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October 28, 2016
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The bird whisperer

Plunk! Something had just struck one of the windows that look out on our back porch. Being curious, I went out onto the porch to see what had caused the noise. To my chagrin, I found one of our little wrens lying unconscious on the deck.

Kneeling down for a closer look, I noticed the bird's beak was open and its eyes were closed. Its spindly, tiny legs were crumpled beneath its body. Apparently, an environmental tragedy had occurred. I could not help but notice that the beautiful dark and light markings on the wren’s feathers could be used to make some really pretty soft hackled flies. Then again, perhaps the bird could be revived. Gently, carefully, I picked the wren up, cradling it in the palm of my hand. Unsure of what to do, I tried breathing my warm breath onto the bird while trying to croon what I hoped would be comforting sounds.

Ah, the birds’ beak had closed and the eye facing me has opened. The legs however, were still limp and seemed out of shape. If the legs were broken could it survive? I placed it back on the deck to see what might happen. Shortly, my tiny patient fluttered its wings and stood up on those fragile legs, using its tail for additional balance. Moments later, it flew a foot or two, winding up beneath the grill. After a brief pause, it flew off into a nearby maple tree. There went my chance to tie some unusual soft hackle flies from those pretty feathers.

Hopefully, it should not be much longer before my ailing knee will allow me to resume wading in trout streams. Monday, June 4, an orthopedic doctor had removed a quantity of water from the knee. He then proceeded to administer a shot of cortisone into the knee. The doctor felt that in six days or so I should notice considerably less pain. It turned out the doctor is an enthusiastic fly fisher. He showed me a photo of a very large brown trout that he had caught from the West Branch of the Delaware. A nice fellow, one who seemed to be typical of many of the new breed of fly fishers.

Split Kane, cousin to my Texas fishing buddy, Willy Landem, had been talking about folks like this. They take a quick course in fly casting, buy expensive equipment and hop in a drift boat wishing to catch large numbers of big trout. The doctor had mentioned that he owned a Sage and a Winston fly rod and already had been to Chile fishing for big browns and rainbows in the southern hemisphere. In the photo, he showed me he was wearing Simms waders. The doctor’s equipment was all top of the line. I wondered if he carried a “fish counter” so that he could keep score at the end of the day. “Split” opined that “so many new fly fishers are determined to go from tyro to expert in a week, missing all the starts and stops in between.”

I do not wish to offend any drift boat guides, but the only trip I ever took in a drift boat, fishing for trout, left me bored out of my mind. The guide was excellent, lunch was delicious, but I would prefer to fish off of my hind legs any day rather than passively sitting in a drift boat. I enjoy the feeling of the current pushing against my legs and the sensation of feeling the stones beneath my feet. I want to fish and explore a stream at my own pace, not that of a guide and his boat. I enjoy being immersed in the current. Plus, the wading fisher gets to observe events that folks in a drift boat miss. Can you catch fish, some of them big, from a drift boat? You bet you can. However, I would like to remind you of a quote from Thoreau, “Many men fish all of their lives never realizing that it was not the fish they were seeking."