“Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the same color as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated.” ~ The Old Man and the Sea
I’d come to Spring River that beautiful fall weekend with a tent and a fishing pole desperate to relax and enjoy the scenery. All the movies made trout fishing look so peaceful and tranquil.
As I stood knee-deep in the chest-high water casting line after line there was nothing. All day for hours not a single bite. Just upstream a hundred yards I saw you bringing in the nicest rainbow trout, one at least every 15 minutes. By days’s end my peace wore thin.
Later your form gradually made its way clear as you walked into the campfire light and asked if you could join me for a bit. By the time you got around to asking me about the fishing, I’d already conjured up all kinds of excuses for the zero take.
“Let me see how you’ve got that line made up,” you offered. I passed the rod down into your weathered hands.
“Well, that’s your problem, you didn’t tie a leader. Your bait is staying on the bottom and the fish can’t find it. Let me show you how to tie for these fish.” You completely took over and I was more than happy to watch and learn.
“There. Now you’re all set. Come down tomorrow morning for breakfast at 6 and we’ll go out to my honey hole.” You disappeared through the darkness again.
The fog lay low over the spring-fed waters early that October morning. The sun’s first soft light cast a glorious hue across the oak-laden Ozark countryside. There wasn’t a sound to be heard save our carefully placed steps through the 60-degree waters.
“Cast right about here and let the line flow down with the water,” you said. “I’ll move down about 20 feet and do the same.”
The line moved downstream gracefully with the water and I thought back briefly to our fireside conversation just as the rod’s tip jerked hard. And then again, but harder. I pulled back, set the hook and the reel screamed with pleasure.
“We’re gonna have a good day,” you smiled, looking back with sly satisfaction.
Beautiful rainbow trout one after another all morning long. What a glorious three hours we shared that day, and again later that afternoon, and yet again the next morning.
I will never forget that day, the fishing we shared together in the years ahead, and the friendship we created between old and young. All because you walked up out of nowhere into a young guy’s campsite to start a conversation. You started the conversation, Harvey.
And every time I bend a hook, just so, exactly as you taught me, so it will set just right, I think of you, my old friend.
Thank you for appearing out of nowhere, coming out of the dark, and into my life that weekend. Thank you for starting the conversation. I’m headed back to our our old honey hole soon, and I’ll surely think of you.
Your fishing buddy,