Writing, deleting, tying, untying, the two foot by three foot table looks like the unorganized spillage of my mind. Spewed forth like a snake-in-a-can birthday surprise of creativity, it reflects itself upon my desk. Like a child and it’s box of Legos, our first reaction is to just dump it all out on the floor and start playing. If I still had the agility to do so, I would be on the floor, hunched over, digging through a shoe box of materials, making space ships that were designed to obliterate enemy Cobra G.I. Joe forces. This is now, and Lego as well as G.I. Joe toys of my childhood are now more expensive than my habit of tying and fly fishing. Not to mention my explosion sounds have gone unpracticed for years. The same principle applies today, my childhood creativity taught me a craft that I will take with me until I die.
My first vise was a gift, unwrapped alongside a fishing watch that replaced my calculator watch. No book that would teach me the art of fly tying, just a box with some random materials and hooks. Materials that look like the type that are found only at craft stores for ten cents a bag. With a little help from the library’s microfiche at my elementary school (this was before the internet), I had finally tied my first blue dun. Into my teens, it was no longer important. The vise was buried in a box of my old stuff and instead of honing my skill, I pushed the easy button. I purchased flies (this is where you gasp).
High school brought on new things, mainly wedgies and girls. To my surprise, as I reflect upon it now, an English teacher changed my fly fishing life forever. His name was Clayton Rowley, and he was usually found behind his desk reading or mulling over some sort of teenage rendition of a movie they had watched instead of reading the book. Probably angrily, and it was probably mine. There was always something different about Mr. Rowley, and it really was his way of teaching. Progression. He stopped me one day after class and said something to me about a literary work that I had written. I had genuinely looked at something from a different perspective and he rewarded me for it. Thinking outside the box was cool in his eyes and his reward of a simple, “I really enjoyed that, why don’t you write like that all of the time?” was imprinted for the rest of my life.
Now, upon my Arkansas thinking rock, there were no shadows darting beneath the graceful current. I drifted flies to no avail for a while before seeing a large rise out of the corner of my eye. The riffle downstream. They were moving. Seems a little early to begin the spawning process, but the colors of the fish were becoming vivid and their bellies full. Practically running across the river, I began digging through my box to tie on a prototype bug. One of many I had tied the week before. One that I was not completely sure would work. Within a matter of seconds after the first cast into the riffle, I was into my first big fish of the day. It had worked. All of the prototypes after, all working and working well. One stood above the rest, one that I really should keep myself from sharing. A new type and color of the “Halo Midge”.
Last week, I poured out my box of Legos and made a spaceship. A deceptive ship that fooled leviathans. As I brought them to hand, I smiled. Not because I had caught a fish. Not because I tied a fly to catch that fish. The reason for my smile was knowing I had held onto my childhood imagination long enough for it to be effective. When I couldn’t feel my toes anymore, I sat on the riverbank wondering if Mr. Rowley ever fly fished. If he had never felt the bending of a fly rod, maybe my thought of him would allow him the chance. Although our paths of life only crossed briefly, his effect upon my future was great. For that I thank him.