The Christmas celebration was winding down. The grandchildren were in the other room playing with their new toys. The ladies were in the kitchen putting the finishing touches on the holiday feast.
The Old Timer sat in his chair next to the fireplace, a nice fire of birch and maple providing warmth and comfort. The Old Timer knew that wood warmed twice but he enjoyed the second warmth a little more than the first warmth of splitting and stacking the wood.
As the Old Timer replayed the days events in his mind, a smile came to his face. His grandchildren gave him great joy and a sense of pride. In his retirement, he had an opportunity to take everything in without the stress of other Christmases.
He looked at the tree and the decorations. Some of the decorations were new, given to him as gifts from the grandchildren. Some were ornaments from his own children and yet others were from his pre-children days. Quite a bit of Christmas memories.
Under the tree was one last present. This was not a present in holiday wrapping. It was wrapped in birthday paper. Every year, Troutman remembered that Christmas Day was also the Old Timer’s birthday. He had a special gift to give to the Old Timer this year.
Troutman walked over to the tree and picked up the gift. Bringing the gift over to the Old Timer, a smile came to Troutman’s face. He liked surprising his dad and this year would be no different.
“Happy Birthday!” said Troutman, with a twinkle in his eye. “I can tell that this is a good one,” chuckled the Old Timer. Troutman was a terrible card player and clearly his “tell” had been picked up by the Old Timer.
The Old Timer grew up during the Depression. He was one of 11 children. The Old Timer and his brothers learned to fish because if they didn’t bring home fish then dinner was bread and a glass of milk.
During the year each sibling would receive one present for their birthday, typically socks or a shirt. Being poor and having to compete for Christmas presents for 10 other siblings, a young Old Timer rarely got an “extra” gift, even though Christmas Day was his birthday.
Troutman kept this in mind each Dec. 25. Times were good and the Old Timer had bought Troutman a fly-tying kit for his 12th birthday. For years, the two fishing buddies would travel into New England’s remote waters to fish. Trout fishing was the bond that kept them close as the years rolled on.
Troutman came back to the moment as he heard gift wrap tearing. The Old Timer looked like a child again, opening a birthday present that he had missed in his younger days.
Removing the wrap, the Old Timer opened the box. His eyes went wide. Inside was a Perrine fly box. This was a fly box just like the very first fly box that the Old Timer had bought himself decades ago.
“I found that fly box in an old antique shop in New Hampshire,” said Troutman. “Open it up!”
The Old Timer opened the Perrine. Inside, the clips were filled with many of the old school wet flies the two had started fly fishing with. Royal Coachman, Parmachene Belle, Red Ibis, Yellow Sally, Montreal. The Old Timer was speechless.
“Wanted to go back to our roots next spring,” said Troutman.
“Sounds like a plan,” said the Old Timer, overcome with emotion. “Thank you for the flies and for remembering my birthday.”
Tip of the Week
When tying jigs for ice fishing, consider using the colors and patterns of the old school trout flies. You will catch fish!
Steve Angers, a native to the Conway area, is the author of the book “Fly Fishing New Hampshire’s Secret Waters” and operates the North Country Angler.