Elmer Smith? Yeah, sure. I’ll tell you about Elmer Smith, one of the happiest gents I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet.
Those who know me well know how much I love fishing. There’s a little spot in the forest where the water, after flowing down fast and cool from the mountains, spills out into a wide bend in the stream. I’m not going to tell you how I discovered it, but it’s a quiet place, isolated and serene, and the water there is full of gentle eddies and slow currents. It’s where the big fish hang out, feasting on bugs and minnows. And it’s where I first met Elmer Smith.
Whenever I get the chance I’ll ride my bike down there at lunch to get in a few casts. I usually fish from the bridge, but if I have a little extra time, I’ll scramble down the steep slope and cast from the bank. But Elmer always wades in the stream, sending perfect cast after perfect cast right where the fish want them.
I use all sorts of lures: Daredevles, curly tail grubs, Rapalas, power worms, and flatfish. I’ll try a Little Cleo once in a while, especially early in the summer, and I’ll pull out my trusty Mepps Aglia when I really want a strike.
Elmer, though, always uses the same lure. Something he dreamed up he calls the Blue-Bridled Coachman. He makes them himself, and the fish love it.
Sometimes I get lucky and pull in a fish or two. But Elmer, he never goes home with a empty creel.
Every day as I leave the stream I’ll ask him, “What’s the secret, Elmer?”
“Just keep fishing, son,” he’ll say. “Just keep fishing.”
One day, not too long ago, Elmer wasn’t there when I showed up, and I haven’t seen him since.
I don’t know where he is, but I do know that wherever he is, he’s fishing.
The History of A Fishing Story
This short story first appeared on the now-defunct location-appreciation site called Findery.
Once Findery went away, Elmer Smith still wanted a little exposure. So this story was re-published, initially in the first issue of my relaunched and occasional newsletter (sign-ups encouraged — it’s free) and now here.
Although Elmer Smith features prominently, the story was really about a spot along the Gabrielino Trail, just north of La Cañada in the Angeles National Forest where a bridge once crossed over a tributary of the Arroyo Seco. There’s a sign at the bridge that once read “Elmer Smith: No Fishing.” The “no fishing” had long since been painted over (probably because there’s often no water), so the sign just read “Elmer Smith.”
Many years ago, a friend of mine placed a Geocache there. It’s still active, if you care to go looking. Who knows? You might even meet Elmer Smith.
This post first appeared in my regularly infrequent newsletter. If you’d like to read more about cultural oddities and offbeat happenstances, I invite you to sign up:
As always, I thank you for reading.