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Flies, lies and lures

We all have a friend like him. Hes good company, an easy going, roll with the punches kid of guy. Hes always quick with a joke and not afraid to poke you in the ribs on occasion. Together, over the years, weve gone through hell and high water, not necessarily in that order. Weve humped boats into numerous ponds and waded miles of river together. I recall being serenaded by coyotes that followed us along both sides of the trail during a midnight journey into Cedar Lakes and Ill never forget the long haul on the trail from Henderson Lake to the Preston Ponds on the way to Duck Hole. Weve been at it since the late 1970s covering ground from faraway Cowhorn Pond to the nether reaches of the Bog River Flow. For some odd reason, we never seem to take the easy route. Weve shared some wild adventures; always in pursuit of brook trout. On most of the trips, Ive usually been able to score. Jay, however, has remained angling challenged. If there is any way to foul up a fine day of fishing, he can usually accomplish it. Warnings come in short phrases, as he sputters Tangles in my line, were short on worms, I forgot the beer, the snap swivel's bent. On a rare occasion, he offers the phrase, Get the net. Whenever I come home with a batch of trout, he once revealed to me, My kids say, Oh, you must have been fishing with Joe again, huh Dad? I remembered a few of our former traumas as we launched off last weekend into a misty, morning fog. Jay is forever inventing new methods to test human patience. We were off to hit the ponds on an annual autumn adventure. It was a long walk with some hills, some flats and lots of talk about the big brookies ahead. In the stillness of the early morning light, I blew into my hands to ward off the chill and pulled on the oars of the boat, a typical autumn morn. Later in the day, when the weather delivered snow, hail and rain, I thought, Typical. But the day was anything but typical. We trolled and Jay caught fish. We cast and Jay caught fish. We still-fished and he caught fish. Later, he even fell asleep in the boat and I had to wake him, so he could reel in the fish at the end of his line. Meanwhile, I hurled a huge assortment of lures at every likely tree, rock and stump that could hold fish. I cast flies ranging from streamers to drys and dragged around tiny nymphs on the end of a fine leader. The day ended with me hurling an assortment of insults at Jay. His angling prowess was uncanny. I went through my complete, million dollar tackle box, all to no avail, while Jay let his limpy line slip into the water and Wham!! Fish on! he hollers. In our many years on the waters, I had never been humbled as I was this day. He could do no wrong. I shouldnt have even tried. I shouldve quit after the first fish. It was my only catch of the day. I spent most of the day netting Jays fish, which he took with reckless abandon. Six were landed before noon, all were released. Another half dozen fell before the day was done; including a large, handsome male specimen that may have been his largest trout ever. We left the pond, on a barely discernible trail in the faint light of day. I stopped repeatedly to allow Jay to catch up. He reminded me that he was burdened with a heavy load of fish. No longer was he fooling with knotted lines or bent snap swivels. No longer did he ask for just one last cast. He was on the way out, with a load of trout and sporting a grin that couldnt be wiped off. Before we departed the parking lot, he offered me a trout to take home for dinner. It was a ritual which I had performed numerous times at the end of numerous journeys over the years. Only now, the gesture was reversed. He presented me with the big one, a trophy fish. I refused to accept it, but he insisted. After nearly thirty years of angling adventures, the student had finally become the instructor. Immediately, I realized how much more I had to learn. Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at brookside18@ adelphia.net

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