Sunday, April 17, 2011

Tying Flies

 Written & Contributed by Erin Block

I feel like I am on a movie set. On a scape I have dreamt. Painted into a picture I have seen before --- like when Bert draws Mary Poppins a jolly holiday and they jump into the sidewalk, careful not to smudge what has been created, what is so beautiful...
I wander and wonder when I will wake to find myself alone again. But I don't. We walk towards the river, always towards the water. And he is still there...
...saying, "I think I know how you learn. I will tie one first.....just watch." He pulls close a black folding stool, the kind I used to lug around with my guitar to gig weddings with, and I sit down. I lean in to get a better view, but am careful to keep out of his light.  Of course he is right. He knows how I learn. He knows who I am, and how I work. He watches me closely. He observes. I can tell when his eyes are taking notes -- about me -- lining his memory in ink...not chalk that will wash away, or pencil to be erased.  His hands move gracefully, and every step melts to fluidity. I listen. I observe. I look at him. I take notes.

It is my turn. Three of each color. A dozen total. But, practice the finish first, he says, reminding me of how I always used to practice the last lines of music first, bars measured to perfection. The finish must be strong. I tie whip knot, after whip knot, after whip knot. The motion feels good to my fingers...finishing something I have yet to start. Rounded five times, bowing in's a gentlemen of a knot....
I begin to wrap, just as I saw him do, and thread spools off the bobbin., don't twist the marabou so tight. Yes, much better, and my next fly doesn't look like it has a tumor beneath its tail. If I were a fish, I really wouldn't want to eat a cancerous fly.
He stares at me like I'm a little-green-man, an alien in this new his world. Where did this woman come from!?  And why is she sitting at my tying desk? I wonder the same thing. I have watched him here, at this desk, peeking into this world from far away, up a canyon, before I was let in. Over and over and over again I watched his hands, moving mine as puppets.....shadowing. I wanted to be a part of this beautiful thing too. I wanted his hands to show me how. I watched and listened and translated his trade-talking-tongue.   

He walks over to the futon. To write, he says. And that is when I know I'm doing ok. He leaves me on my own. With my back turned, I smile. The vise is oiled by his hands, with touches of wear and worn fingerways of travel, and I follow them with mine. After a few minutes, I hear a snore. I keep tying...
I illuminate. Like a monk. The water like a skinned parchment, bare; eddying begs for colors, for words -- in order to be read. And, to glean that which is at the bottom and unseen...come out, I say....tying......
Looking down, there is one hook left. "Pick out any colors you want for the last one," he says, waking from writing. "Can fish see colors?", I ask. "Yes they can." And I sense that he is testing my bug-sensibilities as a fisherman. What will I pick? What I like, or what the fish will. I like buggy colors. My lenses are earth toned.
He smiles, and says, as I take my last fly off the vise and turn around for him to see --- You are a good fisherman...and that is your best one yet...


  1. Wow...great words. Just wait until you catch your first fish on a fly you tied yourself. It is incredibly gratifying!

  2. Do you realize, Erin, that you are every flyfisherman's dream? (And their mothers.) I hope that "he" has you well guarded.

  3. McTage - Yes it is!

    Cofisher - Yes I was!

    Hart - "he" has told me such things. And his "guarding" = making me the happiest and most satisfied woman in the world. Yes, he does this well...very perfection.