Darkness was falling and I had to hurry. Nowhere was that more evident than the time it took me to find the eye of the number 16 Parachute Adams. Fifty-eight-year-old-eyes don’t let you forget some things.
But finally it was done. Pulling the tippet snug I could feel the stretch of the monofilament, the barb of the hook biting slightly into the flesh of my thumb.
I had already made a pact with the fishing gods. Just fifteen minutes. This one last pool. Then I’d walk out in the dark. It wasn’t lost on me that there was a tinge of foolhardiness written in that deal. I was risking the rod, after all.
But the limpid last hour of a late spring day has an otherworldly quality to it. I couldn’t help myself.
Kneeling abreast of the boulder at the tail of the pool, I fought the urge to hurry. “Just watch for a minute,” I reminded myself. “You can spare that much.” The head of the pool, forty feet away, was already shrouding into darkness, the light and the water merging into one. My squinting eyes walked slowly back along the rock ledge, the downed log, and the broken riffle, back to where the knee of my waders rested in the water.
“Okay,” I thought to myself. “One cast. That’s all you get. Right there.”
Looking behind me at the channel in the trees where the line would have to go, I stripped off several handfuls of line. Then with a flip of the rod tip I pulled the line into the air, the leader and the Adams following. I knew I couldn’t see the backcast so I didn’t bother looking. But I could feel the rod load with the same spun, silky smoothness – like a woman’s wet kiss - that it had all afternoon and that told me everything I needed to know.
And then the firm stroke rolled forward and the rod had that rightness about it and the line unfurled in a tight curl. At the last minute I released the last couple feet of line from my left hand and watched, satisfied, as the tan line fell quietly to the water. I couldn’t see the leader, certainly not the fly, but I knew where it should be. I had to force myself not to look there.
By all odds, it should have been a bust. No indicator. No way to see. Done.
But the afternoon had already convinced me that the rod brought something special to the game. And so, having slowly stripped two yards of line back as I gauged the drift of the Adams, I wasn’t surprised when some fathomless, preternatural sense, spun out of that graphite blank and down the line to the leader where the fly lay, caused me to lift the rod tip.
And instantly there it was. The weight and the sudden, shocking aliveness of the rod in my hand.
I didn’t land him. I had the pleasure of his acquaintance for the space of only a few heartbeats. Then I heard, and could vaguely see, the skittering jump and the sudden slack line and the aching disappointment.
But it was okay. As I reeled in the line and felt for the soggy fly so I could snip it off, I already knew I had something special. Carefully feeling for the ferrule, I gently prised the two sections apart. As I headed down the trail, slowly making my way back to the truck, I kept marveling at the rod. I didn’t feel embarrassed by the thought that came to mind.
The one that told me I had just been given a bit of bottled magic.
Early October, four decades and change earlier, I’d have been hurrying the half-mile home from where the school bus dropped us off. Quickly changing, I’d grab my rifle and three or four rounds of Long Rifle from the yellow box of Super X that I carefully husbanded. Then I’d be out the door, anxious to get in the woods. It was squirrel season.
That year Outdoor Life published a story about the Anschutz Model 54 .22 rifle, imported by Savage at the time. I must have read that story a hundred times. I yearned for that rifle more than I can possibly describe. To me it represented, surely, the absolute pinnacle of what a squirrel rifle could be. Had the devil come knocking on the door with one in hand, I would have sold my soul.
Alas, my soul was spared. That Mossberg of mine ended up having to suffice.
And so it was. As I grew into a young man - and then yet into a middle-aged one - Rugers and Remingtons and Winchesters and Smith & Wessons and Colts defined the boundaries of the weapons I acquired.
They were fine, workmanlike weapons. They served me well. I have absolutely no complaints, no regrets. Indeed, I cannot think of that Ruger No. 1 I carried in the November woods for all those years without a smiling fondness. In the shadows of my memory, the place it mostly lives these days, it is like an extension of my arm and my eye and my heart.
But something happened. As I went wending through the years of the sixth decade of my life, I slowly came to understand a bit of wisdom: that the greatest commodity to which we might be graced is not fame or fortune, or power or riches.
It is, simply, time.
It seems a shame to not realize such a truth as a young man, when you have a nearly full bank of the stuff. But no, most of us come to that realization only towards the latter end, after well more than half our allotment has been spent.
It was shortly after acquiring that bit of wisdom, that I remembered. The dream from long ago.
And so I went ahead and bought that Anschutz.
And the first time I squeezed the trigger on a round, one in which the sear broke with an otherworldly rightness, I knew that kid in me from forty-some years earlier had been right.
Sorry it took so long.
And so it was that time was much on my mind when I called Tom Morgan. Tom’s Time. Gerri’s time. My time. Everyone’s time.
I knew, more than anything else, the vastness of what had been lost. What had been put aside by the choices I made as a young man. I knew, as well as anyone, that there was no more time to lose.
I had heard. Now I had to know.
Three-weight. Seven-feet, nine-inches.
When it came, after waiting forever, I sat staring at the long cardboard tube for over a day. That’s another thing that time-wisdom thing gives you… a proper appreciation for slowing some things down. Like lifting that glass with two fingers of good whiskey to your nose and reveling in the spirits there, before taking the first sip.
And when I finally did lift the package, heavier than it should have been, slowly pulling the tape off the end to extract its contents, I was prepared to be amazed. But even that did not prepare me.
I have never owned anything like this. It is exquisite, substantial, sublime in every possible way.
But, of course, that is what it is
How about what it does
The answer to that would have to wait a few more days. And then I had my answer.
It is magic.