The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away and . . .

Yesterday was scheduled to be the final day of fly fishing for this year’s annual “Trout Sabbatical.”  As we age, the “need” to be on the water at the crack of dawn diminishes.  However, the desire to do so does not.  So, fortified by an unusually good night’s sleep (six and a half hours, rather than the usual six), I awoke at five, wolfed down a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, swallowed my daily multi-vitamin, an allergy medication, and assorted other pills, and hurried down to the basement of our rental cabin to put on my waders.

A half hour later, and two minutes in advance of my predetermined goal of 6 AM, I made my first cast into the waters of the West Branch of the Delaware River.  There wasn’t a soul in sight—nor were there any fish.  But I was alone on one of my favorite stretches of water  and it didn’t get any better than that (my fishing buddy, Bob, had elected to “sleep” this one out).  The sun was still below the mountains when I began to fish, but there was enough ambient light to change flies by—and I did plenty of that.

An hour (and two dozen fly patterns later), the sun made its initial appearance over the mountains downstream from me.  As I gazed upon the pastoral view, I whispered, “Thank you, God, for this glorious day.”  It was truly magnificent. A portion of low-lying cloud cover clung stubbornly to the top of a ridge like a tuft of white cotton candy, but soon it would be gone.  I need a picture of this.  Where’s my camera?  Oh yeah, upper pocket, right side of the vest.  I tucked my fly rod under my right armpit as I had done thousands of times before, and, using my left hand, extracted the little waterproof Panasonic from the velcro-flapped pocket.  I had carefully attached the lanyard to a D ring, so I’d be sure not to drop the camera into the water.  “Perfect,” I whispered (perhaps a bit smugly), as I prepared to capture the beauty before me—albeit digitally, rather than on film).

As I was about to press the button, I was distracted by something dropping to the water’s surface.  I looked down and gasped.  It was a fly rod—and it was mine!  (The one remaining reminder of my stroke is a slight numbness and loss of feeling in my upper right arm.  Apparently, that was sufficient to permit the rod to drop unnoticed.)  Casually, I bent down to grab my rod, but (with apologies to Jimmy Buffett) it “plumb evaded me.”  The current was carrying it downstream at a lazy pace that was just swift enough to prevent me from retrieving it.  I watched in horror as $750 worth of equipment floated away—along with more memories than I could possibly recount.  The reel itself, an Orvis CFO IV, had seen me through 35 seasons of trout fishing.  It was not only “the nuts” as far as fly reels go, but represented the generosity in spirit of my wife, who, despite having no interest in the sport, had urged me to buy it when I had used one as a loaner when we were first married.

Tears streamed from my eyes, and I wailed like a woman who has just lost a child.  I’ve known since before I had the stroke last October that my fly fishing days were coming to a close, but I continue to try and squeeze the proverbial sponge dry.  “Did you have to tell me this way?!” I screamed aloud to the unseen Presence in the sky.  Almost in answer, a calm came over me, and as quickly as the anger had come it subsided.  I shrugged my shoulders and laughed.  After all, I reasoned, I did have other fly rods.  Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to enjoy the day.  It wasn’t the end of the world.

P1030518

Shehawken on the West Branch of the Delaware River

I started working my way downstream, relying upon the wading staff to keep me from taking a header into the icy water.  Suddenly, something caught my eye.  It was a straight yellow line in the water.  That’s odd.  I stared in disbelief.  Could it be?  It not only could be—it actually was!  There at my feet were forty feet of fly line, attached to a reel, affixed to my Sage rod.  I used the wading staff to draw the fly line closer to me, reached down and grabbed it—hard.  Gotcha!  As I reeled in the line, tears again wetted my eyes, but these were tears of joy.  At the very end of the fly line, attached to the leader and snagged beneath a rock were two flies (I always fish a dropper).  They had saved the day.  Or had they?  I suspected otherwise.  I looked to the Heavens.  I could feel Him smiling.  “Not yet,” He seemed to be whispering, “but soon.”  I waded ashore, placed the rod safely on the grass, and quickly snapped a picture.

Later that evening, my friend, Bob, and I fished Cemetery Pool on the Beaverkill.  To our surprise there was not another fisherman in the pool—and it remained that way until darkness forced us from the water. At some point, a suicidal brown trout of generous proportions impaled itself on a bead head pheasant tail nymph above a wet fly dropper.  It was the best fish of the trip (at least for me).  As I carefully guided the colorful hen trout into—and out of—my net, I reflected upon the day’s earlier events and that voice I had heard whispering to me.  There was no mistaking its message.  In the past, that would have disturbed me.  But somehow, now, in light of all the blessings I enjoy, I’m okay with it.  I really am.


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About AuthorJoePerroneJr

I am a former professional fly-fishing guide, and I write the Matt Davis Mystery Series, which presently consists of four books: As the Twig is Bent, Opening Day, Twice Bitten, and Broken Promises. The series is set in the real town of Roscoe, NY, in the Catskill Mountains, where I guided for ten years. I love fly fishing, movies, cooking (and eating), and music. To learn more about me and my writing, please visit my website at: http://www.joeperronejr.com.
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7 Responses to The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away and . . .

  1. Bruce Pfeffer says:

    I loved this story and its message. Some years ago (more like 50), I made my one and only canoe trip down the Delaware. I am not familiar with the river’s geography, but we (7 friends) rented 3 canoes from a place in Port Jervis. It was late fall, and the water was cool and fast. I found myself in a 3 man canoe with my Coast Guard buddy Mike and his girl Arlene. The lovely fall beauty of the river and surrounding rock cliffs soon turned worrisome as the day got later and the current and obstacles became serious. For our first dunking, we went end to end and then went sideways over the rapids. The 3 man canoe was a dumb choice I later realized. By God’s Grace we had heeded the advice of the rental staff member, wore the life vests and left my Nikon in the car. We righted the canoe, and soaked but not defeated, continued down river. The next spill was worse, and I went under in deeper water. We were able to pull the canoe to a sandy area near a steep rock wall and call it quits. As you well know, calling it quits does not mean that the fat lady had finished singing. (No disrespect here. I always loved Kate). We finally dragged our wet and cold asses up the embankment and found a pay phone at a golf club. (Yes, very surreal). We were the last to get picked up by the rental company’s retrieval truck. The driver (a volunteer fireman) commented that they usually “lose one” to the river that time of year.

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  2. balroop2013 says:

    Hi Joe,
    The story of fishing captures all the emotions…the thrill of adventure…each time, a new one, the exhilaration of being the only one to enjoy the exotic surroundings, the passion, the pathos, the guilt, the stoic acceptance and the relief! How well have you compressed all those feelings into this small piece is a marvel!!
    I am glad you got that expensive equipment back and a fish too! Thanks for sharing a wonderful experience and many more to come…best wishes 🙂

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  3. Gene Conley says:

    At least you did not have to join the Michael Phelps swim team like I did plus you luckily found your gear! Kudos Amigo, glad you had a great trip!

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  4. Allie P. says:

    Absolutely beautiful. While I am glad you took joy in just being alive on a glorious day, I am glad you were able to get your equipment back at least for one more outing.

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  5. Dick Fuller says:

    Beautifully written as always. Takes me back to my days on the Beaverkill. I have heard a similar message.

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  6. Thanks so much, Bill. The message may not always be welcome, but acceptance is the key to survival.

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  7. Being open to the messages we are given is a skill acquired by some but not all. You have that skill and by sharing your experiences you are helping others to be open to the messages coming their way.

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