I was standing, thigh deep, mid stream and hadn’t noticed I had slowly been sinking. You can’t lift your feet and leave your waders behind to compensate for changes in balance and so, when my arm and fly rod went back, the rest of me just naturally followed. The next time the mistake was wading through fast water. I could say I thought it was only ankle deep or that by the time I knew it wasn’t I was in the middle and couldn’t turn back, I could say I was focused on my destination and the quickest route, that I had lost my fly to a hungry trout and my husband, who had the box of flies, had abandoned me to move upriver for a sweeter spot. I couldn’t say I didn’t know it was fast because any fool could see the water roiling over the rocks. This fool had the opportunity to consider all this, that removing waders in rushing water is better in theory than fact, that drowning was less likely than freezing and two feet from shore becomes eight then twenty if you aren’t moving faster than the current. I wish I could say that once on shore reviewing my decision that I had reason behind me but all I can say is that my father used to tell us to look both ways before crossing the street. He never mentioned rivers. If he did, I missed it.
Of course, my husband didn’t drop his fishing pole and rush to my side. When he saw me go down, he looked over and figured I could get out on my own. Oh, eventually he ambled my way, we talked about it and laughed, then he went back to fishing. I never did get the fly I wanted. I tried to drip dry in the sun and wind. Mostly, I thought about lost flies. While I have never understood how you could lose a needle in a haystack, simply because why would you take your darning there in the first place, I understand losing flies in the river. I asked my husband how much a fly costs. He said about two bucks. We fished for about an hour, hour and a half. Between the two of us we lost three or four flies to nibblers and snags, so something less than minimum wage. There were, maybe, eight or ten people fishing that stretch of river, multiply that by three flies lost per hour, fourteen hours of good fishing on a good day, that’s…calculator…let’s say, something on the order of 280 flies a day on that one stretch of river, which is pretty good business, but more importantly, where do all those flies go, bringing to mind a certain poem about a large rainbow trout by Bishop.
In that proverbial haystack the needle must be found before it ends in one of the many stomachs of that proverbial cow. We never seem to find our own lost flies, but on our fishing trips we see the flies of those who come before us looped by spider web fine monofilament caught in the branches of trees or draped over shrubbery or less often than you might think, caught in the lip of a trout. Still, they must end somewhere, where is the garbage patch for lost fishing hooks? On the bed of the river, in the belly of the vultures who circle endlessly overhead or the crows perched on the banks? Or more likely, the eagles I’ve been told are here but never see. Is this why there are so many more vultures and crows than there are eagles, because the eagles who feed on the fish who swallow the flies are like that old lady in the children’s story?
My curiosity may be environmental, but it isn’t idle or intellectually distant. When we order stuffed trout for dinner, I poke through the capers and pinyon nuts, looking for a hook.