Beaver Kill River - Photo Credit: The Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum
The Fly Caster Who Tried to Make Peace with the World
by Randy Kadish
ay wasn’t at the Forks when I got there. I set up my Leonard rod and cast over the swirling eddies. The eddies, however, weren’t as strong as they were the day before; and neither were the armies flowing into the pool. Unlike the stone faces of mansions, the faces of the river had faded closer to anonymity, but I still recognized them.
Twenty minutes later, Ray still hadn’t arrived.
Had he deserted me, like Izzy? If so why? Had I said the wrong thing? Or had he just assumed that I was a rich kid from New York?
A fly line unrolled upstream. Was it Ray’s?
I walked upstream. Mr. La Branche stood in the river. Tucking his rod in his armpit, he wrote something in a small book.
I yelled out, “I think you’re right!”
“Dry flies and fast water.”
“Dry flies and fast water. I like the ring of that.”
I told him about the rises I saw on Ferdon’s Eddy.
“Right now,” he said, “I’m trying to create my own hatch of flies by casting to the same spot over and over again.”
Though I didn’t know if he wanted me to, I walked to him.
“Watch,” he said.
He cast. Again the loop curved downstream. “I’m sorry,” he said. “Did you tell me your name yesterday?”
“My name is Ian.”
“Ian, you see, according to my theory, closely matching artificial flies to hatched ones isn’t crucial. I’ve cut open trout and found little sticks and different insects in their stomachs; so I think what’s crucial to catching trout is landing the fly gently on the right spot, and then drifting the fly without drag.” Mr. La Branche’s voice sounded calm but passionate. I was impressed at how well he fit the opposite tones together.
“To get the fly to land gently,” he continued, “I aim about five feet over the target, and slightly downward. You see, Ian, the trick is to get the line to land first and to therefore slow the leader and fly as they float down. Right now I’m landing my fly three feet upstream of that long seam. To get a longer drift, I’m curving my casts so the fly lands downstream of the line.”
“I didn’t know a person can curve his casts.”
“To make a downstream curve, I cast with the rod forty-five degrees to the ground. Then I let go of the line before I stop my cast, and gently pull back the rod. To make an upstream curve, I don’t let go of the line until I stop my cast. The more horizontally I hold the rod, the more my cast will curve. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?”
“I don’t know.”
“Curving my casts has taken me months and months of experiments.”
I thought of my own casting experiments. Suddenly I admired Mr. La Branche, in spite of his two middle initials and his dressing like a dandy.
He took out his gold pocket watch. “It’s almost ten. I have to meet Mr. Theodore Gordon at the Covered Bridge Pool.”
“So you heard of him?”
“He’s also a great flytier. We’re having a running debate on how to fish dry flies. Ian, why don’t you come with me, and I’ll tell you more on the way.”
Ray, I assumed, wasn’t coming; so why should I miss a golden opportunity to learn about dry-fly fishing and to see another pool? Besides, Mr. Gordon was a writer. I had never met a real writer.
I said, “Sure.”
Mr. La Branche owned a brand new, black Ford. We put our rods in the back seat. Ray strolled down the road, as if he had all the time in the worlduntil he saw me and glared.
I wanted to apologize to him, even though he was an hour late.
“How are you, Ray?” Mr. La Branche yelled out.
“Fine,” Ray answered coldly.
“We’ll have some more work for you at the club.”
I got in the car. Mr. La Branche drove back toward town, then turned left and drove past a long row of quaint homes with porches; and I realized I was beginning to like the look of a small town. Mr. La Branche turned onto a narrow road that ran alongside a river. The river had a lot of riffles and runs. The bank was lined with trees, posted with small signs that read: Fishing And Hunting Prohibited.
I asked. “Is that the upper Beaverkill?”
On both sides of the river were cornfields and farmhouses. Which farm, I wondered, was owned by the farmer in John’s story? I looked back at the river. Which pool is haunted? This one? But ghosts aren’t real. What a fool I am for believing, even for a second, all of John’s story.
“You see,” Mr. La Branche said, “to get trout to see dries on fast water, we have to tie them differently than they’re tied in England. Our dries have to float higher on the water ... “
Mr. La Branche told me how his experiments led him to believe some of the best places to fish dry flies were the mouths and tails of pools. Without stopping for a breath, he explained how to fish those parts.
I was lost in his explanations, the way I once was in Izzy’s. Was Mr. La Branche a mad scientist? If so, did I want to be his mad pupil?
Thinking I didn’t, I looked forward to reaching the Covered Bridge Pool.
“Ian, to summarize, I think the order of importance to fishing dry flies is: action, position, size, form and, last, color. Now Mr. Gordon does not agree with me. He thinks the order is: size, form and color.”
“What made you come to these conclusions?”
“You mean theories. My gut, at first. We’re here.”
Mr. La Branche drove down a hill, then through a one-lane, covered, wooden bridge. I felt as if we drove through a rattling barn. I imagined miniature Brooklyn Bridges connecting the banks of Beaverkill, but I didn’t like the images, especially when Mr. La Branche parked on a clearing and I saw how beautifully the wooden bridge matched the pool. Besides, I didn’t like the ring of the name: Suspension Bridge Pool.
“That’s Mr. Gordon’s car.” Mr. La Branche pointed to an older-model Ford.
The pool was about half the size of the Forks. Its turquoise-colored water looked as if it flowed in from the Mediterranean. The far bank of the pool was a high cliff, divided in half by a narrow waterfall, and covered with small trees and bushes. Suddenly I felt I was in the Hanging Garden of Babylon. But the garden, I remembered, was ancient and man-made. Wanting to be closer to modern times and to natural beauty, I imagined I was on the Tahitian island Fletcher Christian and his mutineers sailed to.
The tail of the pool narrowed, sped up and rushed down what seemed be a long, long sliding pond that dropped into an unseen abyss.
How high up was I? I wondered. On the top of the world? If so, it wasn’t because an upside-down reflection seem to put me there, but because the Covered Bridge Pool, like the Forks, was one of the most beautiful places on earthso beautiful that only a God could have created it? God didn’t create Penn Station. So man and Godif there was a Godcreated beautiful things, and horrible things like wars and earthquakes.
Would an earthquake ever rip the Beaverkill apart so, like Humpty Dumpty, it couldn’t be put back together again? Would dead soldiers lie on the banks, the way dead soldiers once lay on the banks of Antietam, Manassas, Chickamauga? What was it about rivers that made them sites of so many bloody battles? Was it because armies tried, often in vain, to use them as barriers? Would armies one day climb down the steep bank of this pool and attack and be picked off by snipers? The survivors, at least, would then be protected by the walls of the covered bridge. The Union soldiers who crossed the Antietam stone bridge weren’t so lucky, even if, as my father said, they fought on a battlefield of great ideas.
Thankfully, no great ideas were on the Covered Bridge Pool. Armies therefore wouldn’t march up the narrow, mountain road and kill and die just to capture a small piece of beauty. The pool’s only strategic importance was to anglers, not to generals. And if a general was also an angler, he wouldn’t want his soldiers to bleed and bloody the turquoise water.
Maybe Gus was right: war and fishing stories weren’t meant to go together. If I wrote a fishing story about the pool I would leave out all hint of war and put in long descriptions of beauty.
But could I?
Using the pen and paper of my mind, I tried to describe the pool. My mind, however, whitened into a blank sheet. Feeling like a failure, I wondered, if great descriptive writing, like Cooper’s, is more beautiful than nature, maybe writing and nature can’t be judged against each other because they are, in the end, different things, linked by an invisible bridge. What does this bridge look like? Is it covered? Is it stone or suspension? Or is it lacking shape or form? If so, how does it connect things? Certainly not by charging tolls. But regardless of how they’re connected, if writing is created by man, while nature is created by a power I can’t understand, which is more important? Nature? After all, it came first. But nature is plentiful. Great writing isn’t, maybe because it has to be revised four, five, or even ten times. Does nature have to be revised?
CONTINUED 1 | 2
Copyright © 2007 - 2013 Randall Kadish, All Rights Reserved
Fishing Beneath a Marble Sky
Going Back Again
The Fly Caster Who Tried to Make Peace with the World
Fight Wind: Learn The Double Haul
Reach That Faraway Target
About the author
Randy Kadish is an outdoor writer and avid angler who has spent countless hours experimenting with long-distance fly casting techniques. For this novel he extensively researched the history of flyfishing, particularly on the famed Beaverkill River during the golden era of the early 1900s. "Flycaster" is his first novel, but his short stories and articles have been appeared in many publications, including Flyfisher, Flyfishing & Tying Journal, Fishing And Hunting News, StriperSurf.com and Sweden's Rackelhanen fly fishing magazine. Much of Randy’s writing is about the techniques of spin and fly casting, and about the spirituality/recovery of fly fishing.
Randy’s novel, The Fly Caster Who Tried to Make Peace with the World, is available on Amazon.