The angler dtood knee-deep in the water,
tossing a number 18 Adams at a rainbow
trout that was rising steadily in front
of a boulder at the junction of the feeder
creek and the main river. A knowledgeable
observer would easily ascertain that the man
was an experienced fly fisher, although he
was obviously a little rusty. A closer
approach would reveal a visibly fit man
in his early 30s, with closely cropped hair
and a weather-beaten tan from long hours
exposed to the hot sun. As it was early
June, the observer might be curious about
how the angler had got such a deep tan,
probably concluding that he'd used a
By R. Richard Walsh
The angler was glad to be chasing rainbows
on his favourite stream and he'd been dreaming
about the moment for the last 2 months. However,
now that he was here, he was unable to find the
peace he was so desperately searching for. His
mind kept wandering back to Kabul and his troops.
He prayed that they were all still safe. Although
his second-in-command was a good soldier, he still
felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility. He
felt his place was with his troops, even though
it was his turn for a 3-week holiday.
The rainbow rose, took his fly, and the fight
was on. The angler gently coaxed the trout
away from the boulder and its sharp edges,
not wanting to break the light tippet, and
fought it in the deeper water of the pool.
Even now, his thoughts were still on
Afghanistan and the patrol one week ago.
Someone had thrown a grenade at an Afghan
army checkpoint, and there had been casualties.
His section was the closest and was dispatched
to secure the area. As a crowd gathered to watch
the spectacle, he had felt the tension rising
in his troops. Everyone hated situations like
this, since anyone in the crowd could be
targeting them and they probably wouldn't
know it until too late. As the medics worked
on the wounded, he walked from soldier to
soldier, calming them down by cracking jokes,
trying hard not to let them see he had the
same fears—not for himself, but for them.
The trout was tiring and the angler played
it into shallower water. But as soon as it
saw him, it made a desperate bid for freedom
and made another run into the deeper water.
While he let it run, the angler reflected
on his world. Just 96 hours previously, he
had boarded an airplane to come home. One
moment he was in one of the most dangerous
countries in the world, and hours later he
was in one of the worlds most peaceful and
beautiful—home. But unlike his grandfather,
who had fought through Italy in the same
regiment, the angler did not have months to
decompress with his friends before arriving
home. One of the "miracles" of the modern
It was his wife who had suggested the fishing
trip. She knew he had to relax. He was
constantly watching the news for any word
out of Kabul. However, there wasn't any.
There never was unless the news was bad.
The clincher came when she saw him tense
and nearly dive for cover when the neighbour's
car backfired. Habits and reflexes die hard,
particularly since he had been living at a
heightened state of alert for the last four
months. At first he had refused to go fishing,
feeling he should stay with her. After all,
it was his wife who had stayed behind to care
for the kids while he went off to Bosnia 2
years ago, and again while he was in Afghanistan.
But she insisted, saying he'd be no good to anyone
if he didn't relax.
The rainbow was finally giving up the fight.
The angler gently raised his rod above his
head and eased the trout into the soft net.
He stared down at the 16-inch trout and
marvelled at its beauty. The trout was
strong and healthy—a lot like his country.
He swiftly removed the hook from the trout's
lower jaw and began to revive it in the slow
As it regained its strength, he felt himself
finally beginning to relax, letting the tensions
of the last 4 months flow out of him and down
the river. When the trout finally swam away he
stood up, looked around at the hills, and smiled.
He would still worry about his troops, after all
that was his job, but he was determined to enjoy
his time off. As he spotted another trout rising
along the far bank, he thought of his wife and
smiled again. She knew that fishing would renew
his spirit, help make him whole again. As he
stripped line and made several false casts to
dry the Adams, he reflected that his wife was
one smart woman. ~ R. Richard Walsh
Credits: We thank the Canadian Fly Fisher and R. Richard
Walsh, author of this article, for use permission.
Our Man In Canada Archives