Fly Rods Are Not Found in the Lawn Care Dept. by Mark Usyk
It’s an older bike. Not an old Pan Head or Shovel, just a 15 year old Sportster. But it looks like it’s 30 years old as it sits in the drive way, rust breaking through chrome, chipped, black paint covered in dust and a yellow layer of spring pollen. A speedometer that doesn’t work, and a missing air cleaner cover. Fogged and faded orange turn signals. A crude but functional sissy bar is what my pack containing my waders, my fly box, and the fly rod tube is strapped to with a couple miss matched bungee cords. The exhaust is missing the heat shields, in reality the only reason the waders are rolled up in the pack. I’d hate to burn a hole in my waders as I sat at a traffic light waiting for the green, while contemplating the time the red light was stealing from my allotted fishing time budget. Forget the strange looks I’d get from the cars around me, if it would save me time getting ready at stream side, it would be worth it.
As I tighten my old blue helmet, one that makes me think of the old circus acts, a nut job getting shot out of a cannon, I look at the lawn. Yea, yea. It needs to be mowed. But it’s early. It’s still soaked in dew from the night before. It needs time to dry before I fire up my least favorite thing in the world second only to a job. The mower. So there’s no better way to wait for the lawn to dry than to go fishing.
As the bike chugs along I remember how when I used to really be into riding these things, when I built them, when I had a nice bike, how everyone would always pour over the idea that when they rode it cleared their minds. They were free. I never felt that way. And this ride reminds me. Riding, I have nothing to do but think. My mind far from clear. I think about how long I have to chuck streamers and chase fins with the 7wt before I have run out of time to get the stupid lawn cut. I pass through the old air base that we now call an “Industrial Park” and pass by acres upon acres of short, manicured, green and sprawling grass and think to myself what a waste of time. All that time spent burning gas and making laps, for something that’s just going to grow back again tomorrow. Something that its sole purpose is to grow. All that time in the seat, your ears ringing at the end of the day…Wasting valuable fishing time. I was suddenly glad my lawn was the size of my living room.
During the 20 minute ride I have plenty of time to think about all the things that keep me off the water lately. It’s been a tough season on me so far. The past four years I fished so much that I never thought what it would be to ever go back to a normal job where I couldn’t fish new waters 5 days a week. This year, coming back home and working a normal job, midnight shifts, the boy’s ball games, it’s all a bit over whelming. As I picture the damn lawn mower waiting for me back at the house again I pitch the bike over to the right hard through a corner and twist on the throttle. The water is close. Closer if I speed up.
At the water there’s a back pack, an empty rod tube, and an old blue metal flake helmet sitting on the rocks as I wade out under the old stone bridge and into the sunlight below the dam. I forget about the lawn. What was meant to be an hour or so swinging the 7wt has become nearly four hours of the graceful bend and flex of the spring green hued fly rod, of the strip of the line, the jerk and pause of the streamer. A couple follows, a slash and a missed strike, and four hours later I’m back on the bike heading for a lawn that my wife says needs to be cut. But for nearly 4 hours it was forgotten. I stop once more before making it home to cast into a hole on a creek that almost never lets me down. For another twenty minutes I forget about the lawn. What does it matter? It’s still growing. It will always be there. The fish, they move around.
The Smallmouth fights hard and we shake hands at the end. The fish congratulates me on winning the fight, but as a last jab as not to be totally defeated, it winks at me, and asks, “So how’s that lawn mowing coming along?” He breaks free from my grasp and I can hear him laughing under water as he disappears back under the cutout bank where there’s no lawn to be mowed. Ever.
I think I’d be better off just living in the middle of a field. Fields, you know, don’t need to be mowed. They’re fields. If that Scottish guy ever shows up on my lawn and tells me to “Feed your grass man. Feed it!” I’m punching him in the nose. Then we’re going fishing.