I’m worried about Paul. It’s the kind of sudden terror that hits you when you’re grocery shopping and realize you left your wallet at home justas the oddly attractive grocery store clerk wearing skin tight khaki pants and sporting a fresh wrist tat rings up the last item in your cart –- a family-size box of mac and cheese.
Paul’s problem is not drugs, booze nor women. Paul’s problem is Puglisi. For the last year, my friend has fished just one fly. A monkish oath to a Puglisi pattern that would soon spiral into a sinfully synthetic obsession. At first I thought the dedication was darling.
At first… “I have decided that I am going to fish nothing but one fly for the whole year of 2014, and it shall be the Everglades Special. This fly is so diverse, through its shape and color, it can mimic so many different creatures that make up fresh and saltwater fish’s diets.” His words. Not mine.
The honeymoon stage was swell, and the two were a perfect match with the redfish and the bass and the boorish fish, too dull to discern between soul and synthetic. The sort of boyish infatuation with Puglisi was bearable, even charming. But as the months passed, delight turned into delusion as Paul Puckett packed for the Palometa Club. “I think it could trick a permit in a schooling situation, but not so much a tailing permit, but then again, you never know with those bastards!” His words. Not mine.
You see, a sane sportsman, sound in his understanding of the mythical permit, would pack accordingly: Merkins, Avalon and Borski crabs in varying weights and sizes. Paul Puckett made it to Palometa with Puglisi in tow and for three days caught two fish–-fish, not permit. The final day of the trip Paul had a brief moment of clarity inspired by Alonzo, his Mexican guide and bilingual voice of reason.
“Alonzo threw the white Raghead crab at me, and said, ‘you must use this fly, you must… other fly no work, never will.’ So, at some point it’s not just my fish anymore, it’s the guide’s, the team’s fish also. I gave in, without a whole lot of fight, and threw the non- Everglades Special fly into the school, and bam, full rod tilt.”
When I heard the news that Paul’s affair with Puglisi had hit a rough patch, I was filled with hope. I wasn’t raised to root for infidelity, but I somehow found myself cheering on patterns like the Clouser Minnow and the Drum Beater, secretly hoping they’d work their way first into Paul’s heart and then back into his fly box. But like all true addictions, Paul’s passion for Puglisi was far from over. He heard the Sirens’ call, and for the next few months, continued his ménage à trois.
The tryst went on until Paul’s commitment was tested once more in Florida while chasing tarpon. For three days, Paul wanted nothing more than to tempt a tarpon with his beloved fly bride. But for the second time, Paul Puckett, a victim of circumstance, cut his loop knot and his ties to Puglisi. “The fact that the ‘worm hatch’ is very rare and very selective made me decide to give way to the worm fly and set the Everglades Special aside for these evenings. The fact that I had caught my tarpon and was in a very selective situation, I didn’t feel too guilty about the decision.” His words. Not mine.
Then came Park City, Utah, where Puglisi took a back seat to big bugs and trout slime.
At this point, my panic had subsided. It was June, and Paul had forsaken Puglisi not once, not twice, but thrice. His mind was clearing from the delusion that one man could fish one pattern for one year. After straddling the line between functioning fly fisherman and intervention, I felt Paul was on the straight and narrow. Then Alaska happened…
Like a swift kick in the dick, Paul Puckett and Puglisi set off for Bristol Bay like two newlyweds madly in love and unabashedly affectionate.
“I went to battle again in cold water country with my Everglades Special box, and only that.” His words. Not mine. The proud decree of a delusional man cemented by the naiveté of native fish. Three rainbow trout, two chum salmon, two dolly varden, countless grayling and a sockeye; like a census of senseless dupery, Paul fell madly in love with Puglisi again.
The seasons changed, the spartina grass flooded, and Paul’s leader was never nicked. It’s December 31, and I can only pray the one-year pledge to Puglisi will end today. “It was fun, but glad to be done.” Paul’s words, not mine.
December 31, 2014