This is a story about Herr Wolfgang, a man who loves fly fishing. I met him on a cloudy day; one of those when I try to cheer myself up with a walk down the river.
I was focusing on the path, trying to clear my head, when in the distance I saw an elderly fisherman with long white hair, trying to make his way out of the bushes. He was wearing a fishing vest with high fishing boots, the ones that seemingly continue into trousers. I wasn’t in the right mood to meet and greet people, so I wanted to avoid him. I stepped up a bit but wasn’t fast enough. I composed myself, put on a smile and said: “Hello.”
He just nodded and moaned something back to me. I knew he was trying to say something, so I stopped and gave him a “can I help you” look.
He said: “Entschuldigen Sie,” and was trying to pull something out of one of many pockets on his fishing vest. “Oh, Sie sprechen Deutsch,” I answered. “Ja. Ich bin aus Österreich, aus Wien. Mann, wo sind meine Zigaretten? Ich wollte Sie fragen, haben Sie vieleicht Feuer?”
I wanted to tell him I didn’t smoke but when I put my hand in a pocket, I felt a lighter. “Here you go, sir,” I offered him a fire in German.
In the meantime, he found his cigarettes, took one out of the packet and lit it up. He blew the cigarette smoke away from me and asked me if I had time to accompany him to the car. I wanted to decline his proposition but the voice in my head encouraged me to do the opposite: “Hey, how many times do you get a chance to practice your German? Besides, he seems a very interesting man and maybe this is a chance to hear his story.”
“Okay, I will walk with you, mister.”
He smiled at me and said: “Oh, excuse me, I’m Wolfgang. I don’t really like it when people call me mister.”
“In fact, I’ve never liked it when people called me that, not even when I was a long-time CEO. This is why I love fly fishing. When being in a river somewhere far away from people, spending time only with myself or a fishing friend or two, this is when I feel the luckiest guy on Earth. This is the time when I am only a human, nothing else but an ordinary fisherman who can discuss life with another fellow.
Well, I don’t want you to think I didn’t like my job. I did. Very much, in fact. Just, I was always trying to avoid these job titles. A company is not successful if there’s no system, no hierarchy, but let me tell you one thing, no hierarchy, and no system can help a company succeed if employees and co-workers don’t respect each other’s work and don’t respect each other as humans. Sometimes it was really hard to be the captain of this big ship, finding people with the right knowledge who respected themselves, others, and the company they worked for.
So, I had to find myself a suitable hobby, to be able to go away from people, even my family, and find some peace. Fly fishing has been my hobby for 50 years.
Now, when I am retired, I have time to travel around from one river to another. Sometimes my wife comes with me, but most of the time it’s just me and my best friend – my fishing rod. Together we keep company with fish. When I catch one and hear her story, I let her go back to her family and friends.”
We were walking for quite a while before reaching his car. He had already finished the cigarette. He pressed the last bits of the cigarette against a stone and put the butt into a special box he had in a car. Then he asked me for the lighter again. “Well, you can keep it”, I replied. “As a gift or a souvenir. I don’t smoke anyway and I don’t even know who put it in my jacket. So…”
“Oh, thank you. For your lighter and your company. Can I drive you home?”
“No, thank you. I enjoyed our chat, but now I’d like to walk home. Today, I also need some time to be alone. You have a safe journey back to your family.”
We split and haven’t seen each other since. But every time, when I’m walking down the river, I remember the day I met Herr Wolfgang.
Katarina Alič Čretnik
Author of all STORIES @C4YC.com
After 10 years of working as an online journalist, blogger, content writer, and social media editor in various marketing teams and personal projects, writing became my true passion. It helps me put my mind in order, it enables me to share different information with my readers, and it lets my imagination run free. These short stories should tell you about my writing passion.