Thursday, June 24, 2010
Up Country by Lucas McNelly - Chapter 3
It was if the guide had opened the door of a pitch black room and let in the sun. It was blinding, overwhelming, disorienting. Once John's eyes adjusted, focused, he saw a brook (a river?) carved out of the woods. There was no banking, no shore. The woods stopped and the water started. He imagined that when the water ran high, the trees would be partly underwater, that the roots stretched into the brook itself. And if he remembered correctly from childhood--that a tree's roots spread as far as the branches--then they did, they dug under the riverbed, soaking up water as it filtered on down. He was pretty sure, mostly sure, more sure than he was about the moss.
Mark and Paul had already put their packs down next to the guide's. Mark dug a worm out of his creel and carefully threaded it onto a hook and, following the guide's cryptic directions, walked fifty feet or so upstream. Once there, he dropped the worm into the currents and let it float downstream. The guide shook his head, no. He pointed Mark to a spot on the opposite shore where the water had collected around a fallen log. Mark did as instructed and no sooner had the bait hit the pool then the line went taut. Mark yanked the pole, hard (too hard?), and reeled it in as fast as he could. From the tension on the line, it looked like a big one. He drew it closer and it flashed to the surface, fighting with everything it had. Back down into the current and then--suddenly--the line went limp. It was gone. Mark finished reeling in the line. The worm he had so carefully threaded was gone--the hook picked clean.
"Why'd you let him go?" John chided.
"I had him. Did you see it? He was huge."
"I don't know if he was huge..."
Paul was more methodical. He put his pack down and stood in the doorway to the water, surveying the brook, the sky, the opposite shore, and what else John couldn't guess. He took his hat off, selected one of the flies, and attached it somehow. John had never seen fly fishing in person and was curious about the mechanics, but not curious enough to be labeled a fool.
Paul waded out to the spot he'd selected and started waving the fly rod around, forward and back, 10 o'clock 2 o'clock, whipping the neon orange line around in the air like those rhythmic gymnasts John's wife would watch every four years. How did he keep it from going in the trees? After thirty seconds, he let the line rest on the surface of the water, then snatched it back up almost as quickly, as if he was only interested in catching the really motivated fish, the type-A personalities, the greedy ones. But soon enough, he had one, the fish attacking the fly as it hit the water, like Jaws going after a swimmer. It was a nice trout, big enough to keep, but Paul let it go, said something about it being bad luck to keep the first one.
John had never heard that. Then again, he had never read those magazines in Paul's office either.
"You fishin'?" It was the guide. His fishing pole ready and anxious to hit the water.
"Yeah, of course." John put his pack down.
The guide pointed downstream. "Go down they-uh, not too fah, just past the bend. Ok?"
Um, maybe? It was the most detailed thing he'd heard the guide say, and he still understood none of it.
"Did you say 'not too far'?"
"Ayuh. That way." He pointed, seemed slightly annoyed, muttered something about people from away, and cast his line.
John complied, left his pack with the others, and worked his way forty or so feet downstream, around the bend, and tried to find a spot similar to the one the guide had shown Mark. He spotted one without much trouble and spent the next twenty minutes futilely casting down into the deepest-looking spot. He let his mind wander, taking in the warmth of the sun on his face, closing his eyes and listening to the water rush over the rocks, the wind through the trees, the birds singing all around him. It was beautifully serene, peaceful.
Every so often, a fish would nibble at his worm, the line responding with a playful little tug, but it was never more than that, and John didn't mind. It was relaxing just standing there in the brook, the water up over his knees, the woods existing all around him in their uninterrupted form, the way they had for centuries. He imagined himself as one of the original settlers of Maine (or was it part of Canada then?), fishing this exact spot in this exact condition, his fishing pole nothing more than a stick with some twine tied to the end.
It was an hour later (Two hours? Three? John had lost all track of time) when Paul walked up to him, asked if he was having any luck. They exchanged comments about what a great spot this was.
"Did you see the guide go past you?"
"No, did he go downstream?"
"Yeah, I'm going to go down past him, and we can leapfrog our way down."
"Ok, I'll move down in a bit. Where's Mark?"
"Just killing it back where he started. No way he's moving any time soon."
Paul moved down the right shore as John cast along the left. Ten minutes passed, maybe more. He heard Paul calling to him.
"Hey John, what's the guide's name?"
"Uh...Brian? Ryan? Ian? Something like that. Why?"
"I can't find him." He called out again, this time in the other direction. "Brian? Ryan? Hello?"
There was no answer. John joined in. "Brian? Ryan?"
Still no answer.
"Mr. Fishing Guide? Ian?"
...to be continued when our Kickstarter campaign hits $1,500...