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Dear Son, A Letter About My First Fly And My Last Wife

John Baker
Dayton, Ohio

Dear Son,

Have patience please; I can explain where I've been the past year and a half. I have been fishing. It all started with a wedding I went to not long ago. You remember your Aunt Darlene? Well, her daughter, cousin Emmie got married. She married a chap from Iceland. Well, naturally, Iceland made me think of fishing right away...but what with the divorce and all, well, let me explain.

You know that I have never been one for social affairs, not being the type who likes to socialize. However, Neal, the chap from Iceland is, in spite of being some kind of materials specialist who is working on his Doctorate, a 'good old boy'. We discussed Icelandic fishing in depth. Can you imagine six months of daylight? Boy, fish 'till you drop!

Well, the wife seemed to have felt that I was monopolizing the groom's time and was quite upset with me by the end of the evening. Odd, weddings usually made the little darling quite romantic. I smoothed things over pretty well with some very earnest (albeit insincere) promises that this would never happen again and things were pretty well normal until we arrived home.

There on the porch sat my Christmas present. I ordered it myself. A fly tying kit. You see, the wife did not really understand the concept of sport fishing. To her, fish are food. You go, you catch a fish, you come home. With the fish. The subtleties of catch and release are-I'm afraid--lost on her.

Well, anyhow, there on the porch was my fly tying kit. I had ordered a fly tying kit; battery heated socks and a fly reel with an adjustable drag. Man, I was ready to fish. All I needed to do was tie my first fly.

But nooooo, I couldn't go tie a fly because she wanted to know what was in the box. She insisted on looking . . . Hmmm, I was positive I had told her about the socks and the reel. Imagine that! Overspending your Christmas allowance! Well, I eventually got that smoothed over. I explained that I needed a new reel if I was to start bringing home fish, and that in long term we would save this money by buying less food. And if you are going to be fishing in the winter you need battery-heated socks, right?

She looked at my fly tying tools and fur and feathers. A lot of it was made in Latin America. Honestly, I had no idea child labor was used that extensively down south. In an attempt to smooth this over, I tried explaining what each and every thing was for. Feathers make the tails on the fly, and the fur and thread make the body. That frilly stuff around the front of the fly? Well, that is called "hackle." Say it one time. Hackle. Now, say it real fast a couple of times. Hackle, hackle, hackle. Kind of sounds like you're trying to clear your throat doesn't it?

Later that evening when we were cozy on the couch I nestled up to her ear and said, "Hackle, hackle, hackle," and well, my throat cleared. Bang, right on the new dress. I went off to the basement to tie my first fly because that was where I was going to be sleeping anyway.

Actually, I was fairly excited. I didn't think I'd be allowed to tie a fly on a night that just happened to be our anniversary.

I made some coffee, set my tools in order on my workbench, adjusted the lights and got ready to tie. I was going to tie my personal favorite fly, the 'wooly bugger'! My hopes were high but my expectations were more realistic. In no way, shape or form did I think that my first fly would catch a fish. I knew this was a learning session only. I discovered that I had a lot to learn.

I had white marabou feathers, yellow feathers and every color under the sun except black. Well, I happen to favor black tail feathers, but knowing that my first fly would probably be "unfishable", I opted to make the tail white and red. I had decided to make the most colorful wooly bugger in the world!

Boy, those marabou feathers are so soft and fragile. The fine, dainty strands of feathers just sort of drifted in the breeze and floated ever so gently into the furnace. The cold air return by my 'just set up' fly tying bench created just a bit more of an air current than I realized. I had forgotten to buy a new furnace filter after throwing the old one away, so maybe the breeze blew somewhat stronger than usual.

In the process of tying on the feathers, and remembering how often the flies I bought came apart, I decided to use lots of head cement to make the fly more durable. Do you know that that stuff smells a lot like model glue? I had a great big bottle of head cement. I used a lot. And that gosh darned furnace pulled those fumes right into my face, me being by the cold air return and all. Whew! A rather heady aroma.

I tied in my white marabou tail feathers after much trial and error. I was more than willing to consider those feathers lost in the wind as acceptable losses on my first fly. I lost a lot of feathers.

I waited a few minutes to tie in the chartreuse hackle because the Day-Glo purple feathers stuck to my fingers and it took a minute or two for the glue to dry.

Well, I could have used an extra hand or two but I finally got that sucker all finished. And in the end I used a lot of cement.

My First Fly

Proudly I went upstairs to display my creation to my wife. I didn't realize how dizzying those glue fumes were and I lost my footing, fell and landed on the coffee table that she had bought for her Christmas present. Crystal, china, whatever. It's all just dishes to me.

At this point she took off and started talking about two hundred and fifty miles an hour in that native dialect of hers, and it began to sound like some sort of mantra or holy chant and it all became clear to me. In my glue-induced glory I felt that, like a Native American Indian fasting and praying to see his vision, I needed to glue feathers on my fingers and stick a wooly bugger in my lip to see my vision. I laid on the floor looking at the overhead light thinking it was the brilliance of God for what must have been twenty minutes, drawing all sorts of conclusions concerning fishing and the "oneness" of it all.

I never did really find out what she said. All I understood, after my mind began to clear in the fresh air, was that it had to do with me, her, fishing, and our relationship.

Well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. You see, a single man can fish all of the time. Oh, at times I am curious about what she must have said while I lay there on the floor, but all in all, it's water under the bridge. The last I heard she had remarried--an accounting professor.

Take care until I see you again.


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