July 31th, 2006

Lake Meeting
By Neil M. Travis, Montana

The lake was shrouded with a thick blanket of fog, its surface a flat mirror, reflecting back upon itself. The sun was well up, but there was a significant chill in the air, despite the fact that it was mid-summer. I had left home in the dark, and in early August in Montana that is quite early indeed and had driven over 100 plus miles to be here, in this place, at this time. No breeze stirred the cool mountain air, no sound except the sound of my own breathing and the distant croak of a raven broke the unyielding silence.

I had come there, not for solitude but for fishing, and I had not come to experience it alone. Within moments my fishing companions would be arriving for a morning of what promised to be exciting fishing. As the sun began to melt back the engulfing fog, I could detect shimmering clouds of insects performing their ethereal dance above the water. Their numbers were so great that in the silence you could hear the hum of their wings as they rose and fell in their ghostly dance. This vast swarm of tiny insects would soon fall on the water and make their final contribution to the ecosystem of this lake by becoming food for the hungry trout I had come to catch.

My friends arrived, Wally and Kim Eagle, a father and son team who, for several years, had graciously included me in their fishing expeditions. Quickly, without need for words, we assembled our gear, squeezed into our float tubes and launched ourselves upon the mirrored surface of the lake. The fishing was all I could have hoped it would be and more, as the trout rose with abandon to the tiny spent, insects that carpeted the surface.

What strikes me most about that day, from the perspective of several intervening years, is not the number of fish that we caught. Quite frankly, I have not the slightest idea of the numbers. That day was not special because of the size of any particular fish, although I suspect that several may have been admirable. What made it special were my friends, Wally and Kim.

Ours is a friendship initially fashioned by a shared love of rising trout and sustained by a mutual admiration of each for the other, forged through years of sharing all that life has to offer.

Friendships, such as these, are like fine wines, carefully aged and consumed, not with haste but with deliberation, each sip awakening a new sensory experience. Among us three there is no sense of competition, just a shared joy in the accomplishments of life.

While this event seems like only yesterday, it has, in fact, been nearly 15 years ago. Kim has gone on to become a Cardiologist and holds down a prestigious position at a midwestern university. Wally has retired and resides within minutes of the lake we fished so many years ago, yet I suspect he seldom fishes there anymore. I have other duties that consume my time, providing me with too few opportunities to wile away a midsummer day watching the ethereal dance of ghostly mayflies over a fog shrouded lake.

Yet the bonds that bound us then are still strong, invoking emotions that supersede words, taking the chill from a cold Montana morning as surely as it did years ago. ~ Neil M. Travis, Montana

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