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“Now Fiddler’s Green is the place I’ve heard tell”
“Where fisherman go if they don’t go to hell.”
Standing knee deep in a fast flowing creek at the bottom of a wind scoured canyon, mechanically casting to bright cutthroats rising to an early hatch, hoping to hold one in my hand just to see the colors, I remember God is life and feel guilty.
But if God is life, are the cutthroat trout I love to catch God? When I’m holding one in my hand, am I holding God? Would He put these wonderful creatures here just for me to play with? And what gives me the right to do that? Then again, maybe He wants me to get a closer look at one of the most spectacular examples of His handiwork. I don’t like to think too much about it. I feel bad enough as it is—especially when I occasionally roll God in cornmeal and fry Him in bacon grease. I know; that’s just wrong.
Job was told to look to nature for evidence of God—wind, water, morning light . . . treasures of snow, every green thing, life. I, too, was stubborn and had to be smacked in the face by nature’s beauty and humbled by its enormity to be convinced. I was. When the long, purple shadows of afternoon leave me sated, as if I’m in the only place on earth that matters, the only place I should be, I think I’m glimpsing heaven.
I wonder if atheists, while not believing in God or heaven, believe in an afterlife, and I wonder if those glimpses of heaven I catch in the high country are its reality. While I, myself, believe in an afterlife, what I don’t believe in is an afterlife where I don’t have a say in how it’s set up. That would be somebody else’s afterlife. And while I may’ve caught glimpses of heaven in the mountains (and one night in a cathouse in Nevada), there are a few things I’d get straight. First, if I’m setting up an afterlife, I’ll be by God fly-fishing and catching cutthroat trout.
There will be restaurants at the mouth of every canyon, serving heart-healthy breakfasts of greasy bacon & eggs, hash browns, and sourdough bread.
Mountains will be snowcapped, outlined by cold blue skies and cottony clouds. And it will always be summer . . . with the colors of fall. Aspens will shimmer in lucent yellows, forest greens, and burnt oranges. Firs will be living green, and gone will be the rusty browns and muting grays of the beetle killed. Slopes will be covered with summer’s wildflowers in bloom and dotted with fall’s scrub oaks in vivid reds.
Streams will run clear over cobblestoned bottoms where footing is sure. They’ll be filled with sixteen to twenty-inch cutthroats in spawning colors. And they’ll be just hard enough to catch to make it interesting. The banks will be lined with mermaids calling out encouragement, clapping at my delicate casts, and commenting on my fishing prowess.
The pine-scented air will have the hint of fall, and I’ll have the taste of crisp, cold apples in my mouth. Good sitting rocks and logs will be strategically placed alongside fountains of Kentucky Bourbon. The whiskey will make me happy, never drunk . . . and be good for my liver.
I’ll never get wind knots, my tippet will never need changing, and my flies will ride high and dry and never need dressing. The wind will never be strong enough to hinder casting, and the rain never hard enough to put the fish down. Mayfly wings will sparkle in the sun, and hatches will be constant and constantly changing—an Adams always the perfect choice.
There’ll be no litter—empty beer cans, spinner packages, and worm containers—to spoil the view. But more importantly, there’ll be no crowds of anglers—bait fishers, hardware slingers, and treble-hook dredgers of uncertain ancestry—to spoil the fishing.
My fishing partner will be breathtakingly beautiful, tie her own flies, build a great bamboo fly rod, and make damn good biscuits. And she’ll be just sleazy enough to make it interesting. We’ll weave wildflowers in our hair, rub juniper berries on our lips, and hummingbirds will rest on our shoulders . . . and we’ll both be young.
There really isn’t anyone I’ve met in this life that I’d care to hang with for eternity, but there are a few good dogs I’d like to see again. I’ve never figured out why dogs don’t have a lifespan closer to their human companions, or vice versa. I’d take the hit. There have been times when I thought ten to twelve-years would’ve been more than enough for me; it’s pretty much been downhill since I was thirteen. All the good dogs I’ve owned will be in my afterlife, and they’ll be able to talk—I just hope they’re not talking about how hot it is.
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