Five turns. Lock in the whip finish, and pop the fly from the vise. Toss it in the plastic puck. That’s about a dozen now. I’ll stash the puck in my vest and place the flies in their box slots sometime tomorrow, maybe mid-morning, maybe while sitting on a fallen spruce — bankside and satisfied, content and ready for a short break from fishing. That’s when I’ll transfer these flies to their new home. And I’ll do it while breathing cool air among the new scent of falling leaves.
It’s a good plan. Get these flies finished tonight, and pack the truck for an early rise. Make it easy to slip into the pre-dawn, through the late-summer dew that covers everything this time of year. And if the sun pokes through the clouds tomorrow, it’ll wipe everything dry by 8:30. Then the brown trout will grow cautious in the sunlight. They’ll question things a little more, hold a little lower, eat a little slower. Their seasonal transition happens every year, and I’m ready. I’ve seen it. The trout’s preference for water types and their timing becomes more mysterious, but their choice of flies does not. I know what they’ll take. That’s why I need a few more flies . . .
My office door is open in a wide crack of about two feet, because that keeps the air flowing upstairs. But with Aiden’s bedroom across the hallway, my lights are off — all but the single, bright spotlamp eliminating any shadows from the hook and feathers in my vise. Build a short dubbing loop, wrap it, clip it, brush it and go. Get the next hook in the vise . . .
It’s just after midnight, and Aiden should be in a deep slumber by now. A shepherd named River lays in the crack of the doorway, splitting the difference between me and his young friend, with two paws in the hallway and two paws in the office. He lifts his head when I bump the desk with my knee. Then he drops it again and releases a long sigh, as the flickering light of a football field and shiny helmets reaches his fur.
I won’t need much tomorrow. Options for an angler are narrower in the fall, and though I’ll keep most of my flies with me, many of them won’t see any river time until spring. This is what they’ll eat . . .
Two more turns to anchor the tail. Keep it tight. Build a solid foundation, or the whole thing falls apart after a few fish — and that costs time. The shortening days steal enough of that already.
There’s a shot of hazy left in my glass. Finish the fly. Finish the beer and scan the circle of light on my desktop. The hooks that I laid out earlier are gone. Each has been adorned and outfitted to trick a trout. Now I notice a small pile of flies from yesterday lying on the shady perimeter. I’ll take those too. And I sweep them into the puck to join their brothers.
Turn the light off and click the television into darkness. Rise and walk toward River, who’s still lying in the doorway.
“Come on, buddy,” I whisper. “Let’s pack up and get some sleep.”
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