..."man has always been both hunter and hunted;
predator and prey. His evolving civilization, culture,
ethics and mores have, through the eons, dictated who
was which, and to what degree. How far we have come.
I was to become a fly-fisher."
from The Way Things Oughta Be,
Perhaps. by J. Castwell
The shack was nearly invisible, covered by thorn-studded
wild blackberry vines. A chance glint of sunlight sparkled
from the broken window pane catching my eye as I fished
my way up the narrow stream. "This may be the old
Fishing-Hut,"I thought as I climbed up the bank and
peered into the musty interior.
His book had mentioned he had a place up here years ago;
I never figured it might be still standing. Hesitatingly
I tested the latch. Unlocked, it slowly swung out.
Little did I imagine where my step would take me. How
many years since he had been here? Forty, maybe fifty,
hard to tell, but it looked like no one had been here
since. Years of seasons; seasons of spawning-runs,
hatches, mating flights and time. Time running on as
irresistible as the isolated stream itself.
Stepping inside, I collapsed my 6.73 foot, 2.13 weight,
OrviSage-Superba-triple-plus and leaned it in the corner,
letting my eyes probe the musty gloom. Nature had been
both kind and cruel. The lush Northwest climate had
rotted most of the roof; mold, mildew, fungus, and
spiders had done the rest. Yet the thick pine and cedar
had offered not only concealment but some degree of
protection as well.
Indeed, this must have been the place Castwell had
written about in his famous book. That fine book,
his only one, which had done so much to change how
people viewed fly-fishing and trout streams. He never
knew how much it had done, how much he had done; he
always hoped, but in fact, he thought he had failed.
How little did he know.
This was his place, his retreat where he and members
of FAOL had met for many seasons after they retired
the 'Fish-in' gatherings back in the early 2010's.
It was still all here, everything undisturbed, as
though he had just stepped out to test a new fly
pattern. I could almost feel his presence yet.
The small wood stove angled out from the corner on my
right, the long shelf on the back wall, three cedar
chairs still held firmly together by hand-split roots
as the Indians had taught him, a couple of pegs on
the wall, the broken window and in the center of the
room, the table. I should say, 'The' table, where he
created and tied his flies. The 'venerated alter'
where the world of great and near-great had discussed
the intricacies of the fly-fishing realm; Castwell's
realm. He taught and they had learned. Then they went
out and taught. Affably, he referred to them as his 'flock.'
On the shelf behind the table there were some boxes,
plastic boxes with snap-on lids which many years ago
had held the rare and exotic, the plain and the simple.
Opening them I found age-worn remnants of tying materials,
bug-eaten and worthless now; hackle-necks, patches of
various hairs, assorted spools of mold-covered thread,
some tools of his trade, and in one box, under a small
fly vise, yellowed with age, some folded papers.
Apparently he had written one last thing, or had
something started; perhaps a diary, a journal, an
unwritten column, I would soon know.
Papers in hand, I eased myself into the chair behind
the table. "Good Lord," I thought, "this was his chair!"
I could see him; a handsome man, broad shouldered,
gun-slinger hips, powerful, and yet, gentle with an
easy smile. I saw him once at a big sports show in
Seattle when my father had pointed him out. Dad said,
"Son, that's JC, if he don't know it, trust me, it
ain't worth a know'in 'bout."
I grew uncomfortable with the idea of sitting in 'his'
chair and took the papers outside. Resting my back against
the open door-jam I let the early afternoon sun warm my
face and hopefully help shed light on the papers too.
Some perspiration had formed on my brow; it was not
really that hot out. Anticipation gnawed at me as
carefully I eased the aged sheets apart.
"To whom it may concern. Being of sound mine, I J.
Castwell do hereby ..." ~ JC