As soon as the rain stops, I have only one thought: jump on my lovely Honda 125 and let her take me to my beloved river’s edge. Of course from time to time I give certain suggestions like: “And what if we trot over to the Beaume?” or “What do you think of the Chassezac today?”
Of course, my motorcycle doesn’t respond. That is to say, not in a human language, but I sense that sometimes she objects, sometimes she will start up like a young virgin and then act like a Norton 750. And the thing that is most curious is that, often, she simply dies… right next to another motorcycle: a red Yamaha 125. (A real love story between two japanese or just a passing fancy, a flirtation without consequence?) Not so young the Yamaha, but robust and, like my Honda, stout-hearted and courageous; it belongs to Robert, a fly fisherman, a veteran, an old hand…as the specialists say.
It took a long time for Robert and me to become friends. With age one has a tendency to be on guard against casual friendships and we always left a good 50 yards between us. At the beginning. And then the distance decreased and we started to utter a few words, then a few phrases and in the end we became friendly. Robert was pushing 80 well-packed years. But that didn’t keep him from descending the tricky little path of rocks to get to his favorite fishing spot. He’s not exactly a mountain goat, but much more solid on his old limbs than me and I’m a good 10 years younger.
It was only on looking closely at Robert’s face that one could discern that he had lived long and hard. Old like a piece of coal. His skin looked like a topographic map of the Massif Central mountains, with it’s volcanos, peaks and tortuous, hesitating roads.
After sharing a sip of rough red wine from the Cotes of Ardeche, we moved prudently along the riverbank. Often Robert would stand there, his old rod in his old hand and I had the impression that he was dozing, just standing there. It could last a good moment, the picture of Robert as a statue. And then, without warning and who knows why, Robert would advance carefully in the water and there, my friends, the magic began.
He must have fly fished his entire dog’s life to have arrived at his minimalist style. Perhaps his painful articulations played a role; terminated were those long gestures or fancy techniques for the young that one sees in the magazines. With Robert everything was reduced to a minimum. His line rolled out with such precision, one couldn’t even see the movement.
Every time I watched Robert, he made me think of that other maniac that I had the chance to meet a long time ago. His name is Merce Cunningham and without a doubt, both as dancer and choreographer he was one of America’s greats. I saw photos of him when he was young, leaping like a kangaroo. He flew across the stage and one wondered if the photos were rigged. NO! They were not. I had the chance to see him in one of his final performances on the New York stage. He was more than 80 years old and continued to dance. But, like my friend Robert, the dancing was minimalist. He barely moved. But his “barely” was filled with the experience of his whole life as a dancer. The audience was mesmerized before the beauty, the fragility, the poetry and the grace of his “minimal movements”.
For me, Robert was a sort of reincarnation of Merce Cunningham… “for fly fishing”.
One day I passed in front of Robert’s house and I saw his Yamaha 125 with a “FOR SALE” sign tied to the handlebars. My colleague had passed away; I had lost a legend and a friend. And, a short time later, my Honda 125 started having difficulties starting up.