When Doc, wanted his dock put out in the spring you showed up. The ice was gone but the water was so dang cold. He stood on shore in his hip boots and gave directions whilst I waddled about in insulated chest waders. Doc was not lead anywhere. I was told where to go plenty of times. Doc always sat in the stern and I got the bow when we went down the Kettle River.
I hate that position in a canoe. I paddled, he steered and supposedly I got the fresh water first but he was always saying to take a stroke and shove us out or dip your paddle to move us up. Before I could get my rod to cast a plug his lure would splash. For an old guy he could be pretty quick. Doc had one wife. Doc only ran one dog. One paddle and you better not touch it. His glass, his chair, his way.
Doc would not argue. He said it, that was it. I tied flies under his tutelage. One for me, two for him. I had the young eyeballs; he had the endless supply of hackle and hooks. Last thing every fall night, I filled the wood box in his shop while he nursed his favorite cocktail. He’d go in the house, I’d go home. Berry patches got groomed by my fingers that he guided me to.
During a severely cold winter he thought maybe I should learn how to build a boat from scratch. Any guess on how many tiny brass nails I dropped on his garage floor? He made me carve a chine log five times then told me nothing was wrong with the first four.
His wife loved him inside or out of doors. She adored him off on some adventure. I did too. I got more junk fishing rods from him. Save this one, it’s got good cork. Keep that one, it’s got a good tip. Turn this into an ice rod for northern. Stuff he busted and couldn’t imagine throwing away. I haven’t. Doc was one to yell first. I don’t think he ever apologized for anything.
We were sitting in his office talking smart with a nice fire. Ice cubes melting and we were about to call it a night. But When doc sat down, you was gonna be there for a while. This night he starts to get up and trying to be considerate I said” what do you need”, “I’ll get it”, and he barks, “sit still junior”. I sat still.
Over to his library he plucked a book. With a shaky hand he autographed a fly-tying book to me. What he wrote shouldn’t be read by the faint of heart. I watched him write it. Then he handed it to me, I read it then, so many years ago. I read it again last night. Guys like Doc don’t grow on trees. More like the one lone oak tree in the middle of some two hundred acre field surrounded by countless pieces of grass. I know, I keep looking for a new Doc. He was a lucky man. Pick the trip in life and he was on it. He’s on his last trip now.
The Trout Whisperer