If Jack Jenkins had a dime for every fly he tied that didn’t catch trout, he’d be rich. Actually, he’d be more like the rest of us dedicated thread-winding, whip-finishing hook artists with full piggy banks and empty freezers.
Once in a while, tired of the tyranny of the ranch, he’d throw his tackle and duffel bag in the back seat of Freddie the flat deck and rumble into the hills to his favourite retreat, his cabin at Miser Lake.
He’d been busy all winter and had a healthy selection of Miser Lake special flies. The lake was stingy, but he knew it like the back of his hand.
Last year, while taking in the annual Horsefly River International (there were at least two Americans) fly casting competition, Jack and I had occasion to meet Lulu Barquette, a local fishing legend who stunned the crowd with 80-foot casts and settling a fly on a hockey puck at 50 feet, nine times out of 10.
One fine morning while fishing, Jack sat watching his strike detector, munching a sandwich near his dock. There was one other boat on the lake. The great Lulu herself was anchored in a weedy bay nearby, putting on a casting clinic.
As Jack’s line tightened on his third fish, he noticed it wasn’t going so well for Lulu. No matter how many times she changed flies or how far she cast, the result was the same. The trickster of trophy trout had met her match.
To make matters worse, she thought she heard laughing. All her life, people had made fun of Lulu. They laughed at the way she talked, they made fun of the way she dressed, they teased her about her size. They even laughed at the way she laughed (she was a snorter; she just couldn’t help it).
She dropped out of view completely, preferring the remote lakes of the West Chilcotin or East Cariboo. She was happy in her newfound solitude, away from the ridicule of her so-called friends, the cast of liars at the fly shop. She knew that when her back was turned, they had their laugh too.
So who was laughing at her this time? There was only one other boat. Not only was the guy putting her to shame, releasing two to four-pound trout, but it must be him laughing at her.
It wasn’t a big lake, so Lulu drifted in close to Jack.
“Hey buddy, are you laughing at me? Just what do you think is so funny, Buster?
Puzzled, Jack looked up from sliding another fish back into the lake.
“Laughing? There’s no laughing here, Miss. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Sure, smart ass,” she scoffed and began to row away.
“Hey, don’t get mad. Come back, let me show you a little something. They call it Miser Lake for a reason. What’s the one thing that a miser can’t resist?”
Grumbling, Lulu played along. “Money? Gold? Silver?”
“Right. Here, try some of these.”
He leaned over and handed her a half-dozen flies.
“Blue ones for 10s, green for 20s, some silver, copper and a red 50 for the big boy.”
“Yeah, well I’ll try anything about now.”
It wasn’t long before she landed one on a green Queen and after an hour or so, her arm was getting sore from reeling rainbows.
Lulu never revealed the location of a lake, her favourite flies or a sure-fire tip. She believed a person should earn every ounce of fishing sense they had. Now, here was a fellow who’d rescued her from skunkville with a generous handful of his own custom-tied flies and the combination to the safe at Miser Lake.
In view of the morning’s events, her ridiculous suspicions and terse words, she came to the conclusion that she was slowly becoming a miser herself, a fledgling curmudgeon hoarding her fishing savvy like money in a strongbox. Her days spent alone on remote lakes had taken their toll. She nudged her boat closer to Jack’s and took a deep breath.
“Thank you, sir, you were absolutely right. My deepest apologies for being such a cranky old bat.”
Jack doffed his hat.
“Would you like to join me on the dock for a cup of tea?”
“Thank you, I’d like that.”