Escape To Ivanhoe (Unabridged)

10818694_10204814895790316_1073184767_nI’ve already subjected you to a three-part “My Stroke” extravaganza (and Parts IV and V are in the works), but I honestly didn’t think I’d have so much to say about my stroke. Indeed, when I initially launched flyfishingpoststroke, I intended my blog to be exactly as advertised — the ruminations of a guy who loves fly fishing and who, incidentally, had a stroke. But all that changed after I published my first posting. I started getting feedback: heartwarming, compassionate, concerned.  A remarkable group of people — small in number, but huge in the capacity to inspire — were taking me under their wing.

Suddenly, the act of putting out a blog has became very personal. And here’s the truly amazing thing. Mind you, I’ve felt compelled to write as far back into childhood as I can remember, but like so many writers, I often struggled to find something to write about, something that would pull me in with it. Finally, I can announce, almost without blushing, that you, beloved readers, have illuminated the perfect subject to write about — me!

Anyway, I really do have more to say about my stroke (or, more accurately, strokes), but I’ve just returned from Cincinnati where my sister Mary threw a rockin’ Labor Day party, during which time I also learned that my Northwestern Wildcats upset 24th-ranked Stanford.

That Saturday night revelry was followed Sunday morning by a brief  stopover at Ivanhoe Country Kennels, my brother Bill’s Lebanon, Ohio-based “Bed-n-Breakfast” for dogs and other pets. explain.

bass

This chunky bass (above) took a Seiko worm. The bluegill (below) took an imitation grasshhopper fly pattern off the surface. Bill’s wife, Karen, a world-class marathoner, beams in the background

Bill loves dogs, particularly springer spaniels, the hard-working affectionate bird dogs for which he has acquired national renown as a breeder and trainer. I come to Bill’s place because  I consider it a sanctuary, a “No-Stroke Zone.” Once I enter his property my stroke has to stay outside,  counting cars, smoking cigarettes, or whatever strokes do when their owners enter No-stroke Zones.

How can I legitimately designate Bill’s place a No-stroke Zone? Because bill has on his property a one-and-a-half-acre pond with all the vital prerequisites required to level the playing field for a stroke survivor: easy access to the shoreline, eager and aggressive fish, and a place for someone who’s wobbly on his feet to park his butt.

By virtue of being a a small business owner, Bill is a very busy man, but he always manages to steal a few minutes to join me whenever I’m able to make the five-hour journey from Evanston. Typically, he’ll sneak up behind me and take a pot shot at my angling prowess before officially welcoming me and then settling in to talk sports, and books (we both share the guilty pleasure of IMG sundevouring superbly crafted, action-driven page turners by authors such a Dan Simmons and Don Winslow), trade family gossip or ruminate on the state of the world.

And I should note that Bill’s demeanor during these shared interludes is, well, I have to go with “laid back,” that old 1960’s chestnut that  perfectly captures a man completely comfortable in the moment. I am fully aware that the demands of running a kennel housing a hundred-plus dogs  are unwavering, and those who spend more time with Bill than do I will argue that “taskmaster ” better descrbes him than does “laid back.” Be that as it may, I can only report that I’d be hard pressed to draw a distinction between our pond-side sessions and those far-off days when, as kids, we would lie on suburban lawns and watch the clouds roll by.

IMG_2368 (1)chaiir

Certified No-Stroke Zone

Sometimes, Bill will have his fly rod in hand, as he did on that given Sunday. We fished a bit on the sort of hot, sunny, windless summer day that, according to conventional wisdom, is anathema to angling success but within the space of about an hour I caught a couple of nice bass with a spinning rod and a Seiko worm, before switching to a fly rod and inducing a couple of big bluegills (“slabs,” in angler parlance) to pop a floating grasshopper pattern.. As for Bill, I lost count of how many fish, he caught with his “terrestrial.” (The catch-all name fly fishermen ascribe to ants, beetles, hoppers and other bugs that get blown into the water during high summer.),

But, alas, time rolls on and I had to summon Suzanne, who had been sitting with Bill’s wife Karen in the pergola Bill built on the shady side of the pond, and say our goodbyes.

My stroke will soon rejoin me like a unwelcome friend who shows up unbidden at three in the morning begging for a place to crash for a few nights, but, who, instead, gloms to your side, annoying you to varying degrees most of your waking moments, and, definitely, definitely, in it for the long haul — except,  that is, on those occasions when you can gain sanctuary. .

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