Publisher's Note: Al is taking a couple of weeks
off - a well deserved holiday from his weekly column. We
think you will enjoy Charlie!
It was a clear, cool, early spring morning.
Potential fly tying materials were sitting
high in the tree branches in my front yard
cheerfully singing bird songs. My daughter
Kate's extreme cat, Ginger, was lounging on
my temporarily green front lawn, snubbing a
fat gray squirrel that was complaining of her
presence. I took in a deep breath of brand new,
spring air. "A perfect day to go fishing," I
thought to myself, as I stepped off the front
porch and walked across the driveway toward my
car. The only problem was that I was headed for
work. On the drive to work, I began to think about
the Hendrickson hatch that was due any day now.
I thought about caddis flies and their erratic
flight that seemed to lead them nowhere in particular.
I thought about hungry trout sticking their noses out
of a clear, fast-moving stream and eating those early
spring treats. All of these fish thoughts were too
much for me, and I began to slip into a bad mood. My
mood worsened as I continued the drive to work. "Why
do I have to go to this stupid job? It's not fair,
a nice day like this. Move that wreck you jerk!"
Suddenly I remembered something. I glanced over my
shoulder, hoping my sudden flash of memory was true.
There in the back of my jeep was my fly fishing stuff.
I didn't put it away after I had gotten home last
night. There it lay, tempting me.
I don't know exactly how it happened, but I was
already feeling better as I eased my car up the
ramp and onto the highway that leads to the
Willimantic River. It had something to do with a
cell phone and a cough, though. I hadn't gone far
when I noticed that the other people, the poor guys
going to work, had improved their driving.
I parked at the full-service rest area just off the
highway. I put on my waders, fishing vest, and
lucky hat. Then I rigged up my fly rod. I was about
to leave my locked car and head for the river, when
a noisy, brush-painted, florescent green van pulled
into the parking space next to me. I could hear the
1970 hit song "Truckin," reverberating through the
rust-eaten holes in its side. The clacking engine
was shut off and sputtered to a stop that ended with
a gasp. A sliding door scraped open and out stepped
a tall thin man wearing a tie dyed t-shirt with a
peace sign drawn on it. His gray unwashed hair hung
to his shoulders. He had a long gray beard to match.
I felt like I had just stepped back thirty years in
time. Bell-bottoms would have convinced me. I looked
at him a second too long. Our eyes met. "Goin', fishin'
man?" the obvious deadhead asked.
"Yup," I answered.
"Where do you fish around here?" he said.
"Right down there." I pointed over the hood of
my jeep with my fly rod.
"What are you fishing for, man?" the gray man asked.
"Trout," I replied.
"There's trout this close to the highway, man?" he
"Yup," I answered, hoping another one word answer
would stop the fishing story that I knew was
coming. Almost everybody that ever wet a line
has a fishing story to tell.
"You know," he said, "my father and me used to go
cat fishing..." We were five minutes into the story
and just getting to the super-secret, smelly bait
recipe when another deadhead stepped out of the van,
rubbing his eyes with the palms of his hands. He was
wearing a tattered, yellow t-shirt with a hand-drawn
picture of a plant on the front. Pale white knees
glared through gaping holes in his soiled jeans.
As he rubbed his eyes, I noticed that there was a
single letter tattooed on the knuckle of each of
his fingers. "Trou--tBum" I think it spelled, or
it could have been "Truc--kin'," His fingers were
hard to read as he rubbed his eyes.
"Where are we, man?" he asked deadhead number one.
"Rest area," number one answered.
Just then a limousine pulled up and a well dressed
young blonde woman got out of the back. She noticed
me in my waders and asked me if I was fishing for
trout. I told her I was. "Rainbow trout?" she
asked specifically. I told her there were plenty
of rainbow trout. Her face lit up and she smiled
from ear to ear. "Thank you," she said. Then she
turned and walked toward the restrooms. Later I
was sorry that I hadn't asked her about the
rainbows and why they were so special to her.
The two leftover hippies were watching the young
blonde women walk away so I quickly said, "See you
guys," and bolted for the river. Well, as best as
one can bolt in waders. Anyway, I made it without
having to hear the rest of the secret, smelly bait
I walked down the grassy hill, opened the creaky
gate and as snow-white felts pressed against last
years fallen leaves, I wondered about the "deadhead"
and the well dressed woman and how fishing had
touched their lives, even though they were obviously
on different paths. I continued upstream, passed
some nesting geese, and waded half way across the
river. I stopped at my favorite place just below
"The Island." From there you can still hear heavy
trucks rumbling by, car doors slamming, and
concerned parents shouting, "Be careful!" at
As I pulled some fly line off my reel, I looked
back up the grassy bank toward the busy rest stop
and I wondered about the thousands of travelers
who hurried through there every day, their lives
locked in overdrive. I wondered if they would ever
know that only a few yards below the vending machines
and the wall of colorful brochures, a once-dead river
now lives. That strong brown trout hide behind
submerged rocks and in the shadows under dark banks,
or that the bright, pink-striped rainbow dine in the
fast choppy current, or that the silly red-spotted
brook trout now thrive there and nip at everything
that washes by. Would they know that a tough
four-pound rainbow lives in the deep boulder-scattered
run, just to the right of "The Island" and if the cast
is not too sloppy, and the right fly is drifted into
the crafty trout's view, you could catch her?
I think to myself, "Probably not," as I make my
first cast. ~ Charlie
Besides hosting the FAOL Chatroom on Tuesday nights,
Charlie Place writes a monthly fly fishing column
called "On The Fly" for On The Water magazine
which covers fresh and salt water fishing in New England.
In February 2004 Charlie's column won The New England
Outdoor Writers Associations 2004 writing award;
Best column in a magazine. Often his stories
are about fishing with Ernie Boutiette and Jerry Wade
his two best fishing buddies.