Hooked

Up a Creek without Technique

By Ron McFarland

On a gorgeous July day for angling and photography, my wife Georgia and I leave Moscow and drive through the tiny burgs of  Troy, Deary, and Bovill to Clarkia, where we begin walking along the St. Maries River and soon come upon a barbed wire fence. I go first, and ask her to pull up on the top strand of barbwire while I pull down on the middle strand to squeeze through. Of course, I get snagged, right at the crotch. There I am, one leg on this side of the fence and the other on that side, my face turned toward the road at a parade of children riding double on four-wheelers with adults or older kids. I try to smile as I instruct Georgia to reach down and undo the barb, which is “right there!”

“Hold still,” she orders.

“I am holding still.”

I nod at the entourage clattering past as Georgia manages to free me from my awkward position. In righting myself on the streamside of the fence, I scrape my left forearm and somehow poke my elbow on a strand of barbwire, drawing more blood than in the prior self-zapping. I should confess I’m one of those guys who can rarely pull off any physical activity without drawing blood, and this includes changing oil, putting on snow tires, cleaning the gutters, and on one notable occasion, tying my shoes—a longish story that involves aglets.

Nursing these minor wounds, I make my way down to a favorite run, where the river measures only fifteen or twenty feet across, a perfect width for a fly angler as inept as I. Although by this time the sun is high, I have found that on this stream, time is suspended. As Thoreau wrote, “Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.” Then he raves on about eternity. For me, any stream is but the time I go a-fishing, or perhaps the excuse.  But now is not the time to wax poetic. I affix my number eighteen Renegade, about as tiny a hook as my old eyes can deal with, and torture the air with my casts. On the second or third slightly-better-than-inept cast, a smallish cutthroat arises but does not take the fly.

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Ron McFarland

About Ron McFarland

Ron McFarland is professor emeritus at the University of Idaho, where he started teaching literature and creative writing in 1970. Pecan Grove Press published his fourth full-length book of poems, Subtle Thieves, in 2012. His critical books include Appropriating Hemingway (2015) and Edward J. Steptoe and the Indian Wars (2016).