“Mr. Gracie, it seems one of your high school teachers never input your final grades for their class – noted was something about attendance. Technically you didn’t graduate, therefore you couldn’t actually be admitted to our fine school. Your entire university transcript has therefore been stricken from our records. Once you have completed the prerequisites, you can reapply as an incoming freshman. Sorry for any inconvenience this may cause you.”
Attendance has not been my strong suit at the beginning of this school year. Reports have been flying in about big browns running mad, while I hunkered down at geek central. Ears sore and excuses running low, I declared Monday senior skip day (no “MG, you’re an old bitch” comments please). Tim Marek dragged Jim Kanda and I down to a little tailwater of northern proximity he’d fished with great success just a few weeks prior. Mr. Kanda and I would be the newbies, with Tim playing
Dean of Admissions guide.
The parking lot was still filling up when we arrived, the by-product of a 9.8% unemployment rate we guessed. But the section we aimed to fish contained only scattered enrollees, and as we marched upstream just around mid-day they were dropping classes pretty quickly. Spread out, we began picking select subject matter to pieces. And each time we’d rejoin, someone would take a seat, copy the test, and score themselves another A+. Conditions alternated between sunny/breezy to cloudy/howling. Wind speed kept bugs away from the topwater podium, but it didn’t really matter – articulated black streamers, Jujubees, Rainbow Warriors, Hotwire Princes, and Copper Johns lectured away.
When we gathered together last, I’d been standing in front of this big rock, staring down into a five foot deep hole just behind it chock full of fish. Meticulously knocking them off one after the other. Mr. Marek was first to show up, and I apprised him of the situation. He thought it would be a good time to swap rigs (his Scott S4 for my Scott G2), and asked me to sharpen my pencils (i.e. put something good on). Stepping into the stacks, he was on three fish in three successive casts. Jim arrived, grabbing a spot twenty feet above us (after noting that his fish count was already hovering in the twenty range), and I took my first swing with the S4 about the same distance above that. Second cast through the pocket water, I’d hooked another piglet in tanning bed brown that ran me downstream just far enough to force Jim to duck as I moved line and fish over/around him. Had we fished side-by-side all day this would have been a common occurrence, but I apologized nonetheless.
When the smallest fish you bag for the day is thirteen inches, it’s expected you strut the halls like you’re top of the class. Just make sure that when Jim Kanda asks if you want to take turns fishing the spot he’s hunkered down in that you accept without a second thought. After just such an invite, I declared I was going to start heading back towards the truck instead. Failed exam, meet Michael. And visa versa. Still within an eye and earshot, I heard yelps coming from above. Thirty seconds later Mr. Kanda was scrambling down the bank like he had hot coals in his waders. I dropped my gear, and met him and what is commonly referred to as the fish of the day with net in hand. The pig he held before me left a lesson etched in my mind for eternity: whenever this guy is around, linger behind him and ask a lot of questions. What flies are you using? How much weight do you have on? Want one of those tasty snacks I’ve got in my pack? While I casually step into that hole you’re fishing? With that rig you’re using?
Bad dreams will continue, even though great memories of this day surely prevail. I’ve got to stop skipping class.
MG signing off (to quit working so much, and fish more)