Salmon Fly Amulet

I dug out the giants today. Not that I was on the right water for it. I dragged them into the living room next to my wife, the fungal geneticist. I just wanted to take a peek, see how the monster flies fared through the winter. Maybe rescue a stray nymph or two tucked beneath the long elk hair wings of a Sofa Pillow, the thick underbelly of a Muddler, or the ticklish marabou of a Bugger. I keep the giants in their own fly box for two reasons: 1) because I can, and 2) they need the room. I don’t want clip off my carefully tied tails or antennae when the box snaps shut.

It wasn’t until I opened the box of giants there on the love seat that I relived the fortuitous moment I last had with them on the Gallatin last summer. As I stood in warm waders mulling over which pattern to tie on next, I remembered, a perfect live salmon fly lit right in middle of the opened box. That’ll do, I said to myself slapping the box shut. I went with whatever was already tied on, thinking the trapped live one would be some kind of amulet, like a rabbit’s foot or a horse shoe or both.

When I showed the dead specimen to Dr. Cyndi, she snuggled up close and asked how I made it look so real and life-like. Tempted to lead her on about how the wings were imported from Portugal, the legs parts of an old bra, and the thorax a Tunisian cow nose, I decided to come clean. I told her the truth about the dinosaur: that rather than dying like all his other relatives in the hungry jaws of brawny browns beneath overhung weedy banks, he gave up the ghost right there next to my other giants, as if to say Help! I don’t want to die a cliché.

We both sat amazed at how intact the specimen remained, its tiny legs folded beneath its orange and black abdomen like a puppy getting a tummy rub. The good doctor informed me how—unlike the economy—my luck had doubled since last summer. Often, she said, a fungus known as entomophthora helps decompose dead insects. When the fungus is done building up enough spores, it shoots them out like shot guns loaded for doves. That’s how we all get tiny black dots on windows just above dead flies on the sills. The catapulted spores are meant to help decompose them, she said. So I counted my blessings. If the specimen had any entomophthora on it when it landed in the box of giants, the fungus didn’t survive the long winter in the garage. The entire box looked spotless. No spores, no decomposition. Now, how to get the corpse on a hook?


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