This story was first published in the August 2009 issue of Wyoming Wildlife magazine. It was awarded the Best Magazine Humor award in the 2010 Magazine Humor contest of the Outdoor Writers Association of America Excellence In Craft Contests.
My buddy Ned was ecstatic. “Can you believe it? There’s nobody here but us!”
Ned had parked my truck at a campground. I had let him drive because the grandkids had taken my car keys away. They said I was just an accident waiting to happen. We had walked about a half mile downstream to a popular “honey hole”. It was usually crowded but today we seemed to have it all to ourselves.
Ned tweezered a #18 elk hair caddis out of his fly box and handed it to me.
“Can you tie this on for me?”, he asked, “ I can hardly see it.”
“Sorry”, I said. “I forgot my bifocals”. I thought I was wearing them but obviously I was not. I started wondering what I had done with them but couldn’t remember.
“Then how are we going to fish if neither of us can see how to tie on a fly?”
“We’ll just have to use bigger flies”, I explained. “Like maybe #8 hoppers. But it’s a mootpoint because we can’t fish here anyway”.Ned stared at me, stunned. “What do you mean, we can’t fish here?”
“Look, Ned….” I sat down on a log. My back was already starting to ach from the hike in.
“Like you said, Ned, there’s nobody here but us. We’re both seventy years old. What if we fall down and can’t get back up out of the water? What if we slip on a slick, moss-covered rock and go tumbling downstream? There’s nobody here to help us.”
Ned is dumb enough to hang around with me but he’s not totally brain dead yet.
“I never thought of it that way”, he said, rubbing the gray stubble on his chin. “I gotta admit you may have a point”.
“The only reason I agreed to walk all the way in here was because I thought there would be other people fishing here”, I told him. I could see by the look on his face that I was going to have to explain my theory in detail to him. “At our age we can’t just wade into the water and start flinging flies around like we did when we were twenty-five or thirty. Or even forty or fifty. First we need to find what I call a geezer-friendly venue.”
Ned leaned against a tree and stared longingly at the river where a few trout were sipping emergers in the surface film while I continued to expound on my theory.
“What if there’s a mixture of young guys and old guys?” asked Ned.
“That probably means it’s okay. But we should study the water carefully before we wade in. The old guys we see fishing may just be too dumb to realize they’re in danger. Age is no guarantee of wisdom.”
“But if we do decide to give it a try, we should fish upstream from the young guys so they can fish us out if we lose our balance and go floating downstream”, said Ned, warming to my theory.
“You catch on quick”, I said.
“What?” said Ned.
“I SAID “YOU CATCH ON QUICK”, I yelled. “Sit down here on the log beside me so you can hear what I’m saying…. Now where was I?
“You were explaining your theory to me”, said Ned. “Something about fishing where there are young guys around.”
“Oh yeah”, it was starting to come back to me now. “But having young guys around is no guarantee, because if the fishing is really hot – say there’s a terrific hatch on – the young guys may just keep fishing as we go floating by, gurgling and screaming. In fact they may get mad at us for putting the fish down, like we used to do when old guys went floating past us.”
I pulled my collapsible wading staff – which I now called my “ geezer stick” – from its holster on my belt and leaned against it to help me stand up. We started walking back toward the truck, then remembered the truck was in the opposite direction, so we turned around and walked the other way while I filled Ned in on some of the finer points of my theory.
“Those little pockets in your vest… don’t fill them all up with flies, tippet material, leaders, and other fishing stuff. Save some for pills, salves, suppositories, and any other meds that might come in handy on the stream.”
Ned nodded in agreement.
“And one other thing”, I added. “When you’re just smoking everybody else on the river and some young whipper-snapper asks you what you’re using, just say “Fifty years of experience, Sonny.”
When we got back to the truck I found my bifocals in the glove box, right where I had put them. I pulled out my river map and we started looking for a place on the river that would be suitably crowded for guys our age. In other words, a geezer-friendly venue. We’d head out right after our nap.