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OUTDOORS: Another rude awakening

Photo by Daniel Kay

Photo by Daniel Kay

I tread lightly in stately fashion along the banks of pristine mountain streams. I enter the water at strategic intervals. There, I am as at-ease as a wading heron. I am, at once, angler and naturalist. I disturb not the water or its inhabitants. I impress even myself.

I am a trout fisherman.

Billowing aromatic clouds of smooth-burning Cavendish smoke billow from my bent-stemmed briar pipe. My custom-tailored tweed jacket hangs perfectly from my well-muscled shoulders and falls fashionably around lithe hips and trim thighs. I belong on the cover of an Orvis catalog.

I am rugged and handsome.

My fly box contains perfect, hand-tied imitations of aquatic insect life, exact replicas of my quarry's natural prey. I attach them to my gossamer tippet with intricate, magical knots even Eagle Scouts cannot comprehend.

I am a deft and adept craftsman.

My feather-light, willow-wisp rod is made of the finest split bamboo, lovingly and painstakingly constructed by the gnarled hands of New England's greatest custom rod-maker. It was presented to me because I am who I am.

I am a legend.

I cast with the studied finesse of a symphony conductor. My perfectly dressed fly line flows, curls, and loops gracefully. It is a ballet, an opera, fine art. The dainty dry fly settles where I will it to settle, natural and exact.

I am poetry in motion.

The huge brown trout rises. He is completely duped by my expert presentation. He does not hesitate. He greedily engulfs my feathered offering. The hook sinks deeply into his jaw.

I am angling perfection.

I choose the creek fork with no footprints at streamside, the one leading deep into pristine mountain wilderness. I refuse to go where huddled masses go. I take the trail less traveled.

I am a pathfinder.

Then I wake up.

I slog through sticky mud and silt. I lose my footing on slippery rocks. I fall, wallowing in the water like a beached whale.

I am clumsy.

My ten-cent cigar burns my eyes and stains my teeth. My "Nobody Believes I'm Elvis" tee shirt is stained with last night's gravy and barely covers my fish-white belly.

I am a slob.

My paper bag holds a tangled mass of dull-hooked, bargain-basement spinning lures. I tie them to my frayed line with double knots I pray will hold for at least one cast.

I am a cheapskate.

My cracked spinning rod is made of vintage sun-broken fiberglass. It was made by a Japanese factory worker with a sake hangover. I bought it for 50 cents at a garage sale.

I am a lowly scavenger.

I cast with the finesse of a broken-legged ox. My cheap line twists, snarls, and tangles. My lure, when not snagged in the seat of my pants, strikes a hornets' nest hanging over the creek.

I am fast ( for an arthritic 58-year-old).

The big brown trout swims away in panic, then turns and laughs a fishy little laugh when he realizes it is only me.

I am pure angling ineptitude.

I choose the creek fork with no footprints at streamside, the one leading deep into pristine mountain wilderness. I refuse to go where huddled masses go. I take the trail less traveled.

I am lost.

Help!