HUMOR: The Luck of the Irish
I’m Irish and lucky. But even the Irish can’t be lucky all the time. One day early in my career I spent twenty minutes planning and then sneaking up on a pod of rising brookies. I had never caught a brook trout. All that was all going to change.
The trout nipped at a caddis hatch at the end of a broad pool. For cover I snuck through a big culvert running under the road, big enough to stand in. Using the culvert was an excellent idea, I thought. I was being real cute.
Darkness enveloped me. I heard my boots echo as I walked toward the bright end of the pipe. An old rusted wire hung across the opening. I put my hand on it. That’s the last thing I remember.
I opened my eyes. I lay on my back with water trickling around me. The wire had been an electric fence, the kind you see everywhere in trout country. Now, the amperage on these things is set way lower than anything that could ever harm you or a goat or a cow, or a squirrel for that matter. But some back holler farmers hook the damn things up to their house service. What the hell, they think. I’ll give it a little extra juice. And if one of them pesky fly fishermen tries to cross… Heh heh.
He was being real cute, too. Except I could have drowned.
(If you’re a fly angler I know what you’re thinking. Obviously I didn’t drown. Did I catch any trout? Thank you for your concern. No, I did not.)
I’ve fallen down hills. Stepped off rocks into pools over my head. Run from bee hives. But I’m solidly on the winning side (I suppose that just waking up in the morning puts you on the winning side). On successive casts I’ve caught a dozen oversized brown trout from submerged boulders in the fabled Kinnikinnic of Pierce County, Wisconsin. Downstream a year later I took a two pounder (that’s a whole lot of trout in this part of the world) from a big plunge, throwing a giant stonefly imitation weighted down with bead shot. I guessed a big fish might be in there. I guessed right.
Luck is lucky. A weird coincidence. Or just plain weird.
Once, fishing the evening hatch on the Rush River I caught a big brown trout, the third or fourth taken with an oversized Yellow Humpy, an oddball fly I kept stuck in my hat. Why they were hitting a fly meant for rainbow trout in the Rocky Mountains I’ll never know. You don’t question success. Anyway, as I held the fish it jumped out of my hands, taking the Yellow Humpy with it.
I knew I would miss that fly. And I did. I tied on the next biggest thing I could find, a goofy green hopper, and after casting around and over and in-between rising trout I finally had another take. I brought the fish to hand. In it’s mouth was the Yellow Humpy.
They say catching a fish scares it off. Not this fish.
I recovered my fly and tying it on continued to catch trout. Folks, it’s not quite divine intervention, but it is pretty good luck.
I’m lazy. My expectations are such that just getting through a day in the field without being swarmed by hornets or chased by a bull is enough. At the end of the day it’s a great feeling to sit on the deck of the Buckhorn Tap and drink Old Style beer and think about nothing. The creek tumbles past. Yes, the Buckhorn is actually creekside. As night deepens fireflies spark here and there among the willows and you wonder if some battery powered incandescent imitation would work on a rising trout, a ridiculous and yet pretty speculation. The waitress brings another beer without asking. She knows you. Not too well, but well enough.
She puts the glass down and sits. It’s a slow night. She is dark and short and heavy and pretty and her violet eyes flash when she laughs. Everything you say amuses her. She drives from Ellsworth to Maiden Rock, has two jobs, the kids are teenagers, her brother moved to Florida, she’s going to church again, her ex drives for Wilkinson, her best friend lives in Spring Park, the trailer park next to the Rush where they fish right from their back yard. Really? The back yard? The conversation moves on to jobs, love gained and lost, the whole poker game of life. Her female voice is both high and low. You are not talking to one another as much as sharing the air. A trout splashes. The moon a tiny crescent. Fireflies…
We are interrupted by a good-natured shout. She’s needed inside.
That’s when you stand, down the rest of your beer, and fetch your hat. You’re not dumb (well, you are, but it comes and goes) and as you leave she kisses you behind the ear, for no reason. Or for every reason.
Back home your wife is sitting with her light on and a book.
What the hell’s gotten into you? she asks.
Oh, nothing. Nothing at all.
Some things you just can’t talk about with your spouse, and the waitress at the Buckhorn is one of them. Not if you ever want to go back to the Buckhorn Tap, or Pierce County, for that matter. Luck will only get you so far. Trust me.