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Fly Fishing Jazz: On Buffalo Springfield and Bridging the Generation Gap

by Kirk Deeter
Fly fishing BrownTrout
Buck on the swing. Photo Matt Guymon

I know Buffalo Springfield has nothing to do with “jazz.” But this is a good story, and it revolves around both music and fly fishing, so hear me out.

Several years ago, a writer in his late 30s found himself behind the wheel of a Jeep Cherokee, owned by another writer in his late 60s, wheeling through the dry-wash landscape on I-80 in southern Wyoming. It was the middle of an August night, and they were rumbling home toward Denver after fishing the Snake River in Idaho.

Now, truth be told, it hadn’t been an easy trip. The fishing was damn good, but the getting there had been rough. A flat tire on a gravel road almost spelled catastrophe in the backcountry. The old guy had to make a call to his pal, Jack Dennis, to pull some strings and get a man from the Big O tire store in Jackson to open shop (on a Sunday) and fix that flat before they could get on their way home. And that all happened, but, naturally, not before the duo had finished their day of fishing on the Snake.

Hours later, the younger guy at the wheel—who was a nervous wreck throughout the flat tire ordeal—was just about spent. Bleary-eyed. Hanging on by a thread. The older guy was sawing logs in the passenger’s seat.

Desperate to do anything to keep awake and his attention on the road, younger guy fumbled for a cassette tape, and slid it into the stereo system. Buffalo Springfield. “Bluebird.”

I was that younger guy. And next to me (that older guy) was Charlie Meyers, outdoors editor of the Denver Post.

There’s a point in that song when the tempo slows, and the band breaks into a distinctive phrase, laced with harmony.

“Do you think… she loves you? Do you think… at all—all—all?”

And it was right then, as I was quietly mouthing the words to the tune, that Charlie chimed in, from his false slumber, to sing the high harmony part (perfectly). We laughed, and then we sped on through the night. He feigned more sleep. I held tight to the wheel.

Charlie passed away a few years later, the victim of lung cancer, though he wasn’t a smoker. In the interim, we were able to collaborate on The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing.

Truth be told, that moment, on that Wyoming highway, still shakes me. The music still reverberates. And I’m not exaggerating when I say that there are times when I am off chasing a story and fishing somewhere, when I hear his harmony, ever so subtly, in the wind. Some might feel haunted, but I feel blessed.

Because the lesson learned was that there are scant, sacred things that can bind a friendship, and bridge the generation gap, beyond the mentor and student relationship… even beyond family connection. There are things that can bring people of different ages, from different geographic origins, and so much more, together… thick as thieves.

Music is definitely one of those things.

And another?

Fly fishing. Of course.

MidCurrent Fly Fishing
 
Kirk Deeter is the editor of TROUT, the national publication of Trout Unlimited, and a frequent contributor to MidCurrent.
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  • ross slayton

    Really really nice piece Kirk! These are the things lived for, the events that we pull out of our mind and chew on at the strangest times and these are the memories that make this art/sport all the more magnificent.Thank you for sharing and giving us one of your special moments.

  • Kerry Gubits

    Great story, Kirk. I spent fourteen hours driving to Missoula with Charlie. I think, with all the conversation, it felt like a half-hour drive. They don’t make people like that anymore.

  • Erin Block

    Brilliant piece. “Music therapy” exists because of music’s ability to pull us from time and place and put us somewhere else…and to always be able to take us back to that “somewhere else.” And just like you say, water, river, hold that power too…

  • Bob

    KOOLIO!

  • Howard Levett

    Wonderful story! As Colorado fly fisherman and forever Buffalo Springfield fan and having met Charlie, I can only imagine that trip. Now Bluebird is buzzing in my head and won’t go away.

  • Jeffrey N Krohn

    Really well written story Kirk. Reminds me of some of my own fly fishing experiences when all is right with the world and the highway, friendship and the right tune all collide.

  • Kirkdeeter

    Thank you all.