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Home / Issue 33 / The Fly Fisher and the Surgeon

The Fly Fisher and the Surgeon

By Dick Altman

The frothy, mountain-fed streams

of small but feisty trout

call us back every spring

Not much of a prize,

I know, for his staying alive.

Given his chances,

better a nibble (he laughs)

of hope, than nothing.

Yet given the odds,

he needs a rod-bending strike.


Surgeon that he is knows the risks.

Ten hours in shadowy waters,

beyond fear, pain or dream.

Ten hours, as robotic fingers

probe his neck and throat.

Seek prey here, there,

pray, please, not everywhere.

As if working a narrow stream,

he says, with lots of overhang,

catch and keep the only rule.

With luck, you reel in the keeper.

And the rest of your life.


I watch months later his rod test

Rio del Pueblo and Cimarron.

I envy how his surgeon’s hands

weave line into wind and flow.

How lovingly he lets his rainbow gifts go.

I think of metallic fingers casting

into dark, alien currents of his life.

Angling for trophies, elusive,

death-defying if caught, deadly if not.

Ten hours under, you don’t know

what they’ve netted, he says,

until, like a hatch, you break the surface.

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