One of my best friends when I was growing was a diehard fan of the rock group, Chicago. It may have had something to do with the fact that he was part of a drum and bugle corps and had a thing for horns or maybe he just liked their vibe. Either way, he always seemed to be playing their music whenever I dropped by his house to hang out.
Not that anyone really had to make much of an effort to hear a Chicago tune back then since they got a lot of airtime on the radio.
In any event, I can’t say that I was a diehard fan like him. I was struggling just to pick up the nuances of pre-algebra so it seemed like a waste of brain power to memorize concert dates and useless trivia about the kinds of foods various band member liked and so on and so on. Rather, I remained just an ordinary kid who liked some of their songs and would usually sing along to the ones I liked — provided certain young ladies weren’t around.
Anyway, one of the Chicago songs that I liked (and still do) was, “Saturday in the Park”.
Now, I am just old enough to remember going to some of the parks around L.A. and seeing the balloon venders walking around with, what seemed like, hundreds of bright, helium balloons swaying in the breeze and I am also just old enough to remember the organ grinder guys standing near the merry-go-rounds cranking their tinny sounding hand organs and “singing Italian songs” while their little dressed up monkeys did tricks and then approached you with a tin cup to collect loose change.
I can also remember family outings in the park when we would by ice cream from the man selling it out of a little rolling cart and I remember playing baseball, rolling down the grassy hills just for fun and watching old men argue over Bocce ball and horseshoes. I can even remember rowing around one or two of the lakes – lakes that I now fish – in a rented rowboat with my Dad.
I guess you could say I like that old Chicago song, ‘cause I lived it, even if only for a brief (but happy) period in my young life.
So, you can probably already guess my serendipitous delight, when my fishing buddy, Sean and I encountered a “Saturday in the Park” scenario the other day when we shot over to Heartwell Park in Long Beach to fish the little pond there.
We both had had a very busy week and the weekend was fast slipping away. We both had also wanted to get in some late season fly fishin’ before the start of another equally busy week however morning obligations which then turned into a leisurely lunch with our beautiful brides meant we had to pick a place really close if we were going to get in any time at all on the water before dark.
Heartwell seemed like the obvious choice – not just because of where we were but also because my annual pass to El Dorado Park had just expired.
Sean had scoped Heartwell Park out a couple of weekends ago but despite the fact that I drive by it all the time, I had never actually been there. Upon arriving at the park, I was immediately (and nostalgically) charmed by the well-tended little pond, the trees, the thoughtfully placed benches and the meandering paths. As we rigged our fly rods up and walked towards the little pond, the lowering sun cast long shadows across the wide expanses of grass and also turned the pond water a rosy pink color. I noticed couples of all ages and description sauntering arm in arm along the paths around us talking and laughing. I noticed a young man playing his guitar off in the distance and a couple of kids dancing to the music in their heads. I also noticed a veritable smorgasbord of dog breeds parading past with their owners in tow as we worked our way around the concrete bank. It was a scene that I hadn’t seen in a long time — a real celebration.
Charmed as I was, I didn’t forget the purpose of our little expedition and I managed to hook onto a small Bass on my third or fourth cast while Sean tied on to a couple of sunfish straight away. We each continued pulling in small fish while curious families stopped to watch for a moment or two but then went back to whatever game or activity it was that they were involved in and left us to our fishing.
Eventually, a gentleman did approach Sean and, as fishermen are prone to do, they got to talking. They back and forthed about different places they had each fished and different techniques the had each used and then this generous stranger shared a little history about the pond we were standing at that he had garnered from watching it being drained and cleaned a few years ago.
He wished us well and continued with his late afternoon stroll. We immediately positioned ourselves to take advantage of this new-found intel and within moments Sean had hooked on to yet another fish. I was several yards away, working a corner under a large tree but when he threw his net on the ground, (sort of our unofficial signal for help), I laid my rod down and scooted over to where he was successfully bringing in a fat and sassy twelve-inch largemouth Bass who had fallen for the tried and try black wooly bugger pulled along at a fairly quick clip in short strips of line.
Now, with all of the excitement this fish generated from the two of us and with all the subsequent flash from Sean’s camera lighting up the twilight like fireworks you might have thought our afternoon in the park “was the fourth of July”.
Can you dig it?
I love this addiction called urban fly fishin’.