One Memorial Day weekend our family had been staying at a camp in Trinity California attending one of my dad’s fly fishing club’s events. It was a sea of old guys in chest waders and nine foot fly rods everywhere. My uncle announced that he was going to rent a boat the next day and go out onto the lake and use spinning gear. Before a purist could hear him my dad pulled him into our rented quonset hut.
“This is a fly fishing club, what happens if they find out someone I brought is using worms???” my father hissed.
“But, jeez, I’m sick of trying to throw balls of feathers at these fish, I want to catch one!” my uncle replied.
“Arrrgh, you’d probably keep it and eat it. Well just don’t let one of those loudmouths in khaki see you. I’m up for president of the club and I won’t have a chance if they know someone in my family is a… keeper” Dad muttered.
“Can I go with you?” I asked. I was in a very rebellious phase of being fourteen and looking for any excuse to mess with my dad.
“Sure.” my uncle said looking smugly at my father.
“You didn’t bring any spinning gear” my dad reminded me. Actually he didn’t bring any, since he supplied all the fishing gear on family trips, and since he had discovered pure fly fishing the spinning gear was gathering dust now.
“He can borrow one of mine” My uncle said.
“You brought more than one spinning rod???” My father clutched his pearls.
The next morning I followed my uncle down to the docks.
“Just nice to not be doing any of this fussy fishing, and not wearing any stupid waders or carpeted shoes” My uncle said to me.
“Yep, screw those guys” I answered.
We rented a little aluminum boat with a little outboard motor on it, and a couple of sun faded life jackets thrown in for safety. It was still early morning and there was a mist on the lake as the sun was starting to crest the mountains surrounding the lake. The little boat was covered in condensation as I gingerly stepped inside and sat down on the metal seats. I could feel the cold of the water through the seat as I took tackle boxes and fishing rods and a styrofoam cup of night crawlers from my uncle.
We puttered out onto the glass smooth lake. The pure snow melt water was gin clear as we cruised along I watched the bottom go by and called out the occasional fish I saw. We finally got to a spot that my uncle deemed appropriate and dropped anchor. We sat there shivering in the shade of the mountain and threaded worms onto hooks with numb fingers.
“This is the way to do it” my uncle told me as he tossed a line into the water and poured a steaming cup of coffee out of a classic glass lined thermos. We fished for a while as the sun finally reached us the warmth was welcoming.
“Hey, I got one on!” my uncle shouted, “take that Peterson Curse! Whiskey, get the net”
“Alright!” I grabbed the net and landed a nice little rainbow trout. “Put it on the stringer, trout for lunch for sure”
“Heck yeah” I said. I could already picture my father’s chagrin as his first-born son was not practicing “catch and release” but was merely fishing.
I turned to grab the stringer, and as I did I bumped the fishing rod my uncle had loaned me and with a splash it flipped into the lake. Followed by a second splash as the recently doomed trout got a lucky flip as we were both distracted and it swam away.
We both looked down. In the crystal clear water you could see the rod resting on the bottom. It couldn’t be more than fifteen feet down. I looked at my uncle.
“Ummm whoops.” I shrugged. “Guess I owe you a fishing pole”
He looked at me, then he stared longingly at the fishing tackle just out of reach of a sane person. The water was snow melt, and not that long ago snow. Plus it was at best 50 degrees in the sun, you’d have to be crazy to go after it. I mean how much could it be worth to him. I wondered if my uncle actually had the stones to jump in after it. He looked up at me, I was waiting for the oh well, or shit happens line.
“I’ll hold your hat” was what he said with a outstreched hand.