The Fire(power) Within

The Fire(power) Within

She said, "It's the quiet ones ya gotta watch out for." "She" was a (slightly) older woman and workmate of mine at the Connecticut factory where I spent

  • By: Paul Guernsey
She said, "It's the quiet ones ya gotta watch out for."

"She" was a (slightly) older woman and workmate of mine at the Connecticut factory where I spent four extremely educational years between high school and college, and she was instructing me about the type of man most likely to be a successful seducer of women. I subsequently tried to follow her advice, with results that were, shall we say, mixed, at best…

Since then, it's been my experience that the deadliest seducers of fish, especially when the angling turns technical, often are also "the quiet ones." Without fanfare, without bellowing, whining, complaining, bragging, falling in or making excuses, they just figure out what needs to be done, and they do it. Afterward, perhaps, they reward themselves with an inward smile.

I've also noticed that the most adventurous anglers tend to be fairly calm people as well-at least on the outside. An occasional sharp twinkle in the eye is usually the only glimmer you'll ever catch of the passionate fire that burns within. And I believe that the absolute King of the Quiet Ones has to be FR&R contributing editor Darrel Martin. (You'll find Darrel's latest fly-tying feature on page xxx.)

A lot of fly-fishers assume that in real life, Darrel is an egg-headed college professor, because that is pretty much what he looks like and talks like. And they're not far from wrong; he's actually a retired high school English teacher.

He is also a hardcore "extreme" fly fisherman who, among other exploits, has caught razor-toothed tiger fish in Africa's Zambezi River, and has made numerous trips to the Amazon to catch peacock bass, piranhas and such formidable oddities as the bat-eating "monkey fish."

But his most excellent adventure occurred during a recent trip to England, of all places. Prior to traveling, not only did Darrel build every piece of his fishing equipment from scratch, but he handicapped himself by restricting himself to the technology of Izaak Walton's time. He constructed a loop-rod of spruce and a fly line of horsehair; he forged his own hooks-and of course, he tied his own flies on them. And why?

"To see if I could," he told me.

Despite the fact that he had no reel and therefore no way to fight a fish other than with the spring of the rod, he ended up landing a 14-pound (wild) brown trout on the Itchen River. The astonished locals have since put up a plaque to commemorate his accomplishment.

Because Darrel is too modest to write about this remarkable achievement even though I've repeatedly asked him to do so, I've decided that I should spread the word myself. Of course, it delights me to do so.

By far, however, my best Darrel Martin story, while shedding light on Darrel's approach to fishing, has little to do with angling itself. Not long ago, on a spring-creek trip we took together to central Washington State, he and I had the opportunity to discuss all sorts of things, from fly selection, Shakespeare and the geology of the surrounding high-desert country to Darrel's stint in the Army toward the end of the Korean War.

One of the things he told me was that in Korea, he was the "B.A.R. man" for his platoon. Now, I've never soldiered myself, but I knew that the B.A.R., or Browning Automatic Rifle, despite its description as a "light" machine gun, was an awful chore to lug around-and Darrel, from a photo I'd seen of him, appeared to have been a fairly small and skinny guy back in his military days.

I said, "I thought the biggest guy in the outfit always carried the B.A.R. How did you get stuck with it?"

"I didn't get stuck with it," he answered.

"How's that?"

"Paul," Darrel said quietly, "I wanted the firepower."

I looked at this quiet man, and he returned my astonished gaze without saying anything.