Story by Jacques LeBrun; Art by Jim Tignor
It was a cool and breezy summer night before a rain. Most of the guests were heading back to their cabins, but John was heading to the only place with electric lights still on in camp – the dining porch, of course.
He sat down at a table and set up his vise, methodically removing some tying materials from his travel kit – hooks, dubbing and grizzly hen hackle, the only kind he used, because it worked.
A father and his two kids stopped over at the table to see what was going on…. “Are you a scientist,” one of the children asked excitedly? “No,” said John, “I’m not a scientist, only a fisherman.”
The child pressed him: “you should be a scientist.” John chuckled and began to wrap some red silk around the first hook. “Science is important, but my head is in the fishing game right now,” he said. The child looked puzzled but laughed anyway.
John began to explain what he was doing to the children, who were watching intently as the dubbing was wound onto the thread with a few simple twists of the fingers. However, a moment later the children were suddenly bored and wandered away, leaving John alone on the dining porch, where he was listening to the sounds of the owls call and the lonely cry of a loon far away.
After tying a few flies up for the week, John heard someone emerging from the staff room. Looking up, he saw her – and they linked eyes for a moment. Thinking nothing of it, he went back to stripping a hen feather and tying it onto the hook, orienting it just so, in order for it to face the right way as he wrapped.
Without a sound, she walked over to the table and surprised John with a question… “What are you doing, can I watch?”
“Sure,” John said, as he awkwardly attempted to explain fly tying in a concise, interesting manner that wouldn’t sound as nerdy as it really was… but there was no way to win on that one, so he asked her if she’d like to try instead.
“What’s your name?” He asked. “Maggie,” she said. Maggie. It was a nice name.
She sat down next to John, accepting the invitation to learn. He explained the process, step by step, as she began to tie her first fly. She was younger than John, he could tell, but not by that much. Her hair was wavy and long, and she had a kind demeanor that instantly pulled him in. She was deliberate, yet soft spoken, and he liked that.
To John’s delight, somewhat surprisingly, Maggie picked up the skills almost immediately – and so he just let her do all the tying, guiding her hand gently only when needed. She moved closer, nervously flipping her hair and laughing.
As she finished her fly, John remarked at how impressed he was at her first timer skills and wondered jokingly if it was just beginner’s luck. Removing her first fly from the vise, John wanted to give it to her to keep as a keepsake; however, she wanted to give it to him for the same reason. What to do?
“I have an idea,” said John. “Why don’t you take the one I just tied, and I’ll take the one you just tied. Tomorrow I’ll go fish it after the rain and see if it’s any good.” Maggie liked the idea – he could see it in her eyes. John knew the fly would work, but had to save his own skin just in case the new stream he was scouting was a bust…
It was getting late so they said goodnight and parted ways. John tried not to be too excited, but he was undeniably giddy about the fact that he had somehow just grabbed the interest of a woman using fly tying. What were the chances of that?
The next morning John headed out as the rain was tapering off, making sure to bring Maggie’s fly and some other supplies for the day. Arriving at the stream, he saw it was low, slow, and not exactly what he had been hoping to see. But the water was cold, and so he began fishing the likely spots.
Just a couple of minutes in he had a nice strike, and a fish was on. Bringing it to hand, John noticed how beautiful this particular brook trout was. “It must be the magic of that fly,” he thought. He fished for a couple of hours, picking mushrooms and hooking a few more brookies before it was time to head back for lunch.
After lunch, John found Maggie between her tasks and showed her some photos of the fish he had caught with her fly that morning. Maggie’s face lit up and she seemed excited and happy. Success. Maggie said she’d find him later after work.
John saw Maggie serving dinner that night, but she was nowhere to be found later on. He didn’t want to seem to eager, so he played it as cool as he could in his mind. They locked eyes at breakfast the next morning, but again there was little time off for Maggie, and John knew there was no sense in pushing to hang out while she worked. They exchanged glances, a few short conversations and a desire to spend some more time together late in the week.
It went back and forth like that for a few more days, a few words here, a glance there… until the last night in camp rolled around. After dinner, there was “sing time” and everyone sat on the porch together to listen to some staffers playing guitar and leading everyone through a classic lineup of old songs.
Maggie emerged from the staff room and came to sit down next to John. She moved in close and they shared a songbook together. John felt good singing these songs and sitting with Maggie, it was a refreshing change from the pace of normal city life back home. And Maggie wasn’t a boring city girl, either.
After the songs ended, Maggie announced she would be going for a walk. “Walks are good,” said John, nervously. There was a moment of silence. Finally she asked – “would you like to come?” Of course, he said yes, eagerly.
They walked down the path through North camp, gravel and dirt crunching beneath their feet. Talking quietly about the week, they walked out onto the dock and sat down to look at the stars. Maggie began to recount the story of how she and John had met… among other things she and John had in common. John liked the picture she was painting – it was pretty romantic, after all.
“We make a good story,” said John. He leaned in and kissed her, not missing the moment that he would have missed too many times as a teen or a younger man. They lay together on the dock watching the shooting stars, counting satellites and listening to loons and owls together. Neither of them wanted the experience to end, but alas, as they say with all good things…
John hoped he’d get to see Maggie again, and they exchanged numbers the next day. She lived far away, but promised to come visit. As he drove away from camp later that day, John played back these events in his head over and over. He couldn’t believe it… Tenkara actually got the girl!
Adam Klagsbrun (Jacques LeBrun) is an avid lightweight backpacker and angler of all flavors. Originally fishing small streams in the Northeast USA, Adam has relocated to Colorado where he enjoys all that the outdoors have to offer. Find some of his journals at Of Rock & Riffle.
This article was originally published in the Fall 2016 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.
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