Easter Beer Hunts

The most fulfilling things about fly fishing are not primarily the fish; they are places it takes you and the people you meet. 

The line through the rapids was fairly obvious, even for a greenhorn paddler like me. Large boulders blocked most of the river, with the exception of one chute with enough water to float our kayaks without resorting to the "dog scoot". 

This stretch of the Llano River feels remote, with high banks that blocked views of man made structures.  The  appearance of a young woman with two elementary-aged children on the boulders mid-stream distracted me, wondering how they got there, as we saw no watercraft. 

While pondering this minor mystery, a friendly voice from the bank startled me. I had not seen the thin man walk down to the river's edge. 

"Hey, how are y'all doing? Want a beer?"  

"Uh, no thanks, we are fishing through and just got started." It was also about 10 AM. The man smiled, wished us luck, and we ran the chute.

We fished through the day, but my skill as a fly-fisher was on par with my paddling skills. I was only able to count coup on one small bass that day before we reached the takeout, "by the tornado damaged windmill, you can't miss it".

Later that evening at dinner, a stranger pulled  a chair up to our table uninvited.

"Weren't y'all the ones that ran the rapids by my house this morning? Man, you did that better than anyone I have seen, " (which made me think he hadn't seen many people run those rapids). He chatted  with us like we had been friends for years, culminating with an invitation to come back to his house the following weekend for an "Easter Beer Hunt". 

"I'm sorry, what? An Easter Beer Hunt"?

"Yeah! My friends come to my house Easter afternoon. I hide cans of cold beer all over my property, and I give them each an Easter basket, then yell GO!. It's a lot more fun than an egg hunt!"

We laughed, and he reminded us to come visit. He moved on to other tables, appearing to know everyone. Our dinner arrived, served by the proprietor and chef, clad in an apron. He was also sporting a Colt Peacemaker in a western holster slung around his hips . I suspect it kept complaints to a minimum. Ah, Texas. 

At breakfast the next morning, we recounted our dinner experience to our B&B hostess. She rolled her eyes, "Oh that's  Bill Worrell.  He is an artist with a global following, and studios in Santa Fe and Sedona. He is always throwing parties and music shows at his place. "

Many years later while in Santa Fe for a Trout Unlimited meeting, I found Bill at his studio. I reminded him of our meeting. He pretended to remember me, but too much water had gone down the river, and I was one of many he had befriended through the years. It mattered not, he was the same kind soul we shared a table and a laugh with those years ago.   

We lost Bill last week, and with his passing, we lost a creative, friendly soul. Bill's trajectory was forever altered when he was forced to seek shelter from a storm while paddling the Pecos River. The interior of the cave where he sought refuge was covered in pictographs. He knew then that creating art based on those paintings would become his life's work. Bill's most striking works were the many shamans he created.A necklace pendent he made resides in my wife's jewelry box.

The tapestry of my life would have much less color without flyfishing, for it led me to the Llano River and a "chance" meeting with an artist who was himself shaped by rivers. Godspeed my friend.


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