Three Flies by Mark Usyk

I look out over the trees as their branches sway in an easy breeze. Below me some 200ft down is the world that everyone else knows. The constant noise of gas and diesel motors. The bickering of coworkers. The clang of steel on steel as it’s hoisted on ropes. But up here, above it all, you lose yourself in the view. It’s the one saving grace of a job I’ve come to loath. A job that has separated me from my wife and children for too long now. A job that has kept me from important events with friends and family. A job that has changed my life for good and bad.


While the world moves on below, during the short times of waiting for materials and tools to make they’re journey up to you, you’ve got time to gaze out to the horizons and take in all that’s between it and you. The world looks a lot more peaceful from high above it. The trees, the rolling hills and mountains. The lakes and rivers. They all block out the chaos of the world we live in today. I feel bad that not everyone gets to take in what we tower climbers get to see on a daily basis.

I come home on a Friday afternoon, back to the real world. The world of mail stacked on a counter next to piles of school papers and dishes in the sink. The hectic week of a five day a week single mother with two very active young boys is extremely evident. Toys, Nintendo 3DS’s, Wii controllers, action figures, stuffed animals, they’re strewn through the house like the aftermath of a hurricane. A dirty wine glass rests in the sink alongside a plastic Spiderman cereal bowl and an Incredible Hulk cup.


I wade through it all to a room I’ve built on the back of the house just for me. It’s something totally separate from the style of the rest of the suburban home, like a fishing lodge from some far off plot of land on the bank of a river somewhere in my mind. Yet it’s very much a part of the home. Cedar slab wood covers the walls like a cabin, and old fishing rods, lures, flies. They make me feel at home as much as the hurricane aftermath I’ve just waded through. A large log stands upright in a corner, stripped of all its bark and covered in teeth marks its entire surface. The wedge chewed out of it about a foot from its bottom reminds me of the place I found it and dragged it from. A tall Cedar tree trunk full of hollow cavities, figured shapes, and smooth, sun bleached character stands the full height from floor to ceiling in another place in the room. A memory of a Monday morning drive to work and the screeching of truck brakes on the bridge in town when I spotted it 200 yards down river. I was 5 minutes late to work that morning and my boots were slightly damp sitting in our safety meeting.


I sit down at my fly tying bench in a corner. Made from various pieces of wood collected from several different places work has taken me, and I take a relaxed breath. The legs are Sycamore, from a downed tree at a job site in Maryland. The cross braces for the legs, beaver chewed branches scavenged from a trip for work where I fished the upper Hudson and walked out with them after catching several Smallmouth Bass and a Brown Trout. The bench top, a mix of rough cut planks and slab wood salvaged from a previous job up north and my younger brother’s wood shop. A stump of cedar drift wood pulled out of the Schroon River in the Adirondacks finishes off the memories the bench holds.


The entire room is built on such memories, every piece of wood telling a piece of a story of the places I’ve been, the towers I’ve climbed, the waters I’ve fished, and the things I’ve seen. Some pleasant, some not. But they’re all part of the same tale. I place a hook in the vice and without a plan I begin to pull materials from the shelves above the bench, and soon I have something in front of me. Something to be used on the creek out back possibly over the coming weekend. Then I tie another. Three seems to be my number. The number to settle my mind from the work week. Three flies. By the third fly I no longer hear the yelling and swearing of coworkers from the previous week. I no longer feel the wind on my face or in my ears, the sway of the towers, or the burn of rope through my fingers.


And now I can go pick up my two boys from school with a better outlook on life. Tonight I’ll sit at the dinner table with them and my beautiful wife. Tonight I’ll share the recliner in front of the television with my 5 year old Incredible Hulk. The weekend will most likely consist of sitting on bleachers as my 9 year old steals second and third base, and probably an hour or two swinging a fly rod on the Oriskany Creek before it’s all said and done. I don’t think about, nor look forward to Sunday evening, when I’ll pack my bags full of clothes and gear for the coming week. The only comfort of the packing comes with the packing of the fishing gear. Two fly rods, a 6wt and a 3wt. One a gift from my father and one a gift won in a fishing tournament, and built by a good friend, JP. Several fly boxes will be stowed on Sunday night, but before the last one can be packed, the work week entering back into my mind… I sit at the bench again with no plan, I pull materials from the shelves once more. Three more ties, three more flies for the box. Before it all begins again.