It must have been about 1960, or a bit earlier, but I know it happened. The thing
about memories is they keep coming back, and after a while I am not at all sure
they happened or I have thought about them so many times they seem real.
It was early spring on the Au Sable river in Michigan where I saw him. The wide
and shallow stream was overhung with cedars and lined on both sides with a well-worn
foot trail. An occasional gravel road would dead-end at a small parking area large enough
for half a dozen cars. Near one such place as I eased my way upstream prospecting
carefully for a possible rise I noticed him standing on the bank just watching the river
and perhaps me. He was only about fifty feet to my right, close enough to a standing
cedar to lean against it, but he did not. In his right hand was a bamboo fly rod, strung
up and ready if action be called for.
We didn't speak. Although now I most assuredly wish we had. He looked as if he
belonged there; his clothes were of the 'proper' type. And he was old. At least
sixty-five. Gray hair framed the 'proper' hat, the jacket was of an English Gentleman's
style. Of course, tweed. And yes, he was wearing a tie. But then, so was I, for I never
fished for brown trout without wearing a tan tie. Corduroy knickers draped over the top
of dark argyle stockings. I couldn't see his shoes for the grass at the side of the stream.
We did smile, as I remember, and nodded too. We were not impolite, but rather quietly
courteous. Each not wanting to interfere with the others place and time. Things were
different back then, in those times, so far and sometimes so damningly faint, or so it
seems. They probably are just as good now, it's just that I am not there to know about it.
I hope they are. I hope they are for you.
I continued working my way upstream without so much as a glance back, after all,
I was fishing and quite engrossed with my pursuit. I never saw him again. Or anyone
who even slightly resembled him. Ever. Anywhere. Except in books. Books with
pictures of old fly fishermen.
Not him exactly, but a few who might be said to resemble him some. Was he real?
Did I imagine the whole event? The rippling stream, the gentle force of the water,
casting my cane rod, the infrequent rises, the light coming thru the branches, all the
tiny details of every moment? I don't think I imagined it. Who was he really? I have
an idea, but it seems silly to me, so I won't go into that. I am sure it took place. I
know I was there. I am almost sure he was.
He must be long dead by now, but he still lives on in my memory. I call it up often
and it gives me a moment of reflection, needed and cherished in my present society.
He has been an influence on me for many years, kind of a guiding-light of how things
are supposed to be, and at one time were.
Perhaps, if you have not yet met him, I will share him with you now. I don't think
he would mind a bit. Until you are not sure either; then introduce him to someone
new, someone who is valuable and important to you. ~ James Castwell