QE Journal is very pleased to publish this gem-story by Michigan writer Charles Sams.
Yes, it's a story of fate and reflection, but it's also a story of the remarkable contagiousness of
fly fishing especially between best friends.
The way the story was related to me is that he, my very best friend in the world, was in the market for a fly tying bench. He was in this predicament because I had gotten him hooked on fly fishing and part of that experience, that he liked very much, was fly tying. It fit his detail-oriented nature well. His flies, compared to mine, are works of art. The proportions are perfect, the detail is perfect, and his flies catch fish. So, he accumulates this big pile of fly tying paraphernalia that upsets his wife because it’s lying all over the place. Feathers are floating all around the house, beads are being sucked up into the vacuum, and he’s getting head cement on the good table. He needs a place to work, a place to organize and store all of his stuff.
He hits a home run with his first search for a work station; a Craig's List posting for a roll top desk in Harper Woods. It's priced right, the picture looks good, and Harper Woods is on his way home. The bonus with the roll top is that he can lock his stuff up. He calls about it and the guy says, "Sure stop on by and have a look". He says he has the keys and the desk is in good shape.
"Visions of organized fly tying gear and late nights with a cold beer, a cigar, and a massive Hendrickson output danced through his head."
To understand the story completely and how this became the fly tying bench of fate you must understand a little of the history of Harper Woods. When I was coming up my dad had a friend who grew up there in the 50's and 60's. It was, at that time, an affluent suburb of Detroit at a time when the suburbs were directly adjacent to the city. This close proximity to the city, sharing a border, often means that the situation in the suburb will closely follow that of the big city. In the 80's Harper Woods was still standing fairly strong. However, as the city continued to decline and the bubble burst in 2008; so too did Harper Woods. As people cleanup for departure there are deals to be had.
The guy answers the door and points him toward the desk. It's a pretty nice desk for the price. The roll top works, the key fits and it locks. The drawers all work and the key fits and locks those as well. He grabs the desktop and pushes then pulls; it's solid as a rock and he figures it to be heavy as hell. The guy says, "I'll help you load it". They negotiate for a moment and come to an agreement on price. All the while visions of organized fly tying gear and late nights with a cold beer, a cigar, and a massive Hendrickson output danced through his head. Finally, with the business done they engage in a little small talk.
"You going to use the desk for the kids, so they can do their homework?"
"Nope, I am going to use it as a fly tying desk."
The guy’s eyes light up, "Fly tying desk. Why didn't you say so?"
He marches off into another room. My friend can hear him rummaging around like a kid through a dirty closet. He returns with a couple of fly boxes.
"Here, take these. Maybe you can get some use out of them."
My friend opens the boxes to find a nice assortment of steamers with some nymphs and dries mixed in. He couldn't remember if the guy said they belonged to his dad or his uncle. It didn't matter, he said he could surely put them to use and asked how much he wanted for them. The guy said there was no charge, he just wanted somebody to get some use from them and he didn't know anybody that fly fished. They loaded the desk and my friend drove away.
As I reflect on this story now I realize two things. One, if cities were run by fly fishers they would be much better off. Two, buying that desk from that guy was fate. Why else would there be two boxes of flies thrown in with a roll top desk?