As I sit here in the frozen tundra of the upper mid-west, looking out the
window at the blowing and drifting snow of yet another blizzard (the third
so far this year and it's just barely winter) memories of the warmer
times, not to mention better fishing conditions, of last fall float back
into my brain.
The phone had rung late one Wednesday night, I cursed for having to get up
and answer it, expecting another "telephone solicitor" to greet me with the
usual spiel on who cares what. I answered in my normal "anti-solicitor",
gruff, tone, "Who is it, whadaya sellin' at this hour?" I rattled off when I
picked up the phone. There was the normal "dead air time" at the other end
of the line, which I've come to expect from someone who has not just been
greeted by the accustomed "Hello?" After a couple of seconds I hit them
with my "Phase 2", "Well, is this a deep breathing exercise, a government
telephone test, another opinion survey or what?" I snapped.
Finally, there was a clearing of a throat, an "um" and an "uhh" and a careful inquiry from
the other end, "Fritz?" asked timidly, "Is this you?"
Well, at least it wasn't my mother at the other end. "Yo Mikey, sorry, just
tired of the political surveyors and getting a little cranky I guess. Sorry
about that, What's up?" now trying to sound friendly.
"Well, we haven't been out fishing for a while and Joe mentioned a new place, down river,
below the Quaskie dam that the bass seemed to like to play in and I was
wondering if you were up to it?"
About 300 things ran through my head all at once, a whole lot of them
concerning fishing, and equipment, and flies, and good stuff. Then the dark
ones started filtering in, like a reminder of the rough summer I'd had with
the Multiple Sclerosis, and my weak legs, and wading in water below a dam,
and slippery rocks, etc.
Finally, Mike broke the silence with a little comment, "Fritz, I know it's been
kind of a rough year for ya, so if you don't want to try it, that's cool. I just
thought I'd offer."
My wife had been listening to my end of the conversation, and took the phone from my
ear, "Mike? When, where and what time and does he need his waders?" OK,
Friday morning? He'll be ready, just stop by the doughnut shop on the way,
he'll be ready!" and she hung up the phone.
"Not your decision this time, Hun! Mike's offered and your going. Maybe you
won't be so darn ornery if you got out and wet a line with your friends once in a
I guess I was going fishing.
Thursday evening, Rachelle helped find my gear and "get stuff in order" for
the morning. I was amazed; she was almost like my first Drill Sergeant in
the Army. "Clean the dust off that rod and why wasn't inside a sock or a
tube to start with?" she barked, "then clean the line on those two reels,
it doesn't look like they've been cleaned all year!" "I can't believe the
spider webs growing on stuff." I guess it had been a while since I'd wet a
Friday morning came around with the usual smell of fresh ground coffee
coming from the kitchen. Then Sgt. Rachelle interrupted the scene, "Get
your butt outta bed!" she chided harshly, "Mike'll be here in an hour and
your not even out of bed yet!"
"OK, OK. I'm getting there." I responded, trying to clear my head and
figure out what was even going on.
"The coffee's on, I've packed you a lunch, your gear is setting next to the
garage, have fun today, I gotta get to work or I'll be late" she rolled out
in one breath, then gave me a quick kiss and headed out the door.
"Wow! Like a steamroller, baby," was the first thing that came into my mind.
By the time Mike and Joe arrived I was up, dressed, pouring my second cup of
coffee and had a good Blues CD playing on the stereo. "I'm a steamroller,
baby - I'm gonna roll right over you."
Now Mike is not what you'd call the "archetypical flyrodder" by any sort of
the imagination. He's about 5'10, a good 290 lbs. and his "normal" attire
consists of "Big Mac" bib style overalls, a rough looking tee shirt and the
old beige leather Redwing boots. Yup, a retired hog farmer. Joe, on the
other hand, is about 6'4", around 180 lbs. and usually dresses in the latest
clothing fad, from IZOD to Polo to Nike. He's a retired banker. Now how
these two unlikely looking guys ever got together no one ever really figured
out, but you seldom see one without the other when they're on the water.
Kind of a Mutt and Jeff, Laurel and Hardy, what ever you like, mismatched
looking, pair of anglers. They arrived in Mike's beat up 10-year-old, Chevy
3/4-ton pickup, right on time. They got out of the truck before the dust
settled behind the tires, Mike, with doughnuts in hand, Joe with a fly-box.
"Priorities," was the first thing to come to mind.
"OK," Joe was saying, "we've had our coffee and doughnuts, NOW can we fish?"
He'd been pretty hyper the entire 20 minutes they'd been here. Showing me
the latest flies he'd tied "special for the day," downing a couple of cups
of coffee and two doughnuts during that time span.
"I s'pose the fish have waited long enough," Mike said just before he shoved
another doughnut half in his mouth and washed it down with coffee. We put
my gear in the back of the truck and headed down the road. ~ Randy Fratzke
Continued next time!