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Ronan's report


Friday 15th June, 2012

This story won the 2004 Robert Traver Fly-Fishing Fiction Award. It was written by Bill Monan, as a tribute to his father and all those who serve in the Armed Forces.

I am presenting it here in two parts. This being the second part. There will be no joke or cheesy bit at the end of this piece; I respect the story and the writers experiences and his fathers memory too much for that.

Part two of the story as presented in FlyRod&Reel, November/December - 2004 issue.


The soldier righted himself with some difficulty; apparently he had a bad left leg. He proceeded to remove his helmet and camouflage poncho, then quite deliberately folded the poncho, neatly laid it on the gravel streambed and placed his helmet on top.

He wore no insignia, but it was obvious that he was an officer. How I knew, I couldn’t tell you. He just held himself in a certain way. Most line officers, myself included, had learned long ago not to wear anything that might distinguish us-snipers made short work of you if you did. He was unarmed and wore the uniform of the Wehrmacht, not the SS, which was a relief in some ways. Not that the Wehrmacht didn’t try to kill you; they just seemed more like us, less fanatic. He was a handsome man, stood about six foot, lean but then there were not many fat soldiers these days. He was an older man, late 40’s perhaps, at least that was my perspective, since he had graying hair around his temples kind of like my dad. He then turned back to the bank, reached up into the hedges and proceeded to pull something out the bushes.

Once again Sergeant Malvani raised his rifle and once again I pushed him down. I said, “It’s not a rifle he’s getting Sergeant.”

“What in the hell is he getting.” Replied Malvani

“It’s a fly rod.”

“He must be shell shocked,” Malvani exclaimed..

“No, I think he’s just tired of this war”.

Again, we just waited and watched. There was a certain choreography to the officer’s actions. I suspected he knew that his life depended on carefully orchestrated movement, so everything he did seemed to flow with a cautious slow motion. Reaching into his field jacket he produced a green felt Tyrolan hat. There was a pheasant feather stuck in the hatband and around the sides there were a number of trout flies hooked haphazardly into the felt. He pulled off a fly that looked like some kind of streamer. All I could see was a flash of whitish silver with a blackish body. He tied the fly to his leader then stuck the hat on his head, reached into his tunic again and removed a pipe. With deliberate nonchalance he tapped the bowl on some rocks to remove the old ashes, filled the pipe, lit it and with obvious enjoyment took a few puffs. Picking up the rod, he stepped to the edge of the stream while stripping off line, and started to false cast to extend the line out over the stream. All this orchestration came to an abrupt end on one of his back casts, when the fly ended up snagged on a low branch jutting out from the hedge line behind him. Apparently, he was out of practice.

I heard a laugh next to me. Malvani thought it was funny. I mean, so did I, but being a fisherman I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the man. It’s OK to sang when you are by yourself, but to have an audience can be demoralizing. It’s kind of like being in a spelling contest in third grade and in front of all your peers and parents and you misspell a simple word like “castle,” which I once did.

Retrieving the fly, the fishing soldier dressed in combat gray, black boots and green hat went unperturbedly about the business of catching fish. The birds started moving, and perhaps Malvani’s laugh allowed everything to exhale, for the air seemed relaxed and alive again.

He worked to my left, casting up and across where the stream made the turn towards the flat water in our front. His streamer fell lightly on the edge of the far bank. The lure caught the current where the last bit of rapids tailed into a softening pool, and just as the streamer reached the apex of its turn in the current a roiling of water marked the strike of a hungry brown trout. With little fanfare, but with elegant precision, the soldier worked the fish to his boot. The fish was about 12inches long and plump. He picked it up, broke its neck and plopped it on the gravel bar near the bank.

The man knew how to fish. He worked the water with such effortless skill that he caught fish after fish in every likely spot. The fly went exactly where he wanted it to go. Using a series of long casts, roll casts, even short whip-like backhand casts when he wanted to flip it under a low branch of cut bank, he worked the a farmer gleaning his fields. The trout seemed endless in their quantity and maybe a little stupid. More than likely they hadn’t been fished for years and had no experience with a hook, but maybe I was just jealous and didn’t want to admit that the man was flat-out good. I noticed that he only kept trout of about 10 to 12 inches in length. When he landed a few that were larger he gently released them.

I found myself mesmerized, and by now he had worked down the stream so that he was only 20 yards off to my left. I could clearly se the streamer flashing in the water. I noticed directly below me a fallen tree that had formed a good-size hole. Swirling in the eddy where the current broke around the end of the trunk there lay the dark shadow of a trout about 20 inches long. Staggered around it hovered a number of smaller trout like P-40 Mustangs protecting a B-17 bomber; I guess a flight of Messerschmidts protecting a Junker bomber would be more like it, the trout being Austrian. Every time the streamer passed outside the edge of the pool, the large fish would move up to a staging point to consider a strike, but then his smaller cousins would race out and attack the fly. This fish was wise. He would let the small ones in their greed go charging off to their demise and he would just slip back and wait. He wasn’t in a hurry and he didn’t want to work that hard.

I couldn’t stand it. The soldier’s fly was drifting about one foot short, I stood up. God does make fools and here I was – a magnificent example. I think Malvani passed out. I was standing, totally exposed. I don’t think I had stood erect for a year. I had come to feel like an ape, always running at a crouch. Not only did I stand up in the face of the enemy, I was also gesticulating with my arms. I pointed straight down a the trout and then put my hands about 20 inches apart.

I wasn’t shot. I the soldier looked up, nodded his head and dropped down a few feet and out in the stream. The streamer drifted perfectly into the edge of the eddy and the old trout went for it. It struck hard. The soldier wet the hook, and upon felling the sting the fish broke water and flung itself violently back and forth. It is unusual for a brown to leap much, but this one did. The battle was waged fairly, the angler giving line as the trout tried to roar down stream. Then keeping pressure, allowing no slack, stripping line, with the rod tip high, the soldier tried the old fish down. He didn’t horse it around but brought the fish to heel as quickly as possible. He bent down and with both hands brought the fish up to chest height and held it out to show me. It was a beautiful brown with bright red splotches sprinkled amidst coal black spots all splashed against a greenish, blue-gray background. It was an old fish with a hooked jaw and square head, the brood master of the stream.

The fisherman then ever so gently swished the big fish in the current to revive it and let it go. He stood, looked my way and waved me towards him. Without hesitation, I shouldered my rifle and began to slip down the bank toward the stream. Sergeant Malvani gave me a hard look and said, “You’re not really going?”.

I replied with a curt “Yes”.

”You’re an idiot,” retorted Malvani,.

I gave him a hard look back.

”Sir”.

I met him halfway across the stream where the water came to about our shins. It was so brutally cold that it made your teeth ache. I looked at the bank where he had laid out 15 trout and said, “Trout,” and he replied, “Forellen.”

He saluted and said, “I am Lieutenant Franz Meyer.”

“Lieutenant Patrick Skimmin,” and I returned the salute.

“Lieutenant Skimmin, for me this war is over and my men are hungry. Perhaps your soldiers are hungry, too?”

And he handed me the rod.

Good I thought, he speaks English. They all spoke English it seemed, and I can only say, “Hande Hoch,” or “ nicht schissen” in German.

I took the rod, looked at him and said, “Aren’t you kind of old to be a lieutenant?”.

“All the young men are buried in Russia. I was invalided for wounds during the First World War, but was called up to form a Volkssturm unit to protect my village and this bridge. All my soldiers are 15-year-old boys or old men like me. I have no great ambition to die or have my village destroyed for Germany since I am Austrian.”

I turned to the stream, stripped line and proceeded to cast, slowly remembering all the mechanics of the sport I so loved. It was the one way I could always find peace and quiet, and I had forgotten what that was like. I caught as he did, but made a point to catch 25 trout since I had counted 15 of his. I think we both knew we were lying about how many men we were feeding .

As I laid the last trout on the shore, Franz Meyers came to me and with strict military formality said, “I surrender my weapons, my men and my village to the United States Army and to you Patrick Skimmin, I surrender the stream and this,” He handed me the rod.

Franz turned to his side of the stream and waved to the hedges. Within seconds 10 gray-clad scarecrows tumbled to the streambed, armed with 12-inch frying pans, mess kits, potatoes, cabbages and onions. I waved to my men and the same mass scrambling and confusion ensued as my 20 mud-soldiers emerged with American cigarettes and chocolate. On that night, on the edge of the Erlauf, we shared a most glorious fish fry. And it was here, as it was for Franz Meyers, that my war ended.

The end.


And so it ends in a much smaller less meaningful way my little battle of the Front Pages. With Paul’s blessing I am taking some time off, I may see you all on these pages again in the fall. Now shut out the light, and sleep the sleep of free men and women.

Thank you for indulging me in this little war with words.

Everybody must believe in something and I believe in fly fishing and believe I will.


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