Winning entry in the First Annual Fly Fish Writing Competition for Clemson University students sponsored by RiversandFeathers.com
Madlyn watched as he crept half-crouched along the bank. She laughed softly at seeing him in this element, so absorbed by his actions, consciousness solely trained on his object of obsession. He only broke his trance to look back over his shoulder at her.
She would smile back, nodding her head in encouragement, but mostly feigning an air of excitement. She enjoyed spending time with her father, even if she puzzled over his intent upon landing the trout steadily rising on the opposite bank. His dedication to this task, and the ends to which he had always gone in pursuit of these fish, bemused her and her mother. Leaving them for days at a time to ‘chase the eat’ as he liked to say, he’d return home tan and unshaven, reliving the excitement of his adventures through his detail-laden stories over the dinner table. Madlyn would look across the table at her mom and smirk. They regarded his pastime as one views a young boy’s fascination with dinosaurs or cars or superheros- cute, innocent, insignificant.
Madlyn’s mother never asked to go fly fishing, but he took Madlyn once when she was young. Madlyn splashed after frogs and marveled at crayfish as they retreated from her curious grabs. He turned over rocks and showed her all the crawling bugs and she caught salamanders and giggled as they squirmed through her small fingers. When he caught a trout, he placed the fish in his net and dipped the net in the water so the fish could swim in small circles while remaining contained. Madlyn peered down, tracking the trout’s movements with her pale blue eyes. She’d run her pointer finger along its scales, exclaim the newly-learned colors she saw flecking its sides, and waved goodbye when her father dipped the front end of the net into the water, releasing the trout from its brief confinement. He never was happier on the river.
A decade later now, he stopped behind a large boulder, the trout at an upstream angle from him but within casting distance, and waited for Madyln. He watched as she moved methodically up the stream bank, athletically stepping between rounded stones and over storm-washed branches, envying her youthfulness. Arriving at his side, she peered down into the water below. Above them, a narrowing of the streambed quickened the water’s pace, and it dropped down violently and swirled tumultuously before easing to the gentle, deep flow that lay before them. The trout sat under a foamline that trailed from the head of the pool into the relaxed water. She could see the soft bubbles divorce when the fish surfaced to sip an unseen insect, and watched as they coalesced back together and continued downstream.
In an excited whisper he quickly explained the life cycle of a mayfly- the insects that metamorphosed and mated and laid their eggs this morning were now dying, with some falling dead in the water that sustained them through their short life, much to the pleasure of the trout now feeding heartily on this bounty of corpses. The fly he held in his hand was tied with a light red body with sparse white wings protruding from its artificial thorax. It’s so small, she thought, and she wondered how the trout could even see it. With a tilt of his hand the fly dropped and a flick of his wrist sent the once-latent fly line coursing through the air, unfurling to outlay the fly in the foam line several feet above the fish. Madlyn realized the growing knot of anticipation in her stomach as the fly drifted towards their quarry- she did not expect herself to become so caught in the moment. Her breath stalled as she watched her father’s fly disappear in a soft swirl. Her father drew back sharply on the rod, and the fly line tightened then bounced as the fish thrashed to the surface. He stood as the fish dove to the deepest part of the pool, and he flexed his rod to turn the fish’s body against the current. Dropping to the water’s edge, he slipped the net anchored in his wading belt into his left hand and brought the tip of his rod skyward in one swift motion. This pulled the trout towards the bank, and after one last futile run the trout glided into the net.
Madlyn stepped down to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with her father, and peered into the net with the same intense eyes as the young girl ten years before. He slipped the hook from the trout’s jaw and released it. She watched as the trout slowly swam from the net, its fins wavering in the water, confused at the mercy of the captors. Then in a flash the fish pulsed its tail hard, darting forward and out of sight. He looked up at her but her gaze fixated upstream. “Dad,” she said, “there’s another pool above. Let’s see if we can get another one.” He smiled, and never was happier on the river.
RiversandFeathers.com, a website devoted entirely to short stories on “Anything Fly Fishing,” is proud to announce the winner of their First Annual Fly Fish Writing Competition for Clemson University students.
While the writing competition promotes the sport of fly fishing, it also provides a platform for students to express themselves through creative writing.
The purpose of this writing competition was to promote the sport of fly fishing to students and offer a platform to express their interest in the sport through writing and a venue to publish their articles.
Several nationally acclaimed outdoor authors, including Jim Mize and Michael Altizer, chose the winner from a long list of entries.
Shane Behler, a Graduate Research Assistant in Agricultural Sciences, won the contest with his entry, “Chase the Eat.”
Shane Behler is a graduate student at Clemson University studying applied economics and public policy. He is from North Salem, New York, and is very passionate about the outdoors and wildlife conservation. His hobbies include fly fishing, hunting, hiking, skiing, reading, and traveling.
In addition to being published in RiversandFeathers.com and the award-winning South Carolina Wildlife Magazine, Shane received a $150.00 gift certificate from Dodsons Fly Shop in Travelers Rest SC .https://www.dodsonfishing.com and personally inscribed book, “The Last Best Day” by Michael Altizer.