(Host) Now that school’s out for the summer, teacher and writer Joe Deffner has time for summer’s more leisurely pursuits of reading, house projects, and of course, fishing and fishing companions.
(Deffner) When I first saw him, he was carrying a fishing rod. He was Japanese-American and stood out from the other campers in lily white Vermont. For the next couple of summers, I coached him on every camp team we had.
I watched him become a pretty fair basketball player, a decent softball player, and a good soccer player. He watched me become a teacher.
Now, he waves as his late model Saab with the New York plates pulls down the dirt road to where we have planned to meet.
Before I can get my waders on, Yutaka is already tying a tippet to the end of his orange fly line. He watches as I thread my line over itself five or six times and drop it through what I hope is the proper loop. He laughs as I spit – way too much – on the knot.
I slam the tailgate shut and we start down the road to the river, our waders making the old zip zip zip noise. We pick a spot.
He knows that I have given up my spin caster and am trying to learn his craft. He watches me make a few tentative casts, and offers patient criticism. As I start to get my rhythm, he shouts, “Now you look like a fisherman,” the comment an echo of those summers on the basketball court when I used to say to the twelve year old, “Now you look like a ball player.”
He will fish up river; I’ll fish down. He disappears around the bend and I’m left to my own clumsy casting, losing a half dozen flies in the branches and bushes that crowd the rivers edge.
I knock off early and head back to find my instructor. Quietly I watch the student who became the teacher.
The orange loop unravels into a straight line and I watch him bring the line forward with a wave of his wrist, the fly floating to rest on the pool above him, where a brookie rises to meet it. He plays the fish until it is close enough to pick up by its lip and then carefully guides the fish back into the current until it can swim on its own.
As he turns and starts to walk down river towards me, I think about his father, who died 15 years ago, and how proud he would be. Not of Yutaka’s skill with a fly rod, but of the person he’s become. I tell him, “nice fish.”
“Not bad,” he says. He sits down next to me and we watch the water churning towards us before it disappears under the bank.
This is Joe Deffner from Union Village.