When the Time Comes

“Time is Running Out” by zamboni.andrea is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

It was a slow day in the fly shop, so I was glad to see a visitor. With deliberate care, he opened the door of the fly shop and softly closed it behind him. He was slightly stooped, and lines of many years etched his face. I guessed his age as the early 80s. After closing the door, he looked toward me and his face radiated a kind smile as his eyes caught mine. He walked slowly to where I stood behind the counter.

“I’ve never been able to drive by a fly shop without stopping,” he said. A visitor from out of state, he asked, “Fishing any good around here?”

“Fishing’s almost always good,” I said, “But the catching varies. However, the catching has been pretty good lately.” I motioned towards a couple of nearby padded chairs reserved for visitors. “Have a seat,” I said, “And we can chat. Unless you have to be some place. I don’t want to keep you off the river. There’s some pretty good wade fishing spots close by.”

He eased himself into a seat. A deep sigh of contentment followed. “Thanks,” he said. “No, I don’t have to be anywhere in particular. But I’m afraid I won’t be going fishing. My balance isn’t what it used to be, and I get tired in a hurry. I’ve had to give up fly fishing. But as I said, I just can’t drive by a fly shop without stopping.”

We burned an hour or so trading fish stories, and then my visitor rose to leave. “Thanks,” he said, “I appreciated your time. You’re a good listener.”

I held the door open for the man, and after closing it behind him I returned to my seat. I had much to think about. What would happen to me if I couldn’t fish any more? How would that be? Would I still hang around fly shops and explore the local rivers and still waters? Or will there come a day when I, too, will be slowed or even benched by physical limitations?

I smiled smugly. Well, that’s never gonna happen to me, I thought. As long as I can string a fly rod, I’ll keep fishing. I’ll never let anything stop me.

Then my thoughts took a sobering turn. When did I stop climbing stairs two at a time? When was the last time I was on my mountain bike? When did I start using a magnifier to tie on a fly? Not too long ago I could tie on a #22 trico without thinking about it. Now I can’t even see a #22 trico. I pride myself on being pretty healthy and in pretty good physical condition for a geezer. But the last time I went backpacking with a friend, a man 35 years my junior, I noticed that I had to stop and rest a lot more than he did. I once was strong, tough, and feared no man. Now I carry a concealed equalizer on my right hip.

No doubt about it, age catches up with all of us. We eventually slow down, no matter how much we strive against it.

How about you? Think about it. Share with us. If you’re an old fart like me (that’s Mr. Old Fart, if you please) how are you adapting? If you’re a young buck, what advice can you offer us old-timers?

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2 thoughts on “When the Time Comes”

  1. Mike,
    Great post! I am glad to hear that the old guy is still stopping by and talking about fishing. I can’t tie that #23 trico on anymore either. My father in law (a huge trout fly guy) in his later years had macular degeneration (both eyes), bad arthritis in both hands, 2 knees that barely worked. His last couple of years on earth I reminder lifting him into my drift boat, opening his beer, sticking a rod in his hand and watching him come to life when a fish was on. Those last few trips were maybe my greatest memory of fishing ever. My dad in law left me a collection of flies, reels, and even little notes in many fly boxes that I am still finding 10 years after he has left to fish the higher waters . So young guys, take the old guys fishing even if you can only sit him on the bank. Stick a rod in his hand and open his beer. And to all you old guys, thanks for taking me fishing, making me a sandwich, baiting my hook and untangling my line. I owe you!

    1. Hey, Roger, thanks for commenting! You were exceedingly blessed to have someone like your father-in-law. I really like “tutoring” others in the way of the outdoors, and I hope they’ll someday pass it on.

      I remember years ago taking a city-kid teenager prairie dog hunting in North Central Montana. I said, “See that dog town about 500 years ahead? We’re going to have to crawl on our hands and knees to get close enough for a shot.”

      He said, “On our hands and knees? In the dirt? Around the sagebrush and through the cacti?”

      I said, “Yes,” and he did, although periodically he stopped to pluck out cactus spines. However, he also managed to reduce the dog population. Later he joined the Marines. Now if he has to, he has a plan to kill anyone he meets!

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