marcy wondered as she looked back up. Whoever it was had been alerted by the grating ringtone and was now staring directly back at her with the face of a young Sean Connery.
“Can I help ye, lassie?”
Flustered, Marcy stammered, blushed, then quickly turned and stumbled back up the path to her car. She made a beeline to Checkurfly, wanting…needing to know just what was so important to have kept Earnest away.
After skidding to a stop in the gravel lot, Marcy stormed into the shop to find Earnest attempting to fit a size extra-small fly vest on Zelda Hooker. Try as he might, he can only manage to zip it up halfway, making it look like a very open-topped khaki corset.
“Oh Ernie, I love how this one form fits my waist better than that big ol’ potato sack you had me try on first!”
“Yeah, but I just can’t get it to zip up over your… y’know…and I’m really trying!”
“Yeah, I’ll bet you are,” Marcy fumes to herself as Zelda chuckles and leans forward coyly.
“You mean, you can’t zip it over my bountiful, buoyant boo…”
“I really don’t think cleavage is appropriate for streamside attire!” Marcy interjects, shooting daggers with her eyes at both of them.
Zelda sorta sniffs as she looks Marcy up and down. “Looks like you got no reason to worry about cleavage…no matter what you’re wearin’…. darlin’.”
Incensed, but not wanting to even dignify Zelda’s burn with a response, Marcy turns her attention to Earnest. “I went to our spot to meet you. Someone was already in it! I figured you’d arrived early and already started fishing….but OBVIOUSLY, it wasn’t you!
“Who was it?” Earnest replied with genuine concern, as the hole was “their secret.”
“I don’t know; I’ve never seen him before,” Marcy replied, flushing involuntarily.
“Was he cute?!?” Zelda always kept her options open.
“You’re not obliged tae answer that, lassie” said the handsome, tweed-attired spey-caster from the stream, who had quietly entered the shop.
“While it was you that found me, ’twas I that was lookin’ for you. Your name is Marcy, aye?”
“Aye, er, yes. I’m Marcy. Who are you?”
“My card,” extending a hand.
All three locals seem to briefly enter a state of suspended animation: Zelda calculating the implications of the stranger’s rather large hands and impressive shoe size, Earnest marveling at the gorgeously tied and exotic salmon flies adorning the man’s vest, Marcy transfixed by his rugged, yet refined jawline and startlingly blue eyes. She finally drops her own eyes to read the card, audibly mumbling:
HRH James Bond McIntyre
Crown Prince of Scotlandia
She looks back up, disbelieving and confused.
“YOU were looking for ME? Why? Your Highness.”
“Yeah, WHY?” fumes Zelda, crossing her arms, accentuating her…buoyancy.
“I’m having trouble launching a youth fishing initiative back home. I’ve learned of your fly rod donation program here in Roscoe. I was hoping to convince ye to help me an’ my countrymen in a similar way.”
“Is the situation really that bad in Scotland?” Marcy asks.
I’m not from Scotland! Scotlandia is an entirely different country! You Yanks pure need to bone up on your geography…. But, aye, it’s bad.”
“Go on,” urges a now intrigued and increasingly enchanted Marcy.
As I was saying, the youth there have seemingly lost touch wi’ the land and the water. I was hoping to lure them back outdoors, as it were, and away from their iPhones by introducing them to noble sport of salmon fishing. But that now seems to have been an overreach. I’m ‘ere in Roscoe to explore the humbling possibility of reverting to the more common pursuit of trout fishing. Ah figured that the simplicity o’ the sport would be easier to grasp for the teens, bairns, and toddlers of Scotlandia that I’m trying to reach.”
“You think trout fishing is…SIMPLE?” an astonished and very offended Earnest asks.
“It must be. I’d never tried it before today, but on my first cast this mornin’, I hooked and nearly landed a meter-long brown. He broke me off at the net, but the fish was so big ‘n’ had such a kype, I thought ’twas a salmon! So, trout fishing cannot be very difficult.”
While Earnest fumes, the Prince reaches for Marcy’s hand and gazes into her soft brown eyes. “Will ye help me, Marcy? An’ the poor wanes of Scotlandia?”
Marcy looks over at Zelda and “Ernie,” who still has his mouth in a frown over the Prince’s insult and his hand on Zelda’s zipper…. MEN!
Back to the Prince, “YES!”
Surprised and thrilled that she’s agreed, the Prince embraces Marcy, lifting her off her feet and twirling her around in the center of the shop.
“Oh James!” she giggles as the Prince finally sets her down. “When do we leave?!?”
“Right now, Lassie! The royal jet is fueled and waiting at Newburgh airport!”
The Prince and Marcy leave Checkurfly hand-in-hand as an angry Earnest and very jealous Zelda stand transfixed….and the side seams of Zelda’s vest finally and very loudly rip from the strain.
Two weeks later….
Marcy awakens in her palace bedroom on the morning of the Royal Salmon Tournament Finals in a pensive mood. “Whisked away by a dashing prince, who wined and dined…and almost-kissed me several times. Even once in the Royal Gazebo!” Sighing softly at the romantic wonder of it all.
“But still, the youth fishing initiative has gone nowhere. James and his family seem much more interested in his stupid salmon tournament and…. Well, if I hear one more time how the Prince simply MUST marry by the New Year, I think I’ll scream! I’m starting to wonder if the youth fishing thing was just a ruse to get me here. He obviously stalked me online, which is kinda creepy.
“On the other hand, he is a real prince, and soooo handsome, and I’ve always wanted to be a princess! If only James had an orphaned niece and nephew. Then we could marry, adopt them, and have a ready-made royal family! Too bad, really. I mean, a princess with stretch marks? UGH!! I really gotta figure a way out of this mess.”
Marcy turned her thoughts to the Royal Salmon Tournament, and to the Prince’s opponent: a mysterious, but vaguely familiar “Yank”, as the locals called him. His name? “Chris Midge” from someplace called Willow Creek in New York.
He had arrived and entered at the very last minute, then proceeded to impress the locals with his spey-casting skill and obvious knack for getting the local salmon to take. Marcy had tried to get a closer look at him throughout the week, but he always edged away.
Marcy sighed to herself once again. Whoever he was, he certainly posed a real threat to the Prince. James had won the tournament every year since his 18th birthday. Marcy guessed that he had benefitted from more than a little “special assistance” by the hand of the longtime tournament referee: Angus Moneypenny, Warden of the host river and the Prince’s own Royal Beat Master.
At noon, Marcy was streamside, watching as the final pair faced one another for the drawing of the beats. Marcy was once again frustrated in her desire to get a better look at “The Yank;” Chris Midge wore a wide-brimmed hat pulled low, obscuring his face.
The Royal Beat Master cleared his throat and announced: “The challenger has drawn…the Lower Meadows beat.” A gasp arose from the crowd: the Lower Meadows hadn’t yielded a single salmon in competition over the past three years. Angus continued, “…and the defending champion, his Royal Highness, has drawn…The Drawbridge beat.” The Drawbridge was by far the most productive beat on the river, year after year, and the Prince knew it like the back of his hand. Coincidence? Not likely.
The pair shook hands stiffly, then Chris turned to walk the quarter-mile to the top of the Lower Meadows while the Prince paced downstream all of 30 yards to the top of his beat.
It was a tough afternoon on the river. The salmon were not cooperating for either contestant as time was running down. Chris approached the bottom of the Lower Meadows, fishing downstream toward the crowd. He hadn’t seen a single salmon. The Prince had returned to watch with the gallery. He’d set his rod aside, completely confident that the one small grilse he managed to net would be enough to defeat the Yank and retain his title.
Suddenly, a murmur rose from the crowd: the trophy salmon that had been turning up all over the river and spurning every fly it saw, had reappeared at the tail of the last Lower Meadows pool, right below the crowd. But the clock was running down and “Chris,” who had also spotted the salmon, now had less than 20 minutes to hook and land it!
After several long, gorgeous and accurate spey cast presentations were ignored by the fish, Chris suddenly stopped casting and waded ashore. Had he given up? There were still ten minutes remaining! The Yank approached his tackle cache, set his 15′ 10-wt. Orvis two-hander aside and rummaged through his pile of gear. He finally emerged with…a custom 9′ 4-wt. that Marcy instantly recognized. “Chris” turned back to face the murmuring crowd and a bewildered Marcy. He then slowly tipped his hat back, finally revealing his face.
“Because I love you and simply couldn’t let you go without a fight. And because I’m compelled to defend the honor and artistry of trout fishing and trout fishermen.”
“You…learned spey casting…. for me?”
“Yes, I did…and, actually, I’ve discovered that (eyes now harshly switching to the prince, voice dripping with irony)…it’s really very SIMPLE to do!!”
“Listen Marcy, I know this is sudden. Just think about me…. about us, while I finish this thing. I have a salmon to catch.”
“What is it?”
“I’m touched that you brought the rod I made you, but you’ll never be able to cast and present a salmon fly properly with it.”
“I know, look here” And there, in his hand, already attached to a 6x tippet, was the original Christmas Midge.
“STOP!” an indignant prince shouted. Turning to Angus, the Royal Beatmaster and Tournament Referee, with a raised eyebrow and a subtle wink. “Are you quite sure, Mr. Moneypenny, that this ‘ere rod and fly are permissible under the Royal rules?”
Angus replies with a chuckle. “The rules don’t forbid such wee rods and flies, Your Highness, but ’tis only a daft fool that would think he could get such a grand fish to take that tiny speck o’ feathers, and then land it with that wee twig!”
Turning toward Earnest, voice dripping with sarcastic mirth: “Your gear, whilst woefully ill-advised, is legal. You have but seven minutes left before the final bell to get your fish to the net. Good luck, ‘sir’, you’ll need it!”
As Earnest hurries back to the river and wades silently into position, Marcy regards the Prince. She ponders what a future with such a handsome, titled, wealthy, and debonair…yet ultimately manipulative and narcissistic man would be like. The Prince catches her eye, and in one agonizingly long and tension-fraught moment, they both realize that her choice is clear. The Prince’s face goes slack. Then he nods with a sad smile…because no one gives up more easily and cordially than a Hallmark secondary love interest.
“Go to him lass, and I’m sorry I wasn’t more honest with ye. I just want you to be happy. You deserve to be happy.”
Marcy smiles kindly. “Oh James, thank you for being so understanding.”
“Of course. May I ask a wee favor? Would you happen to have Miss Zelda’s phone number?”
“I do. If you call her, it’ll be YOU that’s doing ME a favor! Her number is appropriately easy…to remember: It’s 716-HEY-STUD.” Marcy winks at the Prince, then turns and scurries to the river’s edge. She arrives just as Earnest sets the hook!
The salmon, which bears more than vague resemblance to a hatchery broodstock steelhead, fights like a Tasmanian Devil caught in a phone booth. The huge fish leaps and tail-walks so ferociously that the gasping gallery is splashed and soaked like poolside patrons at a SeaWorld matinee.
The battle rages on, testing Earnest’s rod and tippet beyond all reason. Then, with the Royal Beatmaster counting down the last 10 seconds and poised to ring the final bell, the great salmon suddenly surrenders and swims directly into the net Marcy is holding at Earnest’s side. Actually, the fish kinda “glides” into the net. Earnest’s apparent winning catch now looks and behaves like a salmon…on ice…in a grocery display. That is to say, it’s oddly still. The crowd erupts, but is quickly shouted back into silence by Referee Moneypenny:
“Quiet, Ladies and Gentlemen! Quiet Please!!! Awww…SHUT YER BLOODY YAPS!!!!!”
Then, after composing himself. “The rules CLEARLY state that contestants are NOT allowed the aid of a ghillie or guide.” Wagging a finger at Marcy, “You, lassie, should be ashamed of yourself! Interfering like that!!” Turning to jab the same finger at Earnest, “And you, sir, are DISQUALIFIED!! Yer catch will NOT be permitted on the scale and must be released IMMEDIATELY! Furthermore, all mention of you and your fish will be stricken from the tournament record.
Turning back to the assembled crowd: “The Prince retains his title and his trophy!!”
“That’s okay!” Earnest calls from mid-river, his arm now around Marcy. “Your prince can keep HIS trophy: Looks like I’M taking home the only trophy worth winning here today!” dropping his voice so that only Marcy can hear “if you’ll have me, that is?”
Marcy, her totally feminist inner voice strangely silent about the whole “being called a trophy” thing, answers Earnest with her warmest smile and a nod. They kneel together to unhook the great fish. Earnest sorta shoves the salmon forward, and it glides away without using any sort of motion, swimming or otherwise. The couple marvels anew at the tiny Christmas Midge, now in Marcy’s palm. “This little fly really is magical, isn’t it?” Marcy asks.
“It sure is, my darling! It opened our eyes to love, hooked and somehow held both the largest trout and the largest salmon we’ve ever seen.…” Marcy cuts in to finish, “and now the Christmas Midge has brought us BACK together… again!” Chris smiles sheepishly, “Marcy, I’ve been thinking: maybe it can inspire a whole lifetime of Christmas Midge magic…for us?”
Earnest opens a black velvet-covered fly box to reveal his beloved grandmother’s engagement ring, nestled among an assortment of Woolly Buggers. “Will you marry me, Marcy, and be my forever fishing buddy?”
“Yes!!!”The couple eagerly shares a lengthy bone-dry kiss as the crowd cheers and soap bubble “snow” begins to fall. The CGI-revitalized salmon suddenly leaps, arching majestically in the background, directly over their heads. The three of them are silhouetted against the setting green-screen Scotlandian sun, as the credits roll.