Readers Cast

A KINGDOM FAR AWAY (fiction - part 1)

Neil Travis - June 06, 2011

I was just 6 years old when my folks decided that it would be nice to have a place where we could get away on the weekends. We spent a few weekends investigating several places before they settled on a small cabin on Blue Lake, which was a couple hours' drive from our house in the city. Blue Lake was a picturesque little jewel of a lake set among the mixed hardwoods and pine forests in northern Minnesota. Looking back it seemed a bit strange since my dad was not a fisherman or a hunter, but he enjoyed the solitude that Blue Lake provided and my mother took her knitting and her books to fill the weekend hours. They both reasoned that it would be a good for my sister and I to spend time away from our suburban home. In time my dad discovered that the lake had a good population of panfish and he bought a spinning rod and a small aluminum boat and started fishing. My dad bought me a fishing outfit and we spent hours together catching bluegills, perch and an occasional small bass.

In the early years we would spend weekends at the cabin during the summer months but the year that I turned 12 years old my sister and I spent the entire summer at the cabin with our mother and dad would come up on weekends. It was during this time that I began to explore the lake and the surrounding area. Blue Lake was a natural lake fed by springs on the bottom and a stream that entered the lake across the lake from our cabin. One summer evening I was out on the lake with the boat tossing bass plugs toward the shore. As I was drifting by the inlet of stream I saw a man wading just upstream from where the stream entered the lake and occasionally he would swish a long rod back and forth in the air. He appeared to be fishing but I had never seen anyone fish like that so I dropped my anchor and sat watching him. After a few minutes he appeared to hook something because his rod bent over and I saw a fish splashing on the surface. As I watched he landed the fish and then it looked like he let it go and then he resumed swishing that long rod back and forth. It was getting dark and my mother would be worried about me if I didn't get home before dark so I reluctantly lifted the anchor and rowed for home.

For the next few evenings I anchored off the mouth of the stream and waited to see if the man with the long rod would come down to fish again but I did not see him again that week. When my dad came up on Friday night I couldn't wait to tell him about what I had seen.

"That's fly fishing," he said. "I don't know much about it but it involves catching fish on a lure that's made of fur and feathers."

Wow, I thought, catching fish on a lure made of fur and feathers.

"I understand it's quite complicated," he continued, "and expensive. You'd better stick to fishing with lures and bait."

The following week I decided to see if I could find the man that I saw fishing in the inlet and see if he really was 'fly fishing' like my dad said. I took the boat over to the inlet and tied it up on shore and began to walk up the stream. A short distance up the stream hidden among the trees I saw a small log cabin. As I approached I saw a man sitting on the porch petting a big black dog. The dog noticed me and came bounding across the lawn toward me.
"Hunter, get back here you'll scare the boy to death. Don't worry; he wouldn't hurt you, except he might lick you to death."

The big dog ran up to me his tail wagging furiously then he wheeled around and ran back to the man who was coming down off the porch.

"Sorry about the dog," the man said. "He likes everyone but his manners ain't the best." He stuck out his hand and said, "My names Joe and this here is Hunter."

Shaking his extended hand I said, "My name is Billy. My folks have a cabin on the other side of the lake."

"Oh, that must be the old Miller place. Old man Miller built that place back in the 40's and we fished together back in those days. Lost interest in the place after his wife died." His voice trailed off and he stood looking down toward the lake.

"Well, you're probably not interested in all that, what brings you over on this side of the pond?"

"I'm looking for a man that I saw fishing down where the stream enters the lake. My dad said that he was fly fishing. It looked like fun, but my dad said it's complicated and expensive."

A big smile slowly spread across Joe's face. "Well, you've found your man. Now I don't want to contradict a boy's dad but fly fishing isn't really complicated or especially expensive." He took a step back and looked me up and down. "How old are you?"

"Twelve," I said.

"Well that's old enough. How would you like to learn how to fish with a fly?

"Wow that would be great! But I don't have any fly fishing stuff, and my dad said it was expensive," I stammered.

Joe raised his hand. "I'll tell you what, I'll come over and talk to your folks and if it's OK with them I will teach you how to fish with a fly. I have some stuff that I'm not using and you can use it to learn."

I don't think my feet touch the ground as I ran most of the way back home to tell my mother about Joe. The following Saturday Joe came around to talk to my dad and they sat on the porch for a long time. I hid around the corner but I couldn't hear what they were saying except I heard them laugh several times, which I took to be a good sign. After he left I slipped out on the porch where my dad sat in the gathering darkness.

"Nice man," my dad said. "If you want to learn about fly fishing I'm sure that he can teach you. He said if you were still interested in learning you could stop over next week and you could talk it over."

Dad continued talking but I wasn't listening. All I heard was that Joe was going to teach me how to fish with a fly. The only thing I regretted was that I had to wait until Monday to get started. I don't remember much about the rest of that weekend but I do remember that I was wide awake before the sun came up on Monday morning.

Sysadmin Note
Part 2 can be found here

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