My pal Bob Linsenman took Jambe Longue and me on a honeymoon float awhile back. This story was supposed to appear in Midwest Flyfishing, but the editor there, a friend of both Bob and me, died and the story fell into the bottomless fate pile. The editor’s name was Tom Helgeson, a truly good guy. I offer the story here, courtesy of, und mitt der permission of Mr. Linsenman und his house full of Lab pupskers, including my favorite girl Kukl, the Butterfly Dancer. [By the way, the first novel of Robert L will be forthcoming. I’ll post updates as the dates are firmed up. You won’t want to miss that read.]
The Honeymoon Float by Bob Linsenman
An earlier era hockey goalie mask is prominently displayed in the Au Sable Angler fly shop. Its blood red base color is overlaid with key words from a minor angling tragedy – “sorry Bob”…“no rattlers.” This is just enough to beg the question and answer sequence that generates honest moans and shudders.
The short version is “…then Joe (Heywood) turned and cast and buried the Rattlesnake’s tandem hooks in the inside of my upper lip. Both hooks, past the barbs.
“Is he the guy that wrote the Snowfly and those books about the conservation officer?”
“Yup, the very same. Joe painted the mask and brought it to the shop for a memento.”
Joe has a keen wit, a somewhat devilish sense of humor, and a passel of classy friends. The classiest of which is Ms. Lonnie. Lonnie became Lonnie Heywood in a quiet ceremony earlier this year and immediately elevated the stature of Joe’s entire operation. The wedding was performed by Godfrey Grant (as God is my nickname), one of Joe’s close friends and frequent angling companion. Godfrey discovered that the great State of Michigan recognizes any ordination – even one that involves only the exchange of credit card information for a spiffy certificate via the internet. So, Godfrey became the right reverend God of the First Church of the Gooey Backcast and Joe and Lonnie were joined in matrimony by God, himself on the first day of spring, 2010. It snowed.
Godfrey thought a serene float trip on the Au Sable would be a suitable wedding gift and commissioned me to man the oars. Hired by God. I remarked that I would have to remember to duck if Joe tied on a Rattlesnake. God said, “You will” in a commandment-like voice and went on to say that he and two of Joe’s other close pals, Lou Carlson and Bill Stout, would follow along in a second drift boat to join us for a streamside lunch and generally keep an eye on things. The pressure was on.
I made arrangements for our flotilla to stop for lunch at Steve and Lisa Scott’s cottage on Fudgie’s Riffle, a bit downstream from the mid-point of the Au Sable’s Trophy Water stretch. Steve promised to have the charcoal grill fired up and his pup, Sophie, on watch for our arrival. My thought was that Joe and Lonnie would fish the productive water in front of the Scott cottage while the rest of us scurried about cooking, tending to potato salad and fresh fruit and trying to keep Sophie, the super Airedale, occupied.
All of that worked as planned but there was no proviso or escape clause for lousy fishing weather. The barometer was jumping up and down within a tight, low range. We had alternating periods of clouds, heavy rain with thunder, then bright sky with full sun. Correspondingly, the temperature fluctuated up and down several degrees with each shift.
To say that fishing was poor would be a considerable understatement. But, we had some blue-winged olives and a few Isoynichias emerging. Although larger trout generally feigned indifference throughout the day, Joe managed to land a “slam” including a lovely, wild brook trout of about seven inches.
The honeymoon float lunch was a lot better than the fish catching. Godfrey grilled filet mignon for all and we added homemade pasta salad, fresh strawberries, cheese, and a lavish serving of bold-hearted fishing lies to complete the menu.
Now, I want to make and stress a point here relative to brazen fishing lies just referenced and to angling conversation in general. Joe, Lonnie, Godfrey, Steve, Lou and Bill are all adults, at least by chronological measure, and are beyond the point where they feel the need or desire to strut and posture the use of in language or cool slang for recognition or acclaim by others. Not once during this day did I hear the words dude, or toad, or the expression totally awesome. I have pretty much stopped watching TV fly fishing shows and industry sponsored videos because I am tired of hearing everyone hailed as dude, every fish- even a small, skinny one categorized as a toad, and nearly every distinct, recordable event blessed with totally awesome. I just can’t stand it anymore. My position is this – when someone calls someone #2 “dude” I assume they are too lazy to remember #2’s name, or just don’t care; when someone calls a trout that is clearly in the 15-16 inch class, “A 20 incher, a real toad,” I know they have not caught many trout of size and/or they are working at that darned posturing lingo crap for the camera; when someone releases that same trout, or points out a cow on the bank, and says “totally awesome,” it’s a safe bet that they are 14 years old or an idiot.
The float downstream from Fudgie’s Riffle to our takeout at McKinley (home territory of the McKinley cannibals, but that is another story) was relaxed, content, almost lazy. There was no unrealistic pressure to overcome the days volatile weather with guide magic, and Joe and Lonnie were generally philosophical about an individual rising trout’s acceptance or rejection of their offered fly.
At one point God’s boat sidled up alongside and we sat awhile watching a fine pool in the vain hope of seeing a large trout whack a hapless bug. It was pretty quiet for a short while until Godfrey had a memory blast. He had purchased a very spendy bottle of French champagne to share in salute and remembered it with a loud “whoop,” and “Oh, boy!”
There soon followed some difficulty in transferring directions for the deployment of an exotic cork-pulling thing because God turns off his hearing aid while fishing. There was some wild gesturing and yelling while a bemused Godfrey thumped and poked at the bottle’s cork. It all worked out. I had given alcohol a bad name in several foreign countries and two US embassies and no longer drink, so there was enough of the good bubbly for the wedding party to enjoy.
The boats were nestled up to the bank on the inside sweep of a beautiful curving pool on one of our nation’s most lovely trout streams. It was late afternoon and the sun’s rays angled through the tops of bank-side cedars and touched the water softly. Two small trout started rising near the far shore, eating bugs probably too tiny to copy with artificials. But, Godfrey did not think it a waste of time. He sloshed out into the pool a bit and cast to the determined but spooky little predators. We watched without comment. I think each of us silently urged Godfrey on to a rise and hook-set but it was not to be. He turned after a bit, shrugged, and reeled in his line.
As we neared the end of our float a mature eagle cruised overhead and banked left against a backdrop of dark cedars and spruce. It was a gift, a majestic vision. It was close, but not totally awesome. Remember kids, “dude,” “toad,” and “awesome” are four letter words.