Getting back to the car, we found another fisherman pulling on some waders. We said hello, and tried to be friendly. Though he asked how the fishing was and had originally started the exchange of words, he really had no interest in anything we had to say. He walked away silently after wishing him fun and luck, and being generally a rude guy before that. He just wasn't right, and Chris and I just didn't know what to make of it. It was strange, here is this guy who clearly is governed by the same noble passions as Chris and I are...but was unexpectedly unpleasant. It left both of us with a bad taste in our mouth. Forget the fishing, we were bummed out by our would-be fellow compadre!
A week or so later, Chris drove out after work to meet me on some different water. The backstory is that I had been up for almost 2 days straight because of work and decided to go fishing anyway. Waiting for Chris to arrive, I sat in my car and drifted off for a bit. I was awakened by the sound of a calm, but excited voice outside my door:
"How's the fishin'?"As I tried to gather my thoughts and appear as if he hadn't just woken me up, I gave him the report from the morning and got talking with him. He was an older gentleman who had come out to meet up with a friend of his own: Rick. He had called Rick that morning and talked to Rick's wife; she told him he wasn't there. He figured from that situation that Rick was already on his way out fishing and drove to meet him.
"Pretty good, gotten a little slow. How are ya?"
Earl, as he introduced himself to me with a handshake and smile, had been fly fishing since he was 15. I asked him about his first rod, and he told me it was fiberglass job that I've now forgotten the name of. I asked him if he still has it, and with a great big, proud, and unashamedly nostalgic grin he said, "oh yeah, still have it." With his 50+ years of fishing experience and all the technological changes he'd seen and enjoyed, he was delighted to hear of my affection for 'glass and that I had just started a 'glass rod build of my own.
Chris eventually arrived, and the three of us stood talking water-side for a solid half-hour. We conversed, laughed, and shared a story here and there like we'd all known each other for years but hadn't talked in a while. He was a picture of what each of us wanted to be in life, to be as fishermen. Rick showed up too, and the meeting wound down as Earl paired up with Rick and got his very-not-'glass Sage strung up.
As Chris and I did the same, all we could talk about was Earl. How different he was than our "friend" from the week prior.
"Now that is what an old fly fisherman is supposed to be like!"I'll never forget Earl, or his friendship with Rick. It was good to see two guys who had been fishing together so long that they didn't need to talk about going fishing--they just did and ended up there. There was so much to be admired about Earl; but we never did see him catch anything. I think about that every time I skunk-out. Earl wasn't caring,; it was another great day on the water for him throwing tight, effortless loops to the trout. Now that is wisdom, and he was a happy old sage on the water.
"I just want to go to a bar with him and listen for hours."
"I want to be like Earl"
"That's a perfect name, you know? I bet the other guy had a horrible, mean name like...well something awful."
"I'm going to name my kid 'Earl.'"