I was brought into this world soon after my grandfather was taken out of it. As fate would have it, neither he nor I had the chance to bond over matters that inspired us both. An avid outdoorsman, there was a lot of information that he could of passed down to me. My grandmother gave to me the love for an art that my grandfather had pursued during his life.
It was unusually warm on this early October day, the sun hadn’t even thought about cooling down yet and its violent rays chased my family and I under a shaded area sheltered by a gazebo. In the spirit of my loves I had requested that this birthday be fishing oriented so we sat on the shore of a small city park pond filled to the brim with bluegill and bass of varying sizes that were perfect to catch one after another. Having spent a large amount of time pursuing them, my mother’s call for cake and presents is what finally brought my sun kissed skin in from the shoreline. I took my rightful position as birthday boy and began opening my gifts. They were all fairly typical, a ball, some books, fishing essentials, but one caught my eye. It was a plastic box about the size of a lunch box with the words “beginner essentials fly tying kit” emblazoned on the top in blocky, cheap lettering. I made a confused face.
“Grandma what’s this?”
She just smiled and said to me. “When your grandpa was alive, he used to make fly fishing flies all the time. His floor was covered in hooks and feathers and bits of skin and he would sometimes sell them to other fishermen for them to use.”
My mom laughed, “ I remember we couldn’t even walk into his room barefoot unless you wanted a foot piercing.”
Their smiles were of memories. Bygone times holding the essence of who my grandfather was and who I would make him out to be. Even as young as I was I still could feel the message in this moment. That though my grandpa is gone, his legacy can still live on through me, the next generation of outdoorsman. With this in mind I started tying flies. At first, it was a disaster. Each fly I tied looked more wonky and abused then the previous one and they were all barely fishable on account of the globs of head cement I soaked them in. Bright orange dubbing and whole portions of mismatched feathers would be thrown on and wrapped in my desperate attempts at building these little bugs. Slowly but surely however, my skill started to increase. I books of recipes for each type of fly and learned to follow step by step instructions that detailed each section. By trial and error I was able to eyeball hook size to fly type as well as the type of fish that I was angling for. The mess became clearer as I shed the beginner mentality and stepped into adequacy. Pretty soon the flies I created were well tied enough that they would fool young trout and bluegill in lakes and farm ponds alike. I felt a growing sense of accomplishment the more I realized that the fish I was catching, however small, were fish I was fooling with my art. The art of fly tying. With the accomplishment came a silent prayer to my grandfather. I wanted so badly to ask him if I was doing it right. If the flies I tied made him proud or if he could feel the tug of the fish on my hands and know that hit was there because of him. Time flew by and my skill with bobbin and thread became such that I spent very little money on store bought flies. I had my own favorites to tie and what I didn’t have I learned how to make.
By now it was Christmas morning 4-6 years after I had gotten my little tying kit from my grandma. My family and I were huddled around the tree opening the first of our presents and I had chosen the ones from an uncle who lived several states away. I appeared to be a large box and that seemed to be the most alluring object in my pile. Opening it with elated abandon, I tore through the paper shell and cut the tape revealing the contents. Fly tying tools and materials; a lot of it. Packed to the brim were feathers, fur, hooks, thread, quills, floss and a general cornucopia of fly tying paraphernalia. I was ecstatic! Examining each package with reverent wonder I was filled with visions of all the flies that could be constructed from these materials. Descending down through the layers of the box I unveiled a second one. It was heavy, flat, and quite long. At first I was perplexed by it and momentarily stunned. What could this be? Opening it and unwrapping the contents I was surprised to find a brand new fly tying vice.
I heard my grandma speak up, “That one is from your grandpa. It’s one that he made.”
My eyes teared up and I looked up, “Thank you Grandpa.”
See, although I never met him and he never met me, I am still visited by his memory. A spirit encouraging me from the sky above to strive for perseverance and fuel my love for the wild.