|September 10th, 2007|
They Hate Your Spy-duh
Something or someone pulling at the pillowcase jolted me awake
and then I noticed the brown eyes. Espresso brown eyes framed
by eyelashes for days; just staring at me.
"It's time to get up."
The Big, Old Brunette rolled over and whispered to me, "You promised to take her fishing, remember?"
"O.K., Sugar. Let Grandpa grab a cup of coffee and fire up a heater first, will you?"
"You talk funny" She tends to speak in absolutes, an inherited trait that I am infamous for among my fellow instructors.
When teaching fly fishing, I frequently use absolutes in my dialogue with students, God put Bluegills on the face of the Earth to teach flyrodders how to make a hook set. Another: If bluegills grew to be 8 pounds, no one would fish for Tarpon. In my mind, these sentences stand alone; no further explanation is needed and for the better part of my career, they have worked well. I know an absolute when one is directed at me---absolutely.
We head down to the dock in back of the shoebox lake house that her other Grandparents own and there a Barbie pole, a Scooby-Do pole and a small bucket of Uncle Josh Carp bait greeted me. I felt ridiculous with my $600 fly rod.
She pointed, "What's that?"
"It's a fly rod, Sugar. It's what I use to catch Bluegills with."
"No, that funny thing you have tied on," her forehead all furrowed.
"It's a rubber spider with Chartreuse legs."
She said, "They'll hate it" and turned away. Another absolute.
She proceeded to tell me all about the 'gills and carp that inhabit her little corner of the world and then handed me her Barbie pole with a Cubby Mini-mite.
"Here, throw this out and then lift it back. You have to make the tail wiggle or they won't like it."
The crack of dawn fishing trip I thought would entail my teaching my Granddaughter to catch a few Bluegills had morphed into a guided trip with me being the client and she being the guide. Weird.
So I flipped out the Mini-mite then reeled and lifted as instructed and the 'gills converged.
During the fight she giggled, "This is fun."
I was a Warrior, a Fish Hunter; She was in this game for fun.
After the brief battle with a 4 incher, I lifted the little fish to unhook it. She waved her hand in an effort to get me to swing it over to her to unhook, which I did. Now as solemn and focused as a Trout guide, she did an admirable job and released fish after fish for me. I was highly amused that this little girl would even touch a fish, let alone take full control of the situation. I was amazed that a little one who gravitated towards any apparel in pink (ergo the Barbie pole, I think) would have an interest in fishing but she did.
After an hour the fishing slowed and she dipped into the Carp Bait container and began flipping bits of the orange goo into the water.
"Bored Suga,or or are you chumming?" I knew her interest would not last long.
A glare came from those incredible brown eyes. "No, Carp-y likes this."
She went on to describe how the 'gills had gotten wary and backed out of casting range and that's why she switched to carp fishing.
"See? There's Carp-y now!" And indeed, a smallish carp had slid into the little nook when the 'gills retreated. She took the Barbie pole away from me and handed me the Scooby Do pole to hold while she took a bit of Carp Bait and molded it into a perfectly round ball that covered up the treble hook points and the eye as well as the knot.
"Plunk this out there, he likes this." Yet another absolute.
I obliged, amused by the onomonapea that she used as it did go "plunk."
Carp-y swam over, grabbed the little bait ball and damn near jerked the pole out of my hands and I broke it off.
Those brown eyes stared at me blankly; they showed neither malice nor judgment. The lashes that framed those brown eyes slowly blinked up and down like a garage door opening and closing.
"You weren't ready." Another absolute, less amusing this time.
I preach to my On-the-Water students to "be ready." This is what goes through my mind every time I admonish a student to "be ready:" Hands in a fishing position, no longer in a casting position, watch both the fly and the fly line. Be aware of what could happen, be able to predict a strike. I wasn't.
Shamed, I picked up my flyrod and stripped off line in preparation of casting to the 'gills hanging just out of the reach of the Barbie pole and while doing this I tried hard not to say (or even think)"Here, Sugar. I'll show you how it's done." She was the director of this little musical and I was the lead actor tangled in the scenery, so discreetly shut up.
I executed a perfect little roll cast and when the spider landed, they again converged but only to look to see what plopped onto the water: no takers.
"They hate your spy-duh, Grandpa." Absolute Number 7 and it wasn't yet 7 o'clock in the morning.
My granddaughter, in my eyes perfect in every way save for an ever so slight speech impediment that I found endearing had just dissed my choice of flies! She did this with precisely the same attitude that a grizzled Montana Trout guide with one too many summers of guiding under his belt would use.
I have made a career out of "hatch matching," developing "patterns" and teaching techniques to catch fish (using absolutes in my lessons) yet over the course of exactly one summer of fishing she had boiled everything down for me to what the fish "liked" and did not "like." There were no shades of grey with her.
"Here, Sugar, watch. I'll twitch it and they'll take it." I do this professionally, for the Love of Pete!
My choice of fly and its delivery system was met with eye rolling and a look that said: "You can if you want but it won't work." This was a look that I must have used with students for years and I now know how this look can sting; I won't ever repeat this to my students.
And it didn't work, the 'gills just stared at my fly.
My guide handed me back the Barbie pole with a sigh and the comment, "I thought you knew how to do this." Another sting.
Nothing vicious in her statement; she was far too young to have mastered sarcasm. This was just wide-eyed bewilderment that her Grandpa, know in very small circles for having a modicum of skill, could be so inept at catching little Bluegills.
"You have to give them what they like. How hard is that, Grandpa?"
How is it possible that someone 2 feet shorter than me could look down on my skills? She had taken my entire career of teaching fly fishing and boiled it down to this one little sentence. I was, at the same time, amazed, embarrassed and proud of her worldliness.
I needed to let her short, weighty absolute marinate for a while. The long drive home would have me getting my head around this concept and I would be re-working my entire curriculum for hours.
Then I looked down at her, a pint-sized Joan Wulff all dressed in pink and said, "It's not hard at all, Sugar. Entire libraries have been written by folks way smarter than you and me on how to catch fish effectively. Most of the authors, Grandpa included, sort of forgot that we got into this thing to have fun and this was my best guided trip ever."
I back to the lake house for breakfast with my 7 year old guide who was no less a professional than those who row clients in drift boats.
The only difference was the gratuity, a glazed doughnut.
Pink of course. ~ Joe Meyer
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