His Earlship

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is a story about an aristocratic group of Englishmen who share a fishing adventure arranged by an autocratic Earl. Personalities clash as a contest for a coveted honor ensues.

Submitted: November 22, 2016

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Submitted: November 22, 2016

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HIS EARLSHIP ©
Blake D Prescott

It had been arranged. The seating was established. It was the first day of their new adventure and the Earl had announced the seating was to be re-arranged. There would be just one chair at the head of the long table: the chair of honor. This chair would hold the most adept and fortunate fly fisherman: the one who had caught the largest trout. No one questioned the Earl. That individual would be toasted and would continue to hold the honor until someone displaced him with a yet larger trophy.
The group was made up of a dozen English gentlemen; so the competition was, fair. The challenge was fresh to each one of them. No one had previously wet a line in this storied land of monster brown trout. They were thousands of miles from their homeland. The Earl presided and defined the rules.  
This was Kau Tapen Lodge in Tierra del Fuego at the tip of South America. This is where the roaring forties are supplanted by the fierce fifties, and the slicing, sleeting sixties: winds that cause you to stand at an angle; winds that aberrantly drive fly casters’ best attempts awry; winds that promote hooking the caster more than quarry.
Proud of his knowledge and experience, and obviously his position, and accustomed to superseding local advice, the Earl had assembled his retinue. It naturally included the light of his ego, his son, Reginald. Reginald bore a smart resemblance to the Earl of younger times, excusing further a bit of spoiling that the good Earl liberally showered on his son.
They brought their own English bamboo rods, long bellied lines, and selection of flies as the Earl had directed. They were all experienced fly fishermen. They had all accepted the re-arranging of seats in order to recognize this temporary hierarchy within their group. The Earl prevailed.
As to the quarry, there is no place quite like the Rio Grande in that lowermost stretch of Patagonia. Here, where trees are the exception and winds find little to discourage their wrath, the avid fly fisherman must endure winds of more than 40 mph, pelting rain, and yo-yo weather changes with sudden drops in temperature requiring heavy gloves. With such temperature dips, fly fishing while wearing three levels of down and a rain coat not built for liberal casting maneuvers pose yet further challenges. But the quarry made it worthwhile.
Giant brown trout, sea run brown trout, freshly run, amazingly strong, brown trout ranging between 10 and thirty pounds; well, there was just no other place in the world like it. These outsized, sea run browns were noted aerialists and tug of war bulls that tested the skills of the finest fly fishermen. The Earl had arranged a great adventure.  
On arrival, to Tierra del Fuego, they were told to expect difficult conditions and different methods of fishing to meet these extraordinary challenges. Their responses varied. The Earl hardly listened.
To sit in that coveted seat that the Earl had knighted, one would have gone through 10 hours of fishing, interspersed by the natural Latin siesta break, finally returning for the celebratory multi course, evening meal that gave wide latitude to midnight on either side. They had a week to meet the challenge. That way, if the winds reached gale status, they might even skip a day.
Since no trout over ten pounds had been caught the first day, the seat was empty. That was one of the Earl’s rules: a ten pound minimum. It added stature to the seat.
The Earl had Max as his guide the second day. Max was one of those world class guides who jumped continents to follow the best trout and salmon fishing around the globe. He had guided the premier of Russia in Kamchatka and he had guided the champion fly caster of Russia. Max was Russian. He had a great sense of humor. He, himself could cast a line twice the distance of most of his client sports. Max left his Russian family for weeks in order to guide in Tierra del Fuego. He had done so for a few  years now. He enjoyed the unique challenge of casting into gale winds for selective, sea run trout. Max was eager to teach and share casting techniques. He had cast the line for sports on a number of occasions, adding to their success. That was not likely to happen in this group. That would be against the Earl’s rules.
Max recognized the invisible barriers between the Earl and himself, but felt he could surmount them. He would gradually guide the Earl into adopting proven methods. It was more than likely that this would meet some resistance from the Earl. Somehow, Max had to modify the ingrained fishing habits of the Earl. He would try to do that with a sprinkling of humor and carefully chosen suggestions.
It took hours for Max to gradually deliver what he knew to be the most important corrections in the Earl’s fishing style.
“If your Earlship would keep the rod tip next to the water’s surface, it would provide a better retrieve.”
“If your Earlship would just occasionally twitch the line when using that nymph, it would be more enticing.”
“If your Earlship would use his left hand to strike, it might result in a lasting hook up.”
“If your Earlship would just cast a bit farther out, just a few inches from the far bank, I believe that’s where the larger trout tend to lie.”
With each such cautiously and widely spaced suggestion, the Earl’s light complexion, liberally laced with venules, would engage hues that suggested an obstructed esophagus. Thus, Max offered fewer suggestions and the Earl relied upon his habitual methods of fishing in England.
Indeed, after that last suggestion from Max, the Earl replied, “ I’ve caught more than two thousand fish on the Test. I believe I know what I’m doing.”
This was certainly effective in limiting further directions given by Max.
It also meant that the methods used on the River Test found little appreciation from the trout in the Rio Grande.
True, the Earl had brought a 3 1/2 pound brown to net yesterday, but the guides don’t count those under 5 pounds and generally don’t weigh any trout that doesn’t promise at least ten pounds. The net, with its built in weighing scale, wasn’t meant for light weights. The net, itself, weighted 3 1/2 pounds so that weight had to be subtracted. This made the Earl’s trophy a fish of “net weight.” The Earl failed to see any humor in that remark. His sour mood had now extended for two days.
This mood prevailed and was evident until Max received the call. It was a radio call from Jonathan to Max. Jonathan, the South African, was another expert guide that traveled thousands of miles to share his expertise with the cream of casters. Jonathan could furl a leader by hand in a light wind in less than 5 minutes. More important to the Earl, Jonathan showed appropriate deference and had a full command of English, something which the Earl found lacking in the majority of guides. He was pleased to have Jonathan guiding the pride of this entourage, his son. They were the next party upstream. Jonathan called, and Max relayed the message. Reginald, the Earl’s son, had just landed a sixteen pound brown!
There had been an indelible impression left that of the party, only one person exceeded the Earl in pomp and hubris. That individual was most certainly Reginald, the Earl’s well-spoiled son. Nonetheless, the landing of a larger fish resulted in sharing of the celebration.
When a large fish was caught, the radio chatter announced the result, and when occurring at night was predictable since even at such greatly spread beats, the flashes from cameras proudly recording the catch spelled success and warned of a soon to follow call. So as night approached one would be able to see the distant flashes of the adjacent upstream and downstream beats.
At night, in this remote, lightless expanse, these flashes from cameras were like giant fireflies, reflecting a series of recordings of a worthy catch.
It would soon be dark, but the call from Jonathan had come while still light, so there was no photo-flash warning.
Then night gradually took her role as the southern cross became visible in the moonless sky. The Earl was tiring. He concentrated less upon his fishing and more upon  anticipation: anticipation of the majestic, late dinner yet to come. He could picture his son in the seat of honor.
It was dark now. The Earl had not had any luck. Still, this was the magic hour. That last hour was one of casting blindly in the dark, trying to remember the river configurations. This was the hour when the large browns were especially likely to latch onto a big streamer and explode into the air.
It was then that the camera flashes from downstream caught his attention. Flashes and more photo-flashes coming from downstream. Then, the flashes ceased. There was just a lull. The catch must not have been that impressive since, even after a lull of ten minutes, there was no call to Max from the downstream guide. It was time to quit.
Back at the lodge, they were greeted on arrival by the wonderful Argentine lady who kept capybaras as pets. She was the official greeter as the sports returned from each of their beats. She had only a few words of English, but spoke them very precisely and charmingly. The greeting was accompanied by a different drink each time. This time, as they entered, they were received by her carefully pronounced, “Pisco Sour”?
A Pisco Sour, another cocktail, a quick change of clothes, and then a shift to a chewy, Argentine Malbec, and they were prepared to sit for a multi course dinner.
The Earl beamed as Reggie, his son, took the coveted seat of honor. He sat, bolt upright, showing no intention of conversing. He looked like a still photograph.
The last few men mingled at the doorway to the dining room, drifting in casually. The very last one – the one who had been fishing just downstream of the Earl – walked over behind the ensconced Reginald, and casually stated, “Excuse me, but I believe you are sitting in my seat.”


© Copyright 2017 Blake Prescott. All rights reserved.

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