I found them again when I was searching for something in the basement, a box of old trout flies that I had put there for safekeeping.
A few years ago, a workman doing a home improvement project for me recognized my love of flyfishhing. He explained that his grandfather had been an avid flyfisher and flytier and that he had a box of old flies his grandfather had created, probably in the 1930s and 1940s. He offered them to me, but I declined, arguing that they were his family heirlooms, mementos mori. Well, he was persistent and brought them to me, assuring me that no one in his family fished.
When I got a good look at the flies what I discovered was an assortment of very workmanlike flies, dries and wets. More than mere trout flies, these were totems, talismans, invested with the tyer’s craft and creativity, each whip-finished with hope. I couldn’t help feel that, although the tier was long deceased, that a bit of him or of his spirit lived yet in these objects. That a person’s legacy is not necessarily some grand accomplishment: publishing a novel, solving a scientific mystery, but perhaps some seemingly small thing: a poem to one’s spouse, a photograph, or a few trout flies.
Now the dilemma I faced was whether to fish these (or some of these) flies. Afterall, that was the tier’s intent, surely.
I won’t pretend that I fooled a trout on the first cast with the old fly. That would have been too Hollywood. The stream was a bit high and murky from the previous day’s rain, and the trout were in no mood to look up. But eventually, as with any fly, really, with persistence I found that one trout who was searching for just such an offering and took it immediately in a fast riffle, without guile. The old fly still had its mojo! And I felt that somehow some kind of circle had been closed.