The Best Fly-Casting Teacher

Not sure a kinder man graced my life. Del Edwards had to be gentle and patient. He was the high school driving a car for the first time instructor at a Eugene High School. He and his wife, Maecel, were members of the First Congregational Church where I served as Associate Pastor.

One day in conversation after worship, Del inquired of my interest in fly-fishing for trout on either the McKenzie or Willamette Rivers. That’s like asking if I like to breathe. And most days, it’s a question answered before asking.

What I didn’t know is Del had a 16-foot wooden drift boat, was an excellent boat-man, wending and weaving around rocks and rapids and threatening corners under low limbs.

He also made dry flies and nymphs…the surface and near the bottom stuff. The first time we fished was like heaven. Quiet, gentle breeze, more blue than clouds, shades a must. That particular combination doesn’t happen in a state where you’re more likely to rust than tan.

I remember one place especially. There was a tail-out with water coursing its way back toward the rapids. Del cast to the head of that pocket and before I could compliment him, SMASH, the dry fly was no longer dry.

Then the next time…and there were many next-times, we floated very thin water, no more than 6 inches in depth. I saw nothing. I wasn’t Del. As we headed to the next drift Del had other things in mind. He lifted his rod, cast his #16 Pheasant Tail to the edge of the river…and it was like life took on new meaning. A huge rainbow grabbed the fly and the fight was on. With deft skill and immeasurable patience Del brought the trout to net…said its length…”24 inches” and released it gently to the McKenzie River as if nothing had happened.

Well, for me, everything had happened. The skill, the perceptive gift, the competency in floating his boat, and the time shared.

Del wouldn’t win a speaking contest—still water runs deep—but our time together was a gift of heaven.

I left Eugene, a promise to my pastoral future thwarted, and took another path. Yet. Del Edwards was always part of that path, for every Christmas he gifted me at least 20 dry flies he made. Until he could tie no more, the eyes in a failed mode.

And yet. I know in my spiritual heart Del looks down on me and is happy I’m still fishing. Sure, the legs crumble haltingly when trying to wade for trout, but still, every time I fish I offer a soft prayer to God in Thanksgiving for Del Edwards.

Now, why all this?

Because another “Del Edwards” in my life, you know him as my Rabbi Guide in Colorado, send me a NYT article about a 14-year old girl who’s a world champion in fly-casting.

And with that…even deeper believe it or not than all the political amorality going on, I retouched with Del. Knowing that kindness and gifting others maintain balance and never gives up integrity.

Del, Grace and Peace continue for you and Maecel. I know it does.

And this day, as I re-read the article about a 14-year old girl who outcasts them all, in term of accuracy and distance, I am grateful that next week, the 30 and 31 of August to be exact, I’ll be with a very special guide, Zorba, another “Del”. The salmon are terrified already.

Read the article…and then name in your prayers and the voice of your heart, one person who’s been your “Del Edwards.”

Grace and Peace and Tight Lines,



About Mark H Miller

Diane and I live in Leander, Texas. This past June 17, 2015 I celebrated the 49th anniversary of my ordination. We returned to Texas after three years in Washington, during which I served as interim minister in Bellevue/Eastgate and Mercer Island. Am planning to begin a 5th novel that will have my protagonist, Tricia Gleason, serve a year in licensed ministry in Snoqualmie, Washington. The novel, "The Lemon Drop Didn't Melt," will find Tricia wrestling with ministry challenges. None of which more daunting than someone wanting her breathing to stop. All the published novels are available on Amazon and Amazon Kindle under Mark Henry Miller. A primary goal in our return to Texas is to make sure grandchildren get lots of attention--here and in Chicago and Washington, D.C. Traveling is definitely an activity that will not slow down. With that, of course, fishing will happen. To that the t-shirt is apt, "I fish; therefore I am." In addition to novels, the book of Blogs, "Voice Of My Heart," is also available on Amazon.
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