I'm an old soul of a man, guised inside a young woman's body. A throwback, you might say, living in a cabin in the mountains, with a dog, and a rocking chair, and two Banjos.
And yes, I duel.
Now people say, you have to understand history before you can understand the present. Often, these people are old gents who just want your ear. They just want you to listen. When you're young, you roll your eyes back to their time; guilted by your mother whose look says you don't know how long he'll be around; you listen, to amuse the old man.
But as you age, you learn -- older, is often better. Stories, wine, cigars, and dare I say, men. You start to see that those who came before you made your history, like it or not. And you realize that the point of life is to decide whether you do, like it or not; then to decide whether to stay on trail or start whacking into the bush. To invent, improve, and to push boundaries, you have to know where the boundaries are in the first place. Forging a new trail isn't "new" just because it isn’t on your map.
In any case – in any art, craft, or trade, the masters are classically trained. So too in fly fishing, study the masters...listen to their stories. You need to study the classics to write a modern novel. You need to practice scales and arpeggios for decades until you can play a concerto. You need to tie the Royal Wulffs, Parachute Adams', BWOs, and Wooly Buggers, before you distress a damsel or try to tie a Clown Shoe Caddis on for size. Thus studying the masters, I tie. Right now, I'm practicing my scales.
By habit (one of many not outgrown from childhood), I animate the inanimate. The silent ones, the ones who just observe, they hold the stories. Many, thankfully untold. But I want to be told. Please. Now older, I want to listen.
And now, I want to listen to my vise. Clamped to my desk, like a man with a firmer grip than he had during his boyhood in the 80's, I want to know its stories. I bought it for $20 -- used at a gear swap, from an equally used man. Listen to the old man's stories, I remember.
This vise has its stories too, they all do -- hooked into limbs of wood and flesh. Every bit of fly fishing radiates from the point of one vise. A solitary soul. A solitary vise illuminated by a lonely light. A solitary fly tied. And where does it go? Every personal best, record set, competition won, childhood dabble, and every fishing trip with your dad, begins here, at the vise. It's the story's history before it's first begun. That one epic catch carried a lifetime as a trophy through a tale, gathering people round to hear and dream and hope for such themselves. That fish will live forever. The fly will be forgotten...left to dry in a box or lost in a tree.
But the vise knows. It knows its part in the story. The womb, the mother who knows that of all her spawned sons, many tens of thousands will be prodigal. Sent out with so much promise, they will fail. They will disappoint. They will be lost. And, they will lose. They won't return home. Yet with stronger hands wrinkled and warped with time, it keeps holding tightly for that one who will.
Now, I reach for my vise and feel the storied stain of an old man’s salt. I tie alone. I thread my own history onto a worn spool, dubbing my words into the tale. Tonight by the light of a solitary bulb, a solitary fly emerges from my inexperienced hands and I know, I'm just a small part of this story.