Comes a time...

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by Derek Young, Jul 13, 2013.

  1. It is with that thought that I began my day early, waking up 14 minutes before the alarm went off. Today was to be no "ordinary" day of guiding, but something unusual and special, and yet I was nervous as the first time I put the oars in the water with a paid client despite hundreds of trips over the last five years - today's trip was with a gentleman who was born blind in one eye, became blind in the other after an accident 20 years later, and after years of industrial work, hard of hearing as well.

    In the months then weeks then days leading up to this trip, I wondered many times how it would all shake out. My confidence did waiver, at times - after many trips with functional (skill and experience levels varied) clients who could both hear and see, how exactly would this work? I fished familiar water and new water with my eyes closed, relying on only the sense of feel. But deep down, it wasn't the same. I was no further to a solution but had many ideas on how I might be the most helpful - marking the line somehow, was the first idea. The ideas came and went...

    He had fished the river many times before when he still had vision in the one eye, and on the drive over we talked of the stretches he knew, back when the homes weren't there, when the fishing was less regulated, when "catch and release" meant you went hungry that night. We had a common language now, describing the runs and pools with such clarity that his eagerness expounded and my nervousness slowly faded away. Perhaps I had been over-thinking it - that the disparity of faculties might not be a "handicap" at all. In fact, with a history of archery hunting and fishing prior, this was a man with a desire to re-learn fly fishing, not solely for the catching, but for simply being outdoors again, in the pursuit.

    I always stress safety, and the river is running high and fast now. Risk management is covered first. "Feel the rope in the throw-bag, here's how to grab it" took on a much more serious meaning now. Imagine, floating downstream without being able to see or hear what was coming, and being asked to calmly orient yourself, and not to worry - we'll come and get you if needed. I lighten the mood by sharing a story from a few years ago, about an older angler who nearly fell out of my boat in the lower canyon, swinging a black Wooly Booger into a fat 18" cold-as-hell-February-day-Rainbow's mouth as he folded over towards the water, yelling at me as I pulled him back in - "Don't make me lose this goddamned fish!" and it worked - grins all around. Life jackets snugged, whistles ready - we're off.

    I want to tell you that we hooked and caught a lot of fish, and it would be partly true. The sense of feel on the water came quickly and swinging wet flies during a PMD and caddis hatch was easy for him, coming to terms with direction and orientation on the boat - rod tip down, feel the line and anticipate the strike, drop that loop when the line comes straight noon, don't "trout set!" The first fish nearly flies over the boat as the pure excitement of the take sends a laugh through the warm morning air. "Ok, that was really good. Perfect swing, you didn't pull the line through the drift, feel the fly in the water" was met with a nod. I could sense he had this and to be honest, I think the lack of sight made his focus that much better.

    The day progressed well, with fewer flies in the trees than I expected. We worked out how many strips of line equaled what distance, he "called his shots" by pointing where I gave verbal hints - met with "fire away" and tight, efficient loops - most of the time. At the end of the windless day, under a bright hot sun, he didn't want to stop fishing. But, old hands and joints weren't disguised that well. I could sense a bit of frustration and didn't want to push it, so we stopped short of the take-out, in fishy water. "Have another dozen or so casts left" I asked him, and he paused in answering. It had been a great day already - "I think I need to practice more and get a rod of my own again" he said, so we talked about the $1500 rod and reel he'd been using all day. "That cost more than my first car!" drew the same laughs we shared earlier in the day. We agreed that it wasn't necessary, and for sure not to tell his wife how much he spent anyways.

    I share this as a reflection of one of my most valuable days spent on the water, not just as a guide but as a human being, as an angler. I learned that being able to describe this pursuit in the simplest of ways, to teach a blind man to cast a fly to a rising fish was much simpler than I imagined it would be. I simply saw the river through different eyes, and fished it through the sometimes elegant strokes of another. As the drive home ended, and he described how that last fish chased his fly down and grabbed tight, I listened to what I can only describe as pure joy. Just exactly how was he able to describe it so accurately, I'll never know. Perhaps it was through my eyes, my words, my encouragement. But I believe that on this day, he was able to see just fine.

    "Comes a time, when the blind man takes your hand, says "Don't you see?"
  2. Awesome story Derek! I would have loved to have seen that myself.
  3. Awesome, Derek! Just pure awesomeness all around. The part about him not be able to see almost making him better reminded me of a day last summer largemouth fishing with enlightened. Her cast were either too short, or too long, landing in the tules. The bass took refuge under the tule pads(which were much like floating islands). You didn't have to make long casts, but accuracy to mere inches was paramount to success. She was getting frustrated to the point of tears, but as soon as it was full dark out, and you couldn't see your hand six inches in front of your face everything came together. Casts hit on target nearly everytime, and her other senses were more poised. She landed some of her biggest largmouth that night, all by sound and feel.
    Though some(most?) of the time guiding seems like it would be almost like babysitting, some days you've gotto love your job:)
    I hope orvis votes you guide of the year again, you deserve it.
    Irafly likes this.
  4. Derek,
    Thank you.

  5. Very inspiring. Years ago when I taught middle school, I had similar experience for six years when I taught industrial arts to deaf and hard of hearing students as well as students who were physically and developmentally handicapped. It gives new meaning to your life.
  6. That's a beautiful story, i guarantee that even if it was only in his mind, he was able too see today.
  7. Totally different set of circumstances than you are accustomed to, completely foreign in fact, and you adapt and make the gentleman comfortable, guiding him through each and every step, acting as his eyes. Nicely done, Derek. Nicely done.
  8. good for you both.. I am happy for your experiences
    Ron McNeal likes this.
  9. Awesome!!!!!!!!!!
  10. Thanks for that, Derek!

    Experience is much more than just seeing and hearing!

    The term "heart-felt" comes to mind! :)
  11. Derek, A special day, to be able to reacquaint this gentleman with something he'd once been able to do with sight. You have a gift, and use it well. It's an honor to know you.
  12. You should have called out "sasquatch!" a couple times just to mess with him..
  13. Thanks for sharing a great experience.
  14. Glad to call you friend! Well shared.
  15. You are one in a million Derek. Thank you for this story.

  16. Outstanding! You gave a very great gift to the gentleman. You "opened his eyes". I have no doubt he'll treasure the memory of your trip for years.
  17. Derek:

    This story made my Sunday. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. You are a great guy and I am sure the client will be sharing his stories of his day with you with many many people.

  18. This makes my post of the year vote.

    Very well done and thank you for being a true representative to our passion.
    Freestone likes this.
  19. Truly inspiring.
    I remember that sense of satisfaction after helping someone overcome a hurdle like that. It will carry you through some of the toughest days.
  20. Great post. Makes me think about how I work over the last few years to get my dad out fishing. He's not blind, but is losing his hearing (pressure damage to his ears from years ago as a young submariner), and losing his mobility. He can't stand for hours (or sometimes even minutes) in the boat like he used to. But it's great to be on the water with him, even if he's just watching.

    Thanks for the story.

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